COMPARE AND CONTRAST: Girl, 12, Travels Solo, Iran to Greece. Meanwhile, in Canada…

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See the story below this one, about  a dad whose kids were seized because he let them stay home alone part of the nights he worked as a bouncer. His kids are 8 and almost 12. Canada’s Ministry of Children and Families gives the age of 12 as a guideline for when kids should first be allowed a crumb of unsupervised time.

And now, here is a story from Europe:

If you listen to the end — the whole thing is just a bit over one minute — you’ll hear what age the BBC reporter Matthew Price THOUGHT the young traveler was, possibly because we no longer believe anyone under 18 is capable of doing anything alone, including sitting at the kitchen table, eating a snack.

Remember: It’s not the brave girl who is so extremely unusual. It is our era, which has decided to blind itself to any difference between those 12 years of age, and those who are 2; and any similarities between those who are 12 and those who are 22. – L.

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Listen to this 1 minute story hear -- and wait till the end:

Listen to this 1 minute story here — and wait till the reporter’s shock at the end.

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26 Responses to COMPARE AND CONTRAST: Girl, 12, Travels Solo, Iran to Greece. Meanwhile, in Canada…

  1. Wendy W September 24, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    I wonder if there is any count of how many American immigrants during the great influx of the 1800’s were youth traveling alone. I know there were many, sometimes leaving home on their own, sometimes joining a parent who had emigrated in advance. And let’s not forget all the kids that came over our own southern border last summer. I doubt anyone thought is was an ideal circumstance (except some of the more adventurous youth), but not being thrilled with an option does not mean that it is impossible or should not be done. A huge amount of personal growth comes from such adventures.

    Personally, I traveled from Okinawa to MN alone at barely 15. My dad put me in the care of a random mother traveling with her daughter. I was glad for her assistance during our layover in Osaka- she spoke Japanese- but I ditched her as soon as we reached Hawaii. By that point in my life I had made countless cross-country trips with just my sister, and we had flown together to Okinawa 3mo earlier with no adult assistance.

    My son, now 16, is looking forward to the summer after graduation being spent with a EurRail pass and a look at the great architecture of Europe. I’m jealous that I can’t go myself, but not overly concerned.

  2. SKL September 24, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    Funny, the other day my daughter (age 8) asked me if I’d let her travel to Disneyland with her friends before they enter high school. (So she would be 12.) I said I would let her fly alone at that age, but I wouldn’t have her fooling around with her friends in California without any adult supervision at all. 😛 (We’re much closer to the Great Lakes than the Pacific Ocean.)

  3. SKL September 24, 2015 at 3:52 pm #

    Well, I should probably clarify my previous post by saying that the named friend she wanted to travel with is the same one they always tell me about – “M did this mean thing to me” etc. Up until recently, M’s stated plan was to go to Disney without my kid and only let my kid foot the bill. LOL. Kids are nuts.

  4. lollipoplover September 24, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

    Just goes to show you: First World problems.

  5. Anon Y. Mouse September 24, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    OT:

    Security researcher/expert Bruce Schneier has a relevant essay about living
    in a “code yellow” world, i.e., always engaging in “worst first” thinking:

    https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2015/09/living_in_a_cod.html

  6. Papilio September 24, 2015 at 5:19 pm #

    Wow! I know she was still with people she knows, but still, wow. Brave kid. I hope she finds what she needs.

  7. BL September 24, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

    “I wonder if there is any count of how many American immigrants during the great influx of the 1800’s were youth traveling alone.”

    I don’t know about a count, but my great-great-grandmother came alone as an indentured servant in 1847, age 13. I doubt that was unusual.

  8. serena September 24, 2015 at 7:57 pm #

    I first traveled from California to Italy alone a week before my 12th birthday. Granted, I had assistance from the flight attendants when I had to change planes in Frankfurt but other than that I was alone till my family picked me up at the airport in Venice. So it was no big deal to me to let my boys travel alone from New York to Georgia twice to visit my mom, the first time at ages 5 and 10 and then the next year. Although my younger son left a couple weeks earlier so they both flew alone that year. And so many people I know freaked out! They were on a direct flight and the airline had to know ahead of time who was picking them up and they checked ID. So the worst thing would have been a plane crash, in which case even if I’d been there I wouldn’t have been much help since I’m not Elastigirl.

  9. The other Mandy September 24, 2015 at 11:02 pm #

    At 10, my mom sent me, my sister (7) and my brother (3) on our first plane trip to grandma’s house. It was an adventure. At 17, I spent the summer in Europe with my best friend. My father-in-law,at 15, escaped a concentration camp, moved to Sweden, then a few years later stowed away on a ship to the USA. With his younger brother.

    Kids are more competent than most give them credit for.

  10. hineata September 25, 2015 at 1:41 am #

    Am so jealous of these stories. I was 16 before I got near a plane, and that was on the way to an exchange programme in Tahiti that I worked 3 years to pay for myself. No one had explained that jet engines shot flames out the rear when braking, so my school friend and I were saying our prayers on our way into Auckland, convinced that on this our first ride we were going to die ☺.

    This girl is much braver than we were. Good luck to her….

  11. MichaelF September 25, 2015 at 8:05 am #

    It’s always amusing to contrast how we grew up (I could relate taking Amtrak from Virginia to Massachusetts alone when I was in 7th – 9th Grades to visit family) but back “THEN” society trusted parents more. Or it was expected a family was sacrosanct, it was able to manage itself without outside interference. Now the government, and government agencies, are stepping in for a myriad of reasons both real and imagined. The real question is how to change THAT rather than relive our boundless lifetimes?

    I can give my kids all the freedom they want to visit friends in the neighborhood, until I get an encounter with some official who is suddenly going to know my kids better than me. That’s the perception that needs to change, in my opinion.

  12. A reader September 25, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    Helicopter parenting really is a mark of privilege if you think about it. Inner city parents working 3 minimum wage jobs CAN’T get a babysitter to watch their 8 year old after school, and also live in neighborhoods where 8 year olds really shouldn’t be out and about alone. Parents in war zones are probably not terribly thrilled about sending their kids on dangerous international journeys, but they’ve assessed the risk and concluded that staying home is MORE dangerous.
    I’ve been flying domestically and taking Amtrak alone since about 12 or 13 and would allow my kids to do so at around the same age (assuming they’re mature enough and it hasn’t been made outright illegal by then). That said, I don’t necessarily think it’s fair to compare refugee situations to suburban moms wrestling with whether to let their kids go to the park by themselves. Both my husband and I are grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and our grandparents were all somewhere in the elementary-teenage range during that time and while it’s amazing what they were able to do to survive, well, I don’t think we can take a free range lesson out of it, it was more like what the hell else could they do. I’m not going to stick a 9 year old on a kindertransport to another country where they don’t know the language in the name of free range parenting; I would only do that if it were that or near-certain death at home. I’m fairly sure the parents of this girl were not thinking about teaching her independence so much as “better an iffy international voyage than rape and murder at the hands of ISIS”.

  13. Vicky September 25, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    Our parental rights are being taken from us as our children are being owned more and more by government parents. Nazi German comes to mind.

  14. sexhysteria September 25, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    I wonder what will happen to this girl if she makes it to the Promised Land. Will the German government allow her to live on her own, or assign custody to a German couple approved for foster care, or some compatriots who volunteer? If a Muslim man offers to marry her, will the Germans allow that?

  15. Joan September 25, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    My late grandmother immigrated to the USA from Poland in 1922 at age 12. She traveled …in steerage…responsible for two younger siblings. No adults. No money. The only bad after-effect: She refused to set foot on a boat ever again in her 91 years. Very self-reliant woman.
    BTW, she was admitted by an act of congress.

  16. Papilio September 26, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    …I just stumbled upon this article:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/niels-gerson-lohman/us-border-crossing_b_4098130.html

    For those of you who love stories about border crossings and US security theater.

    @Sexhysteria: “If a Muslim man offers to marry her, will the Germans allow that?”

    Did you miss the part where she said she is 12?!!

  17. Old Music September 26, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    “I wonder what will happen to this girl if she makes it to the Promised Land. Will the German government allow her to live on her own, or assign custody to a German couple approved for foster care, or some compatriots who volunteer? If a Muslim man offers to marry her, will the Germans allow that?”

    ‘sex hysteria’, you are a disgusting pedophile apologist, and I just hope everyone else on this blog sees it too and is just ignoring you.

    You’re not even interested in whether this 12 year old girl would accept the marriage proposal or not? Are little girls just a commodity to you, or do you think ‘sexually healthy’ 12 year old girls would jump at the chance to get married?

    I’ve read enough of your blog to see what a sick pervert you are.

  18. Old Music September 26, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

    Sorry Papilio, mostly ignoring him!

    Click on his blog if you dare, he is a sick, perverted pedophile apologist who thinks 11 year old girls who don’t enjoy being raped are ‘sexually dysfunctional’

    http://www.donotlink.com/gt0a

  19. Neil M September 27, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

    “Helicopter parenting really is a mark of privilege if you think about it. Inner city parents working 3 minimum wage jobs CAN’T get a babysitter to watch their 8 year old after school, and also live in neighborhoods where 8 year olds really shouldn’t be out and about alone.”

    Exactly. Poor people don’t have a luxury of hovering over their children 24/7, or meeting them at the bus stop, or driving them everywhere they need to go. (Hell, some parents don’t even own cars!) It’s parents of privilege who have the time and energy to be everywhere doing everything, and yet we see that it is the standards of privilege that are increasingly being applied to everyone.

    I live in a neighborhood of mixed incomes, and I see plenty of kids playing on the sidewalk unsupervised, walking each other to school, crossing streets to use the park, and it’s all a nice reminder that many (hopefully most) parents are not getting caught up in the craziness.

  20. Papilio September 27, 2015 at 3:21 pm #

    @Old music: I only read what he writes over here. I generally find his comments reasonable enough, plus he isn’t being a PITA. No matter how much I may disagree, what he writes on his own website is his business (freedom of speech and all that).
    I took issue with the marrying question because a) no way that the Germans allow marriage at the age of twelve, how backward does he think they are??!, b) what 12-year-old wants to marry anyway?, and c) IIRC this girl left Iran because she wants to go to school, which tells me she has more ambition than cooking & cleaning for her husband and a dozen kids.

  21. Melissa September 28, 2015 at 11:50 am #

    I’m 36 years old. I only state this because I am only ONE generation removed from the kids we are coddling today.

    When I was 5 my mother put me on the city bus (downtown, in a sketchy neighborhood) so I could ride alllll the way across town to meet my Dad where he worked at the bowling alley (I bowled at 10:30, he started at 8). Every Saturday. Dad took the bus home with me.

    At 9 and 7 my sister and I received our very own bicycles! We would leave after breakfast with a few sandwiches and apples, and we’d explore the entire area (on back roads and minor highways, across train bridges (shhh), on the little ferry that crosses the canal) and ride home again exhausted for supper. Nothing ever happened to us except I learned to stay out of cow fields and that white tape around a field of horses is electric.

    At 13 I took a train to Montreal. Alone. And managed to get my way out of the train station, into a taxi, and to my cousin’s house. With no stress.

    At 17 I moved into my own apartment, arranged my own student loans, and attended university for five years. My parents never knew (or wanted to know) my grades, my financial status (except when I needed help), what I did after hours, or who I dated, unless he was at the “meet the parents” stage.

    WHAT THE EFF HAPPENED SINCE THEN? I now have two little kids and I’m trying to raise them the way I was raised and people think I’m a terrible mother.

  22. Saskatchewan, Canada September 30, 2015 at 11:41 pm #

    I almost got reported to Child and Family Services today. Some parents and a daycare staff person say that if they see me riding with my 3-year-old sitting behind me on my bicycle again they will have to report me. My first thought is: “Look ANYWHERE around the world: Holland, all of Europe etc” and observe how cyclists transport their children to school. My second thought is: “Yeah, I get it. She doesn’t have a helmet on. She’s not buckled in. She could stick her foot in the wheel.” My stomach is in a knot over this. So, I’m an irresponsible parent guilty of neglecting my child’s safety. But, man was it convenient during the last couple of days, being sick and tired and being able to just have her hop on behind me rather than untangle the little bicycle trailer from the shed, hook it up, get her in there with her back pack and her seat belt, then ride to school, park in the BACK of the school, unhook the trailer, lock it up, unbuckle her, get her gear out, walk around the whole school to the front entrance walking my bike because I’ll need it to go to work afterwards etc…. blah, blah, blah. She LOVES riding right behind me, hugging me as we ride slowly along. We call it the “Hug Bike Ride” and we both love it.

    I suppose I should be grateful, they gave me the heads up before they made the report. Well, I’d like to give our whole culture a head SHAKE. How much do you want to bet that when I walk with the kids to school in the winter season, someone will get itchy fingers just DYING to report us to Social Services? But, if I push my 3-year-old to school in a baby stroller with an iPhone in front of her face tomorrow morning, no one will bat an eyelash. [Insert SEETHING grumbles here] So, I will write a nice “thank-you for sharing your concern about bicycle transportation safety with us before calling Child & Family Servies” note in my daughter’s parent-teacher communication agenda. I’m not sure if I’ll add “because no one should have to go through the hell of an MSS investigation except those guilty of legitimate cases of neglect” or not. And then, on Saturday, when it is raining, I will take my daughter to the stores and find a bike helmet that fits her PERFECTLY and she can ride in the bicycle trailer until the snow flies. And when the snow flies, we will WALK to school, damn it. The money we save on gas, we will use to buy top notch warm boots, tuques, jackets & mittens and we will WALK. And if they want to report us, I will rip open our jackets and throw off our mittens right in front of them and say: “Come and feel and smell our cozy winter sweat and tell me how I am neglecting my children.” How dare we exhort parents to model active living, get their children off the damn screens etc and proceed to hyper-ventilate because our culture’s addiction to fossil fuel makes small town residential roads apparently UNSAFE for children on bicycles driven by their parents because all the other parents are DRIVING THEIR KIDS to school in CARS to keep them SAFE from other parents driving THEIR kids to school in CARS. WHEN, as a 2-parent working family are our children supposed to be outside? How will my daughter learn to not shove her foot in a moving bicycle wheel if she’s never exposed to the thrill of back seat riding? I think I’ll just sit back now and take this nearly reported incident very personally and blow it way out of proportion. Oh wait; I just did. Thanks for listening. Drops mike. Walks of stage.

  23. Michael Skrzypek October 1, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    Thanks for this excellent post! It reminds me of a great piece I just read on how kids in Japan routinely ride the subway alone as early as age 6. Clearly not all cultures are as paranoid about their kids as the US and Canada. Pretty inspiring as to the capabilities of children, if only we’d learn to trust them (and maybe more importantly our fellow citizens).

    http://www.citylab.com/commute/2015/09/why-are-little-kids-in-japan-so-independent/407590/

    Keep up the excellent work!

  24. Papilio October 1, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    @Saskatchewan: A pair of those big panniers would solve the problem and you’d have more space to haul stuff as a bonus 😉

  25. Papilio October 1, 2015 at 5:47 pm #

    @Saskatchewan: The problem of feet in the spokes, I mean. Parents in The Netherlands (‘Holland’) do use seats for children that young though, but with panniers you could have her put her feet inside the panniers, which would give her more stability as well, I imagine.

    Anyway, just a thought 🙂

  26. Saskatchewan, Canada October 4, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    @ Papilio: Thank-you for your comment! Much appreciated! I’ll do some research into “panniers” – suppliers in my area etc. Do you recommend any suppliers in particular? The idea of extra cargo space would be an added bonus for sure.