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Thread: Free Range Kids?

  1. #1
    jvirginia is offline INCIIDer - A Community Creator
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    Default Free Range Kids?

    Wow, finally, the "other" side. Raising my kids in an era where you are commiting neglect if you don't buy a Britax, or if you feed them honey before they are a year old, re-heat baby food, fail to childproof every sharp corner in your house, leave them sitting in the car when you run in to get a bottle of water, etc. it is so nice to see someone say S T O P.

    Here's her intro:

    When I wrote a column for The New York Sun on "Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Take The Subway Alone,” I figured I’d get a few e-mails pro and con.

    Two days later I was on the Today Show, MSNBC, FoxNews and all manner of talk radio with a new title under my smiling face: “America’s Worst Mom?”


    Here she is on Neil Cavuto.

    http://www.foxnews.com/video/index.h...20home%20alone

    And here is her update:

    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.




    Here's her blog, too:

    http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/

    I don't agree with everything she says, but as someone who wandered all over DC as a kid with no cel phone I really feel sorry for kids today who have to be watched and controlled every minute. It is probably one reason why they spend so much time in front of TVs and computers.

    As someone with a similar kid - always "tugging on the leash", who is the ONLY 10 year old allowed to ride his bike in the neighborhood I really appreciate a voice of reason on this issue. He has been flying alone since he was 8 years old - and some people were so horrified that I did this it made me second guess myself. Kids need to grow up.

  2. #2
    maryellen is offline INCIIDer - A Community Creator
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    kudos to her, and you! When I was a kid I lived in a small city and was allowed to walk "downtown" alone or with a friend from as early as I can remember. I admit the current trend of being overprotective has had an impact on me, but it's something I fight against. I pretty much force myself to let my kids go out and ride their bikes without me watching (they are 8 and 5) because I want them to have some independence. I wish I could give them more.

  3. #3
    pepperlc is offline INCIIDer - A Community Creator
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    I use to walk to elementary school and to middle school alone as a kid. They were about 1 mile each from my home across a "major" road. I grew up in a very small town with 2 main streets. The one I had to cross was even called Main Street.

    I am trying to give my kids more independence but its hard. I am afraid. There are crazy people out there. The main road through our neighborhood is a commuter cut through so there are a lot of cars going through the neighborhood in the morning and evening.

    At what age do you allow your kids out of your sight but near your house? Do you let them be alone out there? Our house is at the end of a cul de sac and the street has only 8 houses. But it connects to this cut through street.

    I am now allowing them to be outside on the street with our 9 year old neighbor. My kids will be 5 in 2 weeks and 6 in 3 1/2 weeks. So they are young (pre-K, K and K). I let them be in our yard and our adjacent neighbors yards without someone older.

    Like I said I'm trying to relax. Trying to make their childhood more like mine but its very difficult when you read the news.
    karen

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    jknyc is offline INCIIDer - A Community Creator
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    Good for her. I used to see plenty of kids in that age range taking the subway by themselves or with a friend. She's not alone.

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    CDB is offline INCIIDer - A Community Creator
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    I would probably be seen as a very bad parent for the things I allow my kids to do. My mantra is that it's our job to grow our kids up and out, not in and kept.

  6. #6
    jvirginia is offline INCIIDer - A Community Creator
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    I am actually on anti-anxiety meds because of the level of fear I would have if I lost track of my kids … EVEN IN MY OWN HOUSE. However, I know it is something to fight. My kids are 10 and 7. They have been allowed to play outside on their own since they were 5. My older son is allowed to bike around the neighborhood as long as he agrees to be back at a certain time. Both kids can bike together to our local church (1/2 mile) or up or down the street (about ½ mile either way). My DH would like them to be able to bike 3 miles to school/soccer games, the library, etc. but I’m not quite there yet, and I do worry about what other parents would think. I asked a neighbor who has a son David’s age about her rules on biking and she doesn’t even let her 12 year old bike anywhere without her – even just up the street to a friend’s house, with a call to confirm that he arrived. Our other neighbors have an 11 year old and he also isn’t allowed out. Anyway, so they really could report me. There is a registered sexual offender up the street from us; I don’t know a lot of details about him.
    I also leave my 10 year old at home alone for up to an hour, and leave both at home for 15-20 minutes – but they aren’t allowed to go outside if I’m not home.
    I walked to school from first grade, with a group of kids. We would also meet in a city park in the evening to play and just come home by dusk … and this is in a marginal area of DC. I took the bus and subway around DC from very young, and took Amtrak to New York by myself to visit my grandmother from probably about 12. My DH had complete freedom from age 8 on to play in his neighborhood until dinnertime.

  7. #7
    SharonB is offline INCIIDer - A Community Creator
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    I'm a pretty relaxed parent, but I have to say, most of the parents in my neighborhood are the same way. My boys are often outside for hours at a time and I can't always see them. Sometimes they are in front of one of the other houses. They know to come and tell me if they are going inside one of their friends' houses, so I don't worry. My 10 yr old is allowed to ride his bike to the park, to some friends' houses, and in nice weather he likes to walk home with friends instead of taking the bus. The walk is about 2 miles.

    They like having some freedom, and even though it is far less than I had as a kid (we used to be gone literally ALL DAY on our bikes during the summer!) I try to remember that our neighborhood is safe, the likelihood of something happening is almost nil, and they need to do things for themselves. It is part of growing up.

  8. #8
    seals is offline INCIIDer - A Community Creator
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    Default This was my summer growing up too

    Quote Originally Posted by SharonB View Post
    we used to be gone literally ALL DAY on our bikes during the summer!) .
    I grew up in a suburban area and went everywhere, certainly from the time I was 10 or so. After 12 I would bike to town and all over. I now live in a more rural area. My kids can't bike very far because we have an extremely busy road off of our 2-road subdivision. I have only recently let them ride to the end of our long road and around the corner if 2 of them are together (I'm more worried about one getting hurt and that way one can come to tell me -- we have a lot of retirees in our neighborhood and they are always inside or out somewhere). We do have woods all around and the big thing with my DSs (10,8,8) is whether they can play in the woods by themselves. Again, I let them if they are together and I call to them every 20 min or so. I will admit I am suspicious of someone who lives at the other end of our street so I do have that in the back of my mind. Bad, I know, but I am naturally cautious with a past history of anxiety problems. I do try to ask myself 1) if I think they are mature enough for whatever situation they are asking to be in and 2) whether if something did happen to them will I felt I was comfortable letting them do whatever it was in the first place or will I truly regret I didn't listen to my suspicions.

    But I do feel it is a different world than it was when I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. I do think that with all the cautions out there there are some people who see a child by him/herself and feel that they are negelcted and therefore if they are in a mindset to harm a child they see that child as a potential victim because they are out of the ordinary in that sense. That is honestly how I feel. It is similar to hitchhikers. People used to hitchhike everywhere. People used to pick up hitchhikers. Then with so many stories of hitchhikers or hitchhikees being harmed, few people do that any more.

    I do think with the original post what would happen if the subway stopped elsewhere on the way to the station where the friends were. Mechanical problems or whatever. Would the child remain calm and know what to do and/or would other passengers look out for that child. I don't think there are as many people around who would help a child they don't know as there once were.

    And in true confession mode I did buy Britaxs for my DSs. DH and I discussed this and decided we would rather forego other baby products and spend the $ on Britax because the extra safety was worth it to us. (and this was 1998 when there were fewer choices for infant seats in particular). But I also have left my then 7 yr old DSs in the car while I've run into the grocery store.

    Sue

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    Child developmentalists agree that most children do not possess the cognitive or visual abilities to cross a street alone until age 10 at the earliest. I am not sure how a parent could trust their child to bike around traffic. I have SEEN kids who's parents think they "do a good job crossing the street" in very precarious situations, narrowly being missed getting hit by a car. In most areas. the minimum age a child can legally be left unattended in their own house is 9, some areas older. So I fail to see how it is considered unsafe for my child to be unattended in his own home, yet perfectly OK for a young child to wander around a neighborhood alone.

    For the subway case, it seems this mother is putting the responsibility of the safety of her child on strangers. Would anyone here really want to depend on New York strangers to intervene in a child abduction?

    I am all for giving kids safe limits. But I don't hold the whole "It takes a village to raise a child" mantra. It takes a PARENT to raise a child. And chances are I am too busy supervising my own children to be paying attention to yours (though I would certainly help a child in need, IF I happened to note that need).

    I get very frusterated day in and day out watching my neighbors children dodge traffic (or rather watching traffic dodge her children) when she is not watching her children.

  10. #10
    jvirginia is offline INCIIDer - A Community Creator
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bailey View Post
    Child developmentalists agree that most children do not possess the cognitive or visual abilities to cross a street alone until age 10 at the earliest.
    Source?

    My kids have the cognative ability to reach unbeleavable heights on video games, way better than any adult ... how could they not be able to cross a street? Your negligent neighbor notwithstanding, I think there's an element of learned helplessness with kids who are protected, hovered over, and insulated from the real world all the time.

    ETA: Okay, I found the source. I still think it is nutty. I walked to school when I was in 2nd grade. 10 is OLD.

    http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cps/newtips/pages/tip8.htm


    I think a kid who has been given a fair amount of independence and trust is likely to be a lot more resourceful than one whose parents assume they are incompetent to do the most basic tasks.

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