That’s exactly what happened to a Pittsgburgh-area dad who left his kids at a playground for about two hours while he went shopping and took a shower at the gym — not necessarily things I would have chosen to do given a sudden kid-free few hours, nap time anyone?, but nonetheless, just normal life crap.
So while he went about his daily chores, his kids were happily playing at the park, but a busybody mother — who apparently knew the kids — grew worried and fidgety at the vision of children playing at a playground without some adult around to coddle them. Instead of approaching the kids, if she knew them and asking what was up, she called the cops.
Now, you know, I can understand this. Someone is worried. They think, however wrongly, that kids are in danger. And they seek help. OK, I don’t agree with it — a 9 year old at a playground by herself is no big deal in my book and if you’re the parent and think she can also watch her 6-year-old sib, fine. But to each her own. People get worried. They don’t know what to do. I get that.
But here’s what I can’t agree with, or even fathom: The cops arriving and investigating and charging the poor dad with two counts of child endangerment. Endangerment! For leaving kids at a playground to play.
This goes beyond some busybody shaking her fist at the wind and saying kids should be attended by an adult at all times, all times I tell ya!, and moves into an official sanctioning of the idea that parents are felons for letting their kids off the leash for a few hours, at a playground.
Says Lenore Skenazy at the ever-amazing Free-Range Kids blog: “We have GOT to turn our country around or children will be prisoners of their parents, and vice versa, all in the name of “caring.” Ask me, that word is missing an “s” at the beginning.”
My parents would have done some serious hard time, given this scenario. I don’t know about you, but I was a free-range kid before the term was cool. Probably most kids who grew up in the ’80s have memories of playing in the summer idle all day long, checking in occasionally, or not, whenever they got hungry or tired. We lived right next door to a playground and I have fond memories of spending long days playing everything from Lava Monster to basketball to pick up freeze tag.
My daughter is 6 and I honestly wouldn’t trust her at a playground by herself right now — not because I’m afraid of what society might do to her. But I just don’t think she’s old enough or mature enough to deal with a serious issue should it arise, and she’s shy enough not to ask an adult for help. But were she with her 9-year-old cousin, I’d have no problem with it whatsoever. That kid is mature and amazing and would know what to do, or at least how to call me to wake me up should they need something. I imagine by the time my daughter turns 9, I’ll feel differently about her abilities and will happily send her off to the neighborhood playground for a few hours.
At least … I hope.
I can deal with the busybodies and the judgy-judgyness of their annoying do-gooderisms. But what I can’t deal with, and what I believe no one should have to put up with, is being charged as a child-endangering felon for letting kids learn to navigate the world on their own. At the playground.
Is this something parents will seriously have to consider now? I hope not. It’s bad for parents, yes, obviously. But setting up an environment in which kids are never allowed to be free is even worse.
Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out!