playgroundFree-range parents, get your claws out. A mother in Ohio has been arrested for leaving her 10-year-old in the playground at a McDonald's for 15 minutes while she did laundry. Nanny state run amuck?

Maybe ... then again, maybe not. A 10-year-old might be old enough to be left alone in a fast food restaurant for 15 minutes without tearing the place apart. But that doesn't make it OK to do it!

McDonald's employees are not free babysitters. For that matter, librarians, pool attendants, and retail clerks are NOT babysitters.

Oh, and volunteers who sign up to coach your kid's soccer team? They're not free babysitters either. They signed up to work with your kid during practice and games, but you could at least hang around and lend a hand when your kid is acting like a little brat so they can work with the rest of the team.

In case you hadn't noticed, this story hit a nerve and not only because Tiara Jones also allegedly left OTHER kids sleeping at home alone during this little fast food fiasco.

Even if we left those kids at home out of this, I'm still going to say she was wrong here.

You don't drop a 10-year-old off to play at a public place and run out to do your laundry. It's not fair to the other adults.

My kid is still a bit too young to be left alone anywhere, but by 10, I could see her being responsible enough to go into a McDonald's-like place and place an order, pay her money, even sit and eat without me hovering over her. I would like to think I'm raising her to be responsible enough to do so.

That said, there's a difference between "not hovering" and leaving my kid somewhere to play while I drive off to do laundry.

The first indicates I'm somewhere in the vicinity should something go wrong. The latter is expecting someone else to play parent in an emergency, and that's wholly unfair to the employees who are being paid to flip burgers and make change.

Still not clear on the distinction? OK, consider this: this boy didn't walk from home to Mickey D's to play. He couldn't just up and leave and go home should the need arrive. Mom took off in the family car.

Even when our kids old enough to be alone without their parents for a period of time, we still need to consider their options should something happen that requires parental intervention. They always need access to a responsible adult who can do things kids simply can't because of their age (like drive to a hospital). 

If you leave them at home, for example, they need to know how to call 911. If they're going out, they need to be able to either get home quickly or use a cellphone to call 911 or have a responsible adult within reach.

The trouble comes when we put the burden of being that responsible adult on people who have no reason to do that for our kids, people who aren't being paid to do it (think a camp counselor or a dance teacher). Sure, it's NICE if the friendly Mickey D's clerk calls 911 for your 10-year-old, but she shouldn't have to!

Do you leave your kids alone in public places?
Where do you draw the line?