I remember riding my bike over to the playground, two blocks from our apartment building, when I was nine years old. This was the '80s, so there were no cell phones and no GPS. This was also New York City, before it got cleaned up to focus on appealing to the top one percent. My daughter will be turning nine in a few months, and thanks to my upbringing I definitely think there are times when it’s perfectly safe to leave my kid unattended. It can be beneficial, too, as not having me around every moment of every day is a great way for my children to start figuring some essential life stuff out, building on what I hope is a solid foundation of what we’ve taught them about the world already.
Still, with so much negative media attention on parents who let their children go out alone and past what some others might consider "safe boundaries," it’s hard to determine what the rules are for leaving kids unattended. For me, it comes down to my own experience as a kid, and knowing my children’s capabilities. Pretty soon, I’m going to bite the bullet and let my daughter go off to that playground near our house, without me. I have to, because she is showing me that she knows what to look out for, what to avoid, and that she’s got all the important phone numbers memorized. If I shelter her for too long, she might rebel and put herself in dangerous situations she hasn’t been prepared for (or couldn't possibly be prepared for).
It’s scary, but letting my kids stretch out to grasp at the further reaches of the universe is part of my job as their parent. Of course, everyone is different and this is definitely one of those "you do you" moments (because no one knows your comfort level, or your children, like you do). However, for me, these instances were completely appropriate moments when I could give my kids some freedom: