Ancient Playground, Central Park, by Richard Dattner
You remember Lenore Skenazy; she wrote that book, Free Range Kids, the one you kind of guilt yourself for not reading every time you drive your kid to a foam-lined playdate.
Well, when I saw tweets and UrbanBaby kvetches about her new service, running a 90-minute "unsupervised play" session in Central Park for $350--
Hi Folks! My "I Won't Supervise Your Kids" class begins today (Weds., Sept. 12) at 3:45 in Central Park. We'll meet at 85th and Fifth Avenue. Any parents present will sign a waiver, "I don't expect anyone -- much less Lenore -- to supervise my kids."I had my keyboard set to frag. Because, right?
And then they leave, and so do I, and the fun begins.
Yes, well, no.
Because then you actually click through to see just WTF is going on with these people, and--
First thing, obviously, is the price. Well, actually, first thing is leaving your kid with someone who then promptly heads off "to sip her latte." I mean, don't you already pay the nanny a fortune to ignore your kid all day while she texts with her friends?
Which is a good time to point out that the class is for kids ages 8-18, who can read a watch, or ask a stranger what time it is, so they know when to head home. And so your stroller-bound spawn is not yet eligible. But maybe you could add her name to the waitlist for 2018.
Now back to the price. Which, let's face it, if this free-range thing is really "the greatest developmental boon a parent can give a child!" it has to have a credibly high price point, as sure as Dalton follows the 92nd St Y.
But then it turns out the $350 is for eight sessions, which is practically a bargain. In fact, it's right in line with classes at Kidville. And maybe she'd consider pro-rating if your kid missed the first two sessions.
But she also promptly points out your kid can also come for free. Or by using one of the "scholarships available for the asking." The more kids the merrier.
Why a fee? Well, why not? I'd love to make a living bringing kids back outside to play. But also: Parents are used to paying for classes. Pay for something and you put it on your calendar. It's a commitment. And when you pay, you expect to get something in return.And then you realize you've just been led, deftly, into a trap, tangled up in your own wacked out parenting priorities and norms, and tricked into considering just letting your kids play outside once a week.
Your children will -- and so will you.
Well done, Lenore Skenazy, well done. That is worth a book, at the very least.
[Not today, though, because Yom Kippur] NYC Kids! Come to Central Park This Afternoon! [freerangekids.com]
Buy Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) for just like $11 [amazon]
Welcome to "I Won't Supervise Your Kids!" [iwontsuperviseyourkids.com]