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Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Walk to the Park

The other day, I wrote about my son asking to stay the afternoon with his big brother and that the reason I wouldn't allow him to wasn't that I felt he could handle it but it was out of fear that I would be judged as putting my children in danger by allowing them to be kids and hang out together.  I am sure that more than a few people thought I was overreacting.  As parents, don't we know our kids best.  We would know if our kids were able to watch over themselves, fix themselves a sandwich and be safe.

Today, there was an article in the Orlando Sentinel about a mom who has been arrested for allowing her child to go to the park a half mile from home. (Florida Mom Arrested After Son Walked to Park)

Perhaps I wasn't just being paranoid about others views of parenting.

I live in Florida, and even this one caught me off.  You see, in Florida, not all districts bus kids to their local school if that school is within 2 walking miles from home.  Florida considers it safe enough to tell parents that their children can walk to school for 2 miles and across busy intersections with very few crossing guards.  Oh, and in case you are wondering, that includes kindergarten students.  I am not exaggerating on either.  We lived in Palm Beach County, one of the richest counties in the state of Florida, and the school district would not pay to bus kids.  In fact, we lived 3 houses east of the very busy Highway US1 and just under 2 miles from the elementary school (around 1 1/2 miles from the local middle school).  Every morning, the elementary kids would be driven to school.  Then, Fred, who was in middle school would take his bike and ride along and across US1, then again across Southern Boulevard on his way to school.  These are not empty streets.  This was in the heart of West Palm Beach and during the same hours that hundreds of commuters were on their way to their prospective jobs.

How is it that they can say, it is perfectly safe for your 5 or 6 year old to walk almost 2 miles to school, but it is not safe for them to walk a half mile (with a cell phone) to a local park to play with friends.  Seems like a double standard to me.  Or rather a bottom line economics.  It also gives very mixed messages to the parents and children.  How do I tell my 7, 8 or 9 year old that they can't go to the park to play because it's not safe for them to go alone that 1/2 mile, but that it is perfectly fine for them to walk a mile or more past the same park to go to school.

Wake up and let us parents be parents.  This mother judged her son to be responsible to walk and play with friends a shorter distance away than the school would have him walk to school. This mother provided her son with a cell phone to stay in touch.  If anything she was being responsible.

I guess my fear wasn't so unfounded after all.