Look look! An other post generated based on the conversation in the comments of the last post! I am on a role.
So the jury is in and apparently I am reckless/neglectful nuts for being willing to leave my daughter (when she is school aged, which she is currently not) alone in a nearby park for a day. FWIW, I’d still do it.
In the course of the conversation I realized something though- part of the reason that I feel comfortable with that idea is because a) I did it as a kid and b) I don’t have any personal direct experience with anything bad happening that would make me more sensitive to the risks of doing so. Oh and one other teeny tiny thing. I live in a very safe and connected community.
When I say community I do not just mean neighbourhood. I mean Community, with a capital C. Like, as in, a sense of community. And whether you live somewhere that has that, in my opinion, can make a big difference to if you feel comfortable with the idea of your kid being outside of eye sight.
We are incredibly lucky to live in the neighbourhood I grew up in. What does that mean? Well, it means that I know a good 40% of the people on my block. And then I know a couple down the street and a couple a few blocks over. When Audrey is old enough and I let her head to the park on her own, I know I won’t be the only one watching out for her. I know all the neighbour hood kids that play outside every chance they get; they know her and will be looking out for her. I also know that the elderly neighbour down the street can see the park from her front window and that one of my neighbours teenage daughters walks home from the bus by going through the park. I know people who drive by and walk through the park all the time. Even those I don’t know by name, I know by face. I know all the other parents on the block who also let their kids play without direct adult supervision would be looking over from their windows every once in a while to check on the kids. As would I be. We can’t all see the whole park, but we can each see a part. We have a community. And boy, does that make things seem a heck of a lot safer. I would also argue that doesn’t just seem safer. It is safer.
I know that is not something everyone has. I probably wouldn’t feel as comfortable letting my kid play alone in a park in a completely new neighbour hood where I didn’t know anyone.
You know what bothers me? We think everyone we don’t know is out to get us or hurt our kids. We think around every corner there is Danger! We are trained by the media to be afraid of everyone and everything. Everything has warning labels. Every stranger is ‘bad’. This fear, I feel, is part of the reason that so many places don’t have a sense of community. Apart from the tendency to live in spaced out suburbs, we live in isolation because we fear each other. We are suspicious of each other. We look out our windows at every ‘weird’ sound. We don’t like it when a new car drives up and parks. We are scared. That ‘get to know your neighbour’ idea is lost. Or at least less common and an eroded concept. And when we aren’t afraid, we are indifferent. Too busy doing our own thing in our busy lives to make the effort to connect. I am guilty of that. I think we all are.
In many cases, our kids force us out of that. I don’t know about you, but I have talked to more strangers having a kid then I ever did before she was born. (Although, I have always been a stranger talker and been know to chat with anyone at the bus stop from the time I started taking public transit to school when I was in Junior high. That’s right- gasp- public transit.) Strangers with kids are safe. I am sure there are exceptions, but I don’t fear anyone I meet a the park with their toddler.
My point is that being a parent gives us a unique opportunity. Which is totally open to non-parents, but can be made easier by the kinship of parenting. Here is my suggestion to make your community safer: Get to know your neighbours. Get to know the family down the street. Get to know the little old lady one block over and offer to help her with her yard work. Get involved with your community association. If we build community and we know each other, the world becomes a lot safer. We could all use more people looking out for us and our kids.
And then get your (school aged) kid to gather up all their neighbour hood friends and go over to the park alone to play. And all the parents can keep an eye through the windows and trust that there are enough eyes to give the kids some freedom to explore. Or if you don’t feel comfortable with that, get all the parents together and all go with them over to the park and chat while they play. Whatever you feel comfortable with.
What about you? Do you live in a Community? Do you think it makes your neighbour hood safer?