Should Five year olds be allowed to play in a park with others of their age, without their parents around?


Today I saw something at our community park that’s kind of shaken me, surprised me and made me angry!

We live in a small gated community in Sacramento, CA. The community has one common open area that consists on a semi-circular grassy patch with a couple of picnic tables and a barbeque grill in the middle. There is a concrete path around it.

Ever since my five year old, got two scooters for his B’day (last week) we’ve been regular visitors of this park in the evenings. It’s a park and there are other kiddos around too. My champ makes friends easily and befriended everyone he met there. They share their scooters, bikes and chalks and have fun in general along the concrete path. The grass is too thick to cycle or scooter on. Needless to say kids are from all ethnic backgrounds. I roughly gauged all kiddo’s have at least one parent nearby except one little guy who’s mom I’ve seen come out only to get him back home when it gets dark. She’s not around all the time.

Things were fine till today!

When we arrived at the park all the kiddos were there, a toy basketball stand was setup on the path (one of the plastic Fisher Price ones that can go up to 6 feet high) and the kids were having fun with it. The scooters and bikes were lying around casually. When my kiddo went in with his scooter, he managed to distract a few from the basketball game and they joined him with their cycles and scooters. Fun went along nicely till one of the girls got bumped on the nose with the basket ball. One of the guys received a scolding for it (?!?!). Thereafter another kiddo (one who’s parents are not overlooking him) got shouted at a couple of times for trying to hang on the rim. It’s not that he was doing it alone. The other boys were doing it too! Second time he got shouted at he gave up on basketball and started playing around with a spare cycle. While cycling around he once went into one of the building’s staircase area (where I could see him but the other parents couldn’t). When he came out, one of the parents rushed to him and rather admonishingly said something to the order of – “that cycle does not belong to you, do not go out of sight with it”. From a distance I found the tone and gesturing really really rude. The kiddo took it sportingly, gave up on the cycle after a while and played with one of the spare scooters.

Then nasty things happened.

I was at a picnic table when my kiddo and this kid came over and were taking a breather. We saw two cars of our private security patrol come up to the park. Now I always tell my kid that if he is not nice, Security (or Cops) will come (want them to fear law rather than super-natural beasts and demons). So I was kidding with both of them asking them if they had been naughty and that was the reason the Security cars had come up.

Two security guards came out and were standing on the periphery when the lady who had made the rude comment walked up to them and talked to them. They were about 30 feet away and I couldn’t hear them, I only caught a few words that sounded like a complaint against this kiddo because no one was watching him!!! The two security guards then asked the kiddo to take them to his house and knocked on their door. What transpired I don’t know, but it ended up with this kiddo going back home and me feeling extremely confused! As I think about it now, I feel have mixed emotions and anger is one of them.

Questions that keep popping in my head are –

1. Should five year olds not play on their own with other kids of their own age? Fact is I don’t let my 5 year old go out on his own. Having broken his left arm before turning 5, at playschool, while doing monkey bars, I am not confident of his abilities to keep himself out of harm’s way! But if someone is confident about their kid of being able to take care of themselves in a gated community, what’s the harm?

2. As a parent do you really need to tell another kid that something is not his and he shouldn’t get out of sight with it? Five year olds? Come on!!! Now that I think back, a couple of days back one of the girls was playing with my son’s scooter and she dropped it on the path instead of putting it down softly. I believe the same lady admonished her for that too.

3. Calling Security? I mean that was ridiculous!!! Are we so insecure about ourselves and our neighbors? I mean these two families live in the same building. All one had to do was ring the bell introduce yourself and have a polite chat if you were so concerned.

Whatever the reason, I left the field today with a little bit of a culture shock!!! Now I know I have to be careful about the parents of kids whom my son plays with.

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