Would You Leave Your Kid in a Park?
At least one mother says yes. Me, I’m not so sure.
As play spaces go, Central Park’s Ancient Playground is a kids’ paradise. Everywhere you look, children of all ages are climbing the pyramid-shaped walls, digging through the sand pit and running after each other. My daughter makes a beeline for the tire swings, while my son begs to take off his T-shirt so he can get drenched in the sprinkler.
The playground is clean, securely fenced with only one gate, and so well-padded that a kid would have to work hard to skin a knee. A few decades ago, a mom would think nothing of dropping off her school-age child in a place like this for an hour – or even letting him go there alone if he lived close by. But when I ask the mothers here if they’d consider letting their children play on their own, they raise their eyebrows and say, “Are you kidding?” Even my 7-year-old son calls the idea “stinky.”
It looks as if “Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day” may take a while to catch on.
The parents-free Saturday playdate is the brainchild of Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids. Skenazy, who’s become locally famous (or infamous) for letting her 9-year-old son ride the subway alone, is tired of seeing kids spending their childhood at home with their Wiis, socializing only at soccer matches and scheduled get-togethers. This lack of independence, she says, takes a toll on confidence and social skills.
“Kids play differently when they’re alone than when they’re with parents,” Skenazy says. “You don’t get as much self-regulation when you’re on a team or playing with Mom.” So she proposed a day to let children get together and have some fun without parents hovering around.
You’d have thought she was telling moms to abandon their kids in a dark alley with a pack of Marlboros and a pint of Jack Daniel’s.
The reaction among the local media and local moms was swift and furious: WORLD’S WORST MOM! What kind of irresponsible behavior is that? Why not send an engraved invitation to all the kidnappers and pedophiles? What if some child breaks a bone or loses a tooth without an adult to help? Even my own friends laughed and said, “I’d like some of whatever she’s smoking!”