Mother May I?

imgresI just got a huge box of my monthly mags from NYC.  Hours of fun.   The New Yorker has an article in it called Mother May I?  It is about some kids, 10 and 6, who were walking home alone in Silver Spring, MD.  Someone decided that it was not ok and called the cops.  The cops and another 5 patrol cars showed up at the home of the parents and essentially reprimanded the father.

There are so many questions I have here.  At what point did other people start deciding what is appropriate and what isn’t…aka stepping into another parents territory.  Also, when did parents stop letting kids be outside by themselves?

I remember when I was 6 years old I decided to run away.  My parents were fine with it.  I told them where I was going.  I walked up the street to the strip mall where there was also a gas station just a little father down the road.  I continued past the gas station and all of a sudden my Dad showed up.  He berated me for going past the mall and I reminded him that I was running away and could do anything I want.  I look back and actually give them a lot of credit for letting me take off at 6.  We were living in Los Angeles and it was on Roscomare Road.

The article describes a woman who started a group called the Free-Range Kids.  Her movement is committed to rolling back the helicopter era of parents.  I am all for it.  I am not so sure that our kids are in anymore danger than they were 30 years ago.  We just read more about it.  Now they actually have access to everyone with a phone so it might be safer.

Years ago when Jessica was 11 and in 6th grade I let her navigate the subway system for the first time by herself.   She had began navigating the street at the end of 5th grade. Her school has intramural basketball games and the kids would have to get permission to walk over to the high school to play.  Once they began that freedom it was the beginning of most of the kids walking the city and getting to and from school themselves.  It was empowering and life altering for them.

Jessica had something after school and her piano recital was on 57th street.  I don’t remember all the details but I decided to meet her there.  Logistically it made sense and she was ready.  She had a metro card.  We talked about it.  Fred showed up at the recital wondering where Jessica was and I told him she was going to meet us there.  He freaked.  I was confident.  Sure enough Jessica showed up with zero problems and after that she was pretty comfortable navigating her own town.

That was until she took the subway in 7th grade all the way out to the last stop on the L and called me to tell me that she probably shouldn’t be so cavalier about walking those streets solo particularly when it got dark.  She was right.  It was 2003.  She had become street savvy because she too was a Free-Range Kid.  How else do you learn?