Monday, May 14, 2012

Backyard Boundaries

I don’t normally question other peoples’ parenting techniques or choices.  In fact, I’m the first to admit that I am far from perfect and I have made my share of parenting mistakes over the years.  However, I witnessed something last Friday that shocked me so much I still am left trying to make sense of it all!

Friday afternoon, after my children and I returned from walking our dog, I noticed a toddler wandering around in my backyard.  Thinking the little boy might be lost, I was about to go back outside when I heard a voice calling from a few yards away.  Looking out my window, I noticed it was a woman, possibly his mother.  She was hard at work raking her fenced-in backyard.  But instead of answering the woman’s calls and returning to her, the toddler exclaimed, “NO!” and went right back to his wandering.

Immediately, I thought that she’d surely come and get him now since he was running even farther away and was refusing to listen.  Instead, she continued her yard work, yelling even louder to try to get the little boy to come back.  Every minute or so, she’d yell again, but the toddler showed no sign of wanting to return.  He was too busy picking dandelions in my yard.

I didn’t want to interfere because neighborhood drama is the worst, but I also didn’t want anything to happen to the boy.  I stood there watching him in utter disbelief.  I had never been in this type of situation before, so my mind was racing, what should I do?

Finally, after several minutes of them yelling back and forth, I decided I had had enough and I started for the backdoor.  But just as I went to reach for the doorknob, I heard the woman call again, and the little boy yelled, “Okay!” and ran back to her.

Yes, she was watching him the entire time he was running around in neighbors’ yards.  Yes, she wasn’t happy with his behavior and was making sure he knew it.  Yet, I can’t help but feel a little disturbed!  Toddlers can be quite a handful and can get into trouble in a heartbeat.  What if he had decided to veer for the alley behind our houses?  And what about teaching our children to respect other people and their property?

I have taught my children from a very young age to not go into other peoples’ yards or to pick their flowers without permission.  There are people who find that sort of behavior unacceptable regardless of age or circumstance, and we should respect that.

Maybe I’m an overprotective parent with old-fashioned ideas, but I would never leave my children do what this toddler did.  In my mind, not only is it unfair to neighbors, it is also putting the kid at unnecessary risk.  We hear about kids wandering off and getting hit by a car far too frequently.  And that doesn’t even count the accidental drownings and deaths from other accidents.  I know most parents have the best of intentions with their children, but sometimes I wonder if some parents are truly thinking about the possible consequences.

What do you think?  Have/would you ever allow your own young children to do something similar?

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