Why? Because I grew up in almost the exact opposite of this city.
My childhood seems like something out of a time warp. My siblings and I played unsupervised for large periods of time. We were given permission, and even encouraged, to make trips to the nearest city, 3 miles away, on our bicycles for the sake of exploring. We were in charge of chopping wood, building a fire in winter, and preparing meals, all at ages that are considered abuse by some these days.
Part of what I loved about my childhood is how much time I spent BY MYSELF.
I had to be responsible for myself. Sometimes that meant getting myself from one place to another. Sometimes that mean I had to get myself down from a tree. Knowing I had no support in executing these tasks made me both aware of how far into trouble I was going, and then proud of my ability to get out of it.
So, I want to be able to give my daughter freedom to learn without me near by. But now, I am in a city and culture that thinks my child can’t to things has to be protected at all costs.
An article in the Atlantic gave some insight into how we got here. This has been gaining momentum since the 80's. The ruling of a case involving a family from Chicago became the impetus for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission publishing the first Handbook for Public Playground Safety in 1981, a short set of general guidelines to govern the equipment.
In Chicago, with it's 580 parks, there are many opportunities for play. It is wonderful. However, there has also been studies that these safer playgrounds aren't being used because they pose little challenge to those using them.
But with all of the regulations and changes to playground safety, it has been shown that there has not been a reduction of children's visits to emergency rooms. I am no researcher, but the risky behavior seems to have moved from the playground to...elsewhere - where ever the child can find an opportunity to make choices for himself, to explore organically, and live the thrill.
So back to my original worries about parenting in a city - where can she spend time by herself that won't get me arrested, and will let her have an authentic thrilling experience?
There is no answer for this right now. As parents, we will have to wade through as we go.
What I think is important right now is that I know I want my daughter to have these opportunities to explore by herself.
Perhaps it will start with going down to our building's lobby to get the mail by herself. Perhaps at some point it will mean me giving her a shopping list and waiting at the front of the store for her to gather some items. At some point, she will ride the CTA by herself.
Will I be concerned and anticipate her return? Absolutely! But one of my parenting goals is to have a well adjusted, independent daughter who knows she can come to me with anything. I see that she won't be able to come TO me if she isn't APART from me at some point.
If I want her to know how to always come home, she needs to know where home is. So to get ready for this, we'll work on basics for a three year old:
What is mommy's name?
What is mommy's phone number?
Where do you live?
How do you set safe boundaries with your children? If you live in a large city, how do you navigate this?
Authored by A Swift Doula