I’m always reading about people and their kids being harassed by paranoid, busy-body, safety police at the Free-Range Kids blog. I even had a parent who lives close to The Boy’s school “report” me to the school admins because he showed up at 7 PM asking if their kid could come out to play (to which I responded incredulously: I told him he could go and we live around the corner. I can hear kids playing during recess, we live so close. And there was still sun.).
So, understandably, when I send the Boy out to the park, I worry sometimes that someone will see him and think he’s too young to be out there by himself. But the Boy has always been free-range and living in an upstairs unit in a quiet gated condo community, having parks within walking distance is a necessity for all parties involved. In fact, one of the first things we did when we moved into our new neighborhood was find the closest park and check it out together.
The closest is the school park, which the Boy generally finds boring. But just a little further away is a park with a community center, a skate park, and all sorts of things he can do. Best of all, there are lots of other kids for him to play with as well (with the only adults hanging around to watch the younger kids). He’s even made friends and always makes sure to have their parents call me if they’re concerned with his being out there without adult supervision.
Generally, we’ve learned that our neighborhood is fairly free-range friendly and the Boy goes back and forth from the community center park and home without a hitch. Except yesterday…
He fell and hurt himself on his way home from the park. I figured it was pretty bad because he called me from a stranger’s phone and asked me to come get him. After asking him if he was too injured to ride his scooter home and hearing the distress in his voice, I hopped in the car (rented for the weekend of errand running) and went to pick him up. There he was sitting in a booth by himself, waiting so patiently. When he saw me, he looked so relieved and thanked me for coming so quickly. He exaggerated a little limp and told me that his whole right side hurt from the fall. I could see a bit of evidence, but I decided not to press the issue that he could have totally made it home.
When I asked him whose phone he had used, he said that a lady saw him fall and asked if he needed any help. He asked if he could call his mom to pick him up. He said she didn’t ask about why he was out there alone or anything indicating any disapproval, just let him use her phone told him to wait for me and went on about her business.
And when I picked him up, no one was hovering. The whole situation made me proud of the Boy and my community.