Last week a nine-year-old boy was found partially buried in snow in front of his Winnipeg home. He was rushed to hospital in critical condition. This past weekend he was taken off life support and died.
His mother discovered him beneath a bank of snow next to the sidewalk of the house that had collapsed. It’s believed that the boy was digging a snow fort or a tunnel in the snow when the bank gave way.
When this story broke in my hometown, the judgments came fast and furious.
Countless remarks were made online to media outlets about the negligence of the parent(s). Where were they and how could they allow a nine-year-old boy to play out in the snow alone for an extended period of time?
Either these people grew up in a place where snow didn’t exist (and as one mom quipped, should go back there) or they simply don’t recall being a child.
Decades ago, children of this age were out contributing to the family economically. I’m not saying they should be — really, I’m not — but the fact is we give children today a lot less credit, and responsibility, than they warrant.
Children deserve to have time alone or together to explore and experience nature. Such experiences are cornerstones to healthy human development. It gives the child opportunity to build character and resiliency; the chance to embody determination and celebrate accomplishment.
Providing these opportunities is how we don’t end up with adult children living in our basement playing video games because they are unable to hold a job.
An exercise I often share with parents is to think back to a time in childhood that is a treasured memory, a “golden moment.” More often than not, perhaps 80 to 90 per cent of the time, it is a memory of being in nature with plenty of free, unstructured time to explore and feel independent. Interestingly, adults are never present in these recollections.
To suggest these opportunities should not exist and to finger mothers and fathers for being “bad parents” is an extreme disservice to our future generation.
Winnipegger Katherine Isaac posted on Facebook: “I feel so sad for them… All I can think is that that child had freedom. He was allowed outside, given the trust he deserves. It was purely an accident.”
Kara Fraser wrote that she was mad when a co-worker said: “What kind of parent lets their nine-year-old play outside by themselves?!”
“What parent doesn’t?” she asked.
What happened in Winnipeg last week was a tragedy. My heart goes out to the family. I don’t, however, believe that one terrible, unfortunate incident should strike fear into the hearts of parents everywhere, whether they have snow or not, about letting their children play outdoors unsupervised for periods of time.
Use your best judgment and common sense. The cost of stunting your child’s healthy growth carries a much greater risk than any perceived benefit.
Kirsten Andrews offers Simplicity Parenting courses, workshops and private consultations in the Corridor and Lower Mainland. Visit Sea To Sky Simplicity Parenting on Facebook or www.SeaToSkySimplicityParenting.com.