Chiraq: Where a Kid Can Be a Kid

File this under: People be cray.

You should never, ever, never, let your three-year-old go to the park all by herself. Unless she's your third child. Then it's okay.

Every kid is different. When you have your first baby you're afraid. You don't know any better. It's terrifying. You don't let your first born cross the street by himself until the day he goes away to college.

But by your third, you are so worn down. And to be honest you really just don't care. And don't even get me started on number four. Because I haven't seen him in days. And I don't know all that much about him.

I read about some parents getting arrested or some jazz for letting their kids go to the park all by themselves. Their children were actually taken away by Child Protective Services and the parents had no idea where they were. That's some scary stuff.

These parents are being called Free Range Parents. Apparently meaning they let their kids roam and be free. Hmmmm.... that's one name for it.

I prefer to call it Common Freaking Sense Parenting. (I'm going to have to trademark that). There are just too many freaking rules. And too many freaking people with too much freaking time on their hands.

It's not for everyone. Not everyone can handle Common Freaking Sense Parenting. There aren't many rules and not too much structure. You just do what you see fit for your own child. Because no one knows your child like you do. Oh, and you mind your own damn business.

When my third child turned three she was allowed to roam freely. It wasn't so much a conscious decision as it was exhaustion. We were just too tired to keep tabs on her. And she was fast.


But we live on the south side of Chicago. I believe Better Homes and Gardens named it the safest place to raise a family in the nation, if not the world. But I could be mistaken. It's easy for us to be so calm when we live in a modern day utopia. It's our own private Camelot.

I realize not everyone has the luxury of living in one of the safest cities on earth. Even Spike Lee is making a movie lovingly entitled, Chiraq. I can actually hear the value of my house going up when I say that word. Chiraq. Cha-ching.

In my defense, we live right on the park. And it's awesome. The entire park is my kids' personal playground. So for me to let my kids roam free isn't that big of a deal to me. I used to love when people would bring my third child home and proudly declare, we found her! Ummmm, she wasn't missing.

Sometimes I look around the house and notice number three is not here. I know her usual hot spots. One of her personal faves is the port-o-potty by the field house. Indoor plumbing is so overrated. She will actually leave our house to go use this port-o-potty. My first born never used a public bathroom let alone a port-o-john. In the park. Right behind our house.

Things are definitely different nowadays than they used to be. When we were kids my Dad would send us for the morning paper each morning. But he was really strict. You had to be six to go get it. And only had to cross one busy street.

My mom would send us to the corner store with a note that said "Virginia Slims Menthol Lights". The woman who worked there had no problem selling us cigs. But God forbid I try to buy some candy with the change in my pocket. They would stop me and say, does your mother know you're buying this?

I still contend that walking to the park by yourself is much safer than surfing the web (as the kids say) by yourself. I was a kid. I walked places by myself. I met friends at the park. I hung out. I understand these things. I do not understand the world wide web. But last time I checked I haven't heard of any parents getting arrested for letting their kids be on the computer alone. Which in my eyes is a much scarier place to be.

Eileen O'Connor is a woman, wife, and mother living on the south side of Chicago with her family.

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