Posted by: Tracy Barsamian | April 20, 2015

Leash Laws For Children?!

Bella Wang Photography, LLC

I think it’s time for us to get mad.  Really, really mad!  It’s time for us all to stand up and shout “ENOUGH!”.

This whole situation in Silver Spring, Maryland – where the Meitiv family has been traumatized by authorities for allowing their children to go to the park alone – shows us just how awful life has become for children in our country.  We are robbing our children of their childhoods.  We Americans now live fear-based lives.  We will do anything to avoid even the possibility of danger.  And this decision that we’ve made to enclose our children in buildings and/or under adult supervision at all times is among the worst of our culture’s fear based decisions.  So when a family, such as the Metivs, does not parent from a place of fear, they are crucified!  “The Metiv family have been in the news over the past several months for allowing their children (10 and 6) to walk home together from a playground unaccompanied by an adult. Apparently seeing children playing together, without grown-ups, has become such a rarity in our society that it now requires a 911 call, a police response, and a CPS file.” (City Kids Homeschooling)

When this family made the conscious choice to give their children freedom, they acted outside of our new societal norm of fear-based living and parenting.  Instead of supporting the Meitiv family, their community condemned them.  And the authorities scared the sh*t out of them.  As a child, it was my understanding that the authorities’ job was to serve and protect the people.  But sadly, it appears that is no longer true in our fear based culture.  The authorities forced the parents to sign a document stating that they would supervise their children at all times.  Leash laws for children?  Really?  This is what we’ve come to?

A few months ago, I had a surprise reunion with my childhood partner in crime.  I bumped into my dear old friend Jamie in Vermont this winter.  We hadn’t seen each other in twenty years.  And that chance reunion has made my most cherished childhood memories – cruising around my neighborhood on my bike with little Jamie – all the more vivid.  We owned that neighborhood when we were SIX years old!  The same age as the younger Metiv child who ended up in police custody for walking alone with her ten year old brother (he is ten, for heaven’s sake!).  Little Jamie and I would never have even thought about asking our mothers to accompany us on our bike rides.  They would have cramped our style!  (Not to mention that our mothers had better things to do than keep tabs on our fun.)  Learning to ride a two-wheel bike was almost as sweet as learning to drive, given all the freedom it provided us!

And so since my reunion with little Jamie (now a mom of two little boys, similar in ages to my girls), my usual lamenting of how my children have little to no freedom has kicked into overdrive.  They don’t ride their bikes around our neighborhood.  They don’t walk to the park a few blocks away without me.  My excuse for depriving them of any freedom (which children need in order to grow into whole adults) is that there just aren’t any people around during the day.  Most families in our neighborhood return home after five.  I complain about how stay-at-home mamas are an endangered species.  That there’s no network of mothers looking out for one another’s children (like when I was a child).  And while it’s true that when families use their homes as only a place to sleep, it doesn’t make for much of a community, the point remains:  it is out of fear that I don’t allow my two daughters any of that delicious – necessary – freedom that I enjoyed as a little girl.

Now it’s one thing for me to make the foolish decision to hold my five and nine year old closer than is in their best interest (out of lack of community, but ultimately out of fear).  But it is entirely different for me to be told that my children may not ride their bikes without me.  I think the situation has escalated to this level of insanity (a police state!) because it is time for us to get MAD!  It is time for us to come together – not as a country, not as a state, not even as a town, but as families and neighbors on individual streets – to say that we value community.  We value children.  We value play.

Frankly, children walking home from the park is NONE of CPS’s f*cking business.  It’s time for us to get mad.  Really, really mad.  It’s impossible to thrive in a police state.  Our children need more freedom, not dog tags and leashes.  It’s time for us to reclaim childhood on behalf of our children and our children’s children.  For me personally, that means that I need to work through my own fears and start giving my children sweet little tastes of freedom.  And as their confidence grows with each grown-up-free step, I’ll be fulfilling one of my most important parental responsibilities:  helping my children to grow into whole, healthy, independent adults.  I invite you to join me on the journey.

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