How did we ever survive?

Minor rant today. First, read the story . . .

Okay, done? Let's discuss. Mom lets the nine year old play at the park while she's at work. Child knows where mom is, knows how to get to mom. The child is playing in a public park, at the playground. She had a cellphone with her so she could, if necessary, get hold of her mother almost immediately. Other parents were there. That might have been a problem.

At least one mother found a child left to play unsupervised reprehensible and dangerous.


Lamback said, "you cannot just leave your child alone at a public place, especially. This day and time, you never know who's around. Good, bad, it's just not safe."

This lady would have had a heart attack if she had seen how my brother and I (and our sister!) were raised. My goodness, we were allowed to disappear with a vague "we're going to play in the woods" or "play some ball in the park." On occasion, we'd even go alone. Quelle horreur.

Mind you, we're were probably at least six years old. That's about my earliest memory of 'independent activities' - what we used to call play. Before then, we'd pull jailbreaks, some of which ended badly like the time I got caught stealing eggs off the delivery truck and lobbing them like grenades when I was four. (might have been earlier - I'll check with Mom. Her memory for such things is unfailing.) Discipline followed, though I don't remember exactly what. I do remember that a lesson was learned; don't get caught stealing eggs off the truck.

Also, plan a better getaway.

Later, we lived in Maryland, near a creek and the woods. Soggy shoes were constants in summer, we learned to pick ticks off our skin (usually to throw at the nearest companion,) and I still remember seeing my first water moccasin. Scared the crud out of me.

In winter, we walked out onto the frozen creek to test how far we could get before it started cracking. It was a rite of passage, the same as swinging out on the rope to drop into the 'lagoon' during summer. If it snowed, we bailed out the door with our sleds, headed for the biggest hills. We sledded between the trees, diving off before the big oak. Or sometimes not, depending on whether someone dared us to stay on.

While we're discussing sledding, I would like to point out that none of the children ever broke their arm sledding unsupervised. That was an adult, at the night time sledding party. Male, naturally. Believe the story was that he bet he could ride the sled standing up.

By the time we got to Alice Springs (when I was ten), my brother and I were pretty comfortable doing things without the adults around and mostly, despite the stories my folks tell my kids, stayed out of real trouble. We played War with fingers for guns, baseball with real bats (and the time I hit my brother in the head with a bat, it was accidental. Uh. . . . so was/were the time(s) with the ball - and he started it anyway), and raced bikes across the Outback. We dug for lizards in a country known for poisonous critters, climbed Mt. Gillen or any handy protrusion that arose from the desert floor, and went camping with a vague wave of the hand to indicate our general direction in a fairly vast desert. We were usually required to be home some time the next day. Standard equipment included a can of beans for dinner, something for breakfast, matches, a flashlight, and our BB guns. Actually, the other guys BB guns. We didn't get out ours until we came back to the States.

I'm pleased that my daughter, eldest variety, is raising her son and first daughter pretty much the same way. (Other grandkids are too young yet, not even two.) She's caught hell for letting her son go to the other grandparents house - walking, no less. Mind you, they literally live around the corner so it's a little tough to get lost.  When his sister was big enough to go with him, he was given the responsibility to escort her to nanna's house.

The non-paranoid, anti-helicopter parents keep an eye out, just as my daughter does with the other kids. Still, there's a couple of ninnies in the neighborhood and they cause an outsized amount of irritation.

He started school this past year. My daughter walked him there until he asked to be able to walk with his buddies. Now she let's him walk to school, the entire half mile, all by himself. He's six, plenty big enough.

I don't know if it's because families are smaller or people don't pay attention to complex things like facts (violent crime is down 12.3 percent since 2003,) but children in 2014 are not an endangered class. Childhood, that time of unstructured exploration of the world, might be an endangered state, though.

I feel a bit sorry for this working mom in the story we started with. She's now branded a criminal for nothing more than allowing her daughter to be separate from her at the park, to grow and learn to be an independent individual.

You may disagree (and if so, feel free to present your case in the comments) but until the child was seized from her mother's care and placed in the indifferent hands of Child Protective Services, it sounds like they were working together pretty well. Mom knew where the kid was generally, kid knew where mom was, and there was a means of communication.

But if you want to make the argument that children can never be left alone, I have a question for you. How are they ever to learn responsibility and become adults? Do we just shove them out the door when they're 18 or 26 or whatever and tell them, tough, kiddo, welcome to the real world.

 We might consider starting early, in small doses. Maybe at the park, with us at first. Then, by themselves. Might even let them drink out of the hose instead of buying designer bottled water. It's not nearly as reckless as it sounds.