Dear Free-Range Kids: I am Australian and last year I went on a big US trip with my husband and my two girls. My husband was working while I took the girls around on my own to sightsee and OMG I was told on 3 separate occasions that I was a terrible mother.
The first time was at the airport. My daughter was 3 at the time and had been on a very long flight, so as children do, they run around and my daughter was running up and down a ramp that I could see her on and this American lady was yelling out so everyone could hear saying that I obviously didn’t care about my daughter and that she could get snatched. I didn’t appreciate her making these claims so I went over and confronted her and she made a bigger deal saying, “Oh that’s the thanks I get for saving your child” and I said, “I know my child’s limits and I can see her”.
It really upset me. I love my children with all my heart and would never intentionally put them in danger. Here in Australia I feel that it’s a little more relaxed, or if not, at least people don’t feel the need to come and tell me that I am a terrible parent.
The second occasion was when I was in Macy’s. I was looking through a rack of clothes and my 3 year old daughter was running from me to the glass door at the front of the shop. I could see her running back and forth and as children are when shopping, they get bored and I was more than happy for her to run around. But then I had a couple come through the front glass door and the woman yelled out, “Where is your mum, this is terrible” and I looked over at her and put my hand up and motioned for my daughter to come to me. The couple walked off shaking their heads and then 5 minutes later the woman came back and lectured me that I should be more careful with my child and that anyone could grab her from the glass door of the shop and take her away. I was annoyed that at her for coming over and judging me and I was upset that this was the second time in our holiday in the US that someone had questioned my parenting.
The third time was when I was at the airport walking to the gate for my trip home. I had one daughter in the pram and my 3 year old daughter insisted that she wanted to walk (as most 3 year olds do) and it was a bit of a long walk but my daughter seemed to be fine and was not complaining and was just chatting to me on the way to the gate and then another American lady came up beside me and said, “You are walking all this way with your children, it’s a long walk” and I didn’t know what she was getting at, so I just looked at her and smiled and she proceeded to say, “No, its not ok to make your child walk all that way, what’s wrong with putting her in the pram”….. I was shocked into silence.
Here in Australia they are always going on about how there is an obesity epidemic in children and that we should be encouraging our children to be more active, but even besides that point, my daughter didn’t want to sit in the pram and I didn’t even give it a second thought that letting my child walk next to me was a bad thing.
I was really upset after that trip and sometimes wonder whether it is a cultural thing because I never experienced such judgement here in Australia. Sorry about the long email, just needed to tell someone about this.
Kind regards from Oz,