I am not a free-range parent. I’m just not. Especially when it comes to the great outdoors.
But let me back up. I am also not the mom who nervously hovers, watching my kids with an eagle-eye, constantly admonishing them to be careful.
I do encourage my children to play without me and entertain themselves.
But do I let them run around outside unsupervised? No way. Call me a nervous nelly or overprotective, I don’t care. I don’t agree that I am – but I don’t mind if you think I am.
My girls are eight and five years old. When they are playing outside, they are in my line of sight 95% of the time, whether I’m doing dishes inside or gardening outside. My feeling is that they are just not responsible enough to be on their own with no adult watching them.
I know I’m not going to be able to prevent every injury, and I’m okay with that. In fact, Annie just got her first stitches the other day, courtesy of a tumble off the swing set that I saw happen. Things like that are going to happen because – well, they’re kids.
I’m more worried about Annie carelessly zooming on her bike into the street and getting hit by a car coming around the corner. Or Grace overestimating her dexterity and falling six feet from the top of the monkey bars.
They are little kids who don’t have brains that are developed enough to make smart decisions about safety. They still need adult guidance when they are outside. That’s how I feel.
There are other parents in my neighborhood who think just like I do. And then there are some who don’t.
One set of parents – whom I like and hang out with – let their three kids, ages 5, 6, and 8, play outside completely unsupervised. They live in an area of the neighborhood that has heavy traffic. And I frequently see their kids playing too close to the road, crossing the street without looking, etc.
This isn’t free-range parenting to me. It’s neglectful. And dangerous. Part of me wants to speak up before anyone gets hurt. But part of me is just thinking I should butt out.
My kids are friends with my neighbor’s kids, and often want to go over and play at their house. But since I know they won’t be supervised at all, I won’t let them. Which makes me seem like the mean, overprotective mom, but their safety is more important than my cool-factor.
However, what’s awkward is that it’s very obvious to my neighbor – who I’ll call Jane – that I won’t let my kids go to her house. She’s asked several times if I’d like my kids to go play in her yard and I always make up some excuse. She obviously feels the kids are fine on their own, while I don’t. Then I feel badly when it’s obvious that my kids are playing in my own yard.
I once went over with my kids to keep an eye on them, and Jane eventually came outside to hang out with me, but she mentioned she should be doing work. It was pretty clear she felt she had to be outside since I was. If I say to her that I feel that Grace needs to be supervised outside, it’ll be a dig at her since she lets her little boy of the same age play outside alone all the time.
Why not just invite her kids to my house? Well, it gets a little tough because she has three, and one’s a sweet but rambunctious little boy. One girl is a troublemaker. The three kids come in a package and go everywhere together. So if they’re at my house I really need to be actively involved and watching five kids. So yeah, I can do it sometimes, but not on a regular basis.
Neighborhood awkwardness. Good times. And it’s bound to be a bigger issue this summer.
What are your thoughts on this? Am I overprotective? Is my neighbor bordering on neglectful? How would you handle it?
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