[twitter]Last week I wrote a post about how worrying as a parent is a good thing. I need to qualify that. You can worry about your skills as a parent and if you’re doing right by your kids, but worry about the world at large and bubble wrap them? Well, now you’re in trouble.
You can’t parent based on fear. You can’t think the worst is going to happen and then wrap your kids up to protect them. You cannot have fear of the world be the motivating factor in how you parent your children.
When that happens we get 10 yr olds arrested because they were walking home from school. When that happens we have security guards scolding parents for letting their kids go to the LEGO store alone. When that happens we lock our doors, close our blinds, and don’t talk to our neighbours.
The incident with the LEGO store happened in my community this week. Doug Dunlop’s son babysits and goes to the mall often. He loves LEGO and wanted to use some of his babysitting money to buy a new set. So Doug let his son go, just as he always has. Somewhere in the conversation, as Doug explains in a blog post, the LEGO store found out Doug’s son was 11 and called mall security.
“He stated that for safety reasons, no child under 12 could be left unattended in the store. I explained that I had not left him unattended, but that he had arrived at the store on his own, as a customer. I happened to be meeting him there afterward, but only because we wanted to meet for lunch. The store manager then said, “For child safety reasons, we don’t allow children under 12 to be unattended in the store.” I asked what safety scenario made the Lego Store so unsafe that an 11.5 year old needed a chaperone. He then replied “If I have to explain THAT to you, then you shouldn’t be a parent.”
It’s disappointing. The staff at the Calgary LEGO Store are usually so excellent. We go regularly for monthly LEGO Mini Builds and the staff smile and high five and encourage the kids despite the store being a zoo of activity. I have never seen anything but positivity from this place.
Now they’re criticizing parents and ticking off their core customers. Shame.
While there has been outrage at the over reaction by the store and security, there are people in my community buying into the fear. I shared the story on my neighborhood Facebook page and was scolded. I was told about 12 yr olds who lock the doors when home alone and aren’t allowed out of sight. I was told about kids who are too immature. I was told about the real fear of abductions that are likely happening at our mall.
I can’t reason and rationalize with these people. It’s like talking to an antivaxxer. No matter how many stats you show that kids are safe, safer than they’ve ever been in history, they are afraid. No matter if you tell them stranger danger doesn’t matter, it’s their relatives they should fear, they are afraid.
All they need is one story, in a community far away, with no bearing on their lives or circumstances, and they are afraid.
Stop it. Just stop it.
Spring has sprung and I’m stopping by the park on the way home from school with my kids daily. There are many children there without parents. And you know what? It’s a good thing. I love that my community lets their kids roll up to the park to play.
Sometimes I’ll see kids my oldest son’s age (7 nearly 8) riding their bikes on their own around the subdivision. And I love it. Could I do it? Not quite yet, but seeing others do it tells me our community is open to kids running around.
My biggest fear about my boys going to the park on their own is crossing streets and cars not paying attention. I’m not worried about ‘someone taking them’, I’m more worried about the distracted driver blowing through a playground zone or my sons not fully paying attention crossing the road, or getting a little wild on the playground equipment and getting hurt.
People sending their kids to the park on their own is a GOOD THING. People sending their kids to the mall to go shopping is a GOOD THING. We need to take back our community spaces, make them family friendly, and if there are kids playing, more kids will play and we’ll all be better off for it.
There is safety in numbers. Kids in groups will watch out for each other. Kids in groups will be easier for crazy drivers to see. Kids in groups will have a blast and have a chance at the same sort of free spirit childhood we experienced.
May 9 is Take Your Kids To The Park And Leave Them There Day. I am throwing down the gauntlet to the parents in my community to celebrate it. Most do, others are peering through locked keyholes at the madness.
Maybe we need to make May 9 Take Your Kids To The Mall day? Listen, I get some crazy parents use toy stores as “babysitters.” They dump the kids there while going across the way to look at what they need. But if kids are responsible, behaving, shopping, spending, then shouldn’t that be encouraged?
The Calgary LEGO Store in Chinook Centre now has a sign up in their window explaining their policy of not allowing kids under 12 in alone. The company has confirmed the policy right up the food chain, and while I get it “in concept” having it applied without common sense exceptions makes everyone involved look foolish.
Scolding parents for letting their kids walk home from school, arresting moms who let their kids play at the park, calling security on parents who let their children go to the mall is not how we make this world a better place.
Loosen your leash on your kids. Loosen your own collar. Take a breath. Relax. Stop parenting with fear.
Footnote: Did you know LEGO also has a policy of not allowing adults alone in their facilities? Be afraid, world. Be very afraid.