Wednesday, April 09, 2008

9 Year Old Crosses the Street! Gasp!

I was glued to the radio today. Talk of the Nation had Lenore Skenazy...Read Article... as a guest. She let her 9 year old son take the subway home. In New York. By himself. With no cell phone, and the possibility that he would have to ask a stranger for help.

At first, I was taken aback. In New York? The kid could have been (insert nightmare here) and how would the mother have felt then?

Well. Of coarse Lenore would have felt horrified. Silly question. What we really want to say is...I don't think you are a good parent because you are putting your son in danger.

Danger? Lenore gives various stats on the crimes and random acts of violence in N.Y. Seems times are like the 60s now. Apparently, letting your kid out doors in N.Y. is similar to letting them out in Boise.

I remember fondly riding my bike all over Base Housing on McChord AFB. I would be gone for hours discovering new places. I remember discovering two horses that lived behind the Base Housing fence. I fed them grass and touched their noses. I remember finding out where all my classmates lived. Sarah Love and Michelle were neighbors! No wonder they were best friends! I remember finding new playgrounds and realizing my block playground was the best. It had the best acorn trees, that's what we called oaks. I had a watch and knew what time I had to be home.

I had a sense of freedom. I was able to exercise skills my teachers and parents had been teaching me. I had some independence and it was exhilarating!

When I was 9 my mother started to worry about strangers abducting me. I wasn't allowed to go outside as much. When I was 12 I begged my mother to let me walk the 3 blocks to the Feed Store. I wanted some penny candy. She said no. It was too dangerous because the store was next to a busy road.

Luckily, my father convinced her otherwise and I had that wonderful feeling of independence again! And I hate to admit this, but I had that same sense of independence and freedom when I bought my own bar of Irish Spring soap in college. Yup. I was pretty protected. I won't go into being grounded my senior year for 3 months, or having a 10pm curfew, or never being allowed to go to a sleep over...I'm not bitter. (Dad was working abroad)

I don't have children yet and know ideas and feelings change when you do. But I would love for my kids to have that wonderful feeling of independence. I know it will depend on the kid, his maturity and ability...but I think kids are smarter and safer then we think...or rather, allow them to be.

My friend, Mr. Davies, said when he was 9 years old he was running his Dad's grocery store. By 12 he was working the books. Of coarse, that was back in the 1930s. Do we make 9 year olds like that anymore?

I am very curious to hear your stories and thoughts. Read the article and let's discuss! But one thing. Please don't tell me, "You'll see" or "You'll find out when..." That right belongs to my Mother.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Lenore. I admire her parenting style that invokes responsibility and learning through gained independence and trust. Keeping a strict reign ruled with fear and control can really hold back development and one's function in the world. Of course there must be some sort of balance in how much freedom kids have. Kids need some structure, guidance and smart examples. Along with freedom there must still be respect and knowledge.

Although potentially dangerous, the son was informed and learned valuable life experience. In today's world we are driven too much by fear. Our media and government can gain much control with it. Getting rid of fear breaks the path for understanding, speaking out, asking questions, and being who you want to be. I grew up in a rural setting with lots of freedom to run around and explore. It helped me to find my true self and learn much about how the world works. Sure, I got a little muddy and bloody at times but it brought growth, responsibility, creativity, and respect. It could be argued that it is better for kids to learn and explore while they still have a parent's guidance, rather than learning haphazzardly with a rebellion when the cord is finally cut at 18 or 25.