Parting his mother's company at Bloomingdales and equipped with a MetroCard, a map, $20 and a few quarters, 9-year old Izzy Skenazy took the subway and bus by himself to get home. Gasp! Or so many people reacted when his mother, Lenore Skenazy, wrote about his adventure in her New York Sun column after finally relenting to Izzy's incessant nagging for this taste of independence.
Sometimes we see kids on the subway and wonder if they're old enough to get safely where they're going, but we're often reminded of the stories, told with much pride, by our native New Yorker friends of their early solo subway rides (one friend from the Rockaways no less!).
Not surprisingly Lenore Skenazy's column sparked some criticism about whether letting her son use public transportation alone was safe and it opens up a more general discussion about kids, their independence, letting go, and fear-based parenting. Skenazy compared her son's "daring" subway/bus trip to 'Boy boils egg' - a not very extraordinary event and she laments that parents have been "brainwashed" by the sad, tragic, but still exceptional stories of bad things that happen to children. She insists New York is a safe place for kids and that the rewards for kids having some independence outweigh the risks.
Half the people I've told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It's not. It's debilitating — for us and for them.
In contrast to Izzy's urban experience, this story reminds us of Richard Louv's arguments against overprotective parenting (which he sees as one factor in kids' disconnect from nature) in Last Child in the Woods.
What do you think? Do you fall in the "better safe than sorry" camp or are you all for giving your kids a taste of independence?