Fortunately for all of us, my kid has a good head on her shoulders. As soon as he asked where she lived her alarm went off and she lied. I met her at the grocery store within five minutes and comforted a very upset child. The police came to take a description of the man, then gave me what I would describe as a "mini lecture" on how this is a different day in age. Nobody said it, but the implication was that a good parent would have never allowed her child to walk, at 3 p.m. on a weekend day, to a public place a block and a half away from her house.
Of course, my first reaction was panic and thankfulness. We have only lived in our area for a short time, but it's a nice area--there'a a beautiful park nearby, the grocery store a block away, brand new condos everywhere. But as I began to blame myself for what happened to my child, I had to stop and think--what am I doing?
Since when, in what world, did it become negligent to let your tween walk a block and a half from your house to the grocery store?
I've written lately quite a bit about autonomy--letting kids develop their own ability to self-regulate and to take on tasks independently. Did I make the wrong call? These types of situations are arising across the nation, with children of different ages. At what age should a child be allowed to play unsupervised in his back yard? When is a child old enough to walk unsupervised to a friend's house on the same block?
I don't know. I don't have the answers. It's interesting to me how vague most state statutes are on this issue--most states consider children old enough to stay home when they're able to do so successfully. Huh? Talk about leaving your legal options open for prosecution of parents.
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