Who is Watching Your Kids at Play?
by Dena Neuman
When our children are very little, we tend to hover over
them. Of course they need our constant care! But as they get
a bit older, we begin to let out the apron string. Are we
letting it out too fast, and too far? Let's explore the
ramifications of young children gaining independence.
For many of us with a busy household, it's a pleasure. Little
Shloimi can run down the street to visit a friend, or to the
park or even to pick up something at the store. Sounds like a
great deal. We have gained an hour or two of time to
concentrate on other important tasks, such as spending time
with other children, doing laundry, or one of many chores
calling our attention.
But, we know that "there is no such thing as a free lunch."
So what is the cost? First, are we taking too much of a
safety risk? Are we crossing over into that fine line called
"careless?" Just basics such as not playing with rocks and
broken glass, climbing on top of fences that are not made for
playing, jumping down from way on top of playground
equipment, not made for that purpose.
Perhaps you're thinking, 'there are plenty of mothers in the
park . . . if my child is in a dangerous situation, they'll
do something.' Did you train your child to listen to other
adults? I have seen young boys as little as four years old,
unattended, playing with broken glass, and not interested in
any guidance from me. Bigger boys, who appear to be as old as
10 or 11 can do the same, or have been seen climbing way up
in trees and bouncing on park awnings, disregarding any adult
Which brings us to chutzpa. We are all worried about it, and
we try to teach our children to be polite. If your child is
on her own, even if she is old enough to watch her little
siblings and baby-sit, she needs to be reminded how to speak
to adults. In the park the other day, a swing was very much
in demand, with about five little ones waiting their turn. A
mother in the park suggested that each child get three
minutes. As some children were not finishing their turn, I
suggested that their time was up. A girl who appeared to be
about ten and was apparently their "advocate" said, "I didn't
agree to that! They should get ten minutes." How can we allow
our children to speak to adults in that way? If we aren't
with them, and don't check up on them somehow, we'll never
know, until they address us in the same way.
The last point to consider is the whole maturation of
children. In the back of their minds, is it possible that
they are thinking, "My mother doesn't really care about me!"
or "She is busy with everything but me!" "I'll do what I
want, when I want!" "I can make all the decisions." We all
wring our hands over teenage behavior, and the unwillingness
of children to listen to adults. Does it stem from this too
In the "old days," mothers bathed their kids at later ages,
watched them while they ate, kept them around more; basically
they oversaw their development with a strong hands- on
approach. I realize we are inundated with many demands, but
perhaps wrinkled shirts, messy drawers and simple meals are
worth the reward of a hand-raised child.