Kathryn Cramer writes about the new book, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedon We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry, by Leonore Skenazy. I’ve reserved a copy through the Minuteman Library Network; maybe I’ll write a review in this blog after I’ve read it. But at least I can respond to Cramer’s observations even before reading the book:
Skenazy was dubbed “America’s Worst Mom” after she wrote about letting her 9-year-old ride the New York City subways by himself… America is now gripped with terrible anxiety about what will happen to kids if they are not constantly under the watchful eye of a parent or some paid professional. And, as Lenore Skenazy points out, the crime statistics do not bear out the claim that this is a more dangerous era. It is not. We only behave as though it is. Skenazy discusses the issue of balancing children’s freedom and safety and aims to empower parents to give their children the kind of freedom they themselves enjoyed as children.
These remarks resonated with me for several reasons, not the least of which was that I rode the Newark subway by myself when I was ten (OK, not New York, and not when I was nine, but close enough). I don’t remember how old I was when I first went into New York by myself, but it certainly was before I was a teenager. I felt trusted, not abandoned. I felt safe.
Cramer asks, “Why the de-liberation of both mother and child?”
Whose interest does it serve? Certainly not the children. It serves the interests of towns that don’t want to pay for sidewalks. It serves the interests of rating-hungry media like CNN (known in this household as Child-abuse News Network). It serves the interests of cultural conservatives. It serves the interests of car makers if our kids have to be driven everywhere. It serves the interests of lawyers, especially divorce lawyers. It serves the interests of insurance companies. In short, there are many conflicting social forces at work.
I don’t know. Is Cramer being too cynical? Or just realistic? Certainly her observations are on the mark. As a teacher since 1969, I unquestionably notice that parents hover around their kids much more than they used to. And we’re not just talking about pre-teens: even colleges suffer from the attention of helicopter parents. Teachers and parents are doing kids a disservice by curtailing their freedoms so much.