23 August 2010

Advice from 'America's worst mom'

There is a new article by Lenore Skenazy. You may remember her when she made a big splash in the news when she let her 9-year-old ride the New York subway home alone. I liked her story, but in the media frenzy that followed she was labeled America's worst mom.

On the Today Show she went on the air to be lectured by a parenting expert. The expert said she could have given her son the same experience by following him, or making him go with a group of people. I really wish she HAD replied this way:
“Well, how is that the ‘exact same experience’ if it’s different?” I demanded. “Besides, he was safe! That’s why I let him go, you fear-mongering hypocrite, preaching independence while warning against it!”
She further commented:
I really think I’m a parent who is afraid of some things (bears, cars) and less afraid of others (subways, strangers). But mostly I’m afraid that I, too, have been swept up in the impossible obsession of our era: total safety for our children every second of every day. The idea that we should provide it and actually could provide it. It’s as if we don’t believe in fate anymore, or good luck or bad luck. No, it’s all up to us.
I also love her observations on TV. I have been known to refer to the nightly news as "Fear TV":
When we watch TV, we have to remind ourselves that its job is to terrify and disgust us so that we’ll keep watching in horror. It is doing an excellent job on both fronts.
She started a blog called Free Range Kids on the topic. I recommend the article and the blog.

On the same day as someone shared a CNN Post about a Toddler walks two blocks to reach medical help for her father. I love the contrast of this story, to all the fear-mongering. It boggles my mind that a 3-year old could have the presence of mind to do that.


Jenny K said...

I love Lenore... even though I'm not a parent, it's really great that someone is fighting back against the over-parenting that is so prevalent today.

Yay for free range kids!

CityKin said...

I loved that article.

VisuaLingual said...

I love that she's continuing to stand her ground. Parents need to empower their kids to grow, and that always entails some risk-taking, but this wasn't reckless.

I think people outside of large cities may forget how many little bits of independence urban kids experience earlier. Even the typical rite of passage of being allowed to visit a nearby friend usually involves crossing streets with more traffic and being exposed to more strangers. Taking public transit alone is the next step -- kids in junior high in NYC often travel alone to school. It's just a part of life, and she was right to allow her son his trip.

ThatDeborahGirl said...

When my daughter was 5 years old, I left her with a close friend while I was at work.

My friend, in turn, went to the store and left her in the care of a 14-year-old neighbor girl for a quick trip to the grocery store. We both knew the 14-year-old girl and I would have, and previously, had done the same.

However that day before, the girl and her mother had been fighting and she left the house. Unbenknownst to me or my friend, the girl's mother had reported her as a runaway to the police. Another friend saw her enter my house and notified the mother who called the cops and told them where she was.

Before my friend could return, the police came and, finding no adult at home, took both the 14-year-old and my 5-year-old into custody! I had made a game of giving my daughter my work number and letting her call me.

Well she was able to give the police her name, address, my name and my work number and they were able to call me to come & get her. If I hadn't, they would have put her in foster care!

It's hard for parents to let go, but sometimes, we have to and it's always sooner than we think.