Sunday, January 18, 2015

When is Early Too Early?

There’s been a story out of Maryland about a couple, parents who let their children walk a mile home from the park – alone.  I was asked yesterday what I thought about that particular news tidbit and I really had to struggle to answer.  I may lose some of my beloved readers over this, but please remember, you’re here precisely because you want to know what I think. ;)

While I understand what these parents are trying to do (teach responsibility and give their kids a modicum of freedom) I do not believe that at 10 years and 6 years old, those kids are quite ready for that kind of freedom and responsibility.  Had they allowed their kids to walk home “alone” by staying about 50 feet behind them, then maybe the semblance of being alone may have been enough for these young children.  And maybe it would have been enough for the parents to feel like they had accomplished what they’d set out to do.  And maybe the police wouldn't have packed these little kiddos into their cruiser and this whole thing could have been avoided.

I think about how my kids are very similar in age to the two children in the story.  And then I think, “What would I do?”  Well, I’m sorry, but it wouldn't have happened to begin with.  I trust my kids, and I trust that if they said, “We’re just going to go from this place to this place,” they would do exactly that.  It’s other people I don’t trust.  The mother in the story said, “The world is actually even safer than when I was a child, and I just want to give them the same freedom and independence that I had — basically an old-fashioned childhood.”  And while on the surface that sounds logical and reasonable, it’s B.S. if you ask me.  Yeah – we got kicked out of the house and told, “Go play!  Come back when the street lights come on or when you hear me whistle, whichever comes first.”  And we’d go collect our friends and take advantage of that great invention called Outside.  But I really do believe that my ten year old is too young to wander around on his own. 

Sometimes they walk two houses down to see if the neighbor girl can play for a bit, and yeah – admittedly – it makes me nervous.  But then for the most part, they play in our back yard.  It used to make me a nervous wreck to allow the kids to hit the restroom at a restaurant by themselves, and when they were really little, we absolutely went with them to make sure things like hand-washing happened.  But now that they’re older, it doesn’t bug me as much.  I let my son take the small inside recycle bin outside to the big recycle bin at the curb all by himself.  He’s good about it.  I trust him.

It’s other people I don’t trust.

And while we’re on the subject of my son being able to do certain things – I have decided the kid is now old enough to do his own laundry.  Hey – if you want to teach responsibility, there’s an excellent place to begin.  This started when on Thursday night, at bedtime, he says, “Mom, you've gotta do my laundry.  I don’t have any clean clothes.”  And my brain seized up.  I felt my eye twitch.  I gave him that Mom look that every mother perfects within the first two years of the life of her child.   And he knew he’d said something wrong.  He said, “Well, I think I can probably find something.  Never mind.”

Wise child.

Then this morning, before church, he said, “Mom!  You’ve really gotta do my laundry!”  Well I’d had it.  I showed him an entire top bunk bed full of clean, folded (mostly) clothes that had yet to get put away.  Yes, he’s got the three or four things that he really loves to wear and when they’re all dirty that means he has no clothes to wear.  (sigh)  So I showed him this pile, said, “I’m sure you can find something there.  And later this afternoon, I am going to show you how to do your own laundry.  That way, when you have no clean clothes, it’s all on you kiddo.”

Then I was the recipient of the withering look.

Anyway – my point of all this is yes, I think those parents who allowed their kids to walk home alone were wrong, even though I understand why they did it.  Those children are just too young.  Give it a couple more years and maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t be such a big deal.


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