Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ghost Parenting

Frances had a friend from school come to the door last night. He lives around the corner and has come over a few times to ask if Frances could play.  I think it's so sweet, and I'm glad my kids finally have someone in the neighborhood that they can play with. I was cooking dinner when he came over, so I told the kids they could play until dinner was ready.  They got out Ken's foam swords and went out for an epic battle (both times that I checked on them, they were all fallen over, dead in the yard).

I was telling Ken about it this morning because he wasn't home last night.  He was trying to figure out which kid I was talking about because apparently he is having trouble with some kids at the bus stop in the mornings and he wanted to make sure he wasn't one of them (he wasn't). He tells me that one boy is a spitter, and he doesn't seem to look beforehand. Yuck! And he swings his backpack around in big circles and then lets it go. He almost hit one of the kids with it once.

"What do his parents say to him?" I asked.
"Oh. His parents aren't up there. They just send him to the bus stop on his own." he said. "Sometimes they peek their head out the door to make sure he's going the right direction."

It reminds me of the time we went to the playground over by the kids' school and there were young kids out playing with no supervision! Or when we go to a fast food place and play on the playground. There are always signs that children must be accompanied by a parent, but more often than not I am the only parent in there with a whole group of kids!

Morally, I could not just stand by and watch a child get hurt because their parents are not supervising them.  I get wanting to eat your meal or clean the kitchen or drink your coffee in peace.  And I do let my own kids play unsupervised in the front yard on occasion. But I am the parent of three children-Frances, Henry, and Benjamin. It is not my job to supervise other kids in public! It's not just a safety concern. What if they are being brats like the kids at the bus stop?  Is Ken supposed to ask him not to spit? Or tell him not to swing his backpack around?  I know that Ken would step in if our kids were about to be injured, but what about that kid's safety? Ken has asked him before not to swing his backpack and the kid doesn't listen. Now what?? Where are the parents?

When kids enter the fast food play space by themselves (and usually I can see their parents sitting at a table enjoying a peaceful meal together), I get ticked.  We don't go out for dinner often, and when we do I want to enjoy myself.  We eat our meal together as a family and then I go and watch my kids play. They always shout, "Mommy! Watch this!" and while I would enjoy some quiet time too, I actually enjoy watching my kids enjoy themselves. I feel bad for those kids that have no one to wave at when they climb to the top of the structure.  They have no one to yell "Wheeeeeeeee!" for them as they come down the slide.  I guess it makes me sad too.

Sunday night I was behind on my steps for the day, so the kids rode their bikes to the playground and I pushed Benjamin in his bike.  When we got there, we went around the track a few times and then the boys wanted to go play.  The little gated playground was empty, so I asked if they wanted to play there while I walked a few laps. They said that was fine, so Frances and I raced a few laps-her on her bike and me on foot (I could see the playground the whole time).  When I noticed another family come to the gated playground, I finished my laps and went to play with the kids. I guess I was fine with them playing by themselves, but I didn't want to imply that I expected another mother to keep track of them. 

I had to yell "Wheeeeeeee" three times in a row!!

Where is the line? Is it okay to send your kids to the bus stop completely alone?  Can you assume that other parents will supervise your kids since they are already there? Does every kid at the bus stop need a parent? Until what age?

What about playgrounds and fast food joints?  Who watches the kids and who gets to eat in peace?  Do you say something to a parent?  Yell at someone else's kid when they aren't being safe? I would love to hear some other parents weigh in on this.

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