A dad posted the story below on Facebook the other day, tagging us. Thus we came to e-meet Johnny Roccia, a training & development professional who lives in New Jersey with his “three amazing kids.” Roccia blogs about them, and other things, at The Opportunity Machine. His post:
A concerned neighbor
I just had a conversation with a neighbor, and I think it’s SO vital to talk about that conversation here.
First, let me state upfront that this woman was *very* nice, and I’m sure her intentions were very good. I wish her no ill will at all! But what happened is worth talking about, in order to push back against the culture it represents.
This woman approached me as I was doing some repairs outside to tell me that the other day, she saw The Squish playing outside by herself, and after “not being able to find me,” she told Squishy to leave the sidewalk and go either inside or into the back yard. Because, “you know how quickly someone could just come along and snatch her!”
I’m sure her expectation was that I would offer her some kind of genuine appreciation for saving my daughter’s life, combined perhaps with a sincere apology for my abject negligence as a parent. Instead, I smiled warmly but said, “Oh, I appreciate you looking out, but she’s fine to play outside. She knows how to be safe.”
Strangers who think they care more about your kids than you do
The woman once again reiterated that she “couldn’t find me” (though of course, since I was right inside, her search must have stopped short of my doorbell). I’d seen her talking with The Squish through my front window as she was walking her dog, but I think this woman assumed that I must have been completely errant, for surely if I’d seen my daughter conversing with A STRANGER I’d have raced out of the house to rescue her!
I told her again that The Squish was fine, and perfectly allowed — encouraged, in fact! — to play outside and converse with the neighbors. She said, “Oh, you’re very different than I was with my son! I never let him out of my sight!”
“Better safe than sorry” is not always better. Or safer.
This is an important topic. If you helicopter your kids to the point where you “don’t let them out of your sight,” prevent them from interacting with neighbors walking their dogs, and consider THE SIDEWALK to be “too far away” from your watchful gaze to be safe, then you are ACTIVELY HARMING YOUR CHILDREN. You aren’t being “better safe than sorry.” You are doing NOTHING to improve their short-term safety, and doing incredible damage to their long-term safety, happiness, and ability to function.
Kids aren’t in danger outside. There aren’t “child-snatchers” waiting around every corner. This isn’t a war zone. There aren’t wolves. There are some somewhat irritable geese and a seemingly endless parade of well-meaning but absurd busybodies, and that’s about it.
The wonderful upside: I asked The Squish about this event, and this was her description: “Yes, she told me to go inside. But I didn’t want to, so I didn’t.”
Age 5 and already independent
At this point in the post, Roccia thanked Let Grow for promoting and normalizing the idea of kids enjoying some independence. When we asked him a little more about his family, he wrote back:
The Squish just turned 5 a month ago; she just used her own money to buy a toy for the first time as well. (I let my kids start earning and keeping their own money for chores as soon as they can count it accurately and carry it without losing it!)
Independent children are the greatest blessing in the world; I’m lucky to have 3!
And we have to agree!
Photo courtesy of John Roccia, seen here with daughter “Squish.”