A few days ago, a stay at home mom in Canada, was visited by a child welfare agency. The crime?
She let her kids play in the fenced in backyard. (find the story here)
Not only was she supervising from her living room, but her oldest is 10 years old (the other two are 5 and 2). A nosy neighbor, too busy to be bothered to simply come by and chat with mom, called child protective services.
*Insert world’s longest eye-roll*
What was this anonymous neighbour afraid of? A scraped knee? Sibling fighting? Imaginative play? These things are all necessary for growing up…Amen?
This story hits close to home, because my kids are in our backyard for hours each day. Admittedly, we have a very safe fenced in yard, windows running along the whole back wall of our home, and I am always very nearby supervising. However, I do wonder if neighbours would ever be concerned watching our not quite 2 year old running wild back there with her 3 and 5 year old siblings.
When I was growing up, I have very fond memories of my mom shooing my sister and I outside until dinner time. Since I’m a millenial, (click to hear an informative song about millenials) my parents were either very early adopting free-rangers or we were just that annoying.
We currently live in a time and place that is one of the safest in history. We should not be afraid of our kids getting snatched or getting bumps and bruises. We should be afraid of our kids being useless because they have never experienced the responsibility of organizing their own play, mastering interactions with others without parental interference and improving physical coordination through free play.
With the current epidemic of obesity in youth and screen addiction, parents and communities should be rallying around children’s rights to access the outdoors, not limiting it!!
My favourite author on this topic is Lenore Skenazy who wrote Free-Range Kids. She breaks down a lot of the crazy fears that parents share and puts them into perspective. Mrs. Skenazy also gives many practical ideas of how to prepare your little ones to become an independent grown up at some point, because that’s the goal, right?
Another recent favourite is Julie Lythcott-Haims who wrote How to Raise an Adult. Mrs. Lythcott-Haims is a dean at Stanford for undergraduate students, and a parent herself. In her book she breaks down our current culture of overparenting. Readers learn about why parents these days are helicoptering over their children and how North American parents compare to our international peers. The book also teaches strategies to help our children become independent adults.
Reading these books really inspires my husband and I to give our children more freedom. We want our children to gain creativity by making up their own games, and finding fun on their own when they are bored. We want our kids to have disagreements, and learn how to problem solve and work as a team. We want to give them enough space that they can experiment with different activities and figure out what works, what they like doing and what inspires them.
However, hearing stories like this one, causes us not to fear for our children’s safety, but of overly nosy neighbours and children’s services. At what point should a government be allowed to interfere with parental rights?
We will continue to let our children play in the backyard. Do you dare to let your kids into the backyard? *horrified gasp*