Sunday, August 29, 2010

Deregulation of Childhood

This weekend we celebrated a fantastic neighbourhood party in the park. Lots of happy families and many growing kids. The tug of war under 3' category was esp. good! Standing over the playground with kids going on 6 years we have debated a lot with our peers. Not so long ago the question came to me as to when I would let my children go to the park by themselves. I hummed and hawed. What 8 years old?

No, surely it won't take two full years for my oldest?? For whom I have been over this groundbefore, a couple times. Access to independence is an important parenting principle for me. Even, if it is not a natural one. My kids' world has grown exponentially. The park is a part of their ground, their city home. They will not always need me to be there. I think over my (philosophy professor father-person) friend questioning... What age he asks? Tossing in the layer of the child's good judgement.. When?

My mind travels to the pre-parenting me; observing. 3 months pregnant on a bench in Montmartre. No doubt interrupting some delicious sandwich I turned to my children's father-to-be saying the children nearby us were playing 'on their own'. *GASP* We watched. Happy, noisy children in a square, late evening. But then the fact... The children we're not 'on their own'. It was after dinner. They were centre of the square and the windows of every kitchen of the surrounding apartments faced out to where they played. Mothers and Dad's would be keeping an eye out, and each apartment on the ground floor had an outside door. They had a sense of being alone and some risk but not like a tap, off/on.

I wish for moments like that Montmartre evening here but tremble a bit myself. I am a pawn certainly like many in the steady terror making of child safety regulation. But I'd rather not be. In a culture of car seat expiry dates and "you must be this high for the water slide" there are too many trade offs of judgement and/vs. god damned regulation. Children will never be truly growing up without toying with freedom and risk. The hide and seek of my own childhood ran too far and wide for my terrified parenting self today doesn't it? We surveil still more closely than those parents in Montmartre at our park I suppose, though soon I guess I'll test it. And at least a couple time my fleet of foot eldest child tested me.

I hope we'll balance. Government and sales folk... enough is enough. Stop throwing a rock through my child's window and selling me more baby junk. Your regulation is so much less than my judgement and the development of theirs. We act too often as if childhood is a stage and not a process. The milestones a millstone. We wait for buzzers and bells to tell us when.. But so often our role is not to decide at all but rather to observe...

Tell is there some simple answer to this one.. When do children go to the playground solo?

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Blogger L. said...

Depends on the kid, depends on the playground -- depends on the "village." Do other kids the same age do it? What do their parents think, and why?

We recently had a big modification of our "free range" rules -- not because of safety, but because of 8-year old misbehavior, and busy-body neighbors. The chicken has come home to roost.

2:17 p.m.  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

We give Ada some range on our block, when other parents and kids are about, but when no parents are around we are more wary. Then again, that's at 5. I don't know the answer but see the question coming more and more.

9:48 p.m.  

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