In a stunning blow against parenting independent children, police and Child Protective Services are investigating parents in a suburb of Washington DC for allowing their 10 year-old son and 6 year-old daughter walk to and from a neighborhood park 1 mile from their home (together).
I had to read this article more than twice to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. The more I read, the more bewildered I became. Surely I was missing some vital, dangerous aspect to this story where clearly the children were in grave danger and the parents completely negligent. Nope… I scoured this article for something I believed would give Child Protective Services reason to knock on the door and investigate a Climate Science Consultant and a Physicist at the National Institutes of Health (the parents). In my opinion, I just can’t find any reason.
This incident hits home for me because of the way I attempt to instill (or parent) independence upon my 12 year-old son and 10 year-old daughter. It also has me rethinking the way I was brought up.
I’d better call MY parents and warn them about Child Protective Services. If Protective Services found out retrospectively about all the walking home from schools, libraries, and parks I did when I was a kid – my parents might be hung from the tallest tree! I walked and rode my bike EVERYWHERE when I was child and was ENCOURAGED to so AFTER I learned every safety rule the public schools and my parents could jam into my prepubescent head. I had no idea that somehow my parents were endangering my welfare by allowing me to experience life. Heck, I was still a good 2 or 3 decades away from having a cell phone on standby in case of an emergency.
I also hope Child Protective Services doesn’t find out about me. On more than 1 occasion, I’ve allowed my son and daughter (together) to walk to their local playground (less than a mile away). I’ve also dropped them off together at the movie theater and picked them up after the show without incident. In these situations, they’re ALWAYS together and ALWAYS have their cell phones on them in case plans change or they have questions. I’ve also more than prepared them for “stranger danger” circumstances and peppered them with safety knowledge over the years. Am I a bad parent? I don’t think I am.
Let me also state that I have no problem with parents who might think 10 years old and 6 years old is a little young for walking home alone. Or, that maybe you wouldn’t drop your kids (12 & 10) off at the movies together because you feel your own children might not be ready. I just don’t think police and Child Protective Services need to become involved in parenting styles that are designed to promote independence and leadership qualities. Safety? Yes. Abuse situations? Absolutely! Waking home from a park in a nice neighborhood with a responsible brother or sister? NOPE!
It’s funny how parents can be labeled in an unflattering light no matter what their parenting style. If you try to instill independence, you practice “Free-Range Parenting” where it is implied you basically let your child do whatever they want. If you are protective of your child, you’re labeled an ever-hovering “Helicopter Parent.” I’m sure most parents believe they are a pleasant balance of the two styles. I’m also confident most parents, like me, dislike parenting labels immensely.
What do you think?