Monday, April 14, 2008

Not a helicopter parent

Don't miss Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone by Lenore Skenazy.
I left my 9-year-old at Bloomingdale’s (the original one) a couple weeks ago. Last seen, he was in first floor handbags as I sashayed out the door.

Bye-bye! Have fun!

And he did. He came home on the subway and bus by himself.
Do read the entire thing. I agree whole-heartedly with her points about letting children practice decision making and faulty risk analysis.

Mark and I bicycle commute in LA sometimes. People often react with horror when they find out.

"That's so dangerous!" they say.

Actually, that is not so dangerous as a sedentary lifestyle or global warming, but I don't say that because I am trying to practice politeness. The number one killer in the US is heart disease; regular, moderate aerobic exercise (like riding a bike) reduces the risk of developing heart disease.


  1. Great article. I don't understand why parents are so unhinged about letting kids do things.

    I was allowed to go down to the local shops on my own (admittedly just across the road) at six, to go to the bookshop and spend my pocket money (they had a five cent bin, and I got forty cents pocket money - heaven!), at around the same age I was allowed to go to the local park with the boys next door and their dog, and at eight I was allowed to catch the tram by myself to the city with a friend. Trams did have conductors in those days though - they sold you your ticket and kept people from anti-social behaviour, so was probably a bit safer than catching a train.

    I'm still alive. No-one ever tried to do anything bad to me. Today's kids are all going to have agoraphobia and be scared of their shadow.

  2. Thank you for posting this and also the link to the article. I try very hard NOT to be the over-protective parent. But it's a struggle. One one hand I know there's a lot of 'the world has become so much more dangerous', when in fact this is just based on more information about crimes, not necessarily more crimes committed. And on the other hand I would guilt myself to death if something DID happen when I let them go.

    My six year old takes the bus to school with her nanny sometimes. And to prove how smart kids really are: on one occasion as they step into the bus, DD tells her nanny it's the wrong bus, that it doesn't go to Santa Monica. The driver confirms it, the nanny blushes and out of the bus they go :-)


  3. But of course. The "big blue bus" goes to Santa Monica and the MTA buses are red or white.

    I am reading Narratives from the Crib about the early life of Emily Oster. When she was a toddler, she already knew that yellow buses come on days her parents go to work and the blue (municipal) buses run on all days. So, when she doesn't see the yellow buses, it is a pancake breakfast day, when her parents stay at home with her and her dad makes pancakes.

  4. I'm a little more permissive with my son than some of my peers. Partly it's because he's shown good judgment thus far.

    I could go farther. An acquaintance feels that out of the house and out of sight is OK all day long. In contrast, I make my son check back in every hour.

  5. Anonymous11:31

    I have had a lot of people say that they feel their kids are safe as long as they have a cell phone with them. That lets them check in and let them know if they are late or lost, but if someone really wants to harm them, I doubt it is of much use.

  6. Anonymous17:32

    DH was allowed to take the subway and roam NYC even as a recent immigrant (granted a while ago). Of course he was also the child of a working mother. I was allowed to roam pretty freely most places we lived as long as I followed certain set rules.

    As to people being reminded that a sedentary life-style is more risky than activity or bicycling in heavy traffic, I suspect that most people would not take kindly to it and politeness is a wise choice. I have lots of stories on that subject.

  7. The amazing thing is, my route stays completely off busy roads. It is mainly quiet residential
    side streets with short stretches through a parking lot, a park and a class-one separated bike path.

    My 3 mile commute takes 10-15 minutes by car and 20 minutes by bike. It is like finding 30 extra minutes a day for exercise.


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