My mom tells a story about my twin brother when he was about five or six years old. We were building our house at the time and the upper deck, about five feet off the ground, had no railing yet. My brother peered over the edge and asked Mom, “Can I jump down?” Mom told him that he could but it might hurt when he landed. My brother thought about this and then jumped. Mom asked how it was. He said it hurt. And he never did it again.
I’ve thought about that story a lot since I became a parent myself. I think it reflects something of my parenting strategy: as long as Sunshine won’t get hurt, she can explore as far as she wants. Either that attitude or her own personality (or both) have made her rather fearless. She closes herself into dark closets or rooms; she wades into the swimming pool past her nose as often as I pull her back to shallower water; she leans over the edge of seven-foot high playground equipment to laugh at me. Not that she’s a daredevil. She’s actually quite careful most of the time. She’s never fallen down any stairs or off any playground equipment.
A New Dilemna
Now that we are here, a new dilemna has arisen. We have a playground just outside our front door–albeit a small playground, with just a slide and playhouse and a few smaller toys that others have left around there. However, every time we walk past it, Sunshine wants to go play, and at some point during the day, she’ll remember it and ask, “I wanna go play a park.”
Too Much Freedom?
So: is it too much freedom to allow a two-and-a-half-year-old to go the park by herself (even if said park is ten steps from your front door)? So far, that’s what I’ve been doing. I can keep the dining room window open so that I can hear her (Sunshine often keeps up a running train of speech that lets us know exactly what she’s doing) and I can watch her from there or the door. Still, I find myself going to the window or door to look out at her every minute or two, making sure that I can still see her in the park.
If other kids from the other houses are around, I feel a bit better about letting Sunshine play. The older kids (there’s quite a few five- or six-year olds) should know to stay in the park and Sunshine will stay with them. And she’s quite careful on the playground equipment, so I have no worries about her there. Unless she wants to try on the other kids’ roller blades or ride their scooters…
We also have a fenced patio where I’ve put Sunshine’s trike, her push-car and some “outside” toys. I can leave the patio door open (it’s lovely not to worry about the bugs here!) and she can wander in and out at will. But again, sooner or later, she remembers that there’s more exciting things at the park… and then the patio isn’t enough. And then I debate: should I let her go out by herself or not?