Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Free Range Kids

Remember the mom that let her 9 year old take the NYC subway alone? Lenore Skenazy started a movement and a blog. Go visit the FreeRangeKids blog.

Today is the second let her walk to school by herself Tuesday. Last Tuesday, I was running behind and let her walk to school while I finished the dishes. I was going to catch up with her, but discovered she was doing just fine. I hung back to give her the satisfaction of making the whole 3 blocks to school on her own.

Today, I ate a bit slowly so I could use the same excuse. I caught up with her in front of her classroom. She was positively nonchalant about it today.

I watched with smug satisfaction as a neighbor struggled to strap 2 of her 3 kids up in her minivan, both older than Iris, to drive them to the same neighborhood school. We live on a one-way street, pointed away from the school. She lives a block closer to school, only 2 blocks to our 3. Yet, because of the one-way street, she has to drive farther to get the kids to school. I offered to walk her kids to school with me, but she declined.

One boy used to be driven every day by his mother while she was rushing off to work. It was silly because we departed and arrived at the school at the same time. We offered to walk him with us each day, but he declined. His mother said it was because he was too cool to be seen walking with such a little kid (Iris). I noticed that, now that he is in the 5th grade, he is allowed to ride his bike or scooter to school each day on his own.

Another boy on our block also gets driven every day, even though the father says he would be happy to walk his son to school. His said that his wife wouldn't allow them to walk for some reason. We leave at the same time, but we arrive before them. Again, they live closer but drive further because of the one way street.

We used to walk with another mother and child, but the mother had to stop due to health reasons. Hopefully, she will be walking again after her illness.

Now guess which family is Black, Chinese, Hispanic and Jewish.


  1. I can't possibly pick which is which - it's all very odd (except for you and Iris, and the other mother who has been ill).

    I walked to school by myself from second grade, but it was less than a block and on a relatively quiet back street.

  2. I have completely different cultural frames of reference so no way to answer your question, but. Wow. The mind boggles at all that pointless and time-wasting driving.

    Coincidentally I've been reading Bill Bryson's memoir of his 50s childhood in Des Moines (Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid) & am amazed by the freedom they had -- from age three or four on up kids were turned out of the house daily to "go play outside" with their peers. He walked all over town. In my South African small town in the 70s I did the same, joining the neighbourhood pack of kids as we roamed more or less randomly and wholly without adult supervision. Now I'm wondering when it will be ok to let my 6-yr-old walk the 50 pages around the corner to the neighbour on her own...

  3. When I was 6, my older sister had the job of walking me to school. She was 12. When I was 12 myself, I was paid $0.10 a week to walk a neighbor's 6-year-old to school. I felt guilty about this because the single mother clearly was financially challenged, and I had to walk to the same school myself anyway. The distance travelled? TWO MILES!! Through rain, fog, sleet, snow, and dark of a late winter afternoon. (And I am sure plenty of people can top that story.)

  4. Anonymous08:19

    I walked to school by myself or with neighbor's kids from first grade through middle school. And for 4th/5th grade I went home and watched of my younger sister until my mom came hom from work. I guess these days we would be considered some poor, deprived, latch-key kids, but I never thought of it as anything strange.

  5. I always walked to school. In first and second grade, in Spain, everyone walked. When we were back in the States, in Texas I walked to school every day along the main street of our town, which was quite busy. By then I was in third grade and I walked with my little brother who was in first grade. We lived between a mile and a mile and a half of all the schools (elementary, middle, high school)so I walked until my senior year, when I was finally allowed to drive. That was only because the new high school was 3 miles away, although I could easily ride my bike there. I probably only got to drive so I could take my brother and his saxophone with me. Oddly enough, 4 years later my parents had moved two blocks from the new high school, and my youngest brother drove to school every day.

    By the time I was 10 I was left to look after my younger siblings if my parents went out, or on the afternoons my mom was at her weaving lessons.

    I still think the independence was good for us.

  6. The last sentence is a trick question. You can't tell which family is Black, Chinese, Hispanic and Jewish because none fit a stereotype.

    That's the beauty of living in a neighborhood where no one can be a minority because no one is a majority. You notice people as individuals with unique quirks.

  7. My mother likes to tell the story of how her bubbie (yiddish for grandma) insisted on walking her to school. Mom would insist that she could make the 10 minute trip on her own. But Bubbie would insist and say it wasn't safe for her to walk alone - this was when my mom was in junior high. But - Bubbie was blind. So, my mom would have to follow her back home to make sure she got there safely. She always did.


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