I am scared to let my children play outside alone. They are 6 and almost 4. At an age that if they are in the back playing, I feel comfortable with them outside alone. But I am scared. I have always felt this way. I am scared to leave them alone unattended for anything. To run into a gas station with them in the car, to grab the dry cleaning when the car is less than 20 feet away, to drop older brother off at school, leaving little strapped in his car seat alone. When I lived in a house with a fenced-in backyard, I was nervous about allowing them to play alone.
It has nothing to do with them getting taken, lured away, or escaping. I am scared to let them be outside alone because I am scared someone will think that I am neglecting my children and will call the authorities. I am scared to discipline my children in public because I am scared someone will think I am abusing my children and call the authorities. I am scared of the Good Samaritan.
Crazy, right?! But it is becoming more of a common occurrence. I have read articles about mothers just trying to parent their children and one situation has turned their entire worlds upside down. Mothers and fathers facing jail time, children placed in foster care, and legal proceedings all because something shifted in our culture where parents are judged and scrutinized for how they parent.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am all about providing safe havens and actions for children who need it. Not all family homes are like mine. Abuse, drugs, decay, sex are rampant in this world and innocent children live in it. I understand proceedings need to occur for every one no matter the family, income, or social status. Trust me, I have been there. I am very glad those steps are in place.
What I have a hard time is not only am I constantly worrying if I am doing this whole parenting thing right, I am always on edge in public. All the extra eyes scrutinizing and judging my skills.
When my oldest was around three and my youngest a baby, I took a trip to Target with them. I remember wearing the baby, pushing the cart, and trying to rein in the independent, stubborn, head strong toddler. Coming out of the store, he ran from my grip and headed straight for traffic. I barely caught him in time. Right then and there, I firmly told him no, we do not run away from mom, and he received a spank. ( I do this rarely and only when I really want to have his attention) I did it right in front of a handful of people and multiple cars waiting to park. I wasn’t ashamed for what I did. But instantly, I was filled with terror. Quickly I got my boys in the car, buckled, and I tried to calm myself. I was shaking. The entire way home I expected to be pulled over. The entire afternoon I waited for the knock on the door. The entire week I was constantly on edge. I called my sister and relayed to her what happened and she laughed. My former husband brushed it off. It wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t do anything wrong.
That’s the point. I DIDN’T do anything wrong. We as parents are not doing anything wrong. We are trying to raise our children. But damn, the pressure placed on parents of my generation. Ugh, no wonder depression and anxiety is on the rise. I remember spending hours and hours outside without my parents constant supervision. I played down the gravel road under a wooden bridge. I rode my bike around the four mile section. Did my mom worry? Oh I am sure. Did my mom worry someone was going to call the cops on her? Um no.
I am trying to raise confident, independent adults. Adults! Because that is what children turn into. I am not always going to be around to supervise their every move and decision. I believe if they are never allowed to be alone in playtime, they will lack in very basic adult characteristics.
Do I constantly worry about my kids? Yes. Could the worst happen to them? Yes. Is there any guarantee of 100% safe in this broken world? No. That’s why I rely on God. Do I believe the neighbor kid who plays outside all the time without a parent is neglected? No. Do I think my 6 year old could play outside without me? Yes.
Yet, I still carry the worry of allowing my boys to play outside alone.