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May 22: "Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day"

free-range-kids-sm250Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids has a radical proposition for overprotective parents around the world:  On Saturday, May 22, she wants us to take our kids to the park.  And leave them there.  Alone.

You may recognize Skenazy as the mother who freaked everybody out by allowing her 9-year-old son to find his own way home in New York City a few years ago.  She gave him a map, a subway pass and some cash and trusted that things would work out fine.  And they did.  Her son made it home safe, sound and “ecstatic with independence.”

Since then, Skenazy has become an advocate for giving kids a little room to roam.  By constantly watching over them, she believes we are ultimately doing more harm than good.  Not only that, she believes our fears of what could happen should we take our eyes off of our children are overblown.  In an effort to help parents loosen up a bit, she proposes that May 22 be declared “Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day.”

Across the country — what the heck, across the world — parents will  converge upon local playgrounds and parks with their school-age kids. They will tell them to have fun, make friends and don’t leave with anyone. Then the parents will wave goodbye and the kids will amuse themselves for whatever amount of time they’ve decided with their folks. An hour. A morning. Or maybe even just half an hour, to get used to the whole thing, which, admittedly, sounds radical. But is it?

Statistics seem to back up Skenazy’s insistence that our kids are safer than we think.  When many of today’s parents were children in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s, they weren’t being watched like hawks by their own parents.  But the fact is, crime rates were higher then than they are now.

I am as guilty as the next mom when it comes to keeping my kid on a short leash out of fear of the awful things could happen if I am not watching her at all times.  But not only is that exhausting, I am beginning to see that it is hindering her confidence and ability to think for herself.  And at 9-years-old, she is doing  just what Skenazy’s son did:  Begging for a little freedom.

I am learning to let go and think that Skenazy is definitely on to something important here.  But, to my paranoid way of thinking,  there is a huge flaw in her latest idea:  Those who would do harm to our children now know that on May 22, the kid-snatching opportunities will be better than ever.  Skenazy predicts that argument and attempts to squash it by insisting that there is safety in numbers and there is nothing to be afraid of.

Maybe.  But I prefer to do my letting go under the radar.

Image: wolfpix/Flickr

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