This past Saturday was Lenore Skenazy’s Take Your Kids To The Park And Leave Them There Day. All across America, parents were urged to take their kids to a local playground and leave them to play amongst themselves for a short time.
Did you do it?
I had the perfect scheme: I would drop my daughter and a 7-year-old friend of hers off at the park three blocks from my house, and then wait at a friend’s house three doors down from the playground while they played. I could spy on them from the second-floor porch, but they’d feel alone and independent. Everyone would win.
When I suggested this plan to my daughter (whose 6th birthday is today), she shook her head very firmly and said, “NO no no no no no no no.”
I was shocked. This is the kid who runs towards independence like a sprinter trying for a speed record.
Last year, I went through a soul-searching period trying to decide if it was OK for my then-four-year-old to walk two doors down the street to a neighbor’s house by herself. I finally decided it was, because she kept doing it. I’d be washing the dishes or tucking the baby in for a nap and she’d just leave and go play with the little girl in the red house.
I convinced her to tell me when she was going out and convinced myself that she could handle that much independence. A year later, it’s clear I was right: they still play together almost every day, and neither has been struck by lightning, eaten by a troll or kidnapped by Bad People navigating the 100′ of sidewalk between our homes with adult assistance.
This is the kid who begs to sleep over at friends’ houses, and firmly tells me she wants me to leave when we get to their homes. Who refused to homeschool because she wanted to spend time apart from her family. Who can ride her bike and actually knows all the traffic rules.
Surely this child wants to play at the park by herself?
No. At least, not this weekend.
“Maybe that is fun for some kids who are 6 or 7 or 8 years old,” she said. “But it is not fun for this 5-year-old.”
“Your birthday is on Monday,” I said.
“Well, I am not 6 yet. And I am not playing alone at the park.”
Ok, then. The whole point of giving kids more freedom is to give them more freedom, and surely that means freedom to not play alone at the park.
Lenore’s actual call to action was for kids 7 and up to spend a little time at a public park without their parents. I’ll try again with my kid next year. Or whenever she asks. Now that I’ve planted the seed, I doubt it will be long before the idea seems appealing to her instead of scary.
Did your kids go to park alone this weekend? How did it go?
Photo: my camera and me