free range kids
Next time, I ride the Metro by myself.
Let's start another parent fight! Who wants to let their kid walk to school, and who isn't even comfortable with drop-off at the pre-school door that doesn't allow parents to get out of the car and walk their kiddo inside? Who thinks that toddlers should fight it out on the playground, and who steps in to negotiate the "red car" conflict?

Like most parents, I find myself on either side of the helicopter/free range argument at any given moment. Different situations call for different reactions, and while one person may see me hovering, another may be shaking her head at my lack of supervision.

Which is what recently happened to me when I let my daughter go to the bathroom by herself at a restaurant.

Let me start by saying I don't frequent Denny's in Hollywood, and I don't think that the middle of Los Angeles is a great place for a pre-schooler to hang out unsupervised. However, last weekend we were moving and I had to get the kids out of the house early in the morning. Solution -- family-friendly restaurant where my 2-year-old can climb the walls and his older sister can drink chocolate milk and eat pancakes to the point of submission.

So there the three of us are in Denny's, and my daughter has to go to the bathroom. My son was still eating (and it's tough getting that kid to eat, so I didn't want to interrupt him in the middle of his kid-sized Grand Slam), so I decided it would be a great time to let her exercise some independence and go to the bathroom -- all the way on the other side of the restaurant, out of my sight line -- by herself. But it seems no one else was going to allow me my free-range parenting moment, as I caused an uproar among the staff.

No less than THREE Denny's employees stepped up to supervise my daughter. Our waitress went so far to come over to me and tell me she was going to go inside the restroom with her, leaving her post, and I'm assuming some unfilled coffee cups in her wake. This lady helped my daughter wash her hands and accompanied her back to my table. Yes, it was totally nice. And of course I left her a big tip. But was it necessary?

It just made me realize that even if you want to be a free-range parent, you can't. People won't let you leave your children unattended in a public place. I do appreciate this village at Denny's that helped me take care of my children on a stressful day. At the same time, that kid could have gone potty without assistance. I know it, but she may not since no one will let her do it.

Are you a free-range parent?