Are Kids in Public a “Babysitting” Burden for the Rest of Us?

 

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The signs at every playground in my city, New York, say this: “Playground rules prohibit adults except in the company of children.”

Apparently, any adult who simply wants to sit on a bench and watch kids play could be a creep, so just ban ’em all. The idea that children and adults go naturally together has been replaced by distrust and disgust.

There was a case here a few years ago when seven men who always played chess in the park were fined for…wait for it…playing chess in the park. Their chess tables – concrete ones, placed there by the city – were deemed too close to the kids, so the men were booted.

It didn’t matter that they hadn’t caused any trouble. In fact, the grizzled guys had taken it upon themselves to teach some of the local kids how to play the game of kings. Big deal. All that mattered was the fantasies conjured up by “What if?” thinking: What if they turned out to be monsters?

By separating the generations this way, we are creating a new society, one that actively distrusts anyone who wants to help a kid other than his own. Compare this anxiety with what goes on in Japan. There, the youngest kids wear bright yellow hats when they go to school.

“DOESN’T THAT PUT THEM IN DANGER?”

That’s what a friend asked. To her, a kid who calls attention to himself is a kid who could be attracting a predator. It’s like she really thinks kids should play outside in camouflage.

But attracting adult attention is exactly what the yellow hats are meant to do. In Japan, the assumption is that the easier it is to see children, the easier it is for grownups to look out for them. Children are seen as a collective responsibility. Here, they’re seen as private property under constant threat of theft.

Which brings me to the flip side of our obsession with stranger danger: The idea that any time a parent lets her kids do anything on their own, she is actually requiring the rest of us grownups to “babysit” them, for free.

WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO BABYSIT YOUR FREE-RANGE KID? 

This topic came up recently when a story from Canada went viral: An 11-year-old boy in an Alberta mall was detained by the staff of the Lego store because he was shopping there without a parent. It didn’t matter that he had come there with his own money. It didn’t matter that he had shopped there many times before without incident. And it didn’t matter that he was perfectly well-behaved.

All that mattered was that this time, a store employee asked his age and when it was under 12 – the magical age when Lego allows consumers to fork over cash on their own – he was deemed an unbearable burden to the store. The manager had him detained him until his father could come pick him up.

This detention outraged many people, but a significant contingent sided with the store, saying that the employees there shouldn’t have to “babysit” the boy.

But, but  – no one did have to babysit him. He was just a person in public, albeit a young one. He was fine.

KIDS VS. HUMANS

If some problem had come up – say he poked himself in the eye with a little Lego nightstick — well, then, yes, some adult may have had to come to his aid. But that is not babysitting! That is one human being helping another, who happens to be under 12.

Most kids making their way to school or playing in the park are not going to need major assistance from anyone, adult or otherwise. But if they do, I’d like to think most of us would give it ungrudgingly. Their parents have not foisted a huge burden on society by letting their kids be part of it.

Old and young have always interacted. Adults who enjoy being around kids are, for the most part, just that. Not predators.

And kids who are out and about in the world are, for the most part, just that. Not a big, unpaid job for the rest of us.

I’m not sure about the yellow hats, but Japan has the right idea. Looking out for everyone beats trusting no one. – L

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Oh god. More kids we have to babysit.

Oh God. More kids we have to babysit.

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80 Responses to Are Kids in Public a “Babysitting” Burden for the Rest of Us?

  1. Neil M June 5, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    Great post, but there’s something I’d like to add. Since when is it a bother to offer assistance to another human being who needs it? The other day I was in a pizzeria and saw a man trying to juggle a pizza box while pushing a stroller with one child and keeping an eye on a second child who was toddling at his side. I got up and held the door for him–nobody has enough hands for all of that–but that doesn’t mean I was “babysitting” anyone. I was offering a very small amount of assistance, the same assistance I would hope someone would offer me if I needed it. It doesn’t make me a hero or a babysitter; it makes me part of a civil society.

    When it comes to children, I think we should be doubly charitable. I’m not a parent but it seems like a tough job, so why not lend a hand where it is needed and welcomed?

  2. Emily Morris June 5, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    I don’t think people should be allowed to complain about children’s safety and the responsibility of babysitting them in the same breath.

  3. Maggie June 5, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    If the kid is 3, yeah, it’s a problem. But 11? No.

  4. pentamom June 5, 2015 at 10:44 am #

    Exactly, Neil. Also, the potential exists for any person out in public to either need assistance, or cause a problem. No one says, “People shouldn’t be allowed to visit stores alone because there’s no one there to restrain them if they cause a problem, so the staff will have to act as cops.” That’s ridiculous. And it’s just as ridiculous with children old enough to read, and to understand appropriate public behavior (i.e. potentially anyone over preschool age, but somewhat dependent on the kid’s actual maturity.) If they don’t act appropriately, it’s no different from an adult causing a problem, which many business owners will tell you is not unheard of.

  5. bob m June 5, 2015 at 10:46 am #

    this whole idea of “community” babysitting just baffles me.

    A young person on their own is automatically a burden on everyone else?

    What about the elderly?

    Should we have a MAXIMUM age limit for being in public on their own?

    What if an older person falls? Am I expected to have to get involved? Where is that person’s family? How come I have to be inconvenienced and help them or call 911?

    The primary rationale for worst first thinking of strangers is that “times have changed” and we are not as involved with our neighbors as we used to be. While there is some truth to that based on shifting demographics (fewer children per family, increased mobility of families seeking work/school opportunities), the primary reason is an increase of laws, legislation and litigation – The Three L’s – which has placed a pall and a mistrust over all society.

    Those chess tables have been there for decades – and so have the children.

  6. pentamom June 5, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    Emily, another great point, though I don’t know if this is how you meant it. Every adult cannot simultaneously be a threat, and tacitly be expected to assume the mantle of protection for any child in the vicinity. The next time a person complains about being “expected to babysit” someone else’s unaccompanied child, somebody ought to respond, “Oh, no dear, we don’t expect you to babysit — you’re probably a predator so my child doesn’t need you, she’s been taught to fear you.” THAT would go over well with the “everyone else out in public is a predator but I’m a concerned citizen” crowd.

  7. Anna June 5, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    Yes! I’ve seen versions of this complaint on many stories about free-range issues. Besides what commenters have already said (i.e., it’s not babysitting, but just helping another person who happens to be a child)

    I also think: so what if kids do require a bit more of our attention and concern to make sure they’re okay? Is that so much to do for the future of the human race? A society that no longer considers that normal is a society dangerously low on social cohesion, if you ask me. Pretty much every society in human history other than our own has considered (or does consider) children a public good. Having children used to actually be considered a contribution to society, whereas now we treat it as a private hobby or indulgence of the parents and even sometimes as an imposition on society. As long as that remains the case, I think we’ll keep seeing these grumpy comments about being forced to “babysit” other people’s kids in public.

  8. Karen Virtue June 5, 2015 at 11:14 am #

    I think some of the ‘babysitting’ reaction comes from a confusion of “free-range” (as we define it) vs those who see free range as ‘lazy parenting’ and the need/ desire of someone else to contain ‘rowdy’ miscreants.

  9. Michelle June 5, 2015 at 11:19 am #

    One of the reasons I homeschool my kids is because I don’t want them to spend all day only hanging out with kids their own age. My kids have friends from infants all the way up to the elderly. And I don’t mean, I have friends and my kids know them. I’m super shy, so most of these are people were friends with my kids first and that’s how I know them.

    I hate how age segregated our society has been for years. Even at church. My son was in the awkward situation of being the only kid who was “too old” to be in the nursery with his friends and siblings during Wednesday activities (which was for high school and up). Rather than say, it’s ok, he’s only a year older than the other kids, they wanted him to sit in a room by himself and watch TV.

  10. E June 5, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    I imagine that people who feel strongly that their child at age X needs supervision in a store/park/wherever probably does think that people who choose not to supervise their kids at that same age, are in some way relying on others to keep a watchful eye out. We’d probably all agree a 4 year old doesn’t need to be in a public park alone….we’d find less consensus at 10.

    We used to feel that way about one of my siblings and one of my sister-in-laws, who had kids around the same age and would take off (or sleep in) when we’d be visiting the same grandparents. We’d end up being the ones taking them for walks or playing in the yard.

    So, sure, I think *some* people who will lean on the kindness of others because “they can”.

    As far as the Lego store. The employees should be empowered enough to ask misbehaving kids to leave. They shouldn’t have to rely on a “rule” to decided who should stay or who must leave.

  11. Emily Morris June 5, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    Pentamom, that was one of my shades of meaning. I also considered that if you truly care about your community and the children within, an extra eye while you’re out (hardly babysitting) should be no great burden. To echo everyone else, it’s just helping another person.

  12. Paul M June 5, 2015 at 11:32 am #

    @Anna, Your point is well taken and I don’t disagree with your overall point however, it is just wrong that pretty much every society in human history other than our own has considered (or does consider) children a public good. It doesn’t help your argument to make blanket statements like this. One only has to point to child labor practices during the industrial revolution, or child soldiers in Africa, even child sacrifices in ancient history. High mortality rates probably contributed much to this, but never underestimate the capacity of human beings to exploit the vulnerable. It has only been somewhat recent that child mortality rates have fallen to where they are today, (thank you vaccinations.)

  13. Andrew Jones June 5, 2015 at 11:43 am #

    Ok, so *if* an adult is there without kids, how do you prove it? Does everyone sign in at the park with a # of kids, and you do the math? You could just say “That one is mine”.

    Another question, how do they enforce the bylaw? Do the cops come into. The park and ask around? Do the cops carry a spare child with them so as to not be in violation of the law? (These days, maybe they do – some free-range kid they picked up for the audacity of thinking they could walk unsupervised to their next-door neighbour’s house).

  14. Warren June 5, 2015 at 11:50 am #

    Pulling into the LCBO Store the other day, there was an elderly man on the shoulder of the road. His electric cart had broke down. He was on his cell, so I went into the store. When I came out, either his son or grandson was there with a pickup. I grab a set of gloves and joined them. I told the young lad to grab the front and I took the rear with the motor. We got it in the truck and all was good.

    A month before that an elderly couple were in the middle of one of our country roads, front right wheel off the car. Not just tire, wheel, hub and all. We stopped to see if they needed help, and sure enough they had no phone. Something more common with elderly people than you would think. I called one of my buddies with a tow truck, tossed out a flare on the corner, and we went home.

    How is either one of these different from helping a kid that took a fall, or was lost or whatever?

    To all those idiots out there that feel they are babysitting our kids……………get off your high horse. And never ever call someone to come over and give you a hand doing anything. If you can bitch about others using you, do not I repeat do not ask anyone for any help, ever.

  15. lollipoplover June 5, 2015 at 11:52 am #

    “The idea that any time a parent lets her kids do anything on their own, she is actually requiring the rest of us grownups to “babysit” them, for free.”

    But here’s the disconnect- kids want and need to do things ON THEIR OWN. It’s the adults who often interfere (like calling the police for *unattended* children walking) when the kids are not in any actual danger. The child in question doesn’t need to be treated like a baby and babysat, just an extra set of eyes is all that is asked. If I ever see a kid in need (not peril), I offer suggestions and a smile to help them be self-sufficient. I don’t dive in to rescue (but will hold doors and be courteous) but want to see good outcomes. And more independent kids who in turn lend a hand and help out the next generation grow into good citizens.

    It’s just a matter of being a kind and helpful person. Not *free* babysitting.

  16. Anna June 5, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    @ Paul M: I don’t disagree at all that lots of societies have exploited/do exploit children. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t think of having kids as a thing people did for the public good – in fact, typically it’s been considered the largest contribution ordinary people make to the public good. In fact, in most pre-modern societies I know anything about, marrying and bearing/raising children was pretty much considered an obligation, rather than a choice or act of personal fulfilment. Or, to make the claim less sweeping, I do know (from reading primary texts) that this was the case at least in ancient Greece, Rome, and Israel, as well as for most of the last two thousand years in most of Europe.

  17. Brad F June 5, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    The prohibition of adults in a park without an attending child…what would they charge them with, trespassing?

  18. MichelleB June 5, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    We all seem to be talking about well-behaved children who might need assistance in an emergency.

    What about the kids who seriously need an adult to reign them in? A few years back, our family was in a restaurant with a long narrow hallway that led back to the bathrooms. A boy (I’m guessing he was at least ten, definitely old enough to know better) had decided it was fun to stand in the middle of the hall with his arms outstretched stepping from side to side and and blocking the way to the ladies room. There wasn’t room to go around him. I watched two other grown women, including an employee, turn back because they didn’t know how to deal with the situation. (There’s a tone of “I’ve got four kids and have to pee and if you don’t move I’m gonna make you move” voice that did the trick quite nicely.)

    There ARE a few kids out there who make a babysitting burden for the rest of us. And the rest of our kids wind up paying the price, which is a shame.

  19. Brooks June 5, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    Back when I was a retailer, then owner of a cool music store, the kids (who loved music) whose parents let them hang out in my store eventually got a job. I’d give them a CD to do a task, or something like that. Many a CD was sold in my store by those “offending” kids who loved to hang out. And many adults learned about new music from those kids.

  20. Melody Adams June 5, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    Isn’t it sad that there is going to be a whole generation of people coming up who were raised to fear all adults and not interact with anyone outside their own circle. The story about the men who played chess in the park breaks my heart! Kids had a chance to learn something (playing chess is a great tool for kids), hear cool stories from their elders, and learn to socialize outside their protective bubble.

    I do not have children myself but I support parents who are not afraid to let their kids be kids!

    Awesome site!

  21. Papa Fred June 5, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    Re Brad’s question of “what charge?”
    How about “Unsubstantiated Luring, or Unsubstantiated Ogling?”

  22. SKL June 5, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    This kind of thing makes me wonder if we have something in our water supply making us all stupider every day.

    I was a lot younger than 11 when I went to stores without parents, all the time, and nobody said anything about that. Some storekeepers did get crabby when there had been a rash of shoplifting, but then they just watched us like a hawk or kicked us out. They certainly didn’t call our parents just because we were shopping in the community. If they had, there would have been hell to pay, because my parents were working and didn’t get a bunch of time off work for crap like that.

  23. Betsy in Michigan June 5, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

    My almost-14 year old is tall and could easily be mistaken for a 16 year old; she loves to walk to the park daily and swing for a bit. Given her longtime affinity for swinging, I am imagining that this is something she will want to do for most of her life. I think it helps “center” her. If I lived in NYC I think I’d be all over that playground ordinance like a cheap suit; getting daughter “officially” diagnosed with mild Asperger’s (we haven’t needed it to be official; most people want to be helpful when confided in) or a sensory issue, then call it an ADA discrimination! That is really just garbage. Maybe NYC needs some caregivers or advocates of really cognitively impaired adults who like to swing to get together some

  24. Betsy in Michigan June 5, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    ADDENDUM

    … to get together some legal action/petition. [I don’t know what happened there with my post]

  25. Jason June 5, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

    I’m glad I was able to stand watching kids play in a great playground in Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens last summer for over 30 minutes without getting any dirty looks or having the police summoned.

    Of course, that’s in a country where a cleaning woman might be wiping down the urinal next to the one you’re using, so attitudes are different.

  26. lollipoplover June 5, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

    “What about the kids who seriously need an adult to reign them in?”

    What about adults who seriously need an adult to reign them in?

    I was on a flight home from Orlando (filled with children and families) when a trio of adult women at the very back of the plane (seated with the unaccompanied minors, who behaved perfectly) yelled obscenities, loudly, for the entire flight. I couldn’t see them but when I heard the “N” word, I was shocked they acted this way. The flight landed and each row was exiting when these 3 women pushed passed those waiting their turn to get off the plane faster. They actually hit my sister, who was seated, in the head with a carry on bag. The flight attendants opened the rear of the plane as well and when they saw this (if they had waited their turn they would have been the first off!), they pushed past everyone again to get off the back of the plane!
    My sister stood up and blocked them.

    They let out a tirade of curse words that made me blush, and I’ve heard some bad things! My sister told them to watch their language, that children were on this flight, and they told her to “suck my D@ you f-in B$tch”. I mean parents were taking life size Frozen dolls out of the overhead compartments and looked horrified.
    I didn’t want to get stabbed (though my sister said they don’t have knives as they went through security…but they did had very large earrings…) and we went to baggage claim, all the while they were yelling curse words and making threats.
    Who’s babysitting these idiots??

    In baggage claim, they were surrounded by 5 sheriffs deputies and this completely shut them up and the rest of the flight applauded the police presence. I guess these women didn’t know the Trenton airport is attached to the sheriffs headquarters. I’ve seen some rude behavior in public. Mostly from adults!

  27. Eric S June 5, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    Adults seem to forget everything they learned as children. Like be nice to everyone. So this “babysitting” issue, would then apply to adults as well. If people feel “burdened” to help out kids in need, should they require it. Then maybe when they are in need of assistance themselves, perhaps society will feel “too burdened” to help out a grown adult. It’s not like they’re “helpless and fragile” children. They can take care of themselves. They shouldn’t even need a doctor. Emergency personel at hospitals are by definition “strangers”. God forbid we talk to them, or help us or our children. And really, there are doctors in prison for assaulting patience.

    It still baffles me how many people pick and choose which “stranger” is ok and not ok. If they are professionals dressed in suits, it seems like it’s a non-issue. If they are a regular joe blow, he’s a pedophile. The utter ignorance of people. They all react like Dr. Karen when faced with common sense and logic. “Umm……….well……..” *silence*.

  28. Mama Bear June 5, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    About a year after we moved to our current place, our older kids who were 8, 6, and 5, walked several blocks down the street to a neighbors house. Their father was doing something in the front yard and could easily see them. There were some young children playing in a kiddie pool and so they stopped to socialize. When my husband finally walked down there, one of the mothers flat out told him she was not there for unpaid babysitting. Apparently she thought they were too young to be walking down the street in our safe neighborhood, one dominated by families with children, without a parent. Somehow their mere presence made her feel obligated to look after them. We ended up telling our kids to avoid that particular driveway in the future.

    The other thing that comes to mind is the rise of the child-free movement. Some within it (not all) seem to have the attitude of not wanting to be bothered by anyone’s kids ever, under any circumstances–even by accident.

  29. Kimberly June 5, 2015 at 2:24 pm #

    I was picking my niece up from Dance camp yesterday. All the kids campers and siblings were well behaved but 2 – they were slamming in and out of the glass door and standing with it open screaming information to the mother who was waiting in the car.

    I had no problem telling them to stop slamming into the door, instead to use the handle and to close the door because they were heating up the waiting area and it was already unpleasantly hot. If someone in public is making me uncomfortable/intruding on my space most of the time I will address that person. Not their caretaker/parent. Occasionally I will seek out an authority figure.

    I do tend to keep an eye on all kids around me – but that is the Teacher Gene. Most of the time when I intervene it is because the adults are ignoring kids – like not serving a child who is standing in line trying to order. There was the time I was in a mall with several cousins. There was a group of about 6 kids being brats charging around, nearly knocking over a woman using a walker.

    We stepped in front of them and looked that look. They stopped running one had long shoe laces trailing on the floor. He tied those and they walked off. A man with the lady using a walker looked at us and asked – What just happened?

    My oldest cousin said 4 teachers, 2 social workers and a pediatric oncology/ER nurse.

  30. Rina Lederman June 5, 2015 at 2:29 pm #

    I’m 12 and i have been biking around my neighborhood shopping in stores by myself since i was 10. I live in San Diego.

  31. Doug D June 5, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

    I just saw an adult driving alone. They could get into a car crash in front of my house. I would have to administer first aid. I must be an unpaid paramedic.
    Or maybe i am just just an average citizen.
    The notion that kids need babysitting to an arbitrary age is nonsense. Kids need babysitting until they are ready to be alone. Alberta law reflects this and puts the decision in the hands of parents. Being near a child who is alone does not make you the designated babbysitter. Being near a child in evident distress does not make you obligated to help, but being a kind person is a good reason to offer assistance.

  32. Christina June 5, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

    Friends moved to Japan a few months ago. Daughter is about to start school – she is so proud of that hat!

  33. Thomas Arbs June 5, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    The other day I rode with my son from school to musical lessons, when another pupil of the same school, who rode home alone, fell off his bike. He was crying and bleeding from a minor cut of his hand. So I consolidated him, went to a nearby corner shop together with him and got him band aids, the shop owner was very helpful. Yes, we even came slightly too late for music, but still, goodness, that wasn’t working miracles, it was the most natural thing to do. The other days my son rides home on his own, too, and I hope if he fell some other adult would help him, too.

    In other news there are a lot elder-than-twelve teenagers who are more of a nuisance in public (and yes, adults, too, now what would you do about that?).

  34. Warren June 5, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    T Shirts

    “Yes I am here on my own. My parents know. I do not need you or anyone else to babysit, supervise, control, bother, interfere, keep an eye on or any other form of it.” Then on the back, “Don’t worry, if you are hurt or in need, I will help you.”

  35. Donna June 5, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

    I have always marveled at the dichotomy between what we insist kids need to do before they can be left alone and what adults need to be able to do to be left alone. Society proposes that children should not be left unsupervised until they can handle anything life throws their way, no matter how rare, 100% successfully and completely by themselves.

    We all need help sometimes. Nobody is able to do everything. It is no more of an imposition to help a child than to help an adult. It is just part of being a civil society.

  36. Liz June 5, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    A few years ago we went to a theme park with a bunch of friends. I am not an adventurous ride person, so I was thrilled to see the extensive kid’s rides they had, and a friend and I went to go get on one. We were told that no adult can go on the ride without a child also going on the ride. Do they think we’ll have time to molest a child in another bucket or car if there’s no child with us? Or that we must be murderers because we enjoy a smaller ride? When we were teens we’d always go on the kid’s rides, because they’re small and slower and therefore more fun for us. When I found out I was pregnant, I called him up and said “we can go on the kiddie rides again, because now we’ll have a kid with us!!”

  37. Warren June 5, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

    So is it just the young we are going to restrict based on ability to handle life’s adversities? What about the elderly? What about those with mental and emotional issues? Those with health and physical issues?

    Next thing you know one will have to apply for a permit, pay and annual fee, pass an exam and carry a card to be allowed to walk freely about on one’s own.

  38. Barry Lederman June 5, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

    I’ve got to hand it to you Lenore. Just when I think I’ve seen it all. Just when I think no insane new regulation can surprise me any more – you manage to top yourself. The LEGO store incident is beyond ridiculous, and the NO ADULTS IN THE PARK sign is beyond outrageous. I am dumbfounded.

  39. James Pollock June 5, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    I can clearly see both sides. There is a difference between a parent making a calculated decision about just how much autonomy their child should have, and a parent making a calculated decision that a particular place is safe to leave their not-quite-ready-to-be-unsupervised child because other people will look out for them.

    I can see how a Lego store might be used as a place to keep a small child occupied while mom runs down to make a quick purchase at the Victoria’s Secret store. If I were employed by the Lego store, this would annoy me (even though I understand it.) I imagine this problem would tend to occur at any store that sells products aimed primarily at kids or of interest to kids… it’s a place you can drop off the kids to “entertain themselves” while the parents go off to do something the kids have no interest in. Sometimes that’s no big deal, because the children are polite and well-behaved and self-sufficient. Sometimes, however, they aren’t.

    On a playground, it is sometimes the case that bigger kids don’t really watch out for smaller ones. If you have a playground that is appropriate to a wider range of ages, so that the bigger kids are in the same place as the little ones, and both are supervised by adults, the adults will usually moderate the active play of the older kids. You can’t always count on the kids doing so themselves if they are unsupervised, and you can’t tell if they will or not just by looking at them… you have to watch how the actually interact with smaller kids.

  40. pentamom June 5, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    Bingo, lollipoplover. If the logic of this “babysitting” thing was applied to adults, then no one of any age could ever be let out in public unless they somehow or other proved to the correct people that their being out in public was not making life harder for other people. If that’s a ridiculous approach to adult behavior, why not for kids?

    Yes, everyone understands that there are kids who are let out without supervision whose parents don’t care if they’re ready to do it, or whether they’ll be a pain in the neck to other people. There’s no getting around that, but if it’s not logical to restrict adults because the foolishness of a certain number of them might cause problems for other people, then there’s no reason to restrict kids because the foolishness of a certain number of their parents might cause problems for other people. If people are going to be idiots, not letting the non-idiot people act in accordance with their non-idiocy doesn’t stop it.

  41. Laura June 5, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

    To MichelleB’s point – that *is* an inconvenience and annoying (and might even be an officially uncomfortable or disconcerting issue in an extreme case), but I also think there’s a problematic lack of input – pure, simple straighforward and honest input – from “others” in many kids lives, and I think some really, really need it.

    So many people don’t want to say/do anything (like give feedback) that’s negative or could be misconstrued as negative, so they say/do nothing. I think that’s really unhelpful to society in general. Kids sometimes need a little feedback from a stranger! They may only ever hear feedback from a parent, and maybe a teacher or two, and that can make it seem more like “my opinion vs. yours” instead of having heard “hey, that’s rude! Please don’t do that!” from multiple people.

    Many have us become so polite that we, in my opinion, err too often on the side of polite silence over speaking up (open-mindedly, politely, and just a little), and it makes it harder on everyone. “Community” used to help keep everyone more on the same page, and it’s sadly missing these days.

  42. anonymous mom June 5, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

    I think there are two separate issues, both real and important: the issue of people assuming, incorrectly, that anybody under maybe 12 or 13 (who, who knows, maybe now it’s 14 or 15) needs a babysitter and therefore if they are in a public space without an adult the adults around have to be de facto babysitters, and the issue of parents who leave children in setting that they themselves know to be too young or immature to supervise themselves in in the hopes that another person will provide the supervision their child needs for free.

    The first is frustrating. If I allow my children to be somewhere without me supervising, it’s because I know they are mature enough to be in that situation. My 11 year old can travel the neighborhood because I know he is capable of doing so. My 5 and 3-1/2 year olds can play in the front yard unsupervised–something they could not do just a couple of months ago, because the younger one was still not reliably staying away from the street at that point and had to prove to me that he understood his boundaries and would stay within them–because they have shown me that they will stay within safe boundaries. But, the other day when I had all four kids, including the baby, outside, and I needed to run in to switch the laundry, my neighbor was on his porch, and I asked him if he’d mind keeping an eye on the kids for five minutes, instead of bringing the baby in, because my oldest was deeply involved in a project and keeping an eye on all three little ones is more than I am comfortable asking from him. I know what my kids are and are not capable of, and if they are doing something alone, it’s because they are able to. That doesn’t mean an emergency might not come up, but I’m not going to leave them alone in a situation where I think it’s likely that they will require help or supervision from somebody, in the hopes that another person will simply volunteer to help them (not knowing where I am or when I’m coming back).

    But there are parents who do that. Ask anybody here, as came up on the Lego thread, who has ever worked in a book or toy store. Parents will absolutely leave children in the store not because the child is old or mature enough to be there unsupervised, but precisely because they are not and they think the store staff will act as babysitters. And that is not fair to either the employees, who are not being paid to do childcare, or the kids.

    If I were to let my 11yo bike to the playground, and somebody there complained because they didn’t want to have to babysit him, that would be ridiculous, because the whole reason I would allow him to go there alone is because he does NOT require an adult to supervise him there. But, if I knew there were lots of moms at the park and I decided I needed a break so I dropped my 5 and 3 year olds over there, knowing they’d be getting into trouble and asking people for food and drinks and begging to be pushed on the swing, that would not be my being a free-range parent, but somebody genuinely expecting others to babysit my kids without being asked or paid. And that’s not cool, and it does happen.

    I totally sympathize with those parents. My husband and I have one criteria for deciding what things we do and do not go to: Is there free childcare? If there is, we are there. We probably won’t even bother to see what the event is, if there is a promise that we can leave our kids for a few hours for free in a room that 1) contains an at least semi-conscious adult (or teen–we’re not picky!) and some animal crackers and 2) is away from us. It is hard to parent kids in a society where so many people live away from family who can help and when many people are so busy with their own lives that they don’t offer to help, especially for single parents. So I do understand the impulse, but I can also understand why people do not want to be in that position. If I were at the park and there was an unattended 5 year old who, rather than being mature and responsible, was clearly not capable of supervising himself or herself, I would feel responsible for them and would not be comfortable just going home and leaving them, even if we were done for the day. If I’m working at a store and somebody leave their 6 year old to play while they shop, and their kid is raising hell, I’m not going to feel comfortable kicking this 6 year old out of the store. This does happen and it does put people in difficult positions, and I do think that we need to acknowledge that sometimes unattended kids are not unattended because their parents are free range but because their parents are hoping/expecting other people to watch them.

    But I totally agree that in the normal course of things, we should not see other people as a burden. I just don’t think the social contract dictates that I can leave my kids in any public space–including spaces that they lack the maturity to navigate safely alone–and expect that others will, without complaint, take over for me.

  43. Emily June 5, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

    @Warren–I suggested Free Range T-shirts a long time ago, and Lenore liked the idea, but I think the Free Range bracelets are a good idea too, because they don’t get worn out or outgrown.

  44. olympia June 5, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

    anonymous mom- I agree; there are two separate issues here. People complaining about “having” to watch over competent kids are ridiculous, but there are some parents who abuse the system, so to speak, expecting de facto babysitting when they drop their really too young to be left alone kids off somewhere. But I also agree that it’s not too much to expect someone to say, grab a jar off the shelf your kid is too short to reach when you send her out shopping. I definitely believe in the village. I also don’t believe that just because a kid has occasion to misbehave in an age appropriate fashion doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be out alone. This may be controversial, I know- but I think if a kid is old enough to be thrown out of a place in which their misbehaving (as I had occasion to do, with great pleasure, when working at assorted jobs), they’re old enough to be out on their own.

    As to child-free folk believing they have the right to no irritation by children, ever- I wonder if that doesn’t have to do with how parenthood is fetishized nowadays. Parenthood is heralded as the pinnacle of INDIVIDUAL achievement- the flip side being that it’s also an individual responsibility. I think this is bad for everyone.

  45. Tiny Tyrant's Mom June 5, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

    I would like to point out that the presence of a parent does not guarantee appropriate behavior from the child. I frequently take my toddler to a park that has two sets of playground equipment: one intended for ages 2-5, the other ages 5-12. We routinely have issues with older kids on the small kids’ equipment, roughhousing and completely oblivious to the small kids around them – and the parents are right there!
    I think helicopter parents actually make it worse – they tend to direct their kids to something too young for them, out of misguided safety concerns. Also, there’s the whole ‘my child is a special snowflake incapable of doing wrong’ mentality. I’m actually more hesitant to say something to a kid when I know their parents are present, because I don’t want to get into it with some self absorbed nut job who thinks their own little darling farts rainbows and sunshine.

  46. Jenny Islander June 5, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

    When each of my children is old enough to go for a short walk alone, I find out where they’re headed and get a good look at what they’re wearing. Then, after they come back, I call that place and describe my child to the person who answers the phone. I want to know if they are minding their manners when I’m not looking. I make a call like this every few months. It takes me, what, five minutes?

    Babysitting schmabysitting. Mom to village–how’s my child handling her freedom?

  47. olympia June 5, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

    I think if adults don’t feel they have the power to tell kids to knock it off, same as they have the power to tell other adults to knock it off, the whole thing falls apart. 😉 When I was running a store, there was once a 10-year-old girl who’d come in and harass me/try to get behind the register, etc. I had no problem telling her she had to get lost, later telling her grandmother, who was her caretaker at the time and also a friend, that I had done so. Grammy was apologetic. I said, “No problem, I’m good at scolding kids, it’s kind of my specialty!” If Grammy had protested my dismissal of her cute but problematic granddaughter, it would have been a totally different situation.

  48. Jeni June 5, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

    “Society proposes that children should not be left unsupervised until they can handle anything life throws their way, no matter how rare, 100% successfully and completely by themselves.”

    Ironically, it’s the actual living of life and making of mistakes that makes any of us capable of handling things.

  49. Warren June 5, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

    Emily,

    Those are not Free Range Tshirts. Nope. They are Leave Me the F— Alone!!!!!!!!!! Tshirts.

  50. Diana Green June 5, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    I think Lenore is onto something regarding this BABYSITTING issue. Has any study questioned what proportion of the adult population actually LIKES KIDS? I am beginning to suspect that most grown-ups DO NOT ACTUALLY ENJOY HAVING CHILDREN AROUND.

    WHAT IF A LOT OF WHAT WE ARE SEEING– CHILDREN RATTED IN TO THE COPS FOR PLAYING OUTSIDE–IS TURF WARS BTWEEN GENERATIONS.

    When I was a kid playing outside, we were ignored by most adults, but some were critical of us and some were downright mean spirited. This was in the 1950’s, during a the fear-mongering era of the Cold War. Charles Dickens wrote of ill treatment of kids in his era. Have kids ever really been cherished in Western society?

    Is the problem that adult society wants children confined INDOORS NOT FOR THE SAFETY OF THE CHILD, BUT FOR THE CONVENIENCE OF THE ADULT?

    Is this a kind of ROAD RAGE we’re seeing? As in STOP MAKING NOISE WHERE I CAN HEAR YOU, YOU LITTLE MONSTERS!!!! GET YOUR BIKE OFF MY PUBLIC SIDEWALK! GET YOURSELF OUT OF MY PUBLIC PARK1

    “CHILDREN SHOULD BE SEEN BUT NOT HEARD.” Or better, neither seen or heard.

    In a rural society, children were valued as future workforce. But some saw them as a nuisance until they had economic value. The Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz lived in the reality of my childhood neighborhood and hollered at us kids. Her male counterpart kicked my puppy when I was ten. Still I walked a mile to school in safety, and the police were not to be feared.

    Is this a cultural change? Smaller families, fewer kids, adults avoiding and shunning and excluding kids and families. Entire communities built to exclude the young School budgets voted down. Entire cities impoverished with schools lacking even the basic resources to help kids learn. Is this a part of our generalized GREED, or is it specific and directed against the young? Confining them indoors, fencing in their playgrounds to assure adults have no contact with them…WHO IS BEING KEPT OUT AND WHO IS BEING KEPT IN?

    I remember the exclusion of grandmotherly types from the vicinity of NYC playgrounds: women who used to take their knitting and and meet friends and watch the little ones play. They were walled out–way out–by the modern policy and the signs Lenore described.

    The Good Book admonishes us to “welcome the stranger, because you were all once strangers in a strange land”. Hospitality was once a virtue. What have we become?

  51. Warren June 5, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

    Diana,
    I think it has a lot to do with people having an over inflated sense of entitlement.

    Far too many people feel that the world revolves around them, what they want, what they like, and how they feel it should be done. I blame it on the parents that started the “self esteem movement” and the “every child is special” bullcrap.

    A lot of them do not want to be part of a community. They are selfish, and anti social.

  52. Travis June 5, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    This is an interesting take on the issue, particularly the way Diana Green and Warren explain it. Because the sense of entitlement makes people not want to “be bothered”, and children are loud (loud doesn’t necessarily mean mis-behaved), or they feel like you’re putting weight on their shoulders because they feel like they need to, like you said, “babysit” them.

    I do feel like overly concerned parents usually overstep their boundaries as well. As in trying to get all the kids (particularly not their own) to behave and include their kid or make the game in a way so their own children enjoy it. The fact that they feel entitled and need to moderate other people’s lives is not the fault of other parents, though.

  53. Jenny Islander June 5, 2015 at 11:17 pm #

    There may be something to this. On two occasions that I can recall, I’ve tried to explain the cockatoo stage to people who complain about “disruptive” babies. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about: that period during babyhood when the baby squawks at random times purely to try out his spiffy new intentional noisemaking capabilities, but he’s too young to shush because he has no clue what you are even saying? I have had people call me a lazy mother and indulgent and so on because I have said that, no, the baby probably doesn’t even know you’re there, and, no, even if he sees you he has no idea that you are not as enthralled with his noisemaking capabilities as he is, and, no, it is not about you. It’s like, the only reason babies exist in public is to deliberately and with malice aforethought throw off somebody’s groove! The plotting capabilities ascribed to somebody whose brain fits beneath a hat the size of a sandwich bag is astounding.

    (As for the cockatoo babies: This is why the first thing parents going out to eat with a baby along should order is a to go box.)

  54. Chet D June 5, 2015 at 11:48 pm #

    Speaking as a man with no kids, (who has been reading this blog for years because of having to deal with the results of other people’s sheltered kids (sheltered young adults) and my own interest in its societal impact) I can safely say I have had zero impulse to “babysit” anyone’s kid. If anything, the threat of being labeled as some sort of child predator is enough to make me very hesitant to lend immediate aid to child without my wife present.

    When this is compounded with the idea of banning adults without kids from public parks, it makes me want to withdraw my finical support from the park and rec. system and challenge contribution of my property taxes to the school system.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do not hate kids. I say let them roam the city and countryside as I did and let them be responsible for their actions as I was. I despise the entitlement attitude that seems to accompany them – both from the parents and the kids they raised. I feel besieged and beggared by this attitude and don’t believe a certain level of resentment is unjustified. It is a direct response to their actions.

  55. sexhysteria June 6, 2015 at 2:08 am #

    Statistically, parents should not be allowed to go near children because strangers are much less likely to harm a child.

  56. James Pollock June 6, 2015 at 3:29 am #

    Statistically, children are more likely to be harmed by other human beings than by wild dingoes.

    You have to be careful with the statistics, because they can be misused. For example, parents are more likely to injure children because they have far more frequent contact, not because parenthood turns you into a sleep-deprived homicidal psychopath. Another example: An American is far more likely to be injured in a car accident than by a burning spacecraft. Again, because Americans spend far more time in automobiles than in spacecraft.

    Statistics don’t like, but people lie with statistics.

  57. Emily June 6, 2015 at 6:59 am #

    Also, I just realized I didn’t tell my “free-range kids as public babysitting burden” story. Anyway, I was eight years old, and my mom wanted to try leaving me at the children’s library for maybe 30 minutes at a time, while she went across the street to the main library. This was before the library was upgraded to combine both the adults’ and the children’s materials in the same building. In any case, my mom wanted to do this, and I was all for it, because I didn’t disturb anyone at the library; I just picked out my books and read. My mom said it’d be safe because there were other people there, and my dad countered, “but they’re not there to watch Emily,” and then my mom countered with “they don’t have to, because Emily can watch herself.” She won, and I got my independent library time, and I don’t think I ever did anything wrong at the library, because I didn’t want to lose that privilege.

  58. Travis June 6, 2015 at 9:01 am #

    @Emily @Warren
    Honestly, at this point I’m very willing to buy my son a “leave me the f— alone t-shirt. Maybe then people would frown at me instead of unnecessarily interrupting the kid’s play because he’s alone (he doesn’t really get on with other children).

  59. bsolar June 6, 2015 at 10:16 am #

    @Warren: “How is either one of these different from helping a kid that took a fall, or was lost or whatever?”

    In the mind of the people against it? That the former is considered something which “happens” without the need to blame anyone, but the latter should not happen period: it’s supposed to be prevented. That’s kinda like being annoyed at somebody needing help with a broken car since the default assumption is that cars should never break: they do only if you didn’t maintain them properly.

    In the mind of these people a kid in need is not “happens: let’s help him”, it’s “somebody allowed him to get in a situation which should have never happened in the first place”.

    Just to be clear, I don’t agree with their line of thinking: I’m only trying to explain which kind of mentality I guess makes them act like that.

  60. pentamom June 6, 2015 at 10:28 am #

    anonymous mom — I think everyone understands that the situation of parents who just dump their kids and expect the rest of the world to look out for them, is real, and is different from parents who consider their kids are independent and need no more looking out for than the kind of neighborly consideration you’d expect adults to give one another.

    The thing is, claiming that group 2 is a burden because group 1 exists is neither logical, nor solves the problem. You can ban unaccompanied kids from stores and libraries all day long, and people who don’t like rules and have no consideration or sense of responsibility will still dump their kids, but meanwhile, the considerate people’s kids don’t get to exercise appropriate independence. The people who work in those stores will still have to kick out the unaccompanied kids, because the irresponsible parents will still dump them.

    Restricting responsible behavior because of the irresponsible is almost never a good idea, and definitely not in situations where there’s no immediate danger involved. It’s one thing to ban all unauthorized people from a construction site because some people will do something dumb, but it’s quite another to ban everyone under the age of 12 from being out of eyeline of a parent in the children’s section of a library because sometimes kids make noise or throw the books around.

  61. pentamom June 6, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    BTW, I do respect the right of business owners to restrict the age or number of unaccompanied kids — there can be legitimate business reasons to do that. But that doesn’t mean I have respect the decision-making process that leads to it, if it’s based on bad ideas.

  62. Tamara June 6, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

    ” this BABYSITTING issue. Has any study questioned what proportion of the adult population actually LIKES KIDS”

    “s the problem that adult society wants children INDOORS NOT FOR THE SAFETY OF THE CHILD, BUT FOR THE CONVENIENCE OF THE ADULT”

    I wonder about these things, too. It certainly seems as though our society wants to be perceived as one who cherishes it’s children – after all, would we want to keep them SO safe if we didn’t love and cherish them? However, the truth seems to be that we do love them, as long as it is not too inconvenient. People do not seem to like kids, their own included. When you have a baby, what are the first few questions? “Oh, what’s her name? How old is she? Is she a GOOD baby?” Meaning one, presumably, that sleeps and eats and does not cry or whatever as expected. I just don’t know what people expect raising kids to be like, but I think they are supposed to be loud, full of excitement and energy and chaos. Society would prefer them to be quiet and docile, and above all, respectful to authority (meaning any adult, of course) That’s a “good” kid.

    I also hate hate hate that Staples commercial they run each fall – the Christmas song playing “it’s the most wonderful time of the year!” And parents celebrating that their kids are (finally!) going back to school! Ugh, nice world.

  63. KittyKat June 6, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

    Speaking of babysitting, I was thinking of getting a babysitting job this summer. I went on a website and found a couple of “great” tips like:

    1.Never leave kids unattended in the bath, even for a second. Children can drown in a few seconds.
    SERIOUSLY?!?! That rules out swimming then…

    2. Babies also can suffocate if they sleep on soft surfaces, so never let a baby sleep on a bed, sofa, etc. (that’s only part of the tip)
    Me: I’ll get the brick wall (well if there not in their crib, they need constant supervision, and no baby’s suffocating on my watch)

    3.Go through the basics. Take a child to the bathroom (or put on a nighttime diaper). Help the child brush his or her teeth
    Me: ummm … How old are we talking?

    4.Super Wise to Supervise
    When kids are busy on the play equipment, it may seem like a good time to check in with friends. But in the few seconds it takes to look down and read a text, kids can get into all kinds of trouble. Keep your eyes on the kids at all times
    And
    It just takes a second for a kid to fall or clothing to get caught. Always watch and supervise kids on play equipment.
    Me: true but I doubt if I glance away for a second an unavoidable terrible tragedy will happen. That being said I also understand that if the kids need a babysitter I should watch them, but can’t I relax a little? Are they (older kids at least) really in so much danger if I send a text?

    5. When you’re with kids of different ages, stay with the younger child but be sure to keep a watchful eye on the older ones.
    Me:it’s a good idea to stay with the younger kids but do older ones need tons of supervision?!
    (It depends I guess on the kid)

    This isn’t a tip but they also said this
    Young children (and sometimes older ones) can’t always gauge distances properly and aren’t capable of knowing when something is too risky for their capabilities.
    Which CAN be true but it depends on the child and not all children should be treated the same way.
    I’d be cautious with younger kids but still..

    Now for playground safety like:
    Check the area for glass, metal, or other dangers before you let kids on the playground.
    (Umm what about adventure playgrounds??)

    Avoid play equipment that’s wet because kids can slip and fall off easily.

    Check sandboxes for sharp sticks, broken glass, bugs — and other stuff.
    (Bugs?! My elementary school playground had a sandbox with *gasp* ants and nobody ever got stung)

    Some of the tips on the site are really good but I think these are kind of paranoid/silly.
    I also understand that I need to follow the parents rules and I do not plan to change them or let the kids do anything the parents won’t allow even if it seems ridiculous, just stating my opinion here

  64. silvie June 6, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

    As an african proverb says.. It takes an entire village to raise a child.

  65. Red June 7, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    I wish we had a park nearby with chess tables and some guys playing chess.

    It would give my kid someone besides a computer to play chess with. He’s better than either me or his father (neither of us are good at chess–a friend of his taught the kid in afterschool care in preschool and he just magically got it).

  66. Puzzled June 7, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

    If anyone’s curious, I just came across a video from the guy who made the kidnapping video in which he drugs girls’ drinks in bars. As usual, he doesn’t say how many times he tried and failed, but at least he doesn’t make any claims at all about incidence (except to say “it’s a serious problem.”)

    I’m still waiting for this guy to get arrested for going around filming himself doing obviously illegal things.

  67. E June 8, 2015 at 9:17 am #

    @Diana — we have college aged kids now. But I know when my kids were younger and required some level of supervision (activity dependent of course), we had enough parenting that we didn’t need to parent/supervise other people’s kids. I referred to that in an earlier post, that we both had siblings who took advantage of us when we gathered together at grandma’s house. One would literally send their kid downstairs and go back to bed because they knew we’d be up and feeding/caring for/entertaining our kids(s). So sure, there was a period where we felt like other parents should be willing to do for their kids as we were doing for ours, both relatives and strangers.

    And sure, when we observed kids that were misbehaving due to lack of supervision (in a situation where we wouldn’t have given our kids 100% independence), it’s kind of crappy.

    But as we aged and weren’t/aren’t so busy with our work/home/raising kids, we evolved.

    I presume it’s part of the continuum of becoming grandparents who can enjoy their grandkids and send them back to Mom/Dad when the visit is over. 🙂

  68. That_Susan June 8, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    In general, kids in public are NOT a “babysitting burden” for the rest of us, and I agree with everyone who says that we shouldn’t see it as a burden to do something simple to help someone else, regardless of the age of the person needing the help.

    But after going swimming with my 10-year-old this weekend, and seeing the lifeguard go in to pull out a kid of around my daughter’s age who was floundering in the water, I will say that I’m glad that public pools and neighborhood pools have stricter rules today about parental supervision of kids under a certain age than they did when I was a kid.

    When I was my daughter’s age, my mom used to drop my brother and me off to spend the afternoon at our city pool, where there were of course lifeguards on duty, but also lots and lots of kids swimming with no one directly supervising them, and, in my opinion now, much greater risks that a drowning could occur because it can happen so fast, and the lifeguard may not see it soon enough.

    And then when I was twelve, we moved to a condominium where there was a sign that read “No lifeguard on duty. Swim at your own risk.” There was a rule about parents accompanying children who couldn’t pass the test of swimming the entire length of the pool, but since my younger brother and I were both strong swimmers, we were able to go on our own, and I had one really terrifying experience when I was swimming under water and started to come up for air, only to have someone grab my shoulders and shove me further under the water, putting their whole weight on top of me so that I couldn’t come up.

    It turned out that one of my friends had been dog paddling across the deep end when she got tired and suddenly started sinking. She panicked and grabbed the first thing she felt under her — me — and held on for dear life. Luckily, my brother noticed what was happening before I passed out, and swam up behind her as we’d been taught in lifesaving class, and rescued us both.

    With this in mind, even though I believe in trusting my kids and all, I feel like different rules apply for bodies of water. Regarding the boy who almost drowned this weekend, the lifeguard wanted to talk to the adult responsible for him and there was no one there. It looked like he was part of a group of kids who managed to get into the pool without any adult — or maybe an adult came and checked them in and then took off. While I realize that lifeguards are paid to rescue swimmers and ensure their safety, so it’s not bad that he had to jump in and save the boy, I still feel like it’s important for young swimmers to have adults present who have a specific interest in that particular child. I really see this as a life and death issue, whereas the risk of walking to and from a park is actually less than that of riding in a car (as Lenore and others have pointed out).

  69. SOA June 8, 2015 at 6:34 pm #

    I have no problem with public parks being public and open to everyone as long as they act mannerly and follow the rules like no dogs running off leash in the playground area or no smoking etc. whatever the park rules are.

    I also don’t have a problem with kids being on their own as long as they are mature enough and smart enough and don’t bother anyone else.

  70. Beth June 8, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    And, with that comment, we’re right back to ““Society proposes that children should not be left unsupervised until they can handle anything life throws their way, no matter how rare, 100% successfully and completely by themselves.”

    Because kids at the playground must be mature, smart (no D-students allowed!) and CAN NOT bother anyone else with whatever life throws their way.

    Pretty darn compassionate there, Dolly.

  71. Scott June 9, 2015 at 1:14 am #

    Lenore, as a teacher who is “of an age” (sorry classmate), of high school kids, I have to wonder if this sort of separation of kids for elders, especially silvers, is bad in a number of other ways. First, separation breeds contempt, While the adults should know better, what’s the stereotype? Some old man shaking his fist in the air yelling “you young whipper-snappers!”. While the kids haven’t developed the mental ability to see what what others go through, and have empathy, from afar. Is this why a small minority of my students find it so easy to lie to me, blow off my assignments, passive-aggressively dismiss my authority in the classroom? Second, think of all the knowledge, skills, and experience locked up in those graying heads. Stuff that will never be taught in school, and is oh so hard, and sometime dangerous, to learn in the real world. And, third, what about the stories of where the kids come from, their family, culture, and historical roots. What were the struggles the family had to go through to get where they are??? This oral history is important. As the fourth of five kids, most of those who could tell those stories to me, were gone by the time I was really old enough to listen and understand. I have to depend on my older siblings. It’s not the same.

    This separation by age is not good, all around.

  72. Scott June 9, 2015 at 1:21 am #

    Wait, That_Susan. What has happened between your third and fourth paragraph. It was OK for you and your siblings, but somehow kids today have de-volved into less capable human beings, in one, maybe two, generations? We don’t mutate that fast! If your generation could handle it, so can today’s.

  73. That_Susan June 9, 2015 at 8:24 am #

    Scott, I actually wasn’t saying that it was okay for me. I nearly drowned — and yes, I realize my YOUNGER brother happened to notice what was going on and rescue me, but I happen to think there’s a much greater chance of children drowning when they’re swimming without their parents. So I was saying that while I, in general, favor a society that allows my kids and grandkids the same freedoms that I was allowed at their ages, I have a different opinion when it comes to bodies of water, because of how quickly a drowning can happen.

    That said, I’m really more interested in my own kids than anybody else’s, so even though I think the stricter rules at public swimming pools are a good thing to enforce, if I hear about someone else’s kid drowning I’ll feel sad but not nearly as devastated as I would if it were my own child. So if society reverted to a situation where every pool just had a “Swim at your own risk” sign, it would seriously have no affect on my family, because my husband and I would still be there with our kids. To each his own.

  74. That_Susan June 9, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    I think the main reason why I don’t see kids in public as a “babysitting burden” is that I don’t have the same “global conscience” regarding the parenting of other people’s kids as I do about issues that require more of a public consensus to solve, such as global warming or police gunning down minority young people — or, of course, children and parents being punished when the children are just playing outdoors or walking around and not bothering anybody.

    Even with my concerns about drowning, which lead me to be less free-range with my own kids when it comes to bodies of water than I am when it comes to other outdoor pursuits, I wouldn’t say that I have a “global conscience” about it because even though I think the stricter rules on public swimming are wise, I wouldn’t have been concerned enough to try to put them into effect myself, and (as I’ve already mentioned) I wouldn’t be all that bothered if we reverted to having no such rules. I wouldn’t be bothered because the absence of such rules wouldn’t prevent me from making sure that my own kids were safe.

    I’m not saying that I want other people’s kids to drown — but in a sense, I guess I’m okay with it. I mean, I’m sad for you if your kids drown, but I wouldn’t go after you and aggressively prosecute you for it. I’d figure that you were already grieving enough. In a similar way, I’m “that parent” who is so much more into her own kids than other people’s kids that I’ve been at swimming pools where somebody else’s kid nearly drowned and I never even noticed until the lifeguard blew his or her whistle and went in after the child.

    Which is one reason why I think parents are kind of stupid if they assume that they don’t need to keep that close of an eye on their little one in the pool if there are other parents whom they don’t even know in there swimming with their own kids. No, your not-yet-able-to-swim-well kids are not in the least a “babysitting burden” to me. They might drown three feet away from me without me even noticing.

    Just so long as no one blames me for not noticing, I’m cool with allowing other parents complete freedom not to supervise their kids at the pool.

  75. JP Merzetti June 10, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    A lot of good points here, Lenore (preaching to my choir, but the sermon goes nicely with morning coffee.)

    You’re right, of course. Childhood has become a privatized responsbility. Teaching chess (publically) becomes subversive behavior.
    One must question the moral compass of a society that often doesn’t seem capable of being adult enough to incorporate childhood into whatever’s left of its so-called public realm.
    Creating a world where kids just don’t fit in……except in a state of metaphorical dog-chained, muzzled, harnessed and clicker-trained perfectly obedient “heel”……well.

    On the one hand, we have a ‘must be accompanied by an adult’. On the other hand, we have a ‘must be accompanied by a child’. Anything outside this model becomes criminal.
    And what does that make us?
    Unable to legally and morally “see” a kid unless belonging by blood?
    Well, it does become a matter of property, doesn’t it?

    When I was a kid, a lot of people in my community knew who I ‘belonged’ to. That’s how they kept track of me, I suppose. But more often than not, these “strangers” obtained this information by asking me (or my siblings.)
    It was a normal matter of course. No small matter of family pride.
    The strength of my community was in its clans.
    They were not isolated, free enterprised individualized little corporate franchises……they were extended families.
    When did we stop thinking like free citizens of social repsonsibility, and exchange that for thinking like business people, instead?

    As a mature adult, I pride myself on knowing how to do many things – including a proper attitude of respect for fellow-citizens (including kids.)
    Moving around in my world as a ‘suspect’ of anything……….
    just gets in the way of being human, altogether.
    Living while male. Unaccompanied.
    Suspect to the State – of confusion.

    Paranoia has become the new precious metal. Mined, minted and coined in the stamp of the realm.
    But personally, I don’t babysit anyone.
    I do expect behavior suitable to the circumstance.
    Expectations often bring marvelous results.

  76. SOA June 11, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    Beth-my kids walk home from school alone now. Even my son with autism. And he is hardly a perfect kid. But I trained him enough over time to be able to handle this task. So same goes with everything else. If you work with your kids at a playground till they know how to act there, then you can let them be there alone at that point. But just turning them loose with no training, that is the kind of parenting I don’t like.

    If your kids are acting like jerks when you are watching them, they are not ready to be alone yet. Once they are doing really well with you watching them, then you can trust them to do it on their own.

    So that parent that wants to be able to drop little Johnny off at the playground needs to ask herself does little Johnny behave at the playground? Does he push little kids? Does he steal other kids toys? Does he wander out of the bounds I give him? Does he spit on people? Oh no, he does not do any of that. Okay then drop him off. Oh wait he does still push little kids and steal toys….well better give him some more training before I leave him there alone. Its that simple. But its about the kid, not what you as the parent want to be able to do.

    I know this better than anyone since my son with autism is quite a bit delayed on a lot of things. So many times I have to keep working with him when other parents are beyond that with their kids. But that is just the way the cookie crumbles. I don’t just do what I want and not care how that bothers others.

  77. Beth June 11, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    But Dolly, that’s not what you said. You said the kid has to be “mature enough and smart enough and don’t bother anyone else.” You didn’t say anything about the parents, or the behavior of the child – you mentioned maturity, intelligence, and if a kid needs a band-aid he’d better not ask if you have one in your purse. That would be such a bother, and that’s what we’re talking about here. Whether a child alone might need a small thing from an adult who’s not related to him, and whether it’s “babysitting” to assist him.

    Your second post made quite a bit more sense than your first.

  78. Melissa June 12, 2015 at 11:25 am #

    I like that my children are not shy, and are friendly to strangers. They want to pet their dog/play with their kid/tell them about the planets, etc. But I often wonder if these people are “annoyed” by my children, and I’m constantly edging between letting them freely associate with people in public (a big thing – my husband’s soccer games (he coaches) …they like to visit with the fans (OTHER PARENTS) on the sidelines) and shooing them away from people who might think I am relying on them to “babysit” my arguably pestering kids.

  79. James Pollock June 18, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

    “I often wonder if these people are “annoyed” by my children, and I’m constantly edging between letting them freely associate with people in public”

    It’s quite possible that some of them are, in fact, annoyed by your children…(rightly or wrongly… I don’t want to suggest that your kids are actually doing anything objectionable).

    This is just like any other learning opportunity… your kids should be learning to tell the difference between people who welcome interaction with them, and those who do not, and how to read the social cues that someone wants to end a conversation/interaction.