by Jeanne Sager
If there's one thing I've learned since I became a parent, it's that you never know what is going to get a group of parents up in arms. The latest? Disney Parks have decided to put a new unaccompanied minor rule in place, essentially banning parents from dropping their kids off at the Happiest Place on Earth and booking it for the day. If your kid is 14 or younger, you're going to have to send someone 14 or older inside the gates to keep an eye on them.
The only question I have? What took them this long?
I know, I can hear how old I sound saying it. Has it really been that many decades since I was a young teenager, when I would have wanted nothing more than some free time in a theme park?
Indeed it has been.
I'm a parent now, and one who happens to have a fondness for all things Disney. If all goes well, I'm even hoping to take my daughter to the Florida park later this year.
She's only 7 right now, but even if she were older, say 12 or 13, there's no way she'd be wandering the park without me.
Why? Simple. It's a big place. HUGE, even. And it's full of things kids can get into to cause some trouble. That's what kids of a certain age do, isn't it? Get into trouble? Not mean-spirited trouble, necessarily, but they're mischievous. They're immature. They don't think through to the consequences of their actions. And trouble just tends to follow them.
It's not just kids at Disney. Your average mall doesn't allow groups of teens to wander aimlessly without parents anymore. Our local pool has banned kids under 14 without a caregiver too.
The folks at Disney say the new admission rule is about safety, and, well, did I mention kids of a certain age don't always think things through? Their brains are still developing the ability to do that. That's why we don't put them behind the wheels of cars or let them vote either.
I want my kid to be safe.
And more than that, I don't think it's fair to the employees of theme parks (or malls or swimming pools) to be treated like babysitters. They weren't hired to keep my kid safe; that's MY job.
So you can kvetch all you want that the mouse is being mean, mean, mean to young teens. I think it makes the happiest place a happier place for responsible parents.
What do you think of the rule change? Is 14 the right cut-off?