A Normal Day at the Park (It Can Be Done!)

Hi zehskkbhkt
Readers! Here’s a nice note about a normal day — so normal it deserves comment. THIS is the kind of thing I’m talking about with,  “Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day.” Fun, sociability, community. NO BIG DEAL! Read on!

Dear Free-Range Kids: The past few times I’ve written to you, I’ve shared stories about anti-Free-Range experiences that I’ve had: the background checks now being done on visitors to the school my daughter will eventually attend, the mom at Target who seemed to want her daughter superglued to her side, instead of being three feet away from her with me standing between them…you know, the typical depressing stuff that makes Free-Range Kids sound so appealing to those of us who want to raise normal human beings, rather than “teacups.”

Fortunately, this is not going to be one of those stories. :o)

I took my two-and-a-half year old daughter to the park today. We sat at a dirty, splintery and very uncomfortable picnic table to eat our lunch, and didn’t care too much that there was really nowhere to wash our hands. I let her climb the curved metal ladder on the back of the slide–something I would have been too scared to do, even when I was much older than she is–and the jungle gym. I let her check out the creek up close, to see if she could spot the frog we spooked when we first arrived.  We talked to a dad and his two young sons, who were also playing there, even though they were all complete strangers.

But the best part–speaking in terms of Free-Range Kids, at least–was when I saw three UNATTENDED children (I’d guess their ages might have ranged from about 8 to 11 years old) come riding down the big hill on their bikes. The oldest one wiped out on the gravel path and scraped up her elbow, but she barely even batted an eye about it. No screaming as though she was about to die from her very minor injury. When she decided a little while later that ignoring it probably wasn’t the best thing to do, she walked right up to me and asked me if I had a Band-Aid. Ridiculously excited that she wasn’t afraid to approach me–a stranger!–I told her yes, I had a first aid kit in my car, if she wanted to follow us over so I could get it. She did, and I cleaned up her wound, stuck a bandage over it and then told her to wash it more thoroughly when she got home, before sending her back to her brother and sister.

And no one even reported me for “luring” a young girl back to my vehicle. Score one for the Free-Rangers! :o) — Kim


10 Responses to A Normal Day at the Park (It Can Be Done!)

  1. Susan May 4, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    I had a FR victory yesterday as well! My 8 yo dd (third grade) has a girl in her class this year who lives in the same little section of our neighborhood as we do. It takes about 5 minutes to walk to her house.

    The girls have played together several times throughout the school year. Usually they all (the mom and her 2 daughters) come by our house on the way to the park or something or we (moms) arrange something by phone. The last couple of times that they have invited my daughter over, my daughter has walked down to their house without me.

    Yesterday their daughter came to our house all by herself, knocked on the door, and asked if our daughter could go to her house to play. The two of them walked together back to the girl’s house.

    I was so excited! We have three kids ages 5, 6, and 8 and we have children the same ages all over our neighborhood. This is the first time any child has ever come over by themselves and asked to play.

    I go back and forth between being ecstatic and being slightly depressed that I would be so happy about something that was so commonplace when I was growing up. Baby steps…

  2. Alana M May 4, 2010 at 10:51 pm #

    That is a very nice story to tell. I like it when kids ask for the time, or directions, or just a general question and aren’t afraid to do so.

    I left my 10 yo home alone Saturday night for 3.5 hrs and shock! he was still alive when we got home and the house wasn’t burned down.

  3. Lucy May 4, 2010 at 11:08 pm #

    This post kind of typifies my reaction to the take-you-kid-to-the-park-and-leave-it-there campaign. My oldest is six. She can’t ride a bike. I take her to the park, and have no problems letting her out of my sight, but leaving her there alone is not on the agenda, simply because she would be stuck. (What if she had to use the bathroom?) But if a kid can get to the park by itself, and home from the park by itself (even at 6), then no biggie. Except, why do I have to take it there?

  4. Sarah May 4, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    What a great story – reminded me of ME when I was little. We had a great park near our house that had all sorts of wooden forts and play equipment. Or riding my bike to the pool with my towel draped around my neck. Those are some of my favorite memories and I hope my little one will have some of her own! She’s not yet 2, so I don’t think we’ll be leaving her at the park just yet. Some day though!

  5. Emily May 4, 2010 at 11:20 pm #

    Oh Sarah – The damp towel! One of the best summer memories.

    This story warms the cockles of my heart. Good for those kids, and good for you, Kim, at the ready with the band-aid!

  6. Jennifer May 4, 2010 at 11:59 pm #

    Very nice! I love that the kids were off by themselves, and especially love that the one that fell did not seem to mind her fall. So many kids over react!!!! I like to think that my kids don’t.

  7. Christina May 5, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    That’s great! It reminds me of the other day when I was with both kids and their dad at the playground and these 2 children (probably 7 and 12), obviously friends from the neighbourhood, rode up on bikes and played. Lucky kids!

    I remember playing with friends around the neighbourhood at that age too. It was so fun.

  8. Peter May 5, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    “And no one even reported me for “luring” a young girl back to my vehicle.”

    Oh, was that you? Gee, I feel a little guilty about calling the police. Never mind those patrol cars outside the house…


  9. Phoebe May 5, 2010 at 8:03 pm #

    This makes me happy. The park is only a mile from my house, so when my kids are older I will be sending them there on their bikes. Right now they’re 4 & 1, so it’s not gonna happen… But when we do go, I am That Mom. The one who lets her kids run all over the park barefoot, rubbing dirt/sand/sawdust all over their bodies & climbing on the jungle gym alone (it’s not very big, I do spot the one year old near the edge if he needs it). And me? I get to knit w/o interruption for a few hours. Perfect!

  10. Leslie May 7, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    I want to add, a big thing I teach my boys is that if they ever get lost or seperated from me to look for another mom, not an employee. Too many places you go to the staff isn’t dressed to stand out, and why not find a mom? I’d be more apt to help a lost 4 year old then that 16 year old working the ride at the amusment park. Moms carry love and Band-aids at all times, even if they’re stashed in the car.