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Did you know that today is apparently “National Take Your Kids to the Park — and Leave Them There” Day?  Yes, this is a real thing.  No, I don’t think it’s a good idea, and here’s why.

While I agree that children can be overly supervised (hello, helicopter parents!), I have to say I don’t agree with just dropping your kids at the park for a couple of hours, especially not with announcing it to the world.  As my niece said, “Does this day coincide with ‘Pedophile Day at the Park’?”  The children in question are not even tweens.  The intent is for parents of toddlers and “big kids”, you know the 6 to 10 set, to partner up and plan an outing with a large group of children in this age group.  They should pick a park, a “safe” one I believe, set a time to meet up, drop the kids off, and leave for an hour or two.  Supposedly, this will allow the children time for independent play which will lead to independence in other key areas, such as thinking and working.  Personally, I think there are  better ways to promote independence than planning a very public event where large groups of children are left unsupervised and are therefore ripe to be attacked and kidnapped.

I’ve heard plenty of people lately speak about how much more freedom they had as children than they afford their own kids.  This may be true.  Really though, I think it was more that there were more kids around, and therefore none of us was really ever alone.  If we did spend the entire day in the summer out and about in our neighborhoods, it was because everyone else did too.  Our moms knew each other, our dads worked together, and a neighborhood was an actual community where everyone knew each other and it was therefore safer for kids to roam.  I also personally remember there always being older kids around when I was the six year old.  Never did my mom tell me to just wander freely.  Our yard wasn’t fenced at this point, but I knew not to leave it alone.  And you know what?  By the time I was 13, I had grown independent and mature enough to be the “Big Kid”, the one who could take the younger guys to the park down the street.  There’s a big difference between six and ten and 13, and I think people need to remember that.

As the mother of a six year old boy (and the four younger ones too), I could never imagine dropping him off at the park and walking away.  He’s not emotionally ready for that.  He’d be scared.  And it has nothing to do with me supervising him too much.  It has to do with the fact that he’s six.  What I can do (and do most days) is let him be the big kid and keep an eye on the 20 month old, in my sister’s back yard, that’s fenced in, and safe.  I think independence needs to grow slowly over time and not simply be thrust upon children who aren’t ready for it.

Another part of this day is the belief that the world isn’t any more dangerous now that it was 30 years ago, but that we’re just more aware of the dangers.  I have to say I disagree wholeheartedly with this.  Yes we are more aware, but there is also a great deal more to be aware of.  Saying that there is safety in numbers is only somewhat true when those numbers are made up of small children.

So, what do you think?  Are you a supporter of this idea, that we should give children more independence by leaving them in public places unattended?  Obviously, I’m not, but I’d still love to hear what you think about it.

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