The Curious Case of the Overly Vigilant Neighbor

The Curious Case of the Overly Vigilant Neighbor

I was sitting on the park bench halfheartedly flipping through a magazine  and intermittently looking up to make sure Little J wasn't reenacting scenes from Cliffhanger when she pipped up.

"She can't be more than 10. Do you see her parents? I think she came here alone."

I looked up confused.

The park was basically empty.  Which was strange for this time of  year. The question had come from the only other adult at the park, sitting at the bench next to me. At first I thought she was talking about my daughter, but after a cursory glance around the nearly empty park, I spotted the "target."

She was a young girl, blonde hair, and definitely much older than 10 years old.

I sighed internally, knowing where this conversation was heading.
"I'm not sure. I didn't notice, but she looks fairly old. Maybe her parents live in the apartments over there." I pointed to the apartments within view of the park.

"But if not, I'll keep an eye on her. It takes a village right?" I smiled.

The lady shifted uncomfortably on the bench beside me. I could tell this wasn't the response she expected or wanted.

I'll be the first to admit that I unabashedly hover over my own daughter. And that probably won't change anytime soon. Still, I have a strict "no judgement policy" when it comes to how other people raise their children. As long as they're not physically or mentally abusing or neglecting their children, I try to keep in mind that in a world with 7 billion people, we're not all going to parent the same way.  We all have different parenting styles, and our children all respond to those particular styles differently. What works well for one, may not work well for the other. And that's okay.

Though I'm not a "free-range" parent per say, it wasn't too long ago that I was allowed to roam the streets and explore my independence without fear of an "overly vigilant" neighbor intervening and calling the cops on my parents. Times have certainly changed.

Months ago, I remember reading an article about a mom who had CPS called on her because she had the audacity to let her children play outside... in their FENCED- IN backyard. Her children were 10, five and two at the time of the incident. Because CPS was contacted, it resulted in a case being opened. And although the worker obviously found that nothing was amiss and the case was closed immediately, the incident will permanently remain on the moms record. It can never be erased.

This rubbed me the wrong way. Like the mom, I questioned the motives of the neighbor who called CPS. Was this the case of a truly concerned neighbor, or was it instead an attempt to punish a person for having the audacity to allow their children a modicum of freedom?

There was once a time when people called the authorities when they truly thought children were at risk. Lately, it seems we've turned into a society that's more interested in calling the cops so that we have something to talk about at our next playdate.

We complain about the children today-- how they're too busy playing with their electronics to get outside and play, but then, in the same breath, we judge their parents for giving them the same freedom that we were once given at that age. The freedom to just be kids.

I've read the statistics, kids today are safer than we were at their age. While personally I choose to accompany my child outside, I can't imagine calling CPS on someone who chooses not to do the same. If I see young children roaming the neighborhood alone, my first thought isn't to call the cops or CPS. Instead, I grab a chair, and keep watch. After all, it takes a village.

What do you think about this new phenomena? What age did you start letting your kids play outside by themselves?

Until next time,

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