Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Lenore Skenazy, over at freerangekids.com, asked her readers to post in the comments on her blog about a time that nothing bad happened when they let their kids do something that others might have considered dangerous. I wrote sort of a long story there in her comment section (although I confess I forgot to start with her suggested opener, "nothing bad happened when..."). I thought I might as well post it here, too. If you'd like to read other stories about kids doing dangerous things that worked out ok, check out Lenore's blog post and comments here. The upshot is, most kids are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for! We should start giving them credit for being able to handle more things!
Here is my story about when nothing bad happened:
I am (or at least, I was) apparently the world's worst babysitter.
Before I had kids, when I was in my late 20's, I babysat for a friend who had two kids, a boy, age 4, and a girl, age 8.
I had babysat lots when I was a teen, for a few hours at a time, and never had any problems at all, and I had been around plenty of my friends' and relatives' kids since that time, so I felt well-qualified.
My friend asked me to keep her kids at her house for a weekend, from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon.
I showed up Friday evening and brought the kids Happy Meals. First mistake -- I thought I should get a "boy toy" for the boy and a "girl toy" for the girl, or at least two different toys so that they would, together, have more cool toys to play with. Turns out I was supposed to get two identical toys so no one would have to be jealous that the other kid got a "better" toy.
Despite this "disastrous" start, the parents left me in charge anyway and took off for their destination, reminding me not to feed the kids too much junk food, and telling me to "have fun."
Saturday morning, the boy had a pee-wee league tee-ball game at a local park / recreation center, so I took the kids to it. The little boy had to go to the bathroom, so I walked him to the restrooms. He assured me he could handle the bathroom by himself, so I waited outside the men's room door while he went in. No one else was around. After a while, I heard the toilet flush and then the sink running, then heard "scuffling" on the other side of the door. I pushed it gently to help the little guy open it, and he came out, smiling / happy.
Saturday afternoon, I put the little guy's booster seat in my car and took the kids to the zoo, bringing healthy snacks in the form of carrots, grapes, and mixed nuts. The kids loved the snacks and had a great time at the zoo.
Sunday afternoon, the kids asked if we could ride bikes to the neighborhood park near their house. I asked if they knew how to get there and they said yes. We set out with me walking, the girl riding her "big kid bike," and the boy riding his bike with training wheels. The girl would ride ahead and then wait for us at each stop sign. Sure enough, she knew the way perfectly. They wanted me to go get the car and drive them home, but I refused to leave them alone at the park in order to walk home and get the car, and so I made them ride their bikes the whole way back home. They complained that they were tired, but we made it. It was probably half a mile each way. The kids were pretty tired after that, and sat and drank water and watched TV while I fixed them some dinner. But they were happy and said they wanted me to come visit them again some time.
When the parents returned that evening, I found out I had subjected both kids, but especially the four-year-old, to many incredible and unacceptable dangers:
* pedophiles in the bathroom! ("he's NEVER been to the bathroom by himself before!! What if someone else had been in there?!? What if he got stuck in the stall?!?");
* potential choking hazards! ("admittedly somewhat unlikely but you could have at least cut the grapes in half!");
* potential deathly allergic reaction to peanuts! ("the kids have never had nuts before!!") [as an aside, you'd think the parents might have warned me if they were worried about that one!];
* risk of getting impossibly and irreparably lost! ("How did you even find the park? How were you sure you'd know the way home?!?") [As if their 8 year old were completely incompetent to find her way home, and as if there were no other persons in the entire neighborhood to ask, if we did get lost...]
* risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion! ("But it's so far to the park! They rode the WHOLE WAY there AND BACK?!?");
* risk of dying by being run over by a car! ("you had to cross three streets to get to the park!!") [note: they were neighborhood streets, with one lane in each direction...].
Geez, I thought the kids and I had enjoyed a great fun weekend, one that would be the envy of any kid anywhere, but it turns out that, in fact, I am a horrible child endangerer!
They never asked me to babysit again...
Have you ever subjected your kids, or someone else's kids, to an activity or situation that others judged you a "bad parent" for?