A real-world example of how NOT IMPOSSIBLE it is to pop the parenting bubble of fear.
Dear Free-Range Kids: When our kids were pre-school aged I noticed that our park visits were taken up with pushing kids on the swings, or helping them up things. One day I noticed that parents were in the way of everything — making the rules, enforcing the rules, and generally stopping kids from noticing that other kids existed in the park! One day at a picnic my husband spent an hour pushing our three year old daughter — she loved it, but he missed the picnic, she complained if he stopped — it was the final straw for me. Parks were amazing, but we were doing it wrong.Â .So I began to declare the rule loud and often to all my friends “Parks are for kids, not adults”. Some were skeptical at first, it felt like we were bad parents, uncaring, one step away from being “one of those mums on the phone instead of watching the kids*”. So I began to declare a little louder that “home was the place to play with mum, parks are for playing with others kids”, and “A park is a place for mums to chat with each other, while kids play with each other”. My friends started to listen, but it was with loads of hesitation at first, and they would say things like “just three pushes and then mummy is going to have her cup of tea”.Â .However as my friendship circle grew comfortable with the idea, they started to see the benefits. The kids moderate their own behaviour, they make their own rules, they include other kids (whom they have never met — but only if the kid is also sans-parent), they learn things, they teach each other, they never exceed their comfortable risk levels (i.e. swings going faster then they can control, or climbing too high). And we get to have a nice cuppa together.Â .Today at the park we actually discussed it a bit, kind of shocked that we ever treated parks any differently, from the two-year-old toddlers who can barely use anything, to the five, six, and seven-year-olds who have long abandoned the play equipment in favour of climbing the trees, they are all left to their own devices while we enjoy a good natter. Everyone is happy.ÂYours, Cassie Thompson
*I want to add that since we began this, I have realised that a mum playing with her phone, texting, reading, or just navel gazing while at the park is perfectly fine — parks are not necessarily a chance for kids to “show off to mum” or for “mum to photograph everything”, they can just be a place for mum to have a 30 minute chill.Â .
Yes we have a cuppa at the park. We bring a thermos and cups, and fruit and snacks. The kids range from being under our feet (the babies) to being out of sight in the trees or riding the 800 meter bike track. Myself and a group of three other mums spend 3-4 hrs here every week.Â .The Kitchener park (NSW Australia) has two covered picnic areas, bike tracks, plenty of trees and even a dam. Australians are as obsessed with tea as the British !