Unsupervised Play

Sometimes I can't believe how fast kids grow up. My son is turning 4 this August and I get amazed at the fact that he's gonna be in kindergarten in a little over a year. He's really turning into a little man full of thousands of questions as well as thousands of new ideas. He is becoming very independent BUT along with independence comes liberation.

Last week while I was out in front of the house cleaning our minivan, Joravar asked to play at the park directly in front of the house. I had a clear view of him so I agreed to let him go. I watched him cross the street on his own, looking both ways and hand out in front of him, exactly how his dad taught him to do. About ten minutes later he came back to as me if he could go play at another girls house, a girl that was playing in the park with him. He asked to play in the girls back yard with her. I immediately said no to him, he's only 4 and I don't know who this girl is or what her family is like or even where her house is. My son tried to persuade me but there was no chance. He went back to the park and continued to play, but all of a sudden I felt a rush of anxiety. I was so scared at the thought of my baby one day playing in a place where I can't see him (other than school). I started wondering whether I would ever be able to emotionally let go and allow him to play in an unsupervised (by me) environment. It's not only the fact that I can't let go. I leave him with family or friends whom I trust all the time, when I have errands to run etc. The anxiety roots from all of the sexual predators which are out there. We see it on the news, we all know someone who has been affected by it, and we know it's real. What we don't know is WHO these predators are. So it's only natural for me to feel anxious about allowing him to play in an unknown place.

So after I got over the initial anxiety I started thinking ahead about what my criteria is as a parent to allow him to play in an unsupervised place. Firstly, I thought I need to prepare him for the world. Children need to understand what's acceptable and what isn't. This includes explaining to your child where someone is and isn't allowed to touch them. Secondly they need to understand who they can trust fully and who they can't. I was speaking to a child playing at the park one day, and asked him his name and he told me. Then I asked him where he lives and he replied "oh, around here" very casually. I laughed a little on the inside but gave kudos to his parents for teaching him that. My son is overly friendly sometimes with strangers and I realised I need to bring the old 'don't talk to strangers' rule into play more often. Thirdly, I decided there will never be a day (at least until he's 16... maybe 30) when I would let him play at a friends house who I don't know. My rule is I need to know where the friend lives, go to their house, and meet the parents of his friend at least once before he is allowed to be there alone. And lastly (for now) I need to trust my son. I need to evaluate his maturity level and feel confident he can do a good job of being responsible and cautious. I want him to be like the boy at the park and not give too much information out and not be too friendly with people who aren't close friends or family.

So after making a mental list of my criteria I felt much better. I know I can't protect him from the world forever, but what I CAN do is teach him to be street smart and strong enough to protect himself. And as my cousin always says "put him in boxing classes so people won't mess with him". I think she's right.