Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Free Range

Porter is five years old. I allow him to play outside of our house unsupervised, which he does all the time. We have a fairly big yard, which he roams freely. One of his jobs is also to get our mail. Our mailbox is not right in front of our house. You have to cross a street and walk up a hill to get to it. It is just barely outside of yelling range, but not at all far away. So he is also allowed to play up by the mailbox, which he does on occasion. We have had all the talks about looking for cars and staying close by, and honestly I don't worry about it much at all. Porter is a rule following kind of kid, and I've never once not been able to find him. He also tends to check in often. And obviously I check if I haven't heard from him in awhile.

So this morning Porter is playing outside, and I get a knock on the door. It's a woman I have never seen before, and she asks if Porter is here. I'm pretty confused, and I say yes. She said, well he's actually way up the street and points to our mailbox area. I told her that he gets the mail for us and sometimes plays up there, and she says oh I know all about that. She says she lives in a house up there and watches out for him when he's outside. She's faking nice, but clearly insinuating that I don't keep a close enough eye on him. I didn't really know what to say. The naked toddler and the barking dog were nice touches too I'm sure. She said she just wanted me to know where he was and walked off.

I should have introduced myself and explained where he is allowed to play, but I was taken aback and couldn't think. I'm glad that we have considerate neighbors that look out for kids. I would do the same if kids were playing outside of my window I suppose. But now I also feel weird letting Porter go up there, like I'm being judged and watched. I feel confident that Porter can take care of himself, and I know our neighborhood and his skills, and I'm just okay with it. I know bad things can happen, but I feel like letting him go a little is good for him. And I'm glad he likes to play outside by himself. It's better than watching TV or driving me crazy.

I told Porter that he had to ask me first now if he wanted to play up there. And he cried because he thought he was in trouble. He said his favorite tree is up there. Sigh. Parenting is hard enough without worrying about what other people think.


  1. Next time you make cookies or brownies take Porter and give her a plate and give her your contact information. She'll feel better knowing Porter's name and how to reach you.

  2. I really like Deborah's idea. Maybe you could send Porter up there by himself with the cookies and a note to show you trust him and don't think there is anything wrong with him having some freedom while appreciating her help. But he might not be comfortable.