BlogExplosion

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Are We Scaring Our Kids? The Subway Ride Heard Round the World

I don't know how I missed this story when it first made national news back in April, and then again in my October issue of Reader's Digest, but have all of you heard about the "Subway Mom"?

After her 9-year-old son begged her to plese let him find his way home from someplace on the New York City subway, Lenore Skenazy, a New York City mom, decided to let him. One Sunday afternoon, Skenazy left Izzy in the first-floor handbag department of the Manhattan Bloomingdales with a subway map, a transit card, $20 for emergencies, and a couple of quarters in case he needed to call her (No, no cell phone. Nine-year-olds lose things). After 45 minutes, he arrived home, far more tickled than your average commuter.

Lenore Skenazy wrote about the experience for the New York Sun, and suddenly found that her son's adventure had become the Subway Ride Heard Round the World. Skenazy and her son and the legendary subway ride were featured on the Today show, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, BBC, and in plenty of international newspapers. I guess the media vilified Skenazy for her decision, and she wrote the Reader's Digest article to explain and defend herself.

Skenazy wonders how her friend, a Harvard math major, can't rely on probability and statistics to get comfortable that the odds of anything bad happening to her daughter are tiny. I have to confess that I am at the far end of the overprotective spectrum with London and Maddie. I'm afraid that the emotional effect of the anecdotal evidence of bad things happening to kids far outweighs my logic center.

The counter to Skenazy's happy ending is a story passed along by a friend down in Bay Head, who has an 11-year-old daughter. When her daughter was eight or nine, she was in a class with a boy who pestered his mother to stop walking him across the street at school, soccer and other sports practices. Despite his mother's concerns, she agreed to give him greater independence, dropping him off a block or two from school or sports practice, and on his first or second trip across the street without her, he forgot to look both ways and was struck by an SUV and died. Now I know there's a point of view that would say that by being overprotective to that point, the mother had prevented her son from learning the basic "street smarts" of everyday living...they have to grow up and be independent one day, better to be prepared...

I grew up in the 70s and early 80s, running on the backstreets (actually the corn fields) and playing Capture the Flag past nightfall with the neighbor kids in elementary school, riding my bicycle (without a helmet) twenty to fifty miles a day to visit friends on the other side of town or to look for college boys in Princeton (35 mile round trip) during middle school and high school, getting into cars with pot-smoking strangers... as a mom, my attitude has really changed. I won't drop London and Maddie off at the mall, the movies or the roller rink for a birthday party, and I'm cautious about who drives them where. I'm still figuring out what makes sense in their emerging independence, and it's only going to get tougher as my litle girls grow up.

I'd appreciate your comments... what's your point of view on the Subway Ride Heard Round the World? How do you deal with the balance of kids needing the freedom to grow up, and a parent's concerns about the dangers of the world today?

8 comments:

flit said...

I think that most parents are FAR too overprotective... not that we should just toss em out the door and expect them to cope - but there is a balance

Lisa C. said...

WEEEEEEEEEEELLLLL I think I can come up with safer, just as creative things for a 9 year old to do... and still stimulate the curiosity... If there's even a 1% chance something bad can happen, I'd have to think long and hard... I couldn't live with myself, if I let loose one of my daughters in a NY subway and she never came home...

Mariuca said...

Hi Roxy! EC is getting more ridic by the day, it takes me 4 times to refresh and finally see the EC widget now! Not just for ur blog, but for 75% of the rest on my list! :(:(:(

Mariuca said...

Roxy! I just spent 4 hours or so doing invoices for my clients!! Had to trace back jobs in July tsk tsk tsk!! Anyway, I am finally done and am about to do my drops! :):):)

Mariuca said...

Thanks so much for all ur comment love over the weekend, I had such a hectic one and I still have not done my new job uh oh!!!

Mariuca said...

I sure am glad Foxy Roxy is around to take good care of the little ones! Say hello to the girls for me will ya? :):):)

Mariuca said...

And one more thing!!! I am seriously losing patience with BE!!!! What is up with the 3-week wait???? I tell u, it's gonna take them months to approve my new URL and in the meantime, I'm still getting new referrals for them! GP is not happy!!! :(:(:(:(:(

Denise said...

I grew up in New York and know for a fact that most kids 8 or 9 or 10 or whatever have to ride the subway or a bus to get to school each day (or go to the movies, the park). When kids aren't riding something, they are traipsing all over the neighborhood. City dwelling kids have to be more independent and their parents have to be less over protective, so the subway ride thing was not a big deal to me.