You remember Lenore Skenazy, don't you? How could you forget the mom who let her 9-year-old ride the subway alone and turned the publicity into an entire parenting movement? Well the guru of free-range parenting is back with another harebrained scheme to make good parents feel bad about themselves. She wants to charge you $350 so your kid can play in the park without supervision.
Oh, Skenazy will be there for her eight-week "playgroup" ... sort of. She'll sit in a coffee shop about a block away with a cellphone in her hand in case of some sort of emergency.
From the sounds of it, the playgroup is not so much a money making venture as Skenazy trying yet again to make a point about how leaving kids unsupervised is good for them. She wants to make parents back off and let their kids have free play arranged by her because it will encourage creativity and actually get them playing.
I'm with her ... to a point. I don't support hovering parents at all. And I do agree that today's kids are being stifled, that they spend too much time indoors and too little time actually acting like kids. In part I blame the schools that heap so much homework on kids' shoulders that there is little time for after-school play. In part I blame a society where there are two working parents who don't have time to take their kids to the park as often as they want to.
But once again Skenazy is deliberating missing the point of supervising our kids when they're playing in a park or a playground. The truth is, kids can play quite freely while their parents are in the general vicinity. Mine does it all the time.
I'm a strong believer that structured play is a problem for kids. So I let her do her own thing. I tend to park my butt on a bench and chat with a mom friend when we hit the playground. Sometimes I bring a book to read. I rarely play with her -- not because I don't like my daughter but because there is other stuff for her to do and kids for her to play with. That's the point of taking her to the park: to encourage her to have free play.
So why am I there? Well, for starters, I'm her ride to town. But I stay because I believe it's my responsibility to provide basic safety ... and I'm not talking about safety from pedophiles.
I'm there because part of free play for kids is learning to take risks. They're supposed to be thinking, "Is that jungle gym too high? I don't know, let me find out!" It's part of being a kid.
It's also rather dangerous.
Fact: little kids can't drive themselves to the hospital if something bad happens and they shouldn't have their own cellphones -- at least not at 8, which is the base age for Skenazy's little program -- to call for help if something happens. This is why it's useful to have an adult around when kids are playing; because we are handy in emergencies. And you never know when an emergency is going to crop up, because, of course, if you did, they wouldn't be emergencies, would they?
I don't need to leave so my kid will learn to have fun, take risks, get creative. She seems to do pretty well at ignoring me on her own ... until she gets a bee sting, and all that stuff in my purse makes me useful again.
What do you think of Skenazy's scheme? Would you pay someone to take your kid out for "unsupervised" play?