It happened again recently at our base: a military spouse was reported to police for child endangerment. Her crime? She left her toddler unattended in their front yard. The mom said it was only for a few minutes while she was talking to a next door neighbor. But the neighbor who reported the incident claimed it was much longer. Eventually, the charges were dropped. But this poor mom will now be reviewed by Child Protective Services. Probably not the most helpful scenario for the middle of a deployment.
I have lived in base housing for 7 years now, at three different military bases. On one hand, base housing offers military families a sense of safety and security. Neighborhoods on base seem old-fashioned and peaceful, a throwback to the town of Mayberry in the old Andy Griffith TV show. There are some people who don’t even lock their car or house. On the other hand, this peacefulness can lull residents into a false sense of security. Military children need to be safe and protected, even in base housing.
No One Watches their Kids Every Moment. Not Even Me.
Even in our relatively safe neighborhood on base, we have had a few scares. I understand the need for constant vigilance, because there are moments when I have not watched my children. I have four young children. The oldest is eight, and the youngest is two. Sometimes, going to the bathroom is the most dangerous part of my day. Just last week, I let the oldest play with a neighbor across the street. (She is allowed to do this often.) But this time, she didn’t close the front door behind her. In the time that I went to the bathroom, the toddler went out the front door, and into the street to follow her big sister. Luckily for me, no cars drove on the road in the moments that she was outside! But you can imagine the heart attack I had when I came out of the bathroom and discovered that the toddler was in the road! Obviously, we all had a talk about keeping the door closed and locked. But can you imagine how much harder this situation would have been if a neighbor had seen my toddler in the street and called the police? What would your neighbors do if this had happened in your neighborhood?No one watches their kids every moment. Not even me. #momof4 Click To Tweet
Are Military Children Safer in Military Base Housing?
Families might be more relaxed on base then they would be in a neighborhood off-base. But that doesn’t mean there are no rules for children’s safety. Living in base housing has given me some puzzling moments where I scratch my head wondering why children are running around the neighborhood unattended. When I first moved onto a military base, we had a kindergartner come to our door on our first day there. She asked if she could come in and play. I had no idea where she lived or who her parents were, so I didn’t feel comfortable letting her inside. Then I watched her walk to the next house and ask to play with them! I soon learned that she lived two doors down, and her parents didn’t mind if she played in neighbor’s houses. Now I know that this is a common occurrence in military base housing. Many of the neighborhood kids play in each other’s houses or play together at the public park without parent supervision. Because I have a toddler, I still have to accompany all my children to the park. But sometimes, there are more than 10 children there, and I am the only adult! Different families have their own rules and standards about when their children can play unsupervised. Bu if we see something dangerous (like a toddler wandering in the street), we should probably first try to rescue the child and return them to their parents, instead of jumping to call the police and get the parents in trouble. If we are going to treat base housing like a village, then the “it takes a village” mentality applies to child supervision, too.
Sometimes, I feel like we all live in fear of someone making a phone call to Child Protective Services about us. Living on a military base can be like living in a fishbowl. Everyone knows your name, your rank, and your address. For the most part, military neighbors are very helpful, and the most supportive community I have ever met. But sometimes, they can be a little bit too nosy. Whether you are a helicopter parent or a free range parent, there will always be someone who disagrees with your parenting style and thinks you are doing it wrong. Maybe we all need to agree to some basic guidelines for children’s safety on base.Can we all agree to these safety guidelines for children living on base? Click To Tweet
Rules to Keep Children Safe on a Military Base
What rules or guidelines can be used to keep military kids safe on base? Well, most military installations have their own standards, which vary because of different state laws. In some cases, “supervision” could be an older sibling. In other cases, a parent should be present. What do you think about these guidelines?
- Children under age 6 should not be in common areas (base parks, playgrounds, and cul-de-sacs) without supervision.
- Children under age 6 should not walk to and from school alone.
- Children under 8 should not be left in a car unattended
- Children under the age of 10 should not be left home alone.
- Children shouldn’t knock on neighbor’s doors until their parents have met the neighbor.
- No children should play in the street, unless it is a cul-de-sac and they are old enough to get on a sidewalk when cars approach.
- Children should not play in a neighbor’s yard or driveway without asking.
- Older children should be taught that it is wrong to deface public property, throw things at cars, or harass dogs inside fences. Doing so could cause them to be reported and/or punished.
Do you follow these basic rules with your children? What works on your base?