kitchen table math, the sequel: Fighting Back Against "The World Is Soooo Dangerous Now": Free Range Kids

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fighting Back Against "The World Is Soooo Dangerous Now": Free Range Kids

Lenore Skenazy let her son Izzy make his own way home from Bloomingdale's in New York City a couple of weeks ago, and wrote about the experience in the New York Sun. It was a man-bites-dog story, as Izzy is only nine--. Lenore wrote another column for the Huffington Post:

Last week I wrote a column for my newspaper, The New York Sun, titled, "Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride The Subway." It basically said that I let him do this because he wanted to take a trip solo, he knew how to read the map, and I had every confidence that he could find his way home.

Two days later, said son and I found ourselves on the Today Show, MSNBC and FoxNews, trying to convince anchor after anchor after anchor that:

1) This was not a crazy idea - as they could see from the fact the kid was sitting there, grinning. And

2) I am not a crazy mom, as they could see from...

Well, that's the point. Not all of them could see. The mere fact that I'd let my son out of my sight made me seem nuts to more than a few people, who wondered why didn't I follow him, or keep checking in with a cell phone, or wait until he was 34 and balding before I let him go out on his own.

Skenazy is looking to give her son "a longer leash."

But here's what I've learned from all the folks who don't want to do that, and send bile-filled notes instead: For some reason we live in a society that sees little difference between letting a child frolic in the front yard and letting a child frolic in front of a firing squad. It's impossible for people to calculate the difference between real and remote risks.

So she's started a blog, Free Range Kids, to counter the coddling and hypervigilance -- even countering the helicopter parenting phenomenon.

At Free Range, we believe in safe kids. We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts. We do NOT believe that every time school age children go outside, they need a security detail.

Go and tell your story of raising Free Range Kids.

(will be cross-posted at I Speak of Dreams)


Dawn said...

//It's impossible for people to calculate the difference between real and remote risks.//

Do you think that literally, not being able to calculate risks in part of the problem? A population schooled into innumeracy?

LynnG said...

My son and I listened to her interview and she more than convinced me that she was not nuts.

Parents are forbidden to relax in our society. Just turn on the news -- some kid somewhere got abducted or abused so we all need to be very very afraid.

My neighbor was worrying about her son jogging. I thought she was worried he might get run over (we don't have sidewalks). Noo. She was worried he might be abducted.

He's 16 years old, 6 feet tall, and 205 pounds. Who the *!!*& is going to abduct him?

I want him in MY security detail if I go jogging.

Anonymous said...

I found that giving up cable tv was the single best way for me to stop being afraid for my child's safety.

That said, I've reached the point where my fear is not of abductors or pedophiles, but of strangers or neighbors calling Child Protective Services when they see me let my child do something completely reasonable--like let my 2 yr old play in the backyard while I'm in the house, or leave my 2 yr old in the car while I run back into the house to grab my purse, etc.

A female coworker of mine was having issues with a teen daughter of hers; once, when the teen was acting up and refusing to come home from a friend's house at curfew, the mother went to get the girl. She drove to the friend's house where the girl was, rang the bell, and then when the friend and her daughter answered, she literally dragged her kid out of the house into her car.

The friend's MOTHER CALLED THE POLICE to report abuse. THAT'S a problem.

My neighborhood is as safe as Donna Reed's town was. And yet, the 13 yr old girl next door is incapable of riding the city bus home from school: straight up 1 street, 20 neighborhood blocks. no transfers, no bizarre routes through slums or past rehab centers. I did that at 9--and went home to an empty house. I hire her to babysit my infant--she handles that with perfect aplomb. Why she can't ride a bus home is beyond me.

ElizabethB said...

I agree, the news is making people afraid.

When I was growing up in the Seattle area, there were a series of murders by the "Green River Killer" pretty near to where we lived. The murders made the local news, but I've asked dozens of friends if they had ever heard of him, and very few have. He only made the national news after he had killed several women, and even then the coverage was nothing like it would be today.

It is sad, we didn't have "playdates" when I was growing up, we just went outside and played or walked over to our neighbors' houses to play.

We don't have a TV and we only read online news, you can skip all the pop-star and abduction news, it's much more relaxing that way. (We do have a computer with a large screen that we watch DVDs on.)

Anonymous said...

My neighbor was worrying about her son jogging. I thought she was worried he might get run over (we don't have sidewalks). Noo. She was worried he might be abducted.

oh my gosh!

otoh, I've seen these things die down easily

a few years ago there was "a green van" going around whose occupants were trying to lure kids inside

I'm not sure if they were ever caught

My sense was that everyone had their elementary school kids stop walking home on the aqueduct path (dirt path that travels many miles along the Hudson) for a while

But once that threat faded all the kids were back walking again

Anonymous said...

One of the schools we visited is in the Bronx. The admissions director told us, "People who don't want to send their kids to the Bronx self-select out of the pool."

I'm betting they have an interesting group of parents -- at a minimum I'm also betting the parent population there is going to be significantly less fearful/anxious than parent populations elsewhere.

I'm especially convinced of this because the admissions director raised the issue without our having brought it up. We hadn't particularly been thinking about it, other than to feel that the Bronx was both a bit unnerving, on the one hand, and, at the same time, appealing.

We are SOOOOO ready to look at cars that aren't Lexuses.