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The Two Words That Can Drive A Parent Crazy: 'What If'

By Lenore Skenazy

About a year ago my son Izzy and I enjoyed our quarter hour of fame when I let him ride the subway by himself. He was nine at the time, I wrote a little column about it, and since it is so unusual for kids to do anything by themselves -- or parents to let them – the media pounced. It was fun to meet Ann Curry and Dr. Phil and then it was back to real life.

Which, in my son’s case, meant more solo train rides.

On one, discussed on this very blog, the conductor was outraged to see a boy (now 10) traveling alone. He called the cops who met the train at the station and called me. I explained my son was being picked up by his friend’s family – a family standing right there for the cops to see – and that was that. The cop understood.

So more than a month ago, when someone called saying, “Ma’am, this is the New York City Police,” I snorted, “Yeah, right.”

Except it was the cops.

Once again, Izzy was at the train station, once again the cops had been alerted and once again his friend’s family was right there, waiting for him. (I’m sure they’re reconsidering this friendship.) But this particular cop did not understand.

“Ma’am, your son is too young to do this,” he said.

“Ah, but he’s not!” I parried. “Didn’t he show you a copy of the rules?”

These days Izzy travels with a printout of the Transportation Authority’s own Web site stating that children age 8 and up can travel alone.

“That’s not the point,” said the cop. “What you don’t seem to realize is that your boy was in danger.”

“Danger? He’s on a commuter train at 5:30 on a Friday night.”

“What if someone snatched him?”

“He’s surrounded by hundreds of people! They’d save him!”

“What if it was TWO grown men snatching him?” the officer said. “No one could stop them.”

And that, my friends, is what we are up against: The “What if?” Chorus.

Anything we think may be reasonable for our kids to do – walk to school, play in the park, ride a train – is immediately subjected to “What if”s? What if they get lost? Hurt? Abducted?

We get so used to hearing “What If”s that they start to sound rational and cautionary rather than delusional and stunting.

But when a policeman has to dream up a scenario in which two men are waiting at a commuter train station during rush hour on the off chance of finding a boy traveling by himself, whom they will then tackle into a van while hundreds of commuters watch (and the family waiting for him waves a sad goodbye, and nobody whips out a cell phone…), that cop is making about as much sense as your average Vin Diesel movie.

The “What If”-fers congratulate themselves on thinking ahead. But they’re not thinking about reality. They’re dreaming up the next episode of CSI.

Keep listening to the “What If?” Chorus and we won’t let our children out of our clutches, ever. And What If they grow up unable to do anything on their own?

That’s a scary thought.

P.S. My son now wants me to come with him the next time he rides that train. He’s afraid of getting stopped again. That’s the What If effect on independence.


Lenore Skenazy is the author of “Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry” and founder of freerangekids.com She will answer questions live today at 11 a.m..

By Stacey Garfinkle |  April 27, 2009; 4:00 AM ET  | Category:  Tweens
Previous: Kindergarten Angst -- Is It Worth It? | Next: Black Dad, White Daughter

Comments


Isn't parenting all about risk tolerance? I'm so sorry that your son doesn't want to ride alone anymore. I live in Europe and see kids on the subway/buses/trams on their own all the time and no one thinks twice about it.

Posted by: MOMto2 | April 27, 2009 4:20 AM | Report abuse

My response to "what if" is sometimes: "What if the moon flew out of its orbit? What if the earth left its orbit? What would be do then?" In other words: get real.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | April 27, 2009 7:31 AM | Report abuse

"About a year ago my son Izzy and I enjoyed our quarter hour of fame ..."

Why are you still pursuing the spotlight?

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 27, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

Hey, let's have a competition to see which parent can let their kids watch the least amount of t.v., eat the most veggies and run around unsupervised for the greatest number of hours at the youngest age!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | April 27, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Why would you put your child in danger just to prove some point that you are a free range parent? If police officers told you this isnt safe behavior why do it? Do you want the attention?

Posted by: sunflower571 | April 27, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

I hope Izzy gets past the ninnies telling him he is in danger and wants to ride the subway again.

I remember this initial story and the firestorm over letting a 10 year old ride the subway, and I was suprised at the knee jerk reaction by many. If we all had to take opinion polls before we went outside our house we'd be a society of shut ins.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 27, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Oh dear. I don't blame Izzy for not wanting to ride the train alone again. Getting stopped by the cops, even if what you are doing is allowed, is a scary experience.

A friend of mine was astonished that I let my 5 year old son go into the bathroom by himself when out in public. What if someone was lurking in there? Well, the alternative - taking him into the women's room with me - seemed unreasonable. At some point the What Ifs can't control a decision.

Posted by: cqjudge | April 27, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

This is just ridiculous. People have gotten totally hysterical about the level of threat to children. You are right, your son is not in any particular danger from riding the train this way. I wish Americans could come to their senses about this issue, it is not doing the kids any good to be so terrified of the world and so coddled that they don't do anything on their own until they are practically in college.

Posted by: catherine3 | April 27, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Cqjudge, I often let my 4 year old son go to the mens' room by himself too if my husband isn't with us. If we're in a place where there are a lot of other families, and I can see that the mens' room has only one exit, it doesn't concern me so much (I stand by the exit, and if he were to take more than 2 min I would ask a dad who is escorting his own kids to take a look.) Wouldn't do it in, say, a busy train station.

Posted by: bubba777 | April 27, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Why would you put your child in danger just to prove some point that you are a free range parent? If police officers told you this isnt safe behavior why do it? Do you want the attention?

Posted by: sunflower571 | April 27, 2009 7:54 AM
Sunflower: I think the point is she doesn't believe that it is dangerous. That society thinks it is but in reality it may not be.

I rode the LIRR alone when I was 12 back in the 80s. People thought that was crazy too. Back then, kids rode the subways alone by age 10 all the time.

The question is and has been for a long time, has times changed or our perception of danger changed? My guess is the perception of subways being dangerous has changed. The risk of being kidnapped has always been there.

Now some things have changed. Like the internet dangers are obviously new to this generation. But we shouldn't spend our lives being afraid of what ifs.

I, personally, wouldn't let my daughter ride the subway alone at age 10. But that is because she couldn't handle it. But my guess is there are kids out there who can.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 27, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

The question is and has been for a long time, has times changed or our perception of danger changed? My guess is the perception of subways being dangerous has changed. The risk of being kidnapped has always been there.

Posted by: foamgnome

Exactly. The difference is today when something bad happens, we're bombarded with it on the internet and 24 hour news channels. So the perception of the dangers have become very disproportionate to the actual dangers.

The problem now is because we (meaning society as a whole) have become so over protective, kids aren't learning how to take care of themselves. When I was 10, my parents expected me to ride my bike 2 miles by myself to baseball practice. That's almost unheard of today.

People say "times are different today". No they're not, our perception is different.

Posted by: dennis5 | April 27, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

I think it's fine as long as the child is prepared for the appropriate "what ifs" .

-What if his friend's family wasn't able to meet him at the subway stop (e.g. they were a little late, their car was in an accident)?
-What if someone inappropriately approaches you?

If he/she can answer these situations, they ARE ready to travel by themselves. In fact you're equipping him for the wonderful journey of his life.

Posted by: peonymom | April 27, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I've heard a lot of good things about Gavin DeBecker's book "Protecting the Gift." He seems to strike a balance between allowing your kids to do things on their own and over-protecting them.

Posted by: skm1 | April 27, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

If child abductions happened as often as the "What If" crowd would have us believe, Nancy Grace would have a whole lot more material. As it is, she has to flog a case like "Tot Mom" or whatever the heck she calls it for months at a time. Do you doubt that if another child had been abducted in the time since that tradgedy, she would have failed to leap upon it?

Posted by: David90 | April 27, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Do you doubt that if another child had been abducted in the time since that tradgedy, she would have failed to leap upon it?

Posted by: David90 | April 27, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Nancy Grace 101
If the kid is white, put 'em in the light. If the kid is black, put 'em in the back.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 27, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

"Getting stopped by the cops, even if what you are doing is allowed, is a scary experience"

It doesn't have to be, and I doubt this officer wanted to scare Izzy. I think that this happened twice has a large inpact on why he doesn't want to ride alone, more a cumulative situation.

I have to caution people on making cops the bad guys here, please don't let your kids think that they are out to get them. The officers that called Izzy's mom seem to have a jaded view of the subway and I don't know how the conversation progressed, but I doubt they set out to scare the boy.

We have a family in our neighborhood that threatens to call the cops everytime someone steps in their yard, even little kids aged 4 and 5. I asked the neighbor to stop this threat because it makes the kids scared of the Police (and him too, he is a big fat guy), and if he did call and they arrived it would be a total waste of their time. He was red faced and stammering and had no comeback, because he is a bully trying to use the police as a scare tactic on little children.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 27, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

"Nancy Grace 101
If the kid is white, put 'em in the light. If the kid is black, put 'em in the back.'

Harsh, but too true.

Even so, the risk of abduction, etc. to kids, regardless of skin color, is so minimal!

the quality I admire most in people is bravery, and how can they be developed and nurtured if parents are over-protective?

Posted by: captiolhillmom | April 27, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

“What if it was TWO grown men snatching him?” the officer said. “No one could stop them.”

Well, if that were the case, what is the point of the mother traveling with her son?

Posted by: ABQ33 | April 27, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Will "I'm a free range parent" start to replace all of the "my child's an honor roll student..." bumper stickers?

All children are not created equal. Look at your child honestly before peer pressure has you putting a 10 year old who is not ready to venture out on his or her own on the metro, all in the name of being a free range parent.

Posted by: Sharon_59 | April 27, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I couldn't agree more with foamgnome and dennis5.

I was a free range child, along with numerous friends. We packed lunches and would be gone for what seemed hours (my parents sense of time is a bit different and probably more accurate)

We had freedom and independence. My husband and I wanted the same for our child. We live in a small rural community where everyone knows everyone (whether you want them to or not). She was taught "stranger danger" and what to do and not to do if she felt threatened.

Unfortunately, her friends did not have the same freedoms. A half block trip to our neighborhood park, surrounded by neighbors houses, at age 7 was off limits for most of her friends.

Our society breeds fear into into it's children. Where will the next explorers come from if they are so afraid of the what ifs that they can't get past the front door?

Posted by: LilaM | April 27, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

"I've heard a lot of good things about Gavin DeBecker's book "Protecting the Gift." He seems to strike a balance between allowing your kids to do things on their own and over-protecting them."

He's got a lot of fans, but I'm not particularly one of them. Most of the stuff he recommends is okay, but he's got a couple of ideas I consider weird. Like, if a kid senses trouble, avoid all police officers and go to the nearest woman because women are naturally nurturing and their motherhood instincts will kick in and they'll protect the kid. (The problem with police, he says, is that so many people wear uniforms - e.g., private security guards - that the kid might not go to a real police officer, OR the real police officer might not help the kid or...)

I'd argue that these days a kid traveling alone might be safer than in days past. Any time my kids traveled alone, they had a cell phone with numbers to call pre-programmed. So if the family was delayed and wasn't there to meet the kid, the kid would dial "5" to call the family and find out where they were. If there were no answer, call "3" to call home and let parents know something's up. If two large men are there to abduct the child, 911 works reasonably well.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | April 27, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

New York police recently arrested a woman for ordering her ten-year-old out of the car in the middle of downtown Scarsdale. It's sad, but it doesn't surprise me that the police called Skenazy. I was riding the Metro by myself by about that age.

Posted by: tomtildrum | April 27, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Is it really that much trouble for the poster to accompany her child to his friends' homes to drop him off? Particularly after the child has indicated he doesn't want to travel alone? Let's not worry for a moment about whether it's smart or silly to engage in "what if" -- stop turning this child's playdates into a drama! No wonder he doesn't want to venture out alone, if he has to be armed with a copy of "rules" to defend his solo travel, let alone contend with transit police!

Posted by: CharmCityMom | April 27, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

The police officer was out of line to continue pressing the issue with the mother and son, especially when the rules were brought to his attention.

The author is right; too many people are to wrapped up in "What Ifs" for every possible scenario in normal daily life.

When I was 4, back in the early 1970s, I started flying cross country --CA to FL-- alone to visit my grandparents. Not to mention the public bus rides alone or with a younger sibling to get home from primary school, or undertaking the two mile walk alone along fairly busy roads in good weather. And thousands of children make solo flights across the country these days to visit parents and other relatives in divorce visitation scenarios. A ride on the subway is nothing by comparison; especially with adults waiting for the child at the other end.

Posted by: raynecloud | April 27, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

It was the onset of the 24/7 news stations that alerted me to all those creepy chainsaw carrying dudes with pockets full of candy lurking next to every playground, wooded lot, bike path and public restroom.

I quit listening to the news and lo and behold, the creepy people disappeared. Poof!

but hey, a healthy paranoia for the extremely unlikely is good for the economy. It's the reason little Suzie needs a cell phone before she cann walk to school and little Jonney needs a helmut before he can ride his tricycle. The safety products being marketed to paranoid parents are endless.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | April 27, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

In many cases, it will be a choice between a child going over to a friend's house on his or her own or not going. There's also a corresponding reverse trip. Said child only indicated he didn't want to travel alone after being repeatedly picked up by the police.

I think Sharon had the best comment. The age at which a child is mature enough to use public transport on his/her own depends on the child.

BB
---

Is it really that much trouble for the poster to accompany her child to his friends' homes to drop him off? Particularly after the child has indicated he doesn't want to travel alone?

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | April 27, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Why would you put your child in danger just to prove some point that you are a free range parent? If police officers told you this isnt safe behavior why do it? Do you want the attention?

Posted by: sunflower571

hey sunflower, several years ago a child was murdered while playing in his front yard. a mentally ill man walked up & slit the boy's throat. should i not let my child play in my front yard? several years ago a boy was murdered when he biked up the street to his neighborhood 7-11. once again, somebody who was mentally ill walked up & stabbed the boy. does that mean that i shouldn't let my son bike out of my sight?

i will let my son (aged 8 1/2) walk to his elementary school with an older child to play basketball. i won't let him do it himself. i'm not sure when i'll let him go alone. yes, something horrible could happen. trust me, those scenarios play in my mind when i let him go. i can't let them rule how i let him grow up.

i would ask the cop at the subway -
how many children have been kidnapped off the subway in the past year?
how many attempted abduction have there been?
what's the murder rate for subway passengers?
& more importantly - why do you think that this behavior is dangerous? is there something going on that the public doesn't know about?

Posted by: quark2 | April 27, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

"i would ask the cop at the subway -
how many children have been kidnapped off the subway in the past year?
how many attempted abduction have there been?
what's the murder rate for subway passengers?
& more importantly - why do you think that this behavior is dangerous? is there something going on that the public doesn't know about?

Posted by: quark2 | April 27, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse"

The retort is that it only takes one kid to be abducted and suddenly the NYPD or transit cops are the biggest bunch of do-nothings in the whole world. Scapegoating is a sport when it comes to Law Enforcement, they are either overzealous or lazy bums.

I make no excuses for the transit cop that stopped Izzy, I have no idea why or what was said, but it happened. There are rules for riding the subway and this kid was not breaking them, too bad real life is not this simple.


Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 27, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Just re-read, both instances it was the train conductor that alerted police that Izzy was riding alone. Train conductor education?

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 27, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad that we are finally seeing the pendulum begin to swing. All of this fear and super-cautious parenting has resulted mostly in a bunch of obese children completely hooked on TV and video games.
I don't know what the answer is, because it's very complicated. Kids don't gather outside in the street to play the way I did, the way children do almost everywhere else on Earth, and probably the way children have done from the beginning of time. I think we are scared not only of the streets but even of our neighbors, who are complete strangers to us, utterly disconnected in any way to our survival. The orientation of our streets and houses make it almost uncomfortable to get to know people. And there are no clear rules as to how to interact with the people down the block. Etiquette used to create a formal distance that would be broached slowly. But since we live in a "friendly," always-familiar society, we are afraid even to meet people whom we may not want to know. Home builders love to call their subdivisions "communities" and "villages," but they're not.
Between the latest sensationalistic childnapping (it's like a nightmare version of the Lottery, the one-in-ten-million horrible event) and our sense that everyone who's not a coworker or a family member is a stranger, and it's not surprising parents today are far too overprotective. The harm to the children, though, is probably tremendous.

Posted by: OMGalmost53 | April 27, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

ABQ33 hit it on the nose: if the ridiculous scenario the officer hypothesized about ever occurred, it WOULD NOT MATTER if the parent was there!

Posted by: MaxH | April 27, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

"In many cases, it will be a choice between a child going over to a friend's house on his or her own or not going. There's also a corresponding reverse trip. Said child only indicated he didn't want to travel alone after being repeatedly picked up by the police."
**********
BB, that is just my point - since this child's travel is causing him anxiety as a result of how others perceive it, why not alleviate the anxiety by eliminating the cause of it, forgetting about whether or not the police or conductors or other passengers (or those in the blogosphere)have blown out of proportion his family's choice to let him travel solo? I understand that the parent might not always be able to accompany him, but there are other alternatives besides no playdate at all. Maybe the friend comes to him, the other family picks him up, etc. All of us in suburbia who don't have an option for kids to travel solo work out all kinds of arrangements to get kids where they need or want to be. In my opinion, there's no reason to have this child to travel solo just to make a point.

Posted by: CharmCityMom | April 27, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

When I was 8 and 9 I rode the New York subways almost every day (and many nights) alone or in the company of a friend the same age. Then we moved to Bronxville but on many weekends I rode the train into town alone, caught a few screenings of a favorite film on Broadway and hung around Times Square till about midnight before catching the shuttle to Grand Central for my train back to Westchester. (On a few occasions I took the subway to Brooklyn to spend a night at a friend's apartment.) The only time I was harassed was when a cop stopped me as I was boarding the shuttle. He almost caused me to miss my Grand Central connection before I was able to convince him I wasn't a runaway. I was 10 years old.

That was a few years back but have the streets really grown so much more dangerous since then? Or is it people's imaginations that have run rampant? I would truly hate to be a child in today's overmanaged, overscheduled, over-nannied world.

Posted by: subwaykid | April 27, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Hello, tempest, right this way into your teapot.

Posted by: dcd1 | April 27, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

"These days Izzy travels with a printout of the Transportation Authority’s own Web site stating that children age 8 and up can travel alone. "


You make decisions based on handbooks written by bureacrats? shudder. I hope we don't see you on the news wailing about your "baby", begging people to call if they have seen him. By the way, we have crossed you and "Izzy" off of our playdate list, we care too much for our children to let irresponsible people like you to be in charge of them....

Posted by: pwaa | April 27, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: quark2 | April 27, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse


While you are at it, why not ask "which way to the morgue?"

Posted by: pwaa | April 27, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

And people wonder why I don't like to do computer security so much anymore. Yes, what if there were 2 snatcher people, or 4 or 5, or a team of Taliban terrorists dragging him off with bombs strapped to themselves in explosive pedo molester suits?

Well none of those things will happen. At that age children are not normally drooling moronic infants. This is true even if their mothers are used to treating their husbands & all males that way.

There are cameras and cops -everywhere-, and both in NYC and DC they're pretty on top of things. An educated threat assessment towards a child at that age traveling wouldn't produce the sort of unreasoned fear driven decisions

I can't figure out what's more pathetic, children raised in an environment built on senseless paranoia, or the gutless and easily beguiled parents who feed their kids this slop. It might do the lot of them some good to watch a lot less "Law and Order: Special Scary Fearmongering Unit" and aa bit more time looking into what the police actually do to really protect the public.

The cops are a bit off base about the whole traveling child issue, but their instincts and attention are in the right place. They're there to protect these young citizens, and their freedoms, even if the child's parents turn their back on them.

Posted by: timscanlon | April 27, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Once again, why not ask" which way to the morgue?"

Posted by: pwaa | April 27, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the poster who thinks it's okay to let small children fly alone, my MIL who is now 69 years old, was molested on an airplane at age 8. NEVER would I let my children fly alone. We live in the country, my children explore and roam and know how to be safe, but traveling out of state or country would not happen with mine. I'm not only talking about abduction, I'm talking about opportunity to harm a child who is alone. In my MIL's case, the slimeball put a blanket over both of them on the airplane. We can have the safety conversations with young children and they can parrot back the correct answers, but it is very different when they are in a threatening situation. They don't always react the way we parents have trained them to react.

Posted by: howdydoody1 | April 27, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I have a friend who is a policeman. he told me if the public knew how many crooks were sitting next to them in traffic or walking by them, we would all lock the doors and never come out. Hmm, wonder how many of those crooks ride public transportation..

Posted by: pwaa | April 27, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

"About a year ago my son Izzy and I enjoyed our quarter hour of fame ..."

Why are you still pursuing the spotlight?

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 27, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse
===================================================

Why do you look for your 0.3 seconds of fame here most every day?


Posted by: anonymous_one | April 27, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

"About a year ago my son Izzy and I enjoyed our quarter hour of fame ..."

Why are you still pursuing the spotlight?

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 27, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse
===================================================

Why do you look for your 0.3 seconds of fame here most every day?


Posted by: anonymous_one | April 27, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse


I'm not shilling a book and a website.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 27, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I walked to and from school by myself from the time I was 5, most often with a friend. And I rode my bike to school by myself starting with the 2nd grade. These weren't trivial distances either, often several blocks to more than a mile. I see no issue with giving a child freedom as long as parameters are set and understood in advance.

Posted by: clvande | April 27, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I began riding the DC metrobus to and from school at about age 12, but remember riding often with a 5th grade girl who was 10. It did not seem like such a big deal back then. The metrobuses along Wisconsin Avenue were packed with school age kids at around 3 pm.
Now we live in the burbs and my son goes to MCPS and either takes the school bus or gets a ride to school. Which is kind of too bad. There was something kind of thrilling, initially, to be allowed to take the bus by myself (although I was rarely by myself since lots of kids from my school did the same). We would sometimes stop by Swensens for ice cream first, and as I got older, we woud often go into Georgetown or up to Friendship Heights on weekends, by bus, to shop, go to the movies, and generally entertain ourselves. It felt very safe since we travelled in packs, and I assume it still is. Riding the bus by myself was a necessity back then. Sometimes, I think it is probably safer than letting teenagers drive.

Posted by: emily8 | April 27, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

how in the world would an 8 yr old get molested on an airplane?? HELP is a powerful word when yelled with other adults present.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | April 27, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm not shilling a book and a website.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 27, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Game, set and match.....

Posted by: pwaa | April 27, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

"my MIL who is now 69 years old, was molested on an airplane at age 8. NEVER would I let my children fly alone."
howdydoody1 April 27, 2009 1:27 PM

I travelled on airplanes alone at 6 with someone to meet me on the other end. The stewardesses (because they were still called that then) were great to me and would probably have noticed if someone put a blanket over me since they were notified (and still are) that I was travelling alone.

I took cabs and public transportation and walked by myself all over Mazatlan Mexico and Barcelona Spain from 8-12. I felt powerful, and knowledgeable, and I pity the person that would have tried to pull me into a car or lure me to their house to see their puppy. I became someone who could travel anywhere and not be fearful, only reasonably cautious.

I am raising my 8 year old son a little differently. He won't be able to go anywhere on his own until he's probably around 10. He is allowed to stay home by himself for an hour at a time, although that doesn't happen all that often. Why the difference?

Because although the world hasn't changed, he is a different child then I was and I am different from my mother. We all have our limitations (mine is worry which my mother was simply more immune to, his is being a suburbanite child so there is less access to public transport near our house and fewer people around to help him).

When he hits the magic 10 with all the tools/information he needs to be more independent, then I fully plan to make him as free as I was and grit my teeth until he comes back home. I don't think I would be the person I am today if I hadn't had that opportunity and I would feel like a chucklehead for letting my own fear getting in the way of his potential.

Finally, I argue that cities are the SAFEST places for children to go on their own because the sheer numbers make it likely that they (if they are ready and capable) can travel with "the pack" and thus be near help if they need it.

We are all in greater danger and always have been when separated from "the pack"--that is the nature of life.

Posted by: cellenh | April 27, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm amazed at the number of folks that completely missed the point of this post. We can all be terrified of the "What ifs" and never let our children out of arms reach. But it is impossible for a parent to be with their child 100% of the time. By being over-protective you don't allow a child to learn to protect themself when you aren't around. If a child is mature enough to be aware of their surroundings and know what to do when they feel threatened, then there's no problem with them riding public transit alone.

Side note: My 5'4", 120 lb. spouse wouldn't be able to stop two grown men from taking my children if they so desired. Does that mean that I should accompany them everywhere?

Posted by: TarHeelCP | April 27, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I'm not shilling a book and a website.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 27, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

==============================================

True enough, you are just shrill!

Posted by: anonymous_one | April 27, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Side note: My 5'4", 120 lb. spouse wouldn't be able to stop two grown men from taking my children if they so desired. Does that mean that I should accompany them everywhere?

Wrong, they would look for easier pickings, that is what criminals do, look for the weak, foolish and unprotected. Like the woman who wrote this stupid article. No wonder her son does not want to ride alone, he has the sense to know that he should have an adult with him and running into police has now probably convinced him that his mom is not all there.

Posted by: pwaa | April 27, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I recently had a run-in with CPS b/c a neighbor reported that we let our kids (3 and 6) play outside alone. What she would have realized had she bothered to introduce herself, is that we watch them through the windows - with the patio door open enough for us to hear them - on the rare occasions we're not out there with them.

The case was ultimately dismissed because the social worker saw that the accusation was baseless. Even still, I feel like we're supposed to make our kids stay inside while we cook dinner or or get anything else accomplished inside, lest my friendly neighbor decide to call CPS again. It's ridiculous.

Posted by: salekelas | April 27, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Wrong, they would look for easier pickings, that is what criminals do, look for the weak, foolish and unprotected.

Posted by: pwaa | April 27, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Exactly! Which is why children should ALWAYS be trained (i.e. NOT FOOLISH) to PROTECT themselves. And while we can't do much about their physical strength, children can be taught the WEAK spots on an adult.

Posted by: TarHeelCP | April 27, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

pwaa: is that you, pATRICK?

Posted by: anonfornow | April 27, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

The weakest spot on most adults is their brains.

Posted by: anonfornow | April 27, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"My husband and I recently had a run-in with CPS b/c a neighbor reported that we let our kids (3 and 6) play outside alone. What she would have realized had she bothered to introduce herself, is that we watch them through the windows - with the patio door open enough for us to hear them - on the rare occasions we're not out there with them."

Yikes! That puts me and most of my neighbors at risk. We let our 3 year olds (and 4's, 5's, 6's and 7's) roam between yards since in any given area an adult is watching, but for someone just looking from afar it would appear that these kids are not supervised. I let my 2 year old play in the backyard while I sit on the porch or watch through the kitchen window (although he is not able to wander into the other kids yards without one of his parents). I guess I have every reason to be grateful for living where I do.

Posted by: cqjudge | April 27, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

So a friend of the family moved to NYC in her 30's, after living in some safer parts of the country.

Inside two years, she was mugged on the subway multiple times. Because she made a mistake that Ms. Skenazy's son will never make - she kept riding the empty end cars late at night.

I say we call the cops on her - how much of their time has she wasted by being so dense as to repeatedly put herself in a mugging situation? Yet her willful adult ignorance is somehow better than Ms. Skenazy's son's safer riding technique of riding at peak hours in crowded cars.

I don't know if they have them anymore, but enroll your tweens in an "Inward Bound" program (i.e. - instead of sending them to the woods to learn survival skills, send them out to navigate a town under chaperones) and be done with it. It makes for more responsible and alert adults.

Public transportation is not the source of boogeymen, folks. And if you're that concerned about kids in danger in NYC, go rescue the ones who have to live and exist in the bad neighborhoods (or hell, do it in Southeast here in DC)

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 27, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

The big "What If" is this: What if it was Sandra Cantu, of Tracy, California? I guess whatever range she was on wasn't entirely Free.

Posted by: mwicks | April 27, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

""my MIL who is now 69 years old, was molested on an airplane at age 8. NEVER would I let my children fly alone."
howdydoody1 April 27, 2009 1:27 PM "

Okay, I realize that 2009 is very different from 1948, but I have a hard time accepting this. Not only HAVE I let each of my children fly alone when they were between 8 and 10; but I would do so again if appropriate. Because frankly that's just about the safest they'll ever be.

All four of my children, at different times. flew by themselves to spend time with my mother. There were at least three different airlines involved - Delta for the oldest, the US Air, then Southwest for the youngest two. All worked the same way: I walked my child to the gate and presented them directly to a flight attendant or pilot - NOT a gate agent. They were given specific seats where they would be in sight at ALL times. They had to wear tags identifying them as children flying unaccompanied. EVERYBODY on the plane knew that that's what they were. In New Orleans, a flight crew member walked my child off the plane and presented the child to my mother, who signed several papers. The processed was reversed for the trip home.

I feel VERY confident that had anyone "thrown a blanket" over my child, it would have drawn the immediate attention of not only the flight crew but half the plane as well. And for a molester trying that, there's no place to run or hide - you're trapped.

I'm not saying I disbelieve your story, but 2009 is NOT 1948 and I simply don't believe that that could every happen today.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | April 27, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Hovering Helicopter parents have done an injustice to the kids growing up today. These kids are afraid of their own shadow and can not think unless they ask mommy and daddy. What happen to the days of providing your children with tools to take care of themselves and being prepared for the What If's rather than stifle their development...If the boy is in danger, give him some suggestions on what to do to get help. Life is too short to be afraid of two men snatching the boy, enroll him in martial arts or boxing class..

Posted by: houston1969 | April 27, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I hear you, salekelas. I am aware of neighborhoods where CPS has very little to do with the immediate endangerment of children and is used as a tattletale outlet for disgruntled mommies who disagree with the way others decide to parent their kids. It's getting to the point where a parent can't let their kid go barefoot for fear that somebody will call CPS on them on basis of neglect.

Leave your sleeping baby in the car while you pop in the convenience store to buy a loaf of bread and you may find yourself paying a lawyer to get your kid back just because somebody with a cell phone didn't like your bumper sticker.

So today's parents not only have to protect their kids from criminals, they have the authorities to fear also. Parenting isn't getting any easier. I occasionally remind my mom that most parents of her generation would be serving jail time for raising kids nowadays the way they did back in her generation.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | April 27, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

MAYDAY!! MAYDAY!! SCARY PEDOPHILES ARE EVERYWHERE!! ALL PARENTS SHOULD ACCOMPANY THEIR CHILDREN WHILE ARMED WITH COLT M1911's!! STRIKE THAT, ALL PARENTS WILL ACCOMPANY THEIR CHILDREN WHILE ARMED WITH M16s!!

Honestly, people need to get a grip.

Number of children in the United States (2006): 73.7 million.

Number of children under 18 reported missing and number of children known to be kidnapped (2002): 1.06 million.

That second number includes children who ran away from home. Basically, your kids have a 1.5% chance of being kidnapped or running away from home. As that number does include children who run away from home, your odds improve noticeably if you provide a good home environment. Also, 203900 of those kids were abducted by family members - only 58200 are known to be abductions by total strangers.

Translation: your children have approximately a 0.08% chance of being abducted by a total stranger while they have a 0.28% chance of being abducted by a family member. So here's the question: if your kids are 3.5x more likely to be abducted by a family member than by a complete stranger, do you really need to worry all that much about your kids getting snatched while riding some transit bus/train full of people? I haven't exactly noticed an epidemic of transit train abductions, but maybe I just don't know anything because I watch CNN instead of Fox News.

I'll teach my son to not talk to strangers, to never go with somebody he doesn't know unless they use the family password, and to kick, scream, bite, and run for a cop (or another adult if no cops are visible) if somebody tries to force him to go with them and I'm not around.

It is physically impossible for me to be with my son everywhere he goes as a child. Should I not send him to boy scout summer camp because I can't take enough time off from work to travel with the troop as an adult leader? (though we have a while until he can join Boy Scouts, the same question applies to the various levels of Cub Scouting) Should I not leave him at t-ball practice because there's only one coach and 15 youngsters and the coach can't possibly watch all the kids all the time?

My parents started leaving me home alone when I was 7. They both had to be at work early in the morning (when my father was home and not halfway around the world on an aircraft carrier or other naval deployment) and I didn't have elementary school until 9ish. My mother would come wake me up, tell me that when the timer went off I should go to school (about an hour and a half after she left), and remind me to keep the doors locked, not answer them if anybody came and, should anybody try to break in, to call 911 and run to one of my friend's houses. Somehow, I managed to not get kidnapped.

Perhaps, instead of trying to seal our children off from the world, we should raise them to be aware of their surroundings and teach them how to respond if somebody tries to hurt them.

But that's just my opinion.

Posted by: SeaTigr | April 27, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

AB, I was going to respond to the 1948 vs 2009 comparison in children flying, but I am wondering if that was just a troll. I agree, a blanket over a child and a non-attending adult would raise flags and shoot off bells and whistles. Liability comes to mind.

I have many, many friends that have let their kids fly to visit relatives, or in the cases of divorce - down to the other parent. It happens hundreds if not thousands of times a day. However, I do recall a couple stories on parents losing their own kids in the airport that were interesting.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 27, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I thought I posted this once, but mebbe it was removed. The What If that bothers parents is this: "What if the child is Sandra Cantu of Tracy, California." I guess the range she was on wasn't entirely Free.

Posted by: mwicks | April 27, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Seatigr, My mom was just telling me that when I was in Kindergarten she had to work till 4 pm, so my brother was in charge of me till she got home. He was 10 and I had just turned 5, and for 1.5 hours he was responsible. She kept saying "could you imagine that happening today?" and I thought - well, yes, some 10 year olds can be responsible for a 5 year old after school. Of course it depends on the kid (and my brother was and is very responsible) but everyone is so hyper these days, even my poor mother!

As for the CPS stories....good googly moo! People with nothing better to do with their time.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 27, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

and come on, who didn't love Helicopter Homer last night on the simpsons???

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | April 27, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

"everyone is so hyper these days, even my poor mother!"
cheekymonkey | April 27, 2009 3:26 PM |

So true cheekymonkey! I posted earlier about my childhood and my mother was very NOT-worried about me, but she is now VERY worried about my son.

She's one of those that thinks the world has changed, when it is really our perception of it that has changed.

Posted by: cellenh | April 27, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

The difference between the parents posting here and Sandra Cantu's is this: if a middle-class mom in a nice-ish neighborhood had contacted the police and said, "my child was drugged by the minister's wife", the police would have investigated the crime and it is likely that Huckaby wouldn't have had another opportunity to rape and kill Cantu. When you live in a trailer park, the authorities are not nearly as diligent in investigating crimes against children. Accuse a minister's wife and you are wasting your time.

Do you think the conductor and policeman would be as concerned about the safety of Deshawn as they were about Izzy?

Posted by: anonfornow | April 27, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

cellenh, exactly, my parents would never let my kids do what I did as a kid when they are watching them. And they were excellent parents!

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 27, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"My parents started leaving me home alone when I was 7."

That'll get you a wreckless endangerment charge in my neighborhood.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | April 27, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

You can let your child do all sorts of things "independently"--but it is definitely a RISK! You're playing roulette that your child won't be abducted, mugged, murdered, sexually molested, etc. Personally, I wouldn't want to play that type of roulette with my nine year old, especially when there are so many other far safer ways to allow him to be independent. And when he's a teenager, he can have more and more leeway...but by then he'll be more wise to the ways of the world, and will be physically taller and stronger to handle himself. Putting a 9 year old on a subway alone is crazy!!!!!!!!

Posted by: kattoo | April 27, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

>

Why would you want to take that risk at all?

Posted by: kattoo | April 27, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

because i believe it makes my child stronger and more independent and ultimately a more secure adult.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | April 27, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

If your child lives to see adulthood.

Posted by: kattoo | April 27, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Or your child could spend years on a therapists couch recovering from the trauma of being mugged, raped, etc. if the "kind strangers" the original poster talked about didn't reach out to help your child, pick up a cell phone to call 911, etc. IF and this is a big IF...those stranagers even notice what's going on. People in subways are busy, bustling about their own business...talking on their own cell phones, etc...and they're not there to look after your child.

Posted by: kattoo | April 27, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I always avoid being around kids, and parent drive me nuts sometimes, but I have to agree with you on this one. Parents have been whipped up into hysteria for fear that their kids will be abducted, raped and dismembered if they let them out of their sight or hire a baby sitter nowadays. They strap them to their chests and rake the yard or go to fancy restaurants so they aren't out of sight for a second. As a child we used to go out by ourselves and explore everything in our community. I still have all my body parts. As for public transit - it might depend on the child and the route as far as safety is concerned.

Posted by: aredant | April 27, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

What is wrong with our society? Nobody can seem to mind their own business. For crying out loud, the kid was given strict instructions and clearly the parent had enough confidence in the child to carry them them and to act responsibly. It was the so called "adults" who instilled the sense of fear.
We can all just stay inside and bury our heads for fear of getting hit by lightening, too. Or perhaps we should not drive...we MIGHT get hit by someone else...Why don't we just hogtie our children to ourselves so that we can protect them 24/7?
When will helicopter parents learn that they are doing more harm than good? They send a strong message that they don't trust their children and that they cannot survive without them. It is a selfish notion. My cousin in Arvada CO says that her children cannot play on the playground...play tag for fear of a lawsuit. They also cannot throw snowballs...This is insane!...or I should say the parents and the attorneys who think up these things are.
We voice concern over "socialism" and yet we have mini-socialistic communities all over the place dictating what you can and can't do on your own property, how you discipline your kids, how you dress, how you speak, how you do just about anything. There is always someone out there that thinks the world circles around them and that they know what is best for you or your child. Instead of well adjusted and responsible kids, we are creating little whiny kids who cannot make a move without consulting with their parents. Yes, there are things to be fearful about, but it is the parents responsibility to teach their children how to deal with stressful, perhaps potentially dangerous situations. You cannot shelter your children forever!

Posted by: comments13 | April 27, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

If there is lightening, you should go indoors. If your child is 10, or 9, he/she should NOT be riding public transportation alone. This is not raising a fearful child...it's common sense! Putting a child on a subway alone makes absolutely no sense!

As for people not minding their business...in a busy subway at rush hour in NYC, do you really think anyone would notice two guys putting a child in a van against his will? Chances are, no one will notice--it's too busy and hectic an environment, and people are busy with what's going on in their own lives. And who's to say that your child will actually reach the destination...he could be forced off the train at an earlier stop. So, those kind people waiting for him at his destination aren't "protection" at all.

Posted by: kattoo | April 27, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

There have been news segments on Oprah where they stage a mugging, abduction, etc. with a camera running. And they show how many people either walk by and don't notice...or, they don't want to get involved so they avert their eyes. Few people actually stop to help an adult, or child, who is in trouble.

Posted by: kattoo | April 27, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I have to say that I have been a little surprised at some of the things that I have been told are required for care of my SS. Things that I am certain were NOT required when I was of the same age.

Last week, I had to take my SS to school (he is almost 7). I could NOT drop him off next to the car park. I had to park my car and walk him personally to his door. I was told he wasn't allowed to walk unattended to the door. Now this didn't seem to be a rule of the school as I saw many children his age walk unattended not only to the door but also onto the school grounds. I assume this is a rule of the father/mother.

I told someone that we let our kids outside to play by themselves (6 and 3). They looked at me absolutely shocked and said they were too little. This was despite the fact that I told them that we could always hear them and even check on them if we choose to go to the door (and we do). I was shocked that an almost 7 year old had to be within a parent's reach/eyesight every single moment.

How do children become independent if you don't let go of the leash? If you keep them chained to you so that they aren't allowed out of your sight then you end up with kids somewhat akin to my stepson... he can't play or do his homework on his own. That has been gradually changing because I don't want a child that can't think or do for himself. I am doing him no favours by not allowing him to figure out his homework on his own or continually babysitting his play with his sister. If I do everything for him... how does he grow up and take flight successfully?

Posted by: Billie_R | April 27, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Correction... the person was shocked that I was letting a 6 - almost 7 - and a 4 year old play outside by themselves.

Lost count of the birthdays there for a minute.

Posted by: Billie_R | April 27, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I said to my 9 YO cousin: you can come visit us! You can get on the plane, and come. And she got all frightened and said no, she couldn't. And I said: why not, and she replied: What if someone takes me? Her own mother frightened her of her own shadow, for NO reason whatsoever, because she is freaked out about non real dangers. She is 9 Years Old!!! I mean, seriously...she is old enough to know better, how to scream, etc, if something were to happen (which it couldn't because she is watched 24/7 by someone...jeez. How can people do this to children??? I find that abusive.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | April 27, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

While we're going for the scare tactics and "what if's" - mothers should NEVER allow their children (or at least their daughters) to be alone with the husband/father...

This rule is because A) my little sister's best friend in 3rd grade was molested by her father. And B) after we moved to another town, my little sister's new best friend in 7th grade was also molested by *her* father.

We women simply CAN'T EVER TRUST any man, not even their fathers, around our precious children!

(that's sarcasm, folks - for those who might be too clueless to recognize that they are being mocked)

Ridiculous!

Posted by: SueMc | April 27, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I think it is fine to let a mature child ride the bus or subway alone in a safe part of town, during peak hours, as long as you have practiced it a few times with the child and given instructions on what to do if something unexpected happens. Yes, there are all sorts of people, out there on public transportation, and yes, some of them are criminals and pedophiles. It is better to teach your child how to maneuver this world than to raise a them so sheltered they will always be afraid. I learned from a very early age not to talk to strange men or women (and I could spot the weirdos a mile away), not to go anywhere with them, not to cooperate with them, etc. I do remember in high school an old man on the bus asking if I would go visit him at home, and I said no and then got up and sat elsewhere. And I while he did give me the creeps, he did not scare me because I knew I was in control.

Posted by: emily8 | April 27, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

emily8-

Wow! I was about to post the same thing. I used to have to take public transit home from school (not as young as 10, more like 13 and up) and I was not a fan of it. I didn't like being shoved around on the bus and the occasional whistles and the weird people talking to me. BUT, it was a learning experience that has helped me negotiate difficult situations through the rest of life and there was NO compelling reason for me not to take the bus - I might have been uncomfortable, but I was never in danger and my parents both worked and couldn't drop everything to pick me up at school.

The only way you can learn to cope with situations in life is by having them. Why is a teenager who has never been allowed to make his own decisions going to make better ones than a 10 year old (who is more likely to listen to his parents, anyways)?

BTW, as a professor I am constantly annoyed by the lack of independence of some students. I am having to explain that decisions (such as deciding to spend the night drinking instead of studying) have natural consequences and the student might not have realized he was making such a decision, but he had chosen to live with the consequences. If kids learned the way the real world works as a younger age (when the consequences are usually less severe), perhaps they would be more mature when they left home.

Posted by: cqjudge | April 27, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, a 9 YO is old enough to ride the subway, since he's probably been doing it since he was an infant, and he knows how to go all over the place. And if someone was 'abducting' him - YES people would notice. Because he's probably been told to scream. That would attract a crowd, especially in NYC.
Wow, do you people think you are raising dolts who can't fend for themselves? Just you wait - they'll be living in your house into their 40s because they will not know how to take care of themselves.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | April 27, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

That'll get you a wreckless endangerment charge in my neighborhood.>

It might've then, too, but they didn't have much of a choice. At that point in my childhood we rarely had money for much beyond the necessities. We weren't poor, to be sure, but both parents needed to work to pay the bills, both jobs started by 8 a.m., and there was not enough money for daycare. After school I went to a friend's house, pretty sure my mom worked out an arrangement with his mom.

My point in my post was that my parents raised me to act and think independently - to be aware of the world around me, and how to interact with it. Somehow, I'm sure the helicopter parents on here must be amazed, I managed to make it through childhood without losing any body parts, being abducted, and with only a handful of scars. (All from being active - baseball, football, hiking, rock climbing, sailing, martial arts, I was even allowed to shoot guns at 9)

Posted by: SeaTigr | April 27, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

SeaTigr, We had very similar childhoods, except for shooting the guns, lol. When I was a teenager my parents started earning more money and have retired comfortably, but when we were young there was nothing extra. As my mother likes to say, she didn't dwell on money being tight because she was too busy turning $1.50 into dinner. My mother always worked and there were neighbors that helped with kid care.

Anyways, we had free reign outside and rode our bikes. We were unsupervised (gasp!) for large amounts of time, and did all the typical kids things that resulted in some injury but no lost limbs. My kids are experiencing many of the same things and it is great.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 27, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Oh Lenore, Lenore - God forbid you should raise a child who should EVER leave the nest! Part of being a parent is letting go, little by little, inch by inch. Another part of parenting is letting your child know the dangers "out there" and to be aware.
All of you naysayers - are you planning on following your child to college and making sure they are safe? When you do you stop?
Is it easy to let your kids go? Hell no! It's really hard to watch them from your window crossing the street by themselves those first few times. Leaving them alone after school that first year (and calling every half hour).
All of what you do for them is readying them for the inevitable - when they leave your house...will they be ready? Or want their mommy?

Posted by: aliza123 | April 27, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

last fall, my son was going to the chess club at school, that is at 7:30 (before school starts). So, it was a week or two into school, my husband had been taking him up til then...and I had to drop my then 6 YO off. Couldn't stay with him cause I had to go home with the little one. So I just dropped him off...hoped the school was open, and that was that. He told me he knew where to go and, well, there weren't many people around, but that's the way it goes.
I was joking with another mom at the bus stop that I just dropped him off in the AM and was hoping for the best...which I think we all have to do as our kids get older. Hope we've given them what they need (in terms of knowing what to do, in terms of nurturing them, etc) - let them out in the world, and hope for the best. Seriously, I want independent kids. Cause the other option is not really an option (they're out of the house mid 20s latest!).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | April 27, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

and it really pissed me off when i was teaching math while i was in grad school and parents would call and complain about the grades their kids got. And I hear about how kids' parents call up for their kids and make interviews, or things like that. HELLO. They're supposed to leave the next.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | April 27, 2009 8:01 PM | Report abuse

er, nest.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | April 27, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

As a child, I had ridiculously overprotective parents. I wasn't allowed to leave home unsupervised at all until the age of 14. At age 16, I only knew how to take the subway and bus to a small number of destinations, and I had never even explored my own neighbourhood alone. When I went to college, I didn't even know how to do laundry. They didn't even give me my own house keys until I came home from college for the summer. It was embarrassing, and I had to do a lot of catching up very quickly.

Seriously, don't raise your children like my parents did. It does them no favours.

Posted by: kea_ | April 28, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Kudos on instilling a sense of independence in your son at an early age. My parents didn't allow me to take an out-of-town trip with my friends until I was 17. A European friend from my generation was backpacking through Europe with friends when she was a mere 15. Americans tend to be overly protective of their children to our detriment as a nation, I think.

Posted by: changling | April 28, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Many good comments already.

There is a huge difference between possibility and probability. Many people do not make the distinction. Spectacular or "media worthy" events, even when the probability is extremely low, are a source of fear for most people.

I agree that many of us are way too protective of our young. We should install in them a healthy balance of independence, awareness, and ability to take care of themselves.

Posted by: observer31 | April 28, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I would hope that we all could agree that the child would be safer riding the train with an adult than alone. The question is whether the risk of riding without the parent is small enough to warrant loosening the restraints.

and there are two ways we can go with this:

1) why not bubble-wrap our kids? why let them out of the house at all? Why let them watch anything other than G rated movies?

or

2) why not let them walk the streets at night? Why not let them watch a porn movie? why not let them go to any website they want?

both are pretty extreme and both miss the point. there is a happy medium and, as long as we are close to that middle, it doesn't really matter which side of that middle we are on. for what it's worth, i'm on the more cautious side when it comes to my kids. i wouldn't dare play such games with them. I find that this "experiment" veers a bit far from that middle when it comes to a 9 year old. 11-12 is much closer to the middle.

and above all, if this kid gets abducted during one of these experiments, shame on the parents. the cops should tell them to p*ss off.

Posted by: DreamOutLoud | April 28, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I understand that kids can even be hurt playing in their own yards and I wouldn't suggest that you dont let them even do that (though I do have to wonder what neighborhood the kids were in when the crazy guy came over and attacked them).

You can never control everything that puts your kids at risk but you can at least take certain precautions, such as not letting them ride the subway alone just so you can call yourself a free range parent.

Posted by: sunflower571 | April 29, 2009 8:18 AM | Report abuse

I get emails like this on a regular basis. it's ridiculous. with this out there, why take the chance of allowing a NINE year old out of your sight? why play roulette with your kid's life?

http://connectedcommunities.us/showthread.php?t=26687

Posted by: DreamOutLoud | April 29, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

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