Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone

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 .

Was I worried? Yes, a tinge. But it didn’t strike me as that daring, either. Isn’t New York as safe now as it was in 1963? It’s not like we’re living in downtown Baghdad.

Anyway, for weeks my boy had been begging for me to please leave him somewhere, anywhere, and let him try to figure out how to get home on his own. So on that sunny Sunday I gave him a subway map, a MetroCard, a $20 bill, and several quarters, just in case he had to make a call.

No, I did not give him a cell phone. Didn’t want to lose it. And no, I didn’t trail him, like a mommy private eye. I trusted him to figure out that he should take the Lexington Avenue subway down, and the 34th Street crosstown bus home. If he couldn’t do that, I trusted him to ask a stranger. And then I even trusted that stranger not to think, “Gee, I was about to catch my train home, but now I think I’ll abduct this adorable child instead.”

Long story short: My son got home, ecstatic with independence.

Long story longer, and analyzed, to boot: Half the people I’ve told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It’s not. It’s debilitating –for us and for them.

And yet…

“How would you have felt if he didn’t come home?” a New Jersey mom of four, Vicki Garfinkle, asked.

Guess what, Ms. Garfinkle: I’d have been devastated. But would that just prove that no mom should ever let her child ride the subway alone?

No. It would just be one more awful but extremely rare example of random violence, the kind that hyper parents cite as proof that every day in every way our children are more and more vulnerable.

“Carlie Brucia — I don’t know if you’re familiar with that case or not, but she was in Florida and she did a cut-through about a mile from her house … and midday, at 11 in the morning, she was abducted by a guy who violated her several times, killed her, and left her behind a church.”

That’s the story that the head of safetynet4kids.com, Katharine Francis, immediately told me when I asked her what she thought of my son getting around on his own. She runs a company that makes wallet-sized copies of a child’s photo and fingerprints, just in case.

Well of course I know the story of Carlie Brucia. That’s the problem. We all know that story –” and the one about the Mormon girl in Utah and the one about the little girl in Spain. And because we do, we all run those tapes in our heads when we think of leaving our kids on their own. We even run a tape of how we’ look on Larry King.

“I do not want to be the one on TV explaining my daughter’s disappearance, a father, Garth Chouteau, said when we were talking about the subway issue.

These days, when a kid dies, the world –” i.e., cable TV — blames the parents. It’s as simple as that. And yet, Trevor Butterworth, a spokesman for the research center STATS.org, said, “The statistics show that this is an incredibly rare event, and you can’t protect people from very rare events. It would be like trying to create a shield against being struck by lightning.”

Justice Department data actually show the number of children abducted by strangers has been going down over the years. So why not let your kids get home from school by themselves?

“Parents are in the grip of anxiety and when you’re anxious, you’re totally warpedm” the author of “A Nation of Wimps,” Hara Estroff Marano, said. We become so bent out of shape over something as simple as letting your children out of sight on the playground that it starts seeming on par with letting them play on the railroad tracks at night. In the rain. In dark non-reflective coats.

The problem with this everything-is-dangerous outlook is that over-protectiveness is a danger in and of itself. A child who thinks he can’t do anything on his own eventually can’t.

Meantime, my son wants his next trip to be from Queens. In my day, I doubt that would have struck anyone as particularly brave. Now it seems like hitchhiking through Yemen.

Here’s your MetroCard, kid. Go.

663 Responses to Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone

  1. p April 7, 2008 at 12:44 pm #

    You have certainly touched a nerve here!

  2. Bryan April 8, 2008 at 1:00 pm #

    I cringed at first, but enjoyed your article, and your point. I was born and raised in San Francisco, and I used to ride the streetcar and bus all around town at that age. However, I also remember a 6 year old kid named Kevin Collins who never came home back around 1976 or so.

    Perhaps an additional point can be made that our kids are vulnerable (parents too!) because we no longer have the ability to defend ourselves from an attack, and because we cannot have a cop everywhere at once. Of course our society is not as gentle as it once was; thank the deliberate suppression of the Judeo-Christian ethic for that one! We don’t like to get involved because a) we might get sued or b), we don’t really care.

    Maybe it’s time for us to take another good, hard look at the purpose of the Second Amendment.

    Thanks for promoting confidence in parents to exercise freedom!

  3. Susan April 8, 2008 at 6:22 pm #

    Wow, talk about a slap upside the head. I will be loosening up a bit on my 8 YO this summer…not too much, but we live in a smaller town…and I’ll let her play the next culdesac over, etc…thanks. When I think about how far and wide I ranged as a child (and my husband even further).

    However, I am planning to have a friend of my son’s teach my daughters (17 & 8) a bit of self-defense. The friend helps train military, law enforcement, SWAT teams–he’s good. 🙂

  4. Chantal April 8, 2008 at 9:42 pm #

    I applaud you!
    And I applaud other parents like you!

    I just watched your interview with a Canadian Television Station in Hamilton and just love that you are so real.

    How do we teach kids how to be responsible if we don’t give them responsibility!!!

    I played outside all day long …. all year long…. with neighbours and with cousins… climbing trees and playing dress up. We loved it. We craved it. Getting all dressed up and having snowball fights and building forts and running, running, running..
    We also went swimming in our local lake every single day in the summer. We are strong swimmers now. All of us..

    Yes, children need to be protected…. but not to the detriment of their own growth and independence!!!

    Way to go to you and to your kids!!!!

  5. lisa April 8, 2008 at 10:04 pm #

    I am a New Yorker, born and raised. I’m in Toronto on a business trip and just heard you interviewed on a local news station. I RODE THE SUBWAY ALONE at 9. We, like most New Yorkers, did not have a car and the subway was our only means of transportation. It was how I got to school, met my mother at her job, went to the dentist, the library, etc. Hundreds, if not more, of kids ride the subway alone to get back and forth from school in NYC on any given day. I can imagine that for people who live in a place that does not have the traffic, congestion, and mass transit like NYC that such a thing is unfathomable. However for many families in NYC it’s a necessity. Good for you and your son. You are not the first parent to do this I’m surprised by the attention you are getting for doing this.

  6. Terry April 9, 2008 at 3:46 am #

    Good for you for being such a normal person. I applaud your parenting!
    We didn’t have child seats or bicycle helmets when I was growing up, and was out playing at the river by myself when I was even younger than 9.

    I also love your domain/website! Free Range Kids! That’s brilliantly brandable!

  7. Audrie April 9, 2008 at 3:43 pm #

    I grew up in Chicago in the 60’s My normally very overprotective mother thought nothing of my first unaccompanied trip downtown on the subway…at age 13. No cell phones then. It is hard to teach our kids self-reliance if we don’t give them the opportunities to exercise it.

    My son at around age 7 said, “But Mom, you tell me not to talk to strangers. But how will I GET TO KNOW ANYONE if I don’t talk to people I don’t know?” This led to a discussion about people you are introduced to, or meet in a group or activity, vs. those you encounter alone on the street.

  8. ginnie April 9, 2008 at 6:54 pm #

    RIGHT ON!!! How many children were ever harmed by strangers at Halloween, for instance. NONE! Yet children are taught to fear strangers but not their molesting priest, the drunk friend driving, etc.

    My Dad was put on a train in McComb, MS at 12 to FL alone to find his way there and back. It was a wonderful experience for him and his family.

    You’re a terrific mom! I wish others had the courage to help their children take reasonable risks.

  9. Troy April 9, 2008 at 6:55 pm #

    Ha, this is great! You know my kids are going to be raised with this sort of encouragement.

  10. ref April 9, 2008 at 7:06 pm #

    good for you! Letting your child prove himself to both him and you is only positive. It’s not like you left him in a bad neighborhood at 2 am, without a coat in December and no money. For goodness sakes, this was more like an urban navigational exercise. The boyscouts do this in the woods all the time!

    I’m thinking the people that are so critical of you want to tie their kids the them artifically. Challenging our kids to think for themselves is our job as parents. Part of that is to help them to build self confidence through achievement.

    My motto is ‘learn from others, think for yourself’. This is what you are teaching your son.

  11. Susan April 9, 2008 at 7:08 pm #

    I grew up in what’s known as the “badlands” of north Philadelphia in the 90s. It’s one of the many stretches of Philly with all the blown out houses and open fire hydrants. I would often take the subway to school by myself if the school bus didn’t show up simply because there was no other option. My parents were already at work by that time of the morning.

    Kids just have to be street smart. And parents have to allow them to learn those street smarts. And that’s not gonna happen by keeping them locked up in padded houses (oooh, unintended insane asylum analogy.)

  12. Dan Goins April 9, 2008 at 7:09 pm #

    The antidote to infotainment about time!

  13. Jacqueline Smith April 9, 2008 at 7:10 pm #

    Eleanor, THANK YOU for not surrounding your child with FEAR. The danger for kids is missing learning the skills to become a competent adult. Learning about exploring, travel, independence are Basic skills – getting directions, riding a bus, figuring out a schedule is IMPORTANT. I am protective parent, but know that life skills are essential. We live near SF in a big city, we have gangs and other bad things. I let my chilren walk to school, they walked in a group. We talked about stranger danger and how to get help. They understand how to live now [10 years later] as young adults. My son is determing his career choices and has chosen Fire Science. My daughter lives in a east bay city and works in SF and is able to thrive in her big city life. They know what to do and how to stay safe. Their choices are based on strength and competence not Fear. Please parents, Let your chidren be “Free” to discover and learn skills.

  14. Rick Evans April 9, 2008 at 7:13 pm #

    Hi Lenore,
    I grew up in the South Bronx in the 50’s and 60’s. While it’s a little different my first proud move to indepence was doing the Saturday family shopping. Hell I was even trusted to pick meat and fresh vegetables. And, my mother didn’t lose sleep over me losing the $20 in grocery money or being abducted.

    An even bigger step in adventure was was my friends and I (15 year olds) road our bikes to Palisades New Jersey via the GW Bridge. We had already done Central a Park and South Ferry and figured we were ready for interstate commerce :-).

    These days I live in a suburb where parents haul their kids two blocks to grade school. I walked three blocks. These same hyperprotective parents think nothing of giving a 16 year old the car keys and not a week goes by where the news @ 11 features hugging, teary teens, a makeshift memorial and video of a smashed up car.

  15. Kathy April 9, 2008 at 7:16 pm #

    I, too, have gotten some grief for letting my kids (starting at around age 10) ride their bikes on the country roads in our small suburban town, run reasonably free in our neighborhood, and as they got older, learn to use the commute rail and subway. I think if you don’t give kids some sort of freedom, they will take on different risks, e.g. drinking, drugs, etc. So far as I can tell with my now teenaged sons, so good. Some parents monitor their kids every move until they’re 16, and then, boom, they get car keys and they’re OFF! In more ways than one.

  16. Cathy April 9, 2008 at 7:31 pm #

    I want desperately to let my kids try things on their own. My son at age 10-12 used to go to the community boathouse in Boston on his own. This entailed riding a train (full of “scary” white-collar workers on their way to their jobs) and then the subway (full of “scary” workers and parents and nannies on their way to all kinds of jobs and shopping). People said I was crazy, but I didn’t see why. He was almost as big as me, and I did it every day. And he’s a smart kid.

    Unfortunately, I got ratted on one day when I let my 7-year-old walk three blocks to the grocery store. The DSS has unchecked power in this state. If they decide you’re being a bad mom, they can take your kids–no judge, no warrant, nothing. I talked my way out of trouble–I was put on warning–but it’s still on my record in the DSS files, six years later, as I recently found out.

    So I’m much more careful now. We parents live in a police state. We have no choice but to keep our kids prisoner.

  17. Joseph Dunkin April 9, 2008 at 7:55 pm #

    It is necessary for kids to go off on their own and establish themselves as people. We live in such a paranoid society today that we’re afraid of everything. Or if we’re not already afraid, we will be soon.

    Back to the kids. I saw this program when I was in Japan a couple of years ago. They would take kids no more than four years old from more rural areas, and they would have the parents send the kid on an errand that most parents would not send a kid on. The parent would give them a list, some money and a general idea of how to get there. Then it was up to the kid to get there get the stuff (or whatever the errand was) and get back. Now it may sound rough, but they had a camera crew following the kid the entire time. The kid would always get lost, start crying and then somehow manage to get everything done. They may have grabbed the wrong thing from the store, but that wasn’t important. So, the twist (at least to me, being only somewhat proficient in Japanese) was that these videos were shot 12 years ago. And then they would do a follow up on these kids. All the kids were leaders in their highschool communities.

  18. Bryan April 9, 2008 at 8:00 pm #

    Cathy wrote: “We parents live in a police state. We have no choice but to keep our kids prisoner.”

    THAT’S NOT TRUE!!!!!

    We have something called “Liberty”, bought and paid for by the blood of the patriots, and enshrined in the Constitution. It’s like anything else: Use it or lose it!

    Maybe you have to move to a state that has more freedom. Maybe you have to file a lawsuit. Maybe you have to rally other like-minded parents to demand change. WE are responsible for protecting and exercising our liberties, since the government has decided to ignore its mandate to PROTECT our liberty and instead seeks to INFRINGE on our liberty. They can only succeed if you let them.

  19. Jessica Klinke April 9, 2008 at 8:00 pm #

    I just heard you on Talk of the Nation and felt compelled to respond.

    I was a child once. In fact, I was a latch-key kid. I walked or rode my bike home from school everyday. I survived. Sometimes I was scared and, by bringing that to the attention of my parents, we actually engaged in a number of conversations that left me more informed and more prepared if I was ever confronted with a scary situation.

    When, at 12 years old, I wanted to take dance lessons in downtown Dayton, Ohio, I worked out the bus route with my mom and looked forward to my public transit ride to the theater four days a week. Being a young, pretty girl, I was fully aware of the potential threats. I learned to problem-solve. When the unkempt man with the trash bag sat next to me, despite many open seats, I got up and moved. If I had the option, I would sit near the driver. The experience made me smarter and more wily. I also learned rather quickly that there are good people in this world, people that are looking out for you even as strangers.

    When I became a young woman, I enrolled in a self-defense class and taught myself not to be a victim of fear. I am now almost 30, and I still get scared sometimes when I walk home alone, but I don’t let that fear stop me from experiencing the world.

    Instead of teaching children to be afraid of the world around them, why not teach them how strong and capable they are. We’ll build a better generation of people that way.

  20. Chuck April 9, 2008 at 8:10 pm #

    Thanks for your article and your faith in your kid.

    We often lament about how things are now as opposed to when we were kids. I used to walk a mile or so to the cemetary and play in the canal behind it with my buddies aged 8,9 and I was 10.

    It seems like those days are behind us but I am glad to see that when I let me kid cross the street by himself or walk home from school, I’m not being careless.

    Here’s to hoping my kids ask for more reasonable freedoms.

  21. Carolann Baldyga April 9, 2008 at 8:12 pm #

    When I was five, we moved to a new home. My mother showed me how to walk to school, one mile through two neighborhoods and a large, historic cemetery. It was great to be able to walk alone. My memories are of anticipation in the morning and a peaceful, thoughtful time after each school day. I learned that there were bigger kids on one street, and took care to walk to the next block when they were outdoors. That neighborhood had older buildings, houses and businesses. It was different from my residential suburb and fascinated me. The cemetery was beautifully landscaped and had graves from as far back as the 1700’s. One recollection is that often in family plots a man was buried beside two or three wives and infants. Dates on the graves indicated that the mothers had died during childbirth. Of course, I only realized this as I became older. When our son was 9 or 10, he wanted to attend a two-week program at the Miami Science Museum. Due to the popularity of the Miami Vice TV show, many friends refused to let their children go anywhere without supervision. We trusted our son to take the bus and rapid transit to the museum. It was a 12 mile trip. He enjoyed his freedom and our trust. By the time he was 13, this experience and other challenges he had met made us recognize that should we need to depend upon him, we could. My husband and I are both professionals and Andy is our only child. We wanted him to become a person who could make good judgments and live well in this society and the broader world. Many children mature and learn independence gradually during childhood. There is a lot of good, human experience which can enrich a life if one is exposed to it. Childhood is a time for learning.

    Carolann Walach Baldyga

  22. Martha Kelly April 9, 2008 at 8:55 pm #

    Yea, you! In this society we operate so often on rumor, fear, assumption without carefully examining the reasonableness or accuracy of those beliefs. The message to our kids (and to ourselves) is “Be afraid, be very, very afraid!” By failing to define what we should fear and why we are trapped into feeling anxious and afraid of innocuous and pleasurable experiences in addition to those which are truely dangerous.

    Should you be afraid of deep water if you cannot swim – clearly. Should you recognize that cars are bigger than you are and will crush you if you step in their paths, sure. Should you fear that everyone you see in the store or sit next to at the basketball game has evil intentions toward you, absolutely not!

    I think that parents see no logical and safe way to move from doing everything for their kids to launching them off a precipice. The truth is you can break independence into defineable, conquerable steps. “Here’s where you read the price of the ticket;. THis is how to read this map. Let’s ask the librarian how you look up the book if you only know thë title.”
    At the same time you are teaching them the mechanical steps of the task at hand you are teaching them the resources at hand (the librarian, the sales clerk, the neighbor) so if they get stuck, they can get themselves “unstuck”. The lesson they learn from this is invaluable; people are good. People will help children. You, too, should help people.

    You are performing a valuable service in taking on this issue (albeit unintentionally). The voice of reason needs to prevail. We adults have a vested interest in the independence and mental health of children. Let’s invest in it now.
    Go you!

  23. Caitlyn April 9, 2008 at 9:05 pm #

    I was born and raised in San Francisco, circa 1972, when SF was still a fairly gritty city. My parents bought a car seat from Sweden, and drilled holes in the back of their VW bug to install it properly, because there weren’t car seats on the American market yet! I ALWAYS wore a helmet on a bike, a life jacket in a boat, and a seatbelt in a car.
    But you know what? I took the bus by myself when I was 8– anywhere I wanted to go! Of course I understood there were places I’d best not go. . . that’s what you learn when you travel around the city. But what could be safer than public transit in an urban area in America? Certainly not taking your kid for a drive in your mini-van, even with a seatbelt. A child is thousands of times more likely to be killed driving to the mall with mom, than to be abducted by a stranger on the metro/bus/subway/whatever.
    We need to protect our children from the real risks that kill thousands of children every year– car wrecks, head injuries, drowning, etc, and not let paranoia interfere with our assesment of reality.
    Thank you for writing your article!!

  24. Gil Mende April 9, 2008 at 9:10 pm #

    I was so delighted to hear your interview on Talk of the Nation. The last couple of generations have been so overprotected and coddled that, in my opinion, that is why they have no analytical ability, horse sense, and everything that comes with dealing with the world and facing challenges. Parents, teachers, and almost everyone else who has dealings with young people have become so paranoid that it would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. Kids aren’t even allowed to climb trees these days because they may break a limb. That was an accepted part of growing up when I was young. Most kids would rather endure a broken arm than to be forbidden the feeling of power they get from climbing a tree. Anyway, more power to you and your son. He’s going to approach life with real enthusiasm and the curiosity to explore widely and intelligently.

  25. Timothy April 9, 2008 at 9:13 pm #

    This’ll probably be one of a flurry of post-Talk of the Nation posts.

    Three things:
    1) Right on! what everybody else says…

    2) I never did have a “Wow, I did it myself!” moment. It may be that I was lucky to live from age 4-10 in a pretty small town that was generally considered safe (although there was an abduction while I was a kid). So, at age 5 I could run around my street and one other. At age 6, I could walk to school with my older brother. At age 7, I could walk to a nearby school by myself. At age 9, I could do just about anything.

    Then I moved to the Boston area. I was already used to self-navigating, and just added subway and stopped biking. It never occurred to me that there was anything remarkable about it. I like this gradual exposure, and hope I can do the same for my kid.

    3) About my kid; I’ve been pretty determined to not inspire fear in my kid. I generally think people are good to kids, that kids can use some judgment, and that the world is worth exploring.

    BUT, I was with my 4-year-old in a local grocery store that has a little child-care spot to drop your kid off while you shop. When we headed there, there was a fellow who at first seemed like a nice old man, and then seemed creepier and creepier. Later on, I searched on the sex offenders database, and there he was, about 1/3 mi from the store.

    $%&#@$#!!! The child predator is no longer an abstract for me. This is a guy who obviously is not reformed, is on the prowl, and wants to hurt my kid!

    My fear level has been ratcheted up about 6 notches. My kid’s only 4 still, so being protective is still the obvious thing, but in a year or two I’ll be wanting to give a lot more freedom, and I’m not quite sure how to do that.

  26. Deanna April 9, 2008 at 9:35 pm #

    I heard your story on NPR today and it made me laugh out loud. I teach public high school and I get to see first hand how students these days lack self confidence and are not able to express themselves, think for themselves, or “fight their own battles”.

    I think children have been attached to mother’s breasts for too long. I remember the treat it was to walk from my house to the elementary school in the summer time to play on the playground. I was 7 and the school was a good mile away. (at least it seemed like a mile away). My mom set up limits for us to ride our bikes. We were allowed to ride the stretch of road that connected the two major thoroughfares.

    When we got to be 13, we were allowed to ride our bikes to Long Lake, swim all day long and ride home. My mom wasn’t even at home or at the lake to watch us. I guess she just felt as though she had taught us to not talk to strangers and if there was any sort of situation we were uncomfortable in, we could always lie to get ourselves out.

    I hope that when I become a parent I am not so overbearing that I have children who are overweight because they are fearful of leaving the house.

  27. APRIL April 9, 2008 at 9:36 pm #

    I think the bottom line of this issue is: How well does one know their child and what they are and aren’t ready for? As parents we are hopefully teaching our children how to operate in the everyday world. From a very young age, we observe what our children are capable of and how they react to new things. Then, later as they age, we discuss options and methods to accomplish every new thing they do. Knowing what your child is capable of can be as simple as knowing that your child can only handle a spoon and fork, and may not be ready to learn to cut with a knife until a later time. The same applies to more independent activities. Parents may be uncomfortable in allowing their child to stay home alone, travel from one point to another alone or play outside, but they may not be giving their children the input needed for that skill due to thier own fear. A child who is comfortable being home alone was more than likely taught how to feel safe doing it. At an age determined by the parents to be mature enough to handle that responsibility, the child can be given the tools and information needed to be home alone. For instance, lock the doors, don’t answer the door to any stranger, don’t pick up the telephone (it can be monitored with an answering machine). Teach them to know when it would be appropriate to call the police and have the number readily available. Have a list of your phone numbers and neighbor’s phone numbers that are usually home. Teach them what to do if a fire or emergency happens. Give them house rules, like not to use knives or cook while alone. If the child and the parent both agree the child is ready to be left home alone, use common sense and leave them home for a short time like a trip to the corner market, then as the child’s confidence builds, and they are handling things well, the time can be built up to both their comfort levels. The same would apply to walking to school. A buddy system is always best. My son walks with another child his age to school 1 block away. There have been times when he has walked alone, but the agreed rule is that he calls me on his cell phone and I talk to him until he reaches the school grounds. Parents must educate their children about people who would and could hurt them, this is unfortunate, but necessary at a young age. Giving them simple to remember training like if a car pulls up in the same direction you are walking and someone tries to ask you over to the car, immediately turn around and run back the way you came. This makes it almost impossible for a car to follow, but if it does, continue the same tactic, until someone notices. Yell! Make yourself noticed and don’t be afraid to fight back! Most children feel they have to obey adults, and just telling your child it is ok not to obey if they are in danger gives them a huge sense of self confidence to get away from a potentially bad situation. I am sure that Lenore had every confidence in her son’s ability to find his way home, because she gave him the tools and taught him the skills to know how to do it. It also sounds as if her son was very capable in his ability to make his way home. We parents will not be here for the entire life of our children and eventually they leave the nest…..wouldn’t it be better to teach them how to fly?

  28. Ruth April 9, 2008 at 9:45 pm #

    I may not necessarily agree with putting a 9yo on a subway by him/herself, however I applaud your wanting to show/teach your son to be his own person and have some self confidence.

    Good luck!

  29. Glenn Norris April 9, 2008 at 9:55 pm #

    Thank you for allowing your son to be responsible. I spent 40 years as a public school teacher and school administrator. During those 40 years I saw protection become an unbelievably important issue. We are obsessed with fear. Society complains because children and youth are irresponsible yet never allow them to take responsibility. If we continue at the present rate no middle or upper income child will ever be allowed outdoors without a parent or maybe even an armed guard. Why are we so willing to send older teens to Iraq and yet unwilling to let children play outdoors in their own neighborhoods?
    I heard you on NPR’s Talk of The Nation.
    Thank you so much for letting your son live!

  30. Sarah April 9, 2008 at 10:03 pm #

    Is anyone going to mention all of the low-income, urban families who are have no choice but to send their young children to navigate bad neighborhoods every day? I don’t know you, I think what you did for your son is great, but not worth all this hype and controversy. Poor families all over this country and around the world have no choice but to force children into “unsafe” situations. It’s too bad we choose to spend our time on trivial matters such as how one mother raises her son.

  31. JJ April 9, 2008 at 10:47 pm #

    I, too, rode the subway alone as a child. I rode from Brooklyn to Manhattan many times without any problems. However, that was 50 years ago, and it was a safer world. Children today are just as good at navigating (if not better). It sounds as if you have bright, independent son. I think you are correct in trusting his judgment. However, there is a whole world out there whose judgment and behavior I would not trust. This is not about your son – it is about your choice in trusting the world. The subway is not what it was 50 years ago. It is much more dangerous and there are more dangerous and crazy people who could harm your son. I hope that your son remains safe and that you exercise a little better judgment in the future, and perhaps find safer ways to foster the independence that your son is seeking.

  32. John April 9, 2008 at 11:30 pm #

    At the age of 9 or 10, my friends and I roamed all over the City of Chicago on our own. When outraged parents of today point out that this was in the early 50’s . . . . “when things were different”. Nonsense! We read in the newspapers about kidnapped and murdered children in those days also.
    At age 8 I was sent by train from Chicago to Virginia to visit relatives there. At age 11 I was allowed to fly to Kansas to visit relatives there. Every summer from age 10 on, I was sent by train to visit family friends on a Minnesota farm.
    What is different today is children shooting guns both on the streets and in the schools. Some parents do keep kids out of schools – though I haven’t heard “school shootings” as the most common reason for “home schooling”.
    Much easier to keep the kids stored under the bed than to do something about the problems which result in violence on the streets and in the schools.
    What has changed since the early 50’s is that in those days we expressed our “inner city” aggression with fists, clubs, and occasional knives rather than high capacity automatic pistols.

  33. Don April 10, 2008 at 12:38 am #

    Heard you on TOTN. Hurray! We should all spend more time teaching our kids please, thank you, respect, accountabillity and contentment and less time teaching them how to be perpetual lawsuit happy victims.

  34. Marcia April 10, 2008 at 1:32 am #

    Thank you for pointing out what a neurotic, fear-ridden society we have created. It is time to turn that around, one kid at a time. I’m so glad you’ve started with yours. Congratulations for raising an independent, self-sufficient child who isn’t afraid to ask a stranger for directions or help, if necessary.

  35. Sarah April 10, 2008 at 1:43 am #

    Its about time this subject got some attention. As a professioinal Traval Instructor, I am forever talking to parents about letting their children become more independent. I think the suburbs are even worse. Parents know nothing about the local bus system and they don’t want to let their kids out of their sight. I work with children with special needs that will probably never learn to drive. What other options do they have, but hop on a bus to get to a job? I have found most bus drivers to be very friendly and helpful. As gas prices get higher, we will all be moving back to the cities and riding buses. Hurray!

  36. Howie April 10, 2008 at 1:59 am #

    I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. I played outside all day long. I walked, rode my bike all over my niegborhood and took buses and subways at a young age. Yes we were free to do so and today are kids are not. We have become a nation of over protective parents. In doing so, we have surrendered. We have thrown in the towel. We are saying to the criminals that they have won and we have lost. Criminals should be in prison, not our kids.

  37. jon April 10, 2008 at 2:02 am #

    This article was in the British newspaper The Sunday Times on March 2 by India Knight, Same kinda story;

    Mollycoddle curse of the middle class

    Children need to be exposed to the real world if they are to become fully rounded adults rather than overprivileged wets with no social skills, says India Knight;

    I know a couple of 16-yearold boys who are driven to school every morning by their mothers — to the badass badlands of Hampstead, the leafy north London middleclass enclave, to be precise. Hampstead is served by several bus routes and has a Tube station, but these parents are so concerned about the safety of their strapping sons that these boys have never, to my knowledge, been anywhere on their own.

    I grew up in Hampstead. Back then, to my desperate embarrassment, I was a tragic latecomer to public transport: my mother insisted I wait until I was 13 before letting me take the Underground alone.

    Many of my friends used it from the age of 10 or so, and no, their parents weren’t careless delinquents. They were middleclass professionals who had the luxury of living through a time when childhood wasn’t considered to be a sort of risk-laden illness and who had faith in the intrinsic goodness of other people, before the phrase “stranger danger” had been invented.

    Emulate them today and you’re likely to be considered utterly irresponsible. Mollycoddling may be farcical, but at least it’s safe.

    My friends and I were all allowed to do pretty much the same thing at the same ages: we hung around in packs and all had to be home at a certain time. There was no question of some of us not being allowed out and some of us welcome to stay out all night: things seemed pretty homogenised.

    That is no longer true. Having a group of kids over to play is quite a complicated process today. Some children can travel alone, some can’t. Some can go to the park without adult supervision, some not. Some can hang out wherever they like, some have to remain within sight of grown-ups. Some can stay out after dark, some not.

    My youngest son, aged 12, claims he is the only child in his class to get himself to and from school using public transport — I say “claims” because I find this so improbable, but he is adamant. He and his brother started taking the Tube to school when he was 10 and a bit and his brother 13; they initially went with some other, older local children.

    I don’t just make them use public transport because it’s convenient, quick and cheap and I don’t encourage them to go and explore other bits of London because I want them to get a sense of its geography.

    I do it because I don’t want them to become kids who only hang out with their own kind of people and can’t function outside their narrow, native perimeters — the kind of ghastly “privileged” children who bray disparagingly about chavs and scuttle across the road at the merest whiff of an innocent hood, which someone may be wearing because their ears are cold (and I like that my children can sense the difference between hoods and bad hoods).

    I know sitting on the Tube and emerging somewhere that may be unfamiliar isn’t quite the same as hanging in the ghetto, but I don’t want them to hang in the ghetto: I just want them to know how to behave with all sorts of different people, not just ones like themselves, and to me this matters as much as academic achievement.

    My youngest son chirpily informed me a fortnight ago that his newest friend from the skate park (which he walks, or skates to, but which some of his friends are chauffeured to by parents who also sit and watch over their galumphing sons as they hang out) “sells weed” — as in marijuana.

    Obviously the maternal heart doesn’t entirely jump for joy at this news, but apparently once the new friend had established that my son wasn’t a customer they just chatted and practised their skate moves, after which the new friend suggested they go back to his for tea.

    I may be naive in the extreme, but I call that a good thing. Better surely for a child growing up in a city to find “weed” a fact of life than to live in ignorance of its existence and fall upon it like a starved person at the age of 18? There’s nothing more boring than an 18-year-old who has discovered weed, unless of course it’s a 30-year-old.

    I don’t help my children with their homework either, unless they’re really stuck or need testing. I only realised very recently — via a rap on the knuckles from one of my boys’ report card — that I was supposed to and everyone else apparently does. But I am at a loss to see why they need my help: they’re not thick and surely it is a school’s job to educate children on the academic front and to render them competent enough to do their own homework?

    And to penalise them if their homework isn’t up to scratch, or if they turn up with the wrong books — especially if attending said school costs an obscene amount of money? I don’t have the time — or frankly the inclination — to check my huge children’s rucksacks in the morning to make sure they’ve packed the right pens or books: the idea seems absurd.

    Again I can honestly say that no one in my life ever helped me with homework (or checked my pencil case or books): you just got on with it, and getting on with it was part of learning, as was getting it wrong or getting into trouble.

    Much has been written about “helicopter mothers” mollycoddling their small children — ones who aren’t allowed to play in the local park in case armies of lurking paedophiles jump out and snatch them, or in case there’s a conker-induced fatality — but this whole issue reaches a peak of intensity with the arrival of teenagehood.

    I know lots of teenage boys, having some myself, and the ones who have been their parents’ life’s work are easy to spot. Trained and hothoused from infancy, their Mandarin is coming along nicely (Sanskrit, in one case). Their violin is grade 7 or 8. They’re articulate, well travelled, charming. They are also noticeably timorous. As I was saying, some of them are still driven from A to B by their parents in the daytime, even though they’re 6ft tall.

    Soon they’ll go on gap years — no longer backpacking round India or Thailand without a mobile phone and with only a Lonely Planet guide to help, but turning up at the plantation or orphanage their parents have paid five grand for them to go and “work” at. There they will meet people exactly like themselves. Then they’ll go to university, and their mothers will do up their student rooms and take away their laundry. They’ll hang out with each other and never take advantage of, or show curiosity in, any person from a different social background. They’ll leave and move into a flat paid for by their parents — or boomerang back home, to the secret relief of their empty-nested mothers — and end up as overeducated adults with no life skills.

    This isn’t a crime, but it does seem a shame. This kind of limited trajectory used to be the speciality of certain public schools, which ensured many of their alumni only ever experienced life as a series of comforting and familiar institutions — Eton, Oxford, the House of Commons, for instance, or Ampleforth, Cambridge, Rome. A more workaday version of that narrowness of experience is becoming, for many middle-class children, the norm rather than the exception.

    With these restrictions on childhood it’s no wonder kids seek refuge in consumerism. They can control what they consume, via “pester power”, even if they can’t control what they do. (Equally, the internet is the only place many overprotected kids have any freedom; this doesn’t always have happy consequences, and you don’t need to be a child psychologist to point out that living a pretend life online instead of engaging with real people in real life healthy: see Bridgend.)

    I have no idea if my way of raising my children is right or wrong, though I know it’s imperfect: I can only try and remember what it was like being their age and trust to instinct. Maybe not helping with homework is a dreadful mistake; maybe children shouldn’t be exposed to drunk blokes on the Tube or (once, memorably) to flashers; maybe it’s crazy for a 12-yearold to know someone who sells weed.

    But if it all goes pear-shaped tomorrow and they turn into monstrous creeps instead of the nice, rounded human beings I was aiming for, I’ll know that their childhood was as normal as I could make it and that I never deliberately clipped their wings. Of course their Sanskrit leaves a lot to be desired — but at least they’re not wet.

  38. Kerry McMahon April 10, 2008 at 2:05 am #

    Fenway Park at age nine, Disney World at 11, to and from the candy store since I can remember: all of these things that my parents allowed me the freedom to do helped shape me into the free-thinking, independent woman that I am today.
    I am someone who can travel alone, eat a restaurant by myself, live happily in my own apartment – all without ever feeling like I NEED someone there to coddle me.

    Giving our children these opportunities are vital if we want them to develop into confident and happy individuals that go through life head first, take on new challenges and choose relationships for their good qualities, not out of neediness.

    Thank you Lenore, for shedding some light on this subject.

  39. cathy April 10, 2008 at 2:48 am #

    I grew up in the burbs outside chicago in the 50’s and 60’s. We’d play in the snow until we couldn’t move our fingers. We’d swim until our lips were blue. When I was 6 or 7 a friend and I dressed up in old prom dresses and walked several miles to ‘find Mrs Santa Clause’ . Then we turned around and walked home. ..and lived… . We’d go up behind the school where there was a hole in the ground and we had a ‘fort’ where we’d spend hours. When we were about 7 a friend and I went to wisconsin on the train without any adult. On weekends my family would go camping and we’d sleep in a tent , sometimes it was raining or freezing. poison ivy, bee stings. We had ponies and mine would toss me into the bushes almost every week. Once I even broke my wrist. These are not only the best memories my brothers and I have, but these things have tought me that hardship isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
    At 11 years old I was babysitting other peoples’ kids. That was the norm.
    Kids have a lot more to deal with now, but preparation seems a better choice than teaching them more fear. I don’t see how you could start too early.
    This has lately become one of my crusades, too. I feel so very bad for kids today. It seems like prison to me. I know bad things can happen to kids, I also remember how cool it was in school to get stitches or a cast.
    I think that if kids are taught from when they’re little they can avoid most supposed ‘dangers’ however improbable. I understand why people have bought into the histeria. Every place you go someone is ranting about the dangers. Today there was a story about the ‘danger’ of electric cars because a blind person might not hear it and walk out in front of it… well maybe… so now we need a law against electric cars? lock up all blind people?
    Who is doing this to us? Why are we buying it?
    South Park made an episode put it pretty clearly
    P.S. I don’t have kids, but i’d be just as crazy. But, actually, when I think about it, the ‘law’ is what I’ d be afraid of more than any actual dangers. That they’d be picked up for climbing a tree, or laughing out loud.
    I’m actually afraid for myself for the same reasons.
    How about free range adults, too.
    Please stay in the ‘public eye’. This needs to be told over and over.

  40. David April 10, 2008 at 3:06 am #

    Heard you on TOTN today, and what a wonderful breath of fresh air you brought to the angst that is parenting.
    I’m sure I’ll be flamed for “blaming the victim” but there might be a connection between being a sheltered or “coddled” child and later being a victim. Anyone of any age who’s learned how to get around on subways or busses has good old fashioned “street smarts.”

    It might almost be that parents who think they’re protecting their child ironically may be doing the exact opposite, rendering the child clueless, lost, an obvious target, a “Herb” that neighborhood punks all recognize as an easy target.

    “Brava” to Lenora Skenazy for having a clear head, common sense and guts – and a sense of humor. May your child inherit all those good qualities – ultimately that’s what will get him home safe!

  41. LG April 10, 2008 at 4:56 am #

    From fifth grade on, my friends and I were allowed to take the bus to the mall after school– not the most edifying excursion, but this and the stories of other posters reveal another good consequence of this childhood independence: early knowledge of, and comfort with, public transportation systems.

    The people I know now who weren’t allowed or encouraged to ride public transit when they were kids, or weren’t in a place that had public transportation, refuse to try riding a bus, even when more convenient than driving.

  42. Noo April 10, 2008 at 4:59 am #

    Hey — I’m interested in people’s opinions, because my kids are 1 and 2.5 and I really want them to have a potential “free range life.”

    What makes free range living accessible? From the posts, it seems that
    — rural or small town life
    — big city/ public transportation life
    give children potential for freedom, but suburban life is not as condusive. Do others agree? Do you think it is best to have access to nature, or is the city environment good enough.

    (Funny that I am planning and micromanaging their potential for future freedom!)

  43. Joel April 10, 2008 at 5:22 am #

    I understand that we live in a “new world”, but that doesn’t mean that are dictated by new fears.

    In 1979 when I was 12, I went to Washington DC with my Dad on a business trip. While he worked during the day, I went out and expored our Nation;s Capital on my own. I took buses, subways and cabs to go to the Mall, Arlington and Alexandria. I was young, responsible and capable.

    I think the difference is that I was raised to be self-sufficient and independent. I was not taught to fear and be aware at every turn. Over caution breeds timidity, and the media dwells upon morbid facts of child abuses, abductions and killings even when it is a rare occurence, and only when the child is non-minority. {Editorial content}.

    I say we raise strong, independent children and help them learn by making their own decisions and mistakes!

  44. james maruna April 10, 2008 at 5:45 am #

    Bravo! I thought our entire society was being held captive.

    I am encouraged by the response to your article and interviews.

    I’ve been reminded of the freedom and independence enjoyed by me and encouraged by my parents during my youth during the 70’s. Thoughts of those times have resurfaced now that I have young nieces and nephews being raised in todays paroniod world. I am thrilled by the knowledge that their parents were raised, as I was, in an atmosphere where we learned the value of the [seemingly not so] common sense that it takes to survive in, experience, and enjoy the world in which we live.

    While, early in elementary school, it seemed that our mother had no reservations about us riding our bikes the mile or so to the community pool and being gone all afternoon. There surely was a “tinge of worry” that first time…and when we were maybe 11 and 9, when my brother Brian and I wanted to visit a friend who had moved from Cleveland OH. to Greensboro NC. Mom & Dad could have driven us there, it was afterall, on the way to our our vacation place at the beach. Instead they sent us ahead several days, by Greyhound, that bus stopped at every town in between! What an adventure! It was probably the next year or so, when after working odd jobs to buy new 10 speed bikes, my brother, our friend Mark and I were encouraged to ride those bikes some 40 miles, with all the gear we needed, to Pymatuning State Park in Pennsylvania to camp over night. We delt with flat tires, cooking for ourselves, and being flooded out of our campsite by a torrential storm, all on our own, long before anyone had heard of a cell phone or equipped kids with credit cards.

    The experiences of my youth, and the attidudes that allowed and encouraged them, have formed my siblings and I into the confident, intelligent, independent, free-thinking adults that I’m proud to call my family. There is no doubt that the next generation will be able to build on that.

    Thanks Mom & Dad

  45. AB April 10, 2008 at 12:42 pm #

    I’ve had many discussions with other parents about child safety. Some look at me like I’m crazy because mine are out in the yard with out me there with them!
    I was at a PTO discussion where the moms went on about how how “things are different now-it’s a dangerous world”. I stood up and said “You are wrong. It’s more safe. We just hear about it on TV all the time! Let your kids breathe!” I don’t know if they got it. Read the book -The Last Child In the Woods for related concerns.

  46. Adam April 10, 2008 at 12:43 pm #

    This is a common-sense issue: it depends on the kid. I too applaud your stance, but it doesn’t really apply to me, because my 9-year-old son has Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD. So, while he’s perfectly nice and highly intelligent, he is often all but oblivious to his surroundings, and I would have to be rightly terrified that he would walk in front of a speeding car if I left him on his own. It’ll be a few more years yet before my kid is free-range.

  47. Molly April 10, 2008 at 1:14 pm #

    I agree whole-heartedly–overprotecting our kids does to their sense of independence just what overprescribing antibiotics does to their immune system. Not only did your son’s subway ride home surely imbue him with a sense of accomplishment and independence, but you gave him an opportunity to think and act for himself.
    I’m the mother of an 8 year old, and though we live in a (albeit large) midwestern town, I’m fully in support of helping him gain his independence at an early age. Though I admit it’s hard sometimes to let him go ALL THE WAY around the block on his own to wait for the ice-cream man, I realize that that it is just society, the evening news, and my over-protective paranoid mother whispering in my ear telling me he will be abducted, or trip and break his leg, or worse.
    All-in-all I believe that it is an illness in our society today, the over-protectionism, and it’ crippling an entire generation of future decision-makers. And the statistics are right–it is rare that something horrible will happen to your son on the way home from Bloomingdale’s, so why live in constant fear? It would be like living in constant fear of that lightening bolt you mentioned–and do you really want to raise your child to live that way? THAT is what makes a horrible parent, if you ask me.

  48. Al R. April 10, 2008 at 1:27 pm #

    I applaud you for not giving in to the fear our society seems to thrive on.
    I remember riding my bike, with friends sometimes, at least eight miles to the beach on the south shore on Long Island, NY, from the middle of the island. I was around 12. Today, a 12 year old isn’t allowed to cross the street, let alone walk around the block. Over twenty years ago, my then 15 year old daughter walked a couple of miles to a train station, to take that train halfway across Long Island, and walked a half mile at the other end for a part time job. She loved the independence and freedom, and I trusted her to be mature enough to be aware of her surroundings. She, as is her sister, is a well functioning, independent, self sufficient adult. I accomplished my job as a parent.
    We, as a society, have become a nation of fearmongers and scaredycats. It is no way to live. Almost all of us will not be affected by terrorism, abductors or gangs. About 90+% of the police in this country will never pull their guns from their holsters their whole careers. But TV and the news don’t portray that. There are probably no more abductors or pedephiles than there were thirty years ago. We just make headlines about each and every situation. I am not trying to minimize how terrible an abduction would be, but to minimize the fear, which apppears way overblown.
    Thanks again for allowing your son to grow up. Independence is what all parents are charged to teach if they are truly being parents.

  49. Gaelle April 10, 2008 at 2:29 pm #

    My son is 5 years old. A couple of months ago we were at the airport and he needed to use the restroom…but he insisted in using the boys ones….
    I gave in.…. the line in the ladies restrooms was pretty long…
    The whole time he was in there, I was sweating out of fear that a child molester had been waiting for that opportunity and was in that same bathroom about to hurt my child…
    It seemed to take forever for him to come out, so I asked a gentleman walking out if he had seen a little boy in there. He smiled at me and replied; “yes, he is washing his hands at the moment…he needed help to reach the soap…”
    WOW…my 5 year old actually REMEMBERED to wash his hands??
    He came out of the restrooms, clean hands, huge smile on his face…and I started breathing again!

  50. Anne Harvey Kilburn April 10, 2008 at 2:31 pm #

    I often wish that my kids (6 and 8) could have the same experience I did growing up in a small town where we would play blockchase until dusk and where my mom sent me to the corner store to buy her cigarettes (how appalling is that?!), but we live in a residential section of a big city and most kids are “locked up by dusk” and the corner store no longer exists. Do I let my kids out of the house to run the sidewalks and cross the street while I’m cooking dinner? You bet. They need to learn to “stop, look and listen before you cross the street….” Do I let them roam the neighborhood unsupervised? Not yet. Am I attempting to raise independent, thinking kids. Sure I am. Kudos to you, Lenore, for bringing this situation to light. I commend you for trusting your 9 year old and I hope to walk in your footsteps and his….

  51. Rya April 10, 2008 at 4:03 pm #

    I heard you on Talk of the Nation and couldn’t wait to tell my husband. He also heard you and couldn’t wait to talk to me. Luckily, we both felt the same way – a huge sigh of relief. We have a three year old and it’s hard to escape the overwhelming sense of fear and overprotection. I grew up in Minneapolis and took the bus at 9, I walked home from school along a busy street, my brother and I played outside unattended. We had freedom that I want my daughter to have and I see no reason why she can’t have it. So, once again, I breathe a sigh of relief and thank you for your words.

  52. Anonymous April 10, 2008 at 4:48 pm #

    I too listened to you on Talk of the Nation. You sound like a very wise woman! Congratulations on your commen sense approach to child rearing. Today’s society has made parents, grandparents and all who care for children paranoid. Fear of being arrested, as I heard one caller mention is valid. Fear of abduction is also valid, but the statistics you quoted make that and other fears less of a threat than I think we have allowed ourselves to believe.

  53. Karla Hoffman April 10, 2008 at 6:24 pm #

    When I was nine years-old, a man offered me a ride home when I was out riding my bike with my friends. I said, “No, thank you,” and went back to my friends. I casually mentioned this over dinner that night and my parents did something I give them immense credit for: they didn’t freak out.

    They told me that I did just as I had been taught, but that if it should ever happen again, I should get my friends and ride to whoever’s house was closest- not wait until dinner! They never kept me in the house and never really mentioned it again. I forgot about it for years.

    I now have three kids (4, 6 and 7) and I get hostile looks from people when I tell them that my oldest son has been walking home from school (3 blocks and two crossing guards away in a small town) since 1st grade. I would have had him walk from kindergarten (as I did in this same town), but the school would not let him. I am now having to battle this over-arching coddling to get permission for my 2nd grader to walk his kindergarten-age sister home. They are more than capable. Unfortunately, they are also among the few children in our neighborhood who are outside a lot (and have regular chores! but that may be a different discussion…)

    I cannot imagine that I would have spent months (no cell phones!) backpacking through Europe & Central and South America or served in the Peace Corps and if I were subjected to the same stiffling confines ‘experts’ tell us we should employ.

    My husband and I agree totally that the 24-hour news cycle is not good for our national psyche. I found your blog after listening to TOTN yesterday, but will be a frequent reader from now on. Thanks for the dose of sanity!

  54. Gira April 10, 2008 at 6:53 pm #

    I just wanted to say that we live in San Francisco and last summer my daughter, who was ten then, took the underground every day during the six weeks she was at summer daycamp because it got out earlier than I could get out of work and as a single parent there wasn’t anyone else to pick her up. She always had her cell phone with her and checked in with me every afternoon when she arrived at the library where she’d wait until I arrived, reading in the children’s section.

    While I was nervous about this at first, it did give her a great deal of confidence and sense of independence to be doing this all on her own.

    I have always raised her to be unafraid of strangers, but keep her wits about her and use common sense. I can’t imagine anything worse than living in fear of every single person you see on the street.

  55. Jose April 10, 2008 at 7:00 pm #

    I heard your interview on NPR. My first reaction was that you acted irresponsibly. However, after listening and reading your blog I found myself without any good arguments.

    However, I live in Mexico City and I am not sure you would have done it here.

    All the best.

  56. C. Ponder April 10, 2008 at 7:50 pm #

    I heard your interview on NPR yesterday. Ironic, the call you took from Don from Wichita, KS is a friend of mine.

    Anyway, just this year after many calls from my son how he missed the school bus and how it inconvenienced me in the middle of my workday and let alone the price of gas – I figured it cost me $12 round trip to pick him up let alone the loss of work time. I made him buy his own bus pass, get the bus maps and learn to make the transfer downtown and get home on his own. It only took 2 times of riding the city bus for him to not miss the school bus anymore! Lesson learned.

    Although many people think I am mean and we did worry terribly the first time he had to do it, I figured it’s better to learn it now in our “mostly safe” city rather than he have to learn it after he’s an adult in a much bigger, “badder” city.

    Funny you compared it to a “Bar Mitzvah” on the show. We played this “tough love” card immediately after his Bar Mitzvah, even made his use Bar Mitzvah money to buy the bus pass.

    I feel more confident of him and feel like I’m giving him life skills as you should too. Good for you and your son too!

  57. Mariam April 10, 2008 at 8:32 pm #

    I just realised that parents could keep their kids from going to college because of all the college shootings and killings.
    Just stay at home and get an online degree… why put them under unnecessary risk.
    Why send kids to school after columbine? Just homeschool them (not that I am against homeschooling especially when the education is better)?
    There are many ways that we could protect our children but that will only restrict their necessary growth.

  58. ed April 10, 2008 at 8:57 pm #

    Thanks for the common sense! This overprotectiveness is an example of the poor risk assessment skills that many people have. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in the relatively safe suburbs (San Jose, CA), and we had very little parental supervision then. We could ride our bikes or walk almost anywhere we wanted, and even played in construction sites! Apart from a few scrapes and bruises, none of us were seriously hurt. We faced more danger from mean kids at school than on the streets. We survived.

  59. Tim Johnson April 10, 2008 at 11:31 pm #

    One day a man saw a butterfly shuddering on the sidewalk locked in a seemingly hopeless struggle to free itself from its now useless cocoon. Feeling pity, he took a pocket knife, carefully cut away the cocoon and set the butterfly free. To his dismay it lay on the sidewalk, convulsed weakly for a while, and died.

    A biologist later told him, “That’s the worst thing you could have done! A butterfly needs that struggle to develop the muscles to fly. By robbing him of the struggle, you made him too weak to live.”

    I wholeheartedly agree with your decision. My niece and nephew (11 and 13 respectively) are not allowed to stay anywhere for any length of time by themselves, and it is for precisely this reason that neither of them can be trusted by themselves. If given even a bit of independence, I’m certain they would be fine on their own, but this lack of independence has caused them to reach their current ages with a maturity level well below their peers. In contrast, when I was 11, I was already staying home alone, babysitting my younger sibling, making dinner, etc., all without supervision. Over-parenting does more damage, statistically speaking, than teaching a child to be independent. In addition, the long-term damage of over-parenting is seen much more frequently in our society, as evidenced by the number of “adults” who must seek therapy to quell irrational fears. These fears can be traced directly back to the complete lack of trust and support provided by parents and family.

    Whew, sorry for the diatribe, this issue just hit home with me. Thanks for posting this article, it was a delightful read =]

  60. p a e April 11, 2008 at 5:42 am #

    as one x ny’er already said, this goes on hundreds of times a day, everyday in NYC forever….what’s the big deal?

  61. JoAnna April 11, 2008 at 1:15 pm #

    I applaud you as well! When I was your sons age I was given a plane ticket and dropped off to travel across the country to visit my father. My mother gave me my ticket and told me which gate to go to and I simply asked attendants how to get there, and the same thing back…
    I went out on my own when i was 12, and I must say I wish someone had actually taught me before then what kind of people to talk to… I did it, I got creative and made it but it would have helped to have the guidance. By the time I was a senior in high school I was able to enroll myself in school, register for my classes, find ways to hitchhike to work and school and balance my homework, my house work, bills and work. Those are skills most college kids have not mastered yet. Your kids are more capable then you may give them credit for. Wouldnt it be nicer to be able to teach them yourselves then have them have to take a crash course like I did?

  62. Gregor Rohda April 11, 2008 at 3:38 pm #

    I love you for doing this, and for standing up for it. I’m fed up with this media-driven security state we live in. The weather doesnt kill you, violence doesnt hide around every corner, the worst possible outcome doesnt occur every chance it gets. Wake up and see that the world is in fact a wonderful place, not something to hide and protect yourselves and your children from! Thank you again!

  63. Jessica April 11, 2008 at 4:29 pm #

    When I first heard the headline, I’ll tell you, I thought it was another story of bad parenting. But you poke at a really disturbing issue. My husband and I were in the living room the other day, and my two year old daughter was playing by herself in the kitchen, with an empty pizza box from dinner, of all things. I mentioned this to my husband, and the first thing he wanted to do was to take it away. But a to a two year old, a pizza box is a fascinating adventure, and although she might spread a few crumbs, we have ways to take care of that. What I’m saying is let them get a little dirty and have their own adventures, and most importantly, learn consequences of their actions. Some parents don’t know when to let go.

  64. Dave April 11, 2008 at 4:43 pm #

    I enjoyed your article and could not help but reflect back to my own childhood and how my parents for a period of time were very protective to the point of me experiencing “claustrophobia” during the ages of 9-14.

    For my generation the story that struck everyone with fear of child abduction was the story of Adam Walsh. The grotesque nature of the abduction and the fact that it sparked a nation-wide awareness solidified the fear in my parents mind. Obviously, between the ages of 9-14 I would routinely see friends and schoolmates who had a lot more freedom than I had.

    One good thing that did happen came as a result of athletics. I began wrestling and actively lifting weights when I was 13. By the time I was 14 to 15 years old I was already larger and more muscular than the average adult male, plus I had displayed the fact that I could over-power my father who was a pretty tough cookie. Slowly, my parent began to realize that along with some needed “street smarts” I really wasn’t in danger of being kidnapped at least in and around my hometown.

    Now at age 32, I think the point you present is important because as we constantly shelter our kids we are denying them of a lot of life lessons that are best learned naturally. What would happen if your child became lost? Would he or she know what to do to navigate their way safely home? Obviously, teaching your kids street smarts starts out like what you are doing. By making a child feel “capable” he or she will less likely be a victim to begin with.

    One thing you have to take into account is that kids today are much more advanced and much more resourceful than many parents are likely aware of. I’m not saying that parents should let their kids run amuck, but the fact does remain that we need to prepare kids for life where they will not have mommy or daddy there to bail them out. I remember when I was in my freshman year in college that there were some commuters that didn’t know how to change their tires when they were found flat in the parking lot. Isn’t that sick?

  65. dvicci April 11, 2008 at 5:09 pm #

    Your column made me, like many others, reflect on my own upbringing. It inspired me to write my parents and thank them for letting me wander. My love of cycling and new experiences is a direct result of their faith in my ability to find my way when I was young. Neither my brother nor I are afraid to take risks and ride off the beaten path, thanks to their guidance.

    You have indeed touched a nerve, and I appreciate your attempt to reduce irrational fear and terror far more than anything Bush and his crew have done. Your attitudes inspire.

  66. bookteacher April 11, 2008 at 6:05 pm #

    I would like to highly recommend the book: PROTECTING THE GIFT: KEEPING CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS SAFE (AND PARENTS SANE) by Gavin De Becker. De Becker is the author of the celebrated: THE GIFT OF FEAR.

    His books are about the importance of learning to trust and listen to our own instincts regarding our own safety in any given situation. In PROTECTING THE GIFT, he offers sound advice about helping our children to do that very thing. He cautions parents from becoming overly concerned about those things that really aren’t a threat to their children’s safety, and instead encourages us to educate ourselves about those things that truly are things to be aware (and sometimes wary) of. We can then teach our children HOW to: listen to their instincts, assert themselves, seek help, and go out into the world with confidence!

  67. Valerie April 11, 2008 at 8:56 pm #

    In some states, leaving a child under 12 unattended could get you in trouble with the police — neglect, I believe. This isn’t the 60’s or 50’s. Ask Adam Walsh’s family. His mom left him playing video games in a Sear’s store while she shopped in another department. John Walsh is the star of America’s Most Wanted TV show. Young Adam was kidnapped and murdered.

  68. Bill April 11, 2008 at 9:01 pm #

    I think this is a great thing. I was a free-range child in a rural town of 3,000 from the time I was about 10 (1965). The swimming pool was across town, 2 miles away by bike – a good fried was 4 miles away down a highway and then down a gravel road, again by bike. Since I’m able to right this down I did survive unharmed and intact – and there was never a “fear” moment in all of those years.

  69. Mike April 11, 2008 at 11:51 pm #

    I just wanted to write and say that, while the controversy over this article is inane, we should all welcome the controversy itself.

    The attitudes revealed by the naysayers are unfortunate, but those attitudes already existed. All you did was bring them to light. The controversy didn’t create these people, it just drew their attention. So you certainly didn’t make anything worse.

    But this controversy is also drawing attention. A surprising amount of attention, and all of that attention means that well-meaning people who haven’t considered your point before are getting exposed to this argument. I’m sure that you will end up changing a lot of minds, even as many others think you’re crazy. While your article deserved to be entirely unremarkable, that outcome wouldn’t have nearly the benefits as having a bunch of talking heads say that you’re insane, and inadvertently get your message out to the world.

  70. Jessica Gottlieb April 12, 2008 at 4:10 am #

    I just wanted to send a little note.

    When I called the police department they said they couldn’t take your child into protective custody without a home address.

    Would you be so kind as to provide it for me?


  71. Ann April 12, 2008 at 8:41 am #

    The Adam Walsh case, while thoroughly disturbing, occurred almost 27 years ago. There were children murdered before that and children murdered since. The only difference is the level of news coverage.

  72. Keila April 12, 2008 at 10:52 am #

    Thank you! My step children are 14 and 16 and are babies. When we were on vacation last year we tried to get the kids to stay at the beach to play and roam by themselves. They responded as if we were abandoning them. They appeared on our skirt tails within 2 hours! When I was a kid I would have waited for my parents to come drag me out of the ocean and I would have hoped it was the next day.
    My son asks for a ride to the park that is less than 2 blocks away, then when he walks (you didn’t really think he was getting a ride did you?) he calls for directions home!
    I think I am going to start dropping them off at random places in town and make them find their way home, without their cell phones! They are related to 1/4 of the the 3000 members of the rural city. The other 3/4 of the population know who they are!
    It is my personal goal to liberate these kids. My motto for the upcoming summer is “Disappear! I’ll see you at lunch time.”

  73. Judith Steckly April 12, 2008 at 2:09 pm #

    You must be deleting negative responses to your believing that a nine-year-old should ride public transportation alone! I agree that the threat of being abducted or sexually assualted is minute. However, just ask any public school bus driver how difficult it is to maintain discipline on the bus. Your child is highly likely to be bullied, robbed, teased or even punched by other children if you persuade most parents to send their children unsupervised. At that age they are easily distracted, also. So even if a group of kids are just having fun–probably boisterous and annoying to adult passengers, a child is likely to miss a stop.
    Your son is probably respectful to others, especially adults. But get one kid the same age who defies authority, calls others names, or takes a package, paper, or seat from an older child or adult, and your child is also in trouble just being there.
    I applaud your efforts to build confidence and responsibility in your child. But there are other ways than traveling alone at nine!

  74. John April 12, 2008 at 2:51 pm #

    Lenore, Three cheers and many thanks for this fantastic column. I hope as my 11-month-old grows up I show the same composure, good sense and trust in my child.

    Don’t let the critics bring you down, because in the long run kids raised like yours will be leaders and innovators, while the kids who are taught dependence and fear of the unknown will be lucky to make it out of their parents’ basements.

  75. mdhatter April 12, 2008 at 3:46 pm #

    When my dad was 9 he was jumping onto the BACK of moving streetcars in Boston.
    At 19 he was landing planes on aircraft carriers.
    At 39 he was landing Boeings at your airport.
    at 69 he is comfortably retired and active in his community.

    Go for it

    and I hope you can get through all the bluster and hot air from the holier-thans (e.g. Jessica, above (xoxo jessie, please don’t vote)) and see it for what it is –

    simple jealousy of the road not traveled.

  76. kevin April 12, 2008 at 3:55 pm #


  77. katie April 12, 2008 at 4:14 pm #

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

    Thank you very much for this article. I grew up in a very small village (no population sign, 1 store, 11 streets, ball park, K-3 school)… Now I am living in a very large city and, although I have no current plans to have children, I would probably wish to raise them in the city. One of my fears would be that they wouldn’t get the chance to explore and run around like I did when I was little and this. Thank you for your column, now I realize that when I have children they don’t have to live sheltered little lives in the city.

    While I do believe that a 9 year old may be too young to ride the subway by his or herself, the key is that you’re not talking about 9 year olds in general for this example. You’re talking about YOUR 9 year old who you believe is capable of the task. No one knows YOUR kid as much as YOU and I commend you for writing this.


  78. gordon mcdowell April 12, 2008 at 4:16 pm #

    I read your subway piece via BoingBoing, and as a result tried to find a recent map which showed how successive generations of kids in one family have a smaller and smaller roaming space… it might have been published in TheIndependent or BBC. If anyone has spotted that, could you please post it here? (And it would be crazy awesome if you could email me the URL… gordonmcdowell@gmail.com) I can’t find it again and your subway article made me want to show it to my spouse.

  79. Charles April 12, 2008 at 4:34 pm #

    Yes. Amen.

    My daughter just moved to live with me in NY. We are way the fuck out in Brooklyn.

    Anyway, my daughter is responsible and has tons of freedom and we wouldn’t have it any other way. She grew up in Israel dodging rockets and bus bombers. Can’t believe how whiny American parents are.

    Dear American parents: you are insane. Stop it.

  80. tina April 12, 2008 at 4:39 pm #

    I am very proud of you for teaching your son to be independent with trust. Me, my brother and sister have the most respect from my mom who always trusted us and taught us how to be responsible and independent. Now we do the same for our kids, too.

  81. Mark April 12, 2008 at 4:52 pm #

    My parents let me wander Venice alone when I was 12. What a great experience! Absolutely worth it. However, I was molested by an old man that day. He came up to me in a narrow alley and put one hand on my shoulder, and with the other hand he groped me, um, down there. I was very confused about this when it happened, having not been told such things were possible. The brain is strange, it finds any explanation, and the only explanation I could find in those few seconds was this man wanted money. I pulled a coin from my pocket and pushed it into his hand, and he seemed as confused as I was. Then I ran away.

    Till this day I’ve never told my parents about this. I doubt they would understand that it really didn’t have much of an impact on me (I think). On balance, I’m glad I had the experience of walking Venice alone (not the molestation experience, though)… but on balance it was worth it.

  82. slightlyfleury April 12, 2008 at 5:02 pm #

    reminds me of this wonderful talk:

  83. Karen April 12, 2008 at 5:05 pm #

    Here’s the map Gordon Macdowell mentioned a few comments ago. It is from the daily mail.

  84. Avi Solomon April 12, 2008 at 5:14 pm #

    Read this!:
    Growing up in a risk averse society
    Tim Gill

  85. Omi-san April 12, 2008 at 5:30 pm #

    The way parents are overprotecting their kids has become ridiculous.

    Here in Quebec, We had a lot of snow this winter and unfortunately, one kid died after digging a hole and crawling into it.

    It was all over the news and people became paranoid about letting their kids play in the snow. One of my friend was playing on top of a pile snow with his 2 kids, and random people from the neighbourhood actually shouted at him! Asking him to stop playing in the snow because his kids were in danger.

    When I was young, all the kids would play in the snow after a storm. We would build forts, play “king of the hill” digg tunnels. It was great. Nowadays, the streets are completely deserted.

    Maybe that’s why so many kids play videogames, because they are simply not allowed to do anything else that could seem dangerous.

  86. joecab April 12, 2008 at 5:38 pm #

    So are you going to slap some big warning on the blog that you are not responsible for other people’s kids? Because you know some litigious nutjob is going to come along and point to how you told her letting her kid take that trip to Sleazeville at 2am was perfectly safe…

  87. Kimberly April 12, 2008 at 5:42 pm #

    I grew up in a household where such liberties were not given. It was never clear why–I was a good student (tested out of high school so I could start my AA at 16) I kept myself out of trouble, and I have a pretty good head on my shoulders. However, the lack of trust that was communicated by my mother’s inability to let me be independent made me fall to telling lies for the most ridiculous things, just so I could feel independent!

    It was absurd. I was in college, and she still wanted to call my friend’s parents, and if they didn’t live with their parents, she wanted to talk to them! Which, at 18, is rather mortifying.

    From here, I kick started my life by moving out of the house as soon as possible to get away, so I could have my own space. Which I honestly kind of regret. Had I been given the independence and freedom desired, I’m fairly certain this would not have occurred.

    In short, THANK YOU SO MUCH for speaking out. Children really need this independence, as it flourishes a bond of trust between parent and child, which is vital throughout their life.

  88. Geektronica April 12, 2008 at 6:02 pm #

    Good for you. As an educator I often have to make rules and policies that restrict kids from doing things that I don’t think are dangerous, simply because of the liability. It’s refreshing to see parents letting their kids do reasonable things that don’t present much of a risk, even if we feel like they do (like riding public transportation alone).

    I’ve seen sketchy people harass 13-15 year old girls on the bus, and one time I followed a guy who looked like he was drunk and trying to follow some girls. I confronted him (in a crowd of people), and he went the other way. I got back on my bus and went to work.

    I wonder if our “blame the parents” mentality has made us a nation of bystanders who refuse to take reasonable responsibility for things that happen in public. Yes, if you put your kid on the bus, some stranger might harass them, but we also have an obligation as a society to watch out for things like that and intervene.

  89. LW April 12, 2008 at 6:13 pm #

    This article (I originally found the citation on BoingBoing) covers and literally illustrates similar issues with the distance kids are allowed to roam and how it has decreased over several generations in the UK. hopefully the link will show here.

  90. James April 12, 2008 at 6:36 pm #

    “We want you to have a safe childhood – at the expense of childhood”!

    As a 40-something, I was reminiscing with a co-worker about all the crazy adventures my friends and I had as children. A 25 year old in the office listened amusedly. We asked him if he had any amusing stories. He returned to his computer and said “We had video games”.

    What I see is a trend toward systemic, goal-directed, ‘channeled’ activity. Myspace. Messaging. Videogames. All activity is being mediated. This climate of fear is resulting in the ‘commodification of social interaction’. One can see it as a capitalistic, opportunistic herding of our children toward predetermined and limited activities (that cost money btw). Kids don’t learn to improvise, judge a situation or person ‘in real life’. They don’t learn basic creative skills of dealing with the relatively ambiguous world out there (compared to the thematic world of media) and hence have trouble ‘thinking outside the box’ (they’ve been trained to see ‘the box’ as a comfortable womb protecting them from a world crawling with rapists, molesters, freak accidents, etc)

    How many times have I seen documentaries on indigenous cultures where the children are quickly allowed to go out and discover, make mistakes, take risks? This is in the jungle! It is obvious: the skills needed to adapt, learn, and grow are best learned early, when they will have greatest impact on personal development.

    Let the kids out!

  91. John April 12, 2008 at 6:37 pm #

    Good for you. When I was a kid, I rode my bike (without a helmet) across town to the store all the time – and I lived to tell the tale. Freedom is educational.

  92. Judy April 12, 2008 at 6:37 pm #

    My twin boys are two years old. My husband and I both want them to grow up with the independence and responsibility that we had. We live in a very safe neighborhood with parks, a river, meadows, trees to climb… and there are never any kids out running around on their own! I wonder what our neighbors will think when some day Cal and Willy are running around the ‘hood and climbing trees. I wish more people would listen to what Iskenazy has to say and read the book “Last Child in the Woods” – which is all about this topic and the removal of our kids from nature.

  93. theophylact April 12, 2008 at 6:40 pm #

    When I was 9 (in 1949) I took the subway and bus to school every day. The big danger was the parochial school kids who would taunt me on my walk home from the subway station.

    When we moved to Poughkeepsie when I was 10, I rode my bike to school, a mile and a half away.

    On the other hand, there are some dangers you simply can’t protect against: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/10/AR2008041004058.html?sub=AR

  94. Ant Mitchell April 12, 2008 at 6:58 pm #

    Congratulations on a) being true to yourself – you knew it was the right thing for both of you, and b) writing about it to let others see that its possible not to be bowed by the mores of others.

    As a child (in the UK) I rode my bike for miles and miles at the age of nine, without anyone really knowing where I was, I was just trusted to look after myself and come home in time for tea !. I can’t do that with my children now, the roads in my vicinity are just to dangerous, even for me. As an alternative my children plan long walks between local villages and camp in friends fields or gardens over the summer. Good luck with raising awareness of what our childern are capable of, and don’t need wrapping in cotton wool.

  95. Maggie April 12, 2008 at 7:04 pm #

    I’m so glad i found you! I am pregnant with my first child and I’m so cheered to find your article and your site. I really believe that overprotection and over-sheltering do our kids a world of hurt in terms of resilience, self reliance, and other key developmental factors. And I’m so glad that you’ve coined a term for this philosophy, free range kids!

  96. Kate April 12, 2008 at 7:19 pm #

    I applaud you. It’s too bad the white-knuckled parents brigade will not be swayed by your article or your arguments. A married couple, friends of mine are on the brink of divorce because the wife is so obsessive compulsive about the “babies.” The father would like to take the 5- and 3-year-old boys on his sailing boat on the Chesapeake Bay. Mother will not hear of it, lifejackets, a willingness to wait for calm weather, and father’s sailing experience notwithstanding. The schools she wants the kids to be in have security routine equivalent to a minimum security prison. I wish I were joking.

    My mom put me on an airplane to DC by myself when I was barely 6 years old. Granted, it was a direct flight, and my aunt was there to meet me on the other end. But how many parents would even dream of doing such a thing these days?

  97. Chris April 12, 2008 at 7:33 pm #

    Wow. Just… wow. and yet, in the back of my mind, I’ve known that this shiznit was happening.

    I started thinking back to my childhood & events that occurred. I don’t quite remember if I walked myself to kindergarten (I don’t think so), but I DO recall that I was walking myself to school by the second grade (about age 6-7). CROSSING STREETS WITH TRAFFIC SIGNALS EVEN! (An early memory I actually still have is of the first time I had to cross a traffic-light controlled intersection alone & unassisted by the crossing guard. I remember I was a bit nervous, this wasn’t normal & nobody had ever told me what to do in that situation. I ended up just going for it… pressing the button for the signal, waiting until I could cross, then crossing without a problem.)

    I definitely had ALOT of independence, because I was an only child with just my mom. Growing up, I was exposed to alot of bad influences & alot of good influences. It came down to making decisions for myself. Some were good, some were stupid. But they were probably all necessary.

  98. Em April 12, 2008 at 8:01 pm #

    Me too. I used to live on 162nd Street and Riverside Drive and attend the now-defunct Walden School on W 88th and Central Park West. And while three of us would travel to the school together in the morning, I was often on the train by myself on the way back, starting in 3rd grade.

    Now, for some reason, the idea of letting my own 9 year old cross the street by himself terrifies me. I’ve really turned into a weeny, but the good thing is that I know it, and even recognized it before I heard about this blog.

  99. Unfocused Me April 12, 2008 at 8:22 pm #

    I grew up in Brooklyn in the 1970s and took the B67 bus to and from school by myself or with a classmate every day from around the age of 7. I can’t remember when I started taking the subway by myself — it was a little later, I think — but I don’t remember it as that big a deal, either. I think NYC is a lot safer now than it was then. Tell your boy to go for it.

  100. sugar April 12, 2008 at 8:23 pm #

    Free Range Kids is so needed! I am constantly shocked at how isolated our children are from the world and each other these days. Kids need to be allowed to explore.

    I posted a quick story about my own Free Range Kids on my blog at http://www.sugarsays.com

  101. AB3A April 12, 2008 at 8:35 pm #

    I posted a similar comment earlier on Boing-Boing, but I thought I’d share here too:

    As a father of three young children under the age of 10, let me say that most of the people commenting against “free-range kids” here have a very poor perspective of risk and reward.

    The current skew of this risk-reward calculation is because those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s came from larger families with four to six children. These days, a family with more than two children is considered large. More than four children is regarded as unusual. And yet I grew up in a family with five children and my wife grew up in a family of six.

    I notice many parents regarding their children as precious possessions instead of interesting personalities. It’s not that I care for my children any less than someone who has only one child. It’s that we have to think carefully about our time with each of them because my wife and I are simply outnumbered. I have to teach them survival skills because I can’t give each of them individual attention whenever they might want it.

    In other words, the parents of families with one or two children often lose the perspective that larger families have. And this leads to a lack of understanding of who their child really is, and what they are capable of.

  102. FadingIntoBlue April 12, 2008 at 9:47 pm #

    Loved your story on so many levels. Agree with AB3A on the point of large families. I grew up in a small rural area in New Zealand an hour by bus from the largest city, and was the oldest of four children. We were expected or allowed to do all sorts of things independently that were potentially a risk, from biking to chemistry. As the oldest, I was responsible (explicitly) for the safety of my siblings, accidents happened but kids responded to them sensibly.

    But the thing I want to acknowledge both my parents and the environment for at the time was their response to the death of my cousin. He was one year to the day younger than me, and drowned in a creek he had jumped into for a swim, age about 7-8. And in spite of that, there was not a crack down on unsupervised play, we were not smothered with cotton wool. We still went rock climbing along the sea coast for example.

    Not everything was so laissez faire however. My parents concerns about their social standing as parents meant that on one occasion when I or one of my siblings was seen urinating by the side of the road by a passer by, we were banned from playing in sight of the road for several years!

  103. chris April 12, 2008 at 10:59 pm #


    I wonder where you live. Upper West Side? How about living in the Bronx, or maybe Brownsville?

    You think you are some type of fucking iconoclast – but please keep in mind of where the hell you LIVE.

    Why don’t you go move to Hollis, and let your kid go FREE RANGE there?

    No wonder black people laugh at us.

  104. christine heying April 12, 2008 at 11:28 pm #

    As a high school teacher, I am so often frustrated by my babified students. Parents who are horrified by the idea of taking public transit, hand them keys as soon as possible. These students can’t do anything themselves. My high school students can barely do work that an elementary school student should be able to do; anything that requires initiative is too overwhelming for them. I teach them too late to do much good about this, but my own children will be raised to be independent thinkers if it kills me. I struggle against the paranoia society, family, and friends try to brainwash me with, but is a difficult task. Kudos to you, and I wish I taught your son. He’s going to be a great kid to teach to

  105. Jeff April 12, 2008 at 11:34 pm #

    I’m glad to see someone else who doesn’t share the panic that a lot of people have about “the times we live in.” People seem to think the world has never been more dangerous.

    There are dangers, but they are different dangers. Sure, kids get kidnapped, but they aren’t dropping dead from polio anymore.

    In any event, as a new parent, I want to make sure my boy (and any future siblings) get all the safe, unsupervized fun that they can handle. Some of my fondest memories from childhood didn’t even involve my parents. They happened when I was allowed to wander a bit.

    Oh, and PS: Even if I’m the only dad on the block who still takes his kids trick-or-treating, we’re going to dress up and get candy. I loved Halloween, and it’s awful that so many parents are too terrified of reality to let their kids celebrate the holiday outside of some shopping mall or church’s “Halloween alternative.”

  106. C.L. April 12, 2008 at 11:50 pm #

    As an adult who was raised by an anxious, overprotective mother, I applaud you for doing this. I am now, at 30, and with a lot of therapy, learning to be independent for the first time. You are saving your kid from the crushing insecurity that comes from total security, from the inability to make decisions that comes from never having to make one, and from the unnecessary fear that the world is a scary place that comes from being sheltered and constantly protected. He will grow up into the person who has adventures, instead of the person who stays at home wishing he could have adventures. Thank you for teaching your child independence, self-reliance and self-esteem.

  107. J. Random Lurker April 13, 2008 at 12:16 am #

    let’s say there’s about 100 kidnappings a year in the US that aren’t done by an estranged family member. (i think that number is way too high, but stay with me here)

    there’s 300 million people in the US. say 1 in 3 is a child.

    so the odds are 1 in a million that your precious snowflake will be abducted. sorry, but your kid really isn’t 1 in a million.

  108. Spike-X April 13, 2008 at 1:52 am #

    re: ‘Stranger Danger’ – my kids have been told they can talk to whomever they like, just don’t go off with anyone we don’t know.

  109. Lauri Bassett April 13, 2008 at 2:07 am #

    With all of the technology available these days to make things so easy; one risk is that it makes for unprepared citizens. Having a cell phone available every time your child leaves the house does not teach your child to be prepared or to have a plan. What we have observed is that its availability makes it easier to ask to change the plans….which makes the plans not really plans at all. We have had a “long leash” as it was pointed out to us since before our children were in school. When the weather cooperates, they walk or ride their bikes to/from school; sometimes accompanied by me; but more often not. It has taught them a lot and given them independence and confidence – the two things a child who you want to succeed on their own to have from an early age. Without these traits, I feel you’re bound to be supporting your kids and their cell phone bills far longer than you would if you provide them with these tools. My kids fix their bike chains when they fall off. They learn how to wait for each other and build the trust in each other that doesn’t happen when mom is present. They learn how to be aware of their surroundings instead of just figuring that mom is taking care of it, tell them to watch out, slow down, be careful. I prefer the words, “Pay Attention” – it puts the control and power back on their side. The goal is to teach them to be prepared, not scared.

  110. Collin April 13, 2008 at 3:16 am #

    This site is important. What you all write is important! Our children growing up in a real world with real expectations and actual “win/lose” experiences under their belts? That’s called parenting! Telling them “No” when required. Standing up for beliefs and explaining WHY, treating them as people with minds and intelligence…again, PRICELESS!

    I raise a daughter who is now a teenager. She knows more about sex than most adults. I’ve answered questions about drugs, alcohol, sex, life…all of it. I’ve been her friend, I’ve been her parent and I’ve been her nemesis. I have also empowered her to make her own decisions and be independent.

    Thank you for this site. I would love to write an article!


  111. A NON April 13, 2008 at 4:01 am #

    I was a latchkey kid. There are things about my upbringing I wish were different, but being a latchkey kid is not one.

    I grew up street smart as a result. That has served me well throughout my life.

    I particularly resent those who claim that “the world is different now”. Yes, it is, we are unlikely to be crippled by polio, we are not likely to be accused of witchcraft and tortured to death in front of a jeering crowd, etc. Things are far, far, far better than they ever were. Don’t confuse your own loss of naivite with a decline in moral values; the world didn’t become more dangerous, you just became less clueless.

    And maybe, with a less sheltered childhood, you wouldn’t be overwhelmed at 45 with problems solved by most 8 year olds in history.

  112. mylesfromnowhere April 13, 2008 at 4:02 am #

    If kids started walking to school in the suburbs its would reduce childhood obesity,and carbon omissions while easing trafic congestion.

  113. A NON April 13, 2008 at 4:20 am #

    Wow, just reading over these comments in depth, I’m more than a little scared for the future of America.

    The mentality that if anything that could be done to be safer, it must be done at all times, is doing untold harm to our country and costing us more than we can count. From nonsensical TSA restrictions against liquids to a “blame someone” mentality, it’s sending America straight from cultural adolescence into cultural senility.

    I deny we must be so feeble! I have no pity on you if you demand it.

  114. piratequeen April 13, 2008 at 4:23 am #

    Oh boy thank you so much! We live in Hong Kong and regularly allow our 8 and 10 year old daughters to ride the MTR alone, walk home from school alone. The first time was a little stressful but the knowledge that they can do it by themselves and are thrilled about the chance to do it is wonderful.

    I find it is harder for me to overcome my media fears then for my kids to do something like ride the subway in a foreign country. Even when we lived in the States it took me a little while to let them go to the local park alone–how sad for me!! But once I did it was great however, I then had to deal with Mom’s who don’t let their kids do that so when they came over to play I had to go to the park (which was right behind the house!) with them. Sigh.

    How do kids learn responsibility if we are standing over them all the time? How do they learn to pick themselves back up when they have fallen? They never learn to make a decision if they know we are there to check with. Even if they make a wrong, or not so right choice, it is theirs to make and learn from.

    I am all for free-range kids!

  115. Fran Taylor April 13, 2008 at 7:10 am #

    I am really surprised that nobody has mentioned Dr.Spock yet.

    My mother read his book and took it to heart. I grew up in rural New Hampshire and adventured all over town and did all kinds of fun stuff that my mother never knew or cared about. When I was old enough to ride a bike there was no stopping me. We would go to Boston on vacation and I’d hop on the subway alone and go to bookstores.

    Most of our society’s tendencies in the past few years really alarm me. Our country used to identify with slogans like “Liberty And Justice For All” and “Don’t Tread On Me”, but now we have subverted justice and installed surveillance everywhere. Everything that is not forbidden is mandatory. The only clear message from our leaders is: “We are watching you”.

    Dr. Spock’s book should be required reading for every parent.

  116. Lillian April 13, 2008 at 9:45 am #

    Along the same lines is the change in crossing guards in the past few years. When I was walking to school alone (more than half a mile, alone, starting at 6), crossing guards were there at the busy streets to make sure we didn’t wander out into traffic. Now they seem to think it’s their sacred duty to stop traffic whenever a child — no matter how old — approaches an intersection.

    Kids are not learning how to cross streets, because they never have to. And someday, when they get to a street without a guard, they’ll have no idea that you actually have to stop and look for traffic.

    Drives me mad.

  117. livejournallaughsatyou April 13, 2008 at 11:41 am #

    If you can’t trust your kid to be responsible enough not to lose a cell phone, how can you trust him on the subway?

  118. patsy April 13, 2008 at 12:40 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your story! I was once ticketed for leaving a 7 yr old in a car in a security patrolled parking lot for literally less than 2 minutes while I was in sight. The price to defend myself was over $2,000!

    When this same chld was just short of 12, I was fearful when he wanted to walk three blocks to the store by himself!. Why? Because I might be ticketed for leaving him unsupervised. At the same time, the city sees nothing wrong with requiring him to walk three blocks past the same store to catch the school bus.

    It’s amazing how we allow ourselves to stop doing things because something happened once, but don’t continue doing things when things happen all the time.

    The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!

    I applsud you!

  119. Robert April 13, 2008 at 2:50 pm #

    Kudos! Sensibility in an ever-increasing insane world. We scare each other to death with sensational stories of horror that the statistics just don’t support. “But it only takes one time”…they tell you! Nonsense. My ex and I have a disabled son who we are trying to teach as much independence to as possible. I’ve seen him over the years interact with hundreds of strangers and store personnel and not one time in all of those encounters has someone taken advantage of him. On the contrary, they’ve all been helpful and did so with a smile. He’s incredibly friendly, charming and fearless and people like him after talking to him for just a few minutes. As a parent, it’s heart warming. Any time I take him into a public space he sees someone he knows. The kid knows more people than I do. One day someone will take advantage of him in some way, but then I’ve had the same experience….most people I talk to have. You get swindled, you lose money, you get lost and someone gives you bogus directions, you get hurt in relationships….happens to all of us. Why should he be different because he’s got a disability? I congratulate you on raising your son to be independent. He’ll be better for it in the long run.

  120. kayke April 13, 2008 at 3:25 pm #

    How timely! I left my kids at home last night (aged 10 and 11, plus their almost-12-year-old friend) to pick up a friend at the airport. My mother lives with us, so there WAS a responsible adult there, but not looming over them as she goes to sleep early. The kids were out playing with the neighborhood kids and their dad until about 9pm, but were in contact with me through cell phone. I got home at 9:45 and guess what? They were still alive, the house was still standing, and I was really relieved. The only problem is that their dad is totally paranoid and so I know that I can’t tell him that I let them do this.
    Does anyone have any feedback about having free range kids when your parenting partner is not on the same wavelenghth? I would love to let my kids ride the bus to school (we live in Portland, OR, not exactly a scary place) from deep SE to NE, about a 45-minute ride, but he’s so concerned about what other parents think that he’s put the kibosh on it. He lets them walk about a mile to school from his house but somehow them on the bus (which drops them off a block from their friends house that they walk to school with) is bad, bad, bad. Jeesh.

  121. Ryan April 13, 2008 at 4:43 pm #

    It’s a safety-obsessed mentality: People believe that if doing something makes you even a tiny, tiny bit safer, you need to always do it, all the time, no matter what, and if doing something is just a tiny bit dangerous, you must never ever do it!

    It’s not just in child-raising. Look at all the ridiculous things we do in security when we travel on the airlines, all to mitigate a one in a hundred-million risk.

    We’re a nation of people who can, but refuse, to assess risk, raising a generation who won’t be able to.

  122. Ryan April 13, 2008 at 4:45 pm #

    It’s a safety-obsessed mentality: People believe that if doing something makes you even a tiny, tiny bit safer, you need to always do it, all the time, no matter what, and if doing something is just a tiny bit dangerous, you must never ever do it!

    It’s not just in child-raising. Look at all the ridiculous things we do in security when we travel on the airlines, all to mitigate a one in a hundred-million risk.

    We’re a nation of people who can, but refuse, to assess risk, raising a generation who won’t be able to.

  123. Ava Tari April 13, 2008 at 5:00 pm #

    As I parent, I finally understand why my parents flipped out if I went to a friend’s house after school and didn’t call them. But they still let me.

    I ranged far and wide as a little girl. I was attacked once, when I was 12 and rollerskating with a friend. It was invasive but not serious – a police car happened to drive by. But it was one man and two of us, and we were already swinging our skate-heavy feet to defend ouselves. Much worse was the time, 5 years later, when several young men climbed over our 8-foot fence to try to attack me in my own back yard.

    The moral? It’s not like you’re any safer buttoned up behind big walls. Teach your kids to build common sense, use it, and defend themselves as appropriate.

    The best protection you can give them is the ability to protect themselves.

  124. Alex April 13, 2008 at 5:30 pm #

    I just wanted to compliment you on this blog, and your courage in going so magnificently against the conventional wisdom. I have two kids, aged nine and thirteen, and I’m very carefully letting them off the leash. My daughter, at thirteen, is allowed to roam the entire city as long as she is home by dark. My son currently walks home from school and walks a couple blocks to go and visit his friends sometimes.

    My son also has played football for the last four years despite surgery to correct a coarctation, and I hope to see him grow up healthy and strong. The world desperately needs voices like yours!

  125. Alex April 13, 2008 at 6:06 pm #

    Oh Yeah, here’s a really cool talk called “5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do”


  126. Bishophicks April 13, 2008 at 6:50 pm #

    I live on a busy street with no sidewalks on our side and no real front yard. Getting our kids (7 and 4) to the neighbors’ houses to play required an adult. Our kids have been raised confined to the yard, but last year I decided they needed much more exposure to our 5 acre property and easier access to the kids in the next two houses. Yesterday morning I finished a simple path through the woods that connects our house with the next two. Within minutes there were three kids playing the woods and within half an hour there were five kids playing in our yard in the rain and having a ball. Exactly what I had hoped for. The kids returned to their homes via the path with no adult supervision required. I expect them to have about 10 times as much fun this spring and summer than they ever had playing in a fenced in 1/4 acre yard.

  127. J April 13, 2008 at 7:12 pm #

    the good old days of kids tv:

  128. Sandra April 13, 2008 at 8:25 pm #

    I can see my childrens school from my bedroom window and I let my nine year old walk his sister to school, she’s six . Some parents think that is crazy, my neighbor drives her children to school every morning. They need some independence if they are ever going to mature. I will continue to let my son walk her to school because he wants to be treated with some independence and I do believe they need it. I also let my son ride his bike around the block by himself . When I was growing up my mother would call us in for lunch and dinner. The rest of the day we were outside playing and riding bikes all over.

  129. Matty April 13, 2008 at 11:10 pm #

    I used to take the train from LI into the city every weekend with a friend of mine when I was 12. Then we’ walk downtown to the Village… in the 1980’s, just so we could get bootleg concerts on tape at this one store. We never had a problem and my mom totally trusted us. We live in a country controlled by a culture of fear, and its really too bad. There’s so much to see and experience.

  130. Mike April 14, 2008 at 12:13 am #

    My mom put me on a plane to Europe when I was 9. There were relatives on each end, and an attentive flight crew, but — [shiver] — smoking allowed in the cabin. I lived.

  131. E April 14, 2008 at 12:30 am #

    Brava to you. I’m third-generation native New Yorker, and my mom let me go everywhere without supervision. ALL the moms let their kids do this. At eight years old, my sister was in charge of shepherding five neighbor kids to school, a 1/2 mile walk away, with no adult supervision.

    Good parenting involves raising your children to be independent, self-supporting adults. Those lessons start in childhood.

    100 years ago, a nine-year-old would have very likely had a cash-paying job. Children are capable of a lot more self-control and rational thought than people give them credit for.

  132. Issa April 14, 2008 at 1:22 am #

    This story showed up on a debate forum I belong to, and when I first read the title, my reaction was to shrug and think “Big deal. Where’s the debate?” I hope more parents can be inspired by your attitude and let go of the kid-safety-panic that has claimed so many

  133. Lance April 14, 2008 at 1:53 am #

    Kudo’s m’dear and a tug of me forelock to ya. The insanity of over protective parenting is taking over every aspect of child rearing. While I live in a cougar infested chunk of land (the West Coast of Mainland british Columbia), I’ve trained my dogs to run in circles about the kids as they bike down to our closest town. I don’t worry a bit. The dogs are keen, the kids are strong (and carry knives) and the odds of them getting eaten or mauled is probably even greater then them being abducted in Vancouver (the closest big city).
    My 7 year old son and 13 year old stepdaughter haven’t run into either black bears (which I have and am not afraid of what so ever) or cougars since they take real precautions against such things with the dogs (Search and Rescue, Level 2 trained). These kids can really get around, and so few of their peers can, that it’s annoying them!
    There are many, many very real risks in life but traveling on a subway seems almost risk free to me. I grew up in a large town in Southern Ontario and was out and about on my own at the age of 7. The things I ran into in my life’s journey are nothing compared to a hungry cougar. And I refuse to give into fear.
    My kids also know how to ‘play with fire’, sharpen knives, and seem immune to indoor smoking. They take stuff apart, read ‘Make’ magazine and…gasp, even have a friend of mine who is teaching them real chemistry (like the kind that might blow up).
    I did all these things and I seem to be really typing this message in.
    I didn’t eat lead paint either, I guess I never found it tasty.

  134. Joe Haldeman April 14, 2008 at 2:32 am #

    I grew up in Anchorage in the 40’s, before Alaska was a state. There were more whorehouses than churches and men and women could carry guns if they wanted to.

    When I was in the first grade, my mother would give me a nickel and a dime and send me off to walk a mile in the darkness to go to a movie and buy a candy bar. Came home in the dark, too, in winter. Passing whorehouses and casinos, I guess.

    Nobody thought it was odd. Who would hurt a child?

    (To complete the thought, though, I’m sure children were sometimes hurt by evil or sick people, same as now. People weren’t obsessed by it. Is that good or bad? I suppose it depends on who you ask.)

  135. Lee April 14, 2008 at 6:20 am #

    To the hyper-vigilant parents, I have one question: are you raising a CHILD, or are you raising a person who will eventually be a functional ADULT?

    Kids don’t magically develop good judgment the moment they reach age 18. If they haven’t been given the chance to make mistakes and suffer the consequences, they’re going to get out into the world and be completely incapable of protecting themselves when you’re not around. Obviously, the level of risk of a mistake needs to match the child’s experience and development level — but treating a 10-year-old like a 4-year-old is every bit as bad as treating a 4-year-old like a 10-year-old.

    And one other thing that the hyper-protective parents need to remember: You won’t be around forever.

  136. otbkb April 14, 2008 at 9:21 am #

    Read my colum, You Gotta Be Skenazy at the Brooklyn Paper (www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/31/15/31_15_smartmom_outsmarts.html) or on my blog, /www.typepad.com/t/app/weblog/post?__mode=edit_entry&id=48330180&blog_id=108038

  137. otbkb April 14, 2008 at 9:28 am #

    Lenore, Please delete previous comment. I meant to say. Read my Smartmom column “You gotta be Skenazy” at the Brooklyn Paper http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/31/15/31_15_smartmom_outsmarts.html or on my blog: onlytheblogknowsbrooklyn.typepad.com/only_the_blog_knows_brook/2008/04/smartmom-youd-h.html

    Best, Louise Crawford

  138. john keese April 14, 2008 at 1:34 pm #

    I thought this goes along well with your recent articles and new blog.

    Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do

    Keep up the good work.

  139. joshuadiego April 14, 2008 at 1:43 pm #

    I would be scared to death to allow my sweet baby boy to travel alone, especially in NYC. Your alot braver than me.

  140. Joshua Diego April 14, 2008 at 1:46 pm #

    @john keese

    Also, thanks for the link. I enjoyed it!

  141. future mom April 14, 2008 at 2:10 pm #

    It’s VERY nice to know that there are still some sane people that are parents these days. My husband and I are not parents yet, but hopefully in the near future. I made the mistake recently of visiting a few “Trying to Conceive” message boards and forums. They are like an intellectual black whole, stupidity so dense it will suck your will to live! I was even starting to get the feeling we may be too intelligent or simply have too much common sense to be parents these days.

    Any chance anyone knows of some resources for sensible future parents to share experiences?

  142. Robin April 14, 2008 at 2:53 pm #

    I was so impressed with your article. If we don’t let our kids step out and prove to themselves and us that they can do so much, how will they be able to navigate the world as adults. My children are all 18-30 now, but all along I gave them opportunities to do things that others often critically judged me for. Now I have four responsible, capable young adults whom I don’t worry about everytime they try something new – -backpacking in Europe, moving across the country to go to college, joining the navy….The only thing I did differently was that they did get cell phones for their 13th birthdays; that little bit of a security blanket was more for mom than them, but it gave them even more opportunities.

  143. Linda April 14, 2008 at 3:03 pm #

    Twenty years ago, I was 8 years old and took the subway alone to and from school (I live in Toronto). While it was weird and overwhelming, and I’m not sure I’d want my own child to have that experience, it wasn’t unsafe. I knew not to talk to strangers, not to lick the subway tracks, etc. My sister, who is currently 17, is not allowed to take the bus after dark; she wasn’t even allowed on the transit alone until she was in her teens. While I walked home from swim practice (15 minute walk, and after 8pm) when I was 9, my mother is in fits if my sister must walk 5 minutes at dusk.

    There are examples of kids who are independent and safe, like me. There are examples like those listed above, where children get hurt because they had no supervision. Examples don’t make things true, one way or the other.

    The point is, yes, bad things can happen. But bad things will happen if your child is weak and ill-prepared to deal with the world on their own. People are so keen to shield their children, but somehow so lax at empowering and explaining (to) their kids. Education and communication are infinitely more valuable than swaddling them in cotton.

    Everyone wants their child to be safe. And it is the nature of people to see possible dangers in the present rather than examining possible dangers in the future. But not allowing your child to grow up strong, smart, and independent will cause a lot more harm overall than the various dangers the world presents.

  144. john erik April 14, 2008 at 3:04 pm #


  145. stacey kaser April 14, 2008 at 3:19 pm #

    Oh, thank you all for speaking out.

    The statistics speak for themselves: the biggest threat to this generation of North American kids isn’t being abducted — it’s obesity. So let them walk. And if you’re afraid… then walk with them.

  146. Richard April 14, 2008 at 3:43 pm #

    Many people seem to accept as a fact, the proposition that the United States is less safe for unaccompanied children now than it was 20, 30 or 50 years ago. Is that proposition based in fact? Or is it mostly the perceptions and attitudes that have changed?

    To some extent, unsafe streets ant other public places are a self-fulfilling phenomenon: public places that are full of people and under watchful eyes are safer than those that are mostly empty, but they can become empty and less safe if everyone is afraid to go there, or let their kids go there.

  147. Elizabeth April 14, 2008 at 5:40 pm #

    I love my parents dearly, but I wish they were more like you. I arrived at college with a terror of public transport, cars, and strangers, and though I have been very slowly building my courage and independence since then, I can only imagine the opportunities I missed my first year at school by never leaving campus due to irrational fears of what might happen to me if I tried to take a bus by myself.

  148. tm April 14, 2008 at 5:41 pm #

    Amen Stacey.

    We are keeping our kids indoors watching tv and playing video games, ensuring that many of them will die of coronary disease before age 50, all because we’re trying to prevent our children from falling victim to statistically rare events.

    Wo be unto moms who are rational and educated in art of mathematical probability. We’re the “bad moms” the PTA moms talk about.

    On the bright side, less of us living to age 50 will certainly put a dent in global warming!

  149. A 9 year old April 14, 2008 at 7:00 pm #

    Your child should have freedom, but not too much or he could get hurt!

  150. A 9 year old's mom April 14, 2008 at 7:15 pm #

    I was intrigued by my daughter’s response. This was her first time ever posting a public comment. (She has had a blog for about a year now viewable only to family and friends to whom we give the address.)

    I agree that we shouldn’t just have our children sitting inside all day watching TV & playing video games as is the cliche. However, I also believe that common sense should come in to the freedom that we give them.

    This world (and New York City in particular) IS different than it was in 1963. Far different. The people are different, the experiences are different, the landscape is different. Things have happened in our country (and in New York City specifically) that no one would have DREAMED could happen in 1963.

    All of that being said; my SIL lives in New York and has said that it is common for children to ride the subway to & from school in NYC. This shocked me, but I think probably plays a part in this mom letting her child on the subway alone. She was unsure as to what age was typical for kids to start off to school on the subway, but she has seen kids at least as young as 10/11.

    I remember running to the corner market for a slushie, going to Kmart for a Babysitter’s Club book, and going to a friend’s house in the next neighborhood. I would still allow my child many of these freedoms in the town we currently live in. There are some towns we’ve lived in where I would have restricted their freedom more without me present.

    I feel like our job IS to help our children learn to live without us. However, we also need to analyze what is a safe situation and decide whether they would be better to have parental supervision while ascerting their independence.


  151. Josh April 14, 2008 at 7:38 pm #

    As the parent of a 18mo. I agree there needs to be a loosening up, but I’m not sure I could have done what you did.

    You should catch up with Gever Tully who runs the Tinkering School. See his video on 5 Dangerous things you should let your kids do on TED (based on his book 50 Dangerous things….)
    Great stuff.

  152. Lisa L April 14, 2008 at 7:57 pm #

    Y’know New York is a dangerous place in some areas.

    However I think people have a misconception that everyone is out to get you. It’s only good to think that when your driving.

    When I was younger I was sent many times by my father to run errands, to cross a busy tourist road to go to a store, or when on vacation to do what I want and meet back at the hotel. I’m not talking 18+, I remember this starting at 6.

    My mom could not even keep me in the sights all the time. I ran off on my bike through the neighbor hood to meet kids I had never seen before.

    Now I’m actually a little reserved, but I can be outgoing once I loosen up.

    To the girl next store kept on a leash and forced into Catholic school, she is now a Goth Satan worshipper who likes to get high on weekends. The harder you pull them in the harder they rebel.

    If you can’t let them totally out of sight, try waiting outside a store and trusting them to buy the right milk. You’ll be surprised.

  153. Withheld April 15, 2008 at 1:02 pm #

    My daughter didn’t seem to care for her paternal grandpa so I didn’t make her spend time with him. She was 1, I was soon unpopular. I later discovered grandpa has a criminal conviction for child molestation.

    My thoughts: teach your children to be sensible and independent from an early age and then TRUST their sensibility and independence.

  154. Alistair April 15, 2008 at 5:52 pm #

    Great site! When I have kids (soon!) I am definitely of the opinon that kids have to a) make thier own mistakes (otherwise what do they learn from!) and b) expose them to as much grime as is possible without positively endangering them (kids eat dirt – get over it)

    until I was 10 I lived in the suburbs of Boston. My Dad was blind and a born and bred bostonian. as with many blind bostonians, the T (boston subway to non beantowners) was a total lifeline and most can navigate it as well as most sighted people can.

    from the age of 6 or so onwards he and I would go into town on regular ‘adventures’ usually to go to the MoS to see some new exhibit, or just to go n to soak up some atmosphere along the charles. maybe go to cambridge to some flea market or something.
    Since we did so much together and he knew the T so well, I’d look out for him and be co-navigator so that by the time I was allowed to do a solo (well I took a friend) when I was 9 or 10 I knew Boston like the back of my hand.

    the takeaway – I now have a sense of direction that rivals just about anyone i know (and i often can’t understand why others’ is so poor in comparision)

    in reference to your other article about eating snow, my parents definitely believed in not coddling and exposing to as much as possible – yes i had a lot of illness as a child, but as an adult I am rarely ill. in the last 5 years I have only needed 1 sick day from work and that was due to some iffy seafood at a non-seafood restaurant.

    I now live in England and the culture isn’t as SAFETY SAFETY obsessed, but it is getting that way (cleaning product advertisement which promise that your dearlings will never be exposed to a single germ!)
    Since chicken pox parties are still popular I’d say that most mothers here are still sensible about not under-exposing danger.
    and, yes, my kids will walk/cycle to school. (as I had to unless i was very late!) fuel just costs too much now

  155. Peter Keller April 15, 2008 at 8:57 pm #

    I live in Switzerland and I recently had quite an argument with my wife about which way our 5-year old daughter should walk to school – through a forest or along a rather busy neighborhood street – both ways being equally fast. I suggested the forest, considering the dangers of street traffic of being a lot higher to kids than the danger of some pedophile or other criminal abducting or abusing my child. But I lost to my wife who insisted my daughter take the street. I have to admit I gave in when she argued that kids do have to learn to walk along busy streets some day and that if they don’t learn it they are in danger indeed. Such reasonning finally made me give in, as it seemed reasonable to me.

  156. Peter Keller April 15, 2008 at 9:00 pm #

    The issue of the perceived risk and real risk is interesting indeed. Reading all the horror stories about pedophiles and all makes you think the world is full of them, and then you read the statistics proving it is extremely rare. So your gut feeling tells you that letting your kid take the NYC subway alone is just streight out irresponsible, but your brain sais it’s ok since the statistical risk is very low. This mother followed her brain and she was absolutely right. I also liked the answer to the question “how would you have felt if something had happened” and her answering that she doesn’t want her and her boy’s life to be ruled by exaggerated fear.

  157. Peter Keller April 15, 2008 at 9:05 pm #

    It wasn’t in Spain but in Portugal, the English parents of the girl (called Maddie) were on holidays there, and the girl still hasn’t been found, we thus don’t know what exactly happened to her and whether or not she is still alive. The Portugese police suspect the parents of having unvoluntarily killed their own child and having come up with the abduction story to cover it up.

  158. Chloe April 16, 2008 at 1:00 am #

    Wow, lots of responses…you really got a lot of people talking!

    When I was little my dad would never let me go alone beyond the culdesac until I was maybe 13. Anywhere I wanted to go by bike, my mom would have to walk or bike with me. To go to the store ACROSS THE STREET I had to have my mom or dad with me. I wasn’t allowed to camp in someone’s backyard for a Girl Scout event. There are many more instances that I was “cooped up”.

    But now, I do things all the time that they’re not aware of. I know how to take the train downtown. I know how to hail a cab. I’ve bough airline tickets and flown on my own. I’ve driven to Wyoming and back without my parents knowing. And you know what? I’M FINE. I know which places to avoid and to have a friend with me…….my mother doesn’t even know how to get to my college or to the city without getting lost (less than an hour away), yet she’s lived in this state longer than me and has been to the city much more than I have.

  159. Heidi April 16, 2008 at 2:19 am #

    I’ll tell you a story about my free range son… One summer day he was bored and looking for something to do. I suggested he hop on his bike and find an adventure. He was not impressed with my suggestion, but agreed to ride to the ice cream store for a snack. I urged him to think of something more far reaching, and ended up drawing him a map of how to get to the river by following city streets, a bike trail, and then a foot trail, a trip about 2 miles from home. He ended up taking my suggestion and inviting along a couple of friends. They found the river, got off their bikes, and messed around for a bit until becoming stuck in the mud. Two kids got out, but the third was hopelessly stuck and could not free himself from the mud. My son used his cell phone to call 911 and his friend was rescued by the fire department. I only found out about the whole thing when I was called by the paramedics to come sign a waiver and bring my dirty boy home. In the end, no one was hurt, there are no regrets, and my son has proven to himself that he can handle himself in a crisis. Way more valuable than being “safe,” i’d say.

  160. Allison April 16, 2008 at 2:52 am #

    “don’t talk to strangers”: this phrase made sense when you knew everyone in your neighborhood–when you knew the postman, and the cop, and the gentleman at the corner drug store, and all of the neighbors, and the little old lady who walked her dogs every day. No one was suggesting then that children stop talking to normal adults, or not ask them for help. In fact, we used to allow all such people to enforce the rules: our children were supposed to “mind” their elders, and to realize that if the Grocer said “stop it”, he was right.

    And when you know everyone, you know the weirdos too, and you know to stay away from them. You know and can sense the difference between the normal and the abnormal situation.

    Now, we don’t know anyone. We are afraid of everything, including being impolite–so we don’t teach our kids how to listen to their intuition. We tell our kids not to talk to strangers, but that means not talking to anyone in the neighborhood, or in a position of authority, or being able to judge who to ask for help. And all we’ve done is cripple them from the skills they’d need to assess risk.

  161. Christina April 16, 2008 at 5:24 am #

    This article is great! I completely agree with what you mention here. I grew up with a mother who would nearly have a heart attack if I was more that 10 feet away from her in Sears. When I was 14.
    We tell our kids not to talk to ‘strangers’. But what is a stranger? I would think that if we teach our kids that someone you don’t know is a stranger, it’s okay to ask a friendly-looking person on the street where the nearest subway station is. Is the kid really going to be abducted in the middle of a busy street? Probably not. And if so, I’ve been taught to yell and scream and try to get away. (I don’t have kids of my own.) (And of course people will say that it’s the nice looking ones that are the pedophiles. That’s unfortunate. But I strangers are also the nice policemen and ambulance workers who come when you call 911.)
    Nevertheless, I think it’s most important that our kids know what to do in these situations, how to get home safely, how to basically navigate through their hometown. Because then, it would be really unfortunate when the kid who can’t be 10 feet away from their mother gets abducted and has no idea what to do.

  162. Lorelai April 16, 2008 at 5:36 am #

    I grew up in a small suburban neighborhood. My best friend and neighbor would ride our bikes everywhere. When I was in 5th grade, while riding with my friend, I fell off my bike and broke my arm. We were on a quiet street in a small neighborhood, and this is the time before cell phones. As I was sitting on the curb bawling over my arm, my friend knocked on the door of a nearby house, asked to use the phone, that her friend was hurt, and called my mom. She was not abducted, abused, anything and neither was I. Naturally, I mom came nearly instatly, threw our bikes in the trunk of her minivan and drove to the hospital.

  163. nissa April 16, 2008 at 7:25 am #

    oh well, really i wonder, if you can’t trust your child with a mobile phone, how could you trust him on the subway alone?

    i’m sure you could have built his independence slowly, in other ways.

  164. dadshouse April 16, 2008 at 11:25 pm #

    I live in suburban Bay Area, and parents here still drive their kids to play dates. When my son turned 9 he would just bike or skateboard to his friends’ houses. (Biking and skateboarding around the neighborhood – what a concept!)

    Three years later, with their kids 12 and about to leave elementary school, some other parents are finally letting their kids do the same bike/skateboard thing. But only if they call upon arrival!

    To me that’s overkill. I tell my son to stay out of trouble and have fun. Call if he needs me. Don’t make me come find him by being late. Don’t hang out places alone. If they travel in packs, they’re totally fine.

    I can’t comment on NYC subways – I imagine I’d let my son ride w/o me if he rode with a friend. But I’m not a city boy.

  165. malubu lava April 17, 2008 at 4:14 am #

    i am 12 years old and i think that this is a great way to k33p ur kid in a fellgood way that makes them f33l confident. i like to take walks to parks

  166. malubu lava April 17, 2008 at 4:18 am #

    i think that it was a good way to let your child feel free and enjoy himself. i bet it made him feel more confident and hopefully you will let him do more stuff like that. i am 12 and i love roaming around, riding my bike through the city and looking for cool shops to spend money and enjoy myself. it is always fun when a child goes to local swim club and meets a couple of friends and has a ball. it is safe and gives thee parents a time to feel more relaxed.

  167. Larry Fox April 17, 2008 at 8:14 am #

    Thank you! A voice of sanity in the wilderness of stupid parenting. I’m 53, and my kids are grown. They are 29 and 27 and were probably the last generation of children who got to run and play without their parents hovering over them.

    My nieces are 9 and 7 and I would hate to grow up as sheltered as they are. It is NOT a dangerous world out there. What is dangerous is raising children who can not deal with the world. What will happen to these children when they are finally on their own?

  168. Clair April 18, 2008 at 2:06 am #

    Wow – fantastic. Although isn’t it ironic that you have been congratulated & derided for doing such a normal thing! (Congratulations to your son too!).
    I am a new mom of 2 boys, & my mom was the most over-protective person I knew (& know). When I was 12 – I walked home from school as I thought she had forgotten me, & was given the hiding of my life. Well, that taught me, it taught me to be scared of everything & everyone all the time.
    It is only now, over _18_ years later, that I am finally beginning to relax.
    My boys will grow up independent. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  169. wiremonkey April 18, 2008 at 3:08 am #

    Thanks very much for writing this column. This issue has been at the front of my mind for a while now and I think it might be related to the whole problem of overscheduling our children’s lives. When did we become such control freaks? How are our kids going to learn to be independent, critical thinkers if we don’t give them any time to figure things out for themselves? With all our worry about their future, could it be possible that we are doing more damage than good?
    I wrote this blog entry after reading your column:

    Thanks again- It is good to hear a voice speaking some sense!

  170. Claude Penny April 19, 2008 at 5:15 am #

    The Diesel Sweeties Comic strip (4/16/2008)
    References Free Range Kids–Says they are tastier.

    But doesn’t that mean they are healthier, too?

  171. john a April 19, 2008 at 8:33 am #

    my wife is 9 year old i know you people going to think it again the law but she still my wife that the way we going to live she said shev love to b my wife i do anything she we to do for i really lover her very much when she get a 3 or 4 more year we going to start a family if you people don’t like i don’t know

  172. katie April 19, 2008 at 9:35 pm #

    I lost my 37 yr old son to a Harley accident 3 yrs ago. During my grief I pondered did I give him too much independence growing up? I even had a tinge of guilt of letting him be a Free Range Kid. But when I heard this story about the boy riding the subway,it confirmed I was not alone even after so many years. I know I was a Great single parent and I am so happy that I let him live life without all the fear. And he had grown to be a Great provider, a great dad and a great person to all that knew him. Although he is gone His children share his spirit-It’s a beautiful thing!!!

  173. bosoxboy April 20, 2008 at 9:16 am #

    If only my parents thought like you do.

  174. Martin Olsen April 21, 2008 at 11:40 am #

    I was born in NYC, my parents are Argentine, so I spent my early years in Buenos Aires, Florida, Vicente Lopez to be more exact. At the time when I was in school there from Kindergarten to 2nd grade the streets of Buenos AIres were the safest they have ever been, thanks to a military Junta that took care of any and all “undesirables” in their eyes. I would go to the ice cream shop, the local deli, a kiosk to buy a paper, etc, starting at the age of 6, never a problem. At the age of 8 I came back to live in NYC due to the fact that my it was not a good scene anymore. We purchased a house between Stapleton and Rosebank in Staten Island, the safest borough at the time. Needless to say, all of our bicycles were stolen from our backyard, it was not a good idea to go walking anywhere after dark because something could happen to you. Fast forward to the year 1999 in the same neighborhood that I grew up in BsAs, mind you this is a wealthy neighborhood, the houses are huge, current model year BMWs in the driveway type of place – my aunt Alicia told me that her across the street neighbor was shot in the head for his son’s piece of shit Fiat 128 when he was washing it.. The city there has changed quite a bit. kidnappings are the norm, etc. I live in Staten Island and I have a 6 yr old and a 7 month old, and I do not feel the need to raise the level of adventure in my older kid just yet, maybe if I make a ton of money and move to Manhattan, where my kid can take the subway to Bloomingdale. For now I am bit of realist and have experienced things that I really don’t want my kid to be part of.

    Martin Olsen

  175. Rob April 21, 2008 at 9:44 pm #

    I was raised in L.A. (not the nice part).
    I rode my bike to school, to the store, and to friends houses.

    I am perfectly fine.
    I am independent.
    I am now a world traveler.
    I am a successful businessman.
    I am 24.

    My parents NEVER gave me a single rule. I was allowed freedom, independence AND responsibility. I thank them for it at least every other month.

  176. Momforch April 21, 2008 at 10:20 pm #

    Dear Lenore,

    Thank you for your article. I am going to copy it and send it to my children and friends who are overprotecting their children. I raised 5 children who traveled all over town alone and took planes alone. I am constantly being told that “it’s a different time” but I think that children who aren’t allowed a little freedom now won’t know what to do with it later. They will not have the experience making good decisions or bad decisions!

    Thank you again for bringing a little sanity into modern parenting.

  177. Sairen April 22, 2008 at 3:17 am #

    I pretty much grew up in the suburbs. I’m not a parent now, but I’m at the age where my husband and I are starting to think about what kind of parents we want to be.

    I don’t think there’s anything particularly distinctive about the suburbs that means a lost opportunity for free-ranging. Sure, my mother couldn’t have left me in a department store and let me ride public transit home…since there wasn’t any. But I do remember once I was being a bratty little teenager that she left me in a department store (after threatening to do so) – and I did have to walk home. Gasp and horror.

    I spent my childhood in mostly newer neighborhoods, and we kids on the street would spend almost every summer day outdoors playing on construction sites once the workers had gone home or on empty lots before that. We took bike rides all over our twisty little suburban streets. I used to get a huge kick of sketching a map of where I’ve been, and I’m convinced it helped my sense of direction today.

    Of course there were rules: Wear your helmet. Tell us where you’ll be and when you’ll be home. Scream your head off if anyone approaches you menacingly. Call us when you get there. That’s as it should be.

    So here’s to being a daring revolutionary and letting your kids “go out and play” – in small towns, suburbs, AND cities!

  178. Clancy McKenna April 22, 2008 at 4:18 am #

    I recently rented Sesame Street Old School and watched the first episode with my grandson. We loved it! But there were kids playing follow the leader, unsupervised through (gasp!) empty construction sites, huge drain pipes–exactly the cool kind of places I and my sibs played in as children. I thought, no wonder these dvds come with warning labels saying they are for nostalgic adults only, and not meant for today’s children.
    Rent them! Buy them! Play them for your kids!
    Thank goodness for the free range kids idea!

  179. fred April 22, 2008 at 5:02 am #

    thats pretty cool. sometimes my 13 yo daughter gets a ride home from school with some mexican guys from a couple blocks over. maybe their like colombian or something im not sure. so she says their ok, and i dont have to go pick her up myself and i save gas money. anyway last year i taught her where to kick a guy in the balls so im not too worried if they get rough with her. like you said kids got to learn to handle herself. you got that right.

  180. Angie April 22, 2008 at 10:52 am #

    I think you are a fantastic bafoon….

  181. deshaun April 22, 2008 at 11:52 am #

    What really impressed me is that you don’t just talk the talk, you walk the walk. To prove your idea was right, you used your own child in an experiment, to see if he would make it out in one piece from that dark abyss, and he did! I bet you were pretty worried there for awhile. I know I would have been scared if I was in your place, and I’ve been riding the subway for years, so I know what it’s like. You’ve got guts alright, no one can take that away from you. I dont think I could do it, knowing what could happen to a kid down there. But you did it, so now you can write articles and be on the radio, so it was worth it for you, no doubt about that.

  182. Gramomster April 22, 2008 at 12:17 pm #

    I was put on a plane at the age of 5 to visit relatives 2 states away. I rode my bike everywhere. I rollerskated to the library. I walked the mile to school with a neighbor boy from kindergarten on.
    I became a rather overprotective mother after several incidents, including the Kevin Collins thing mentioned in the first comment. He was 11, not 6, and it was 1982, not 1976. He rode the same bus as my younger brother, was the same age… my brother got home, Kevin didn’t. That same year my youngest brother was stranger abducted and missing for 10 hours. His best friend was non-custodial-parent abducted while in my mother’s care. BUT… I worked through it, and by 9 and 11, my kids were going to the park with friends, riding their bikes through the neighborhood, walking to the store, and generally being independent kids. No cell phones until about 2 years ago, at 14 and 16. I was going to grad school 85 miles away, their dad was 50 miles away. We needed communication. We also had 1 tv, not several, and no video games. They kept busy. They are independent, functioning young adults. My son, at 16, quit going to high school, spent hours at the library and the park, and is starting college in the fall. He and his group of friends go to the lake (Michigan) unsupervised all summer long, as well as spontaneous trips to Kalmazoo or Mt. Pleasant. No one has drowned. No one has been arrested. My daughter goes all over with her boyfriend and friends, including concerts in Chicago and Indiana. They have street smarts, and can socialize with people of all ages, races and socioeconomic levels.
    Absolutely incomparable.

    Also, once, in the 6th grade, some old creeper tried to get me into his car. Because my grandmother had talked to me about old creepers (she was molested at 9 while running milk into town for her farming parents… in 1916!!!) I was able to figure out how to evade him, and made it safely to school. There’ve always been and will always be old creepers. Learn about them while you have adults around to guide, or learn about them when you’re on your own… you’re going to learn eventually.

  183. Mario Zambrano April 22, 2008 at 1:20 pm #

    I’ve been American Citizen now for about 20 years, I’m 37 years old. This topic touched a very important area of my life, and you do not know how glad I am that you brought this issue into the public arena.

    I have a 4 year old and a 7 month old. Two Boys!

    I went to school by myself starting in second grade, by 6th grade I used to take 4 buses to get to school. And believe it or not, sometimes I used to spend my bus money, and had to walk almost 15 miles to get home. Most of the time I did this with friends, so it was a great time!

    The one thing that struck me the most about your article is how it says that your child felt(Confident), I’m so glad to see that there are still parents that pay attention to how their kids feel, and respect them enough to allow them this very important part of development.

    I made up my mind when I got married that I would allow my child to be independent at a very early age, regardless of the consequences. Of course, it terrifies me that something could happen to them, but I’m trusting in GOD for their protection, and I will make sure they learn everything they need to know about how to protect themselves. (Plus, I think that hidden GPS system in their clothes will help)

    I just want to say, that I remember a time when I was 7 years old, and my mother placed me in a bus to go see my grandparents in the inside of the country. It was a whole day’s trip. I can’t explain in words, what that experience did for me, I wasn’t scare, at least I don’t remember feeling scared, all I remember is how my mother trusted me, and how much I felt like an adult. It was the most amazing time in my life.

    Of course, I have to say. It wasn’t always great things. I remember at the age of 10 getting mugged by some adult idiot who took the little money I had to buy my shoes. But even now, I think that taught me more, than I’d ever know.

    Mario Z.

  184. deshaun April 23, 2008 at 2:31 am #

    I have been both victim of and witness to violence in the nyc subway.

    It is swift, it is shockingly brutal, and it cannot be undone.

    It is neither self-empowering nor life-affirming.

    When this happens to you, if you are lucky, you
    become hauntingly aware of how evil man can be.

    You are forever changed.

    It is terrifying at best, and irreparable at worst.

    I hope you will take a few days and consider
    this, before you send your 9 year old son alone
    into the subway

    Believe me, he has much more to lose than to gain.

  185. FlaMom April 23, 2008 at 3:36 am #

    I’m no longer amazed at how judgemental we all are about the actions of others given the little facts that we are presented with. It’s a personal choice how we raise our children. I’m not worried about child molesters, I’m not afraid to let my kid go out on their own as they have earned that responsibility and not a mom who ask for a new law to be issued in the event that something did happen. Of course when I slip and fall in the grocery store I figure it’s my fat butt that needs to be more careful too!

  186. PNT April 23, 2008 at 4:21 am #

    Thank goodness for your article. If all the stuff parents worry about now mattered no one would be alive over 20 years of age. My son rides in the back of our station wagon – because it is fun. He doesn’t wear a bike helmet unless he wants to. I live in a very affluent suburb just so that he can ride his bike everywhere. We don’t need to drive at all and can take public transportation to the city. Parents today are all insane from what I can tell and have no memory at all of being young themselves. It is all lemming like behavior with no rational thought behind anything they do. Bad things happen – there is nothing you can do about it. And frankly most bad things happen by relatives or people you know. The thing I find so funny about the “safety” parents is that I don’t think any one of them has stopped attending Catholic church and talk about the odds of endagering your child there. As I said no logic behind anything they do.

  187. BFFMOM April 23, 2008 at 6:56 am #

    This strikes so many chords with me, from a guided free-range child of the 60’s/70’s to a young widowed mom of two in the 90’s and now as an educator with 31 years of experience. As kids my parents taught my sister and me all the rules of being outside: don’t torment bees, walk on the side of the road facing traffic, know & be conscious of your surroundings, etc. We walked 7 blocks to the swimming pool we belonged to for swim team each summer morning, spent the rest of the day there, walked home and then after dinner rode our bikes and played in the neighborhood until bathtime. If it rained we found ways to entertain ourselves: played card games, listened to the radio, read books or played board games. On Saturdays we rode the bus downtown, had lunch, went to the record store and bought the latest 45. We survived bike wrecks, falls from trees & walls we climbed, childhood bickering & bullies. Now it seems too many kids are in front of the computer screens or television during the bulk of their free time, either exposed to for worse violence than what they would experience in real life or “chatting” with predators posing as peers. They are often overweight and have very few interpersonal skills. If they play sports, parents live vicariously through them, expecting their child to be the best and never sit on the sidelines, not to mention that winning is everything. CUT THE TIES. If your child can’t walk to school, let them ride the bus. Quit chauffeuring them from door to door as if the fresh air will hurt them. Allow them to problem solve and work out their own differences with their friends. Offer advice, but don’t solve everything for them. Make them do their own school work/projects and suffer the consequences of poor planning, bad research or waiting until the last minute. Let them be responsible for choosing their clothes, gathering their school supplies, cleaning their room/bathroom and caring for their pet. If they forget something for school, so be it. Don’t go out and buy the latest video game or new cell phone just because everyone else has it — that’s what they are telling their parents too. Give them jobs around the house and hold them accountable. Let them learn lessons through a few hard knocks. After being called the meanest mom on our block by my offspring (who BTW were also guided free-rangers), those same 20-something children have expressed appreciation for their upbringing. They are independent, level-headed, conscientious,caring and savvy. They are able to make it on their own in the real world and have made their momma prouder than they can ever know. You go, Lenore!

  188. David April 23, 2008 at 10:59 pm #

    I really am split on this but, I have to ask you – why were you more concerned with losing your cell phone than your child?

  189. Bronwyn April 24, 2008 at 1:14 am #

    I’m not a parent, but my boyfriend and I are planning to start a family in a few years. This brings up a new kettle of fish.

    I was a free range kid. I’m amazed at the range of things my boyfriend was never allowed to do. Future Ma-in-law is very much a helicopter and I see evidence of it; in what he never did, of what he’s scared of now. I want more than just safety for my kids

  190. Lara April 24, 2008 at 2:04 am #

    My daughter is 9 as well and I am always aware that it is my responsibility to prepare her to be independent at some point. To varying degrees I allow her to experience this, but what works for our family might not work for another. For example, I am stunned that my neighbors let their 5 year olds walk from the bus stop home. No adult comes to pick them up and were a pedophile to watch this for a few days these children could easily become targets. There are woods all around us. On the other hand, I had a neighbor admonish me when my daughter was a baby because I was outside w/her monitor while she was sleeping upstairs, and I could hear her! Now my daughter gets a great thrill walking “by herself” around the Whole Foods cheese case. Of course, I can see her the entire time but her face is beaming because she feels so grown-up doing this. I remember a co-worker telling me she hadn’t taught her daughter how to handle a stranger approaching her since she didn’t anticipate that her daughter would ever be without her! She was serious! Allowing kids to experience greater independence requires some fine-tuning and keen awareness of their maturity and personal/social skills — and not the least of which because they could run into an adult who, fearing they are alone and abandoned, calls the police to report a negligent parent.

  191. bitterchild April 25, 2008 at 4:04 am #

    If I were your kid, I’d beat you while you slept. Whore.

  192. Jessica from Omaha April 25, 2008 at 4:46 am #

    You know, everyone is so worried about these child molesters lurking in the supermarket and at the park, etc. etc. etc., but most children that are sexually abused are abused by a family member. I was riding public transportation on my own with a baby sibling in tow when I was 9. My sense of direction is great, and I know my hometown well. I’d been riding public transportation my whole life since my family only had 1 car. My father took the car to work, my mother took us wherever we needed to go by bus. When they got divorced, my dad got the house, and my mother got us and the car, so to see my dad we had to take a bus. He hasn’t had a car in about 16 years, now. Did I ever get molested? Yes. Was it on the bus? No, it was my babysitter’s husband and my STEPFATHER. I still ride public transportation and I think it’s great that kids do it all the time. Mine will, with me and then alone. I’m not nearly as scared of public transportation as I am of leaving my kids with a babysitter. Wish me luck TTC this year as a SAHmilitaryM.

  193. Anonymous April 25, 2008 at 4:50 am #

    I’m only 13 but my opinion should still count…I don’t think what you did was wrong at all. Actually I think it was right. Even though it has caused all this “madness,” it has showed that parents are in fact over protective. Yes, your child could have been abducted but he wasn’t. The world we live in may be cruel but the more independence kids have today and are let out by themselves the more confidence they gain. I think that what you did was just fine. And by the way…why is it some random person’s business to report you for letting your child out in the public alone?

  194. Betty April 25, 2008 at 4:52 am #

    I am not going to accuse any of you people of being bad parents, I don’t know you or the circumstances of your lifes. But I do take issue with the statement that was posted here that this isn’t a dangerous world we live in, where is your heads, up your patootie or underground. This is a dangerous world for children every day you read of a child being taken from his own neighborhood. I kept my kids close to me and the youngest is 35 and we lived in a community of maybe 2000, and not one of them is marked or suffering from some ailment because I was a protective mother, and yes I do believe the world is different and more dangerous then when I raised them just like it was different when I was a child. So go ahead and tell me how horrible I must have been to them.

  195. Jamaica April 25, 2008 at 5:06 am #

    I was very pleased when I read this article. I have two young children and am a single mom. My son has been a latchkey kid now for two years. He is currently in 3rd grade. My daughter is in kindergarten and I am completely comfortable with him being responsible for her when I am not home. My children are very smart, know right from wrong and I trust them. I think in our society parents don’t enlist enough trust in our kids and society also casts a horrible blame on parents who leave children home alone or bike to school. We live in a world of the “what ifs” and it doesn’t teach our children to become independent. My brother and I took care of ourselves for a couple hours a day after school and I believe it taught us how to be responsible. Our world is no more dangerous now than it was. I want my children to feel as though they can go out on their own, that they can be independent and have some choice in the things they do. We need to give our kids more responsibility.

  196. E April 25, 2008 at 5:10 am #

    What you did was very courageous and brave. I am sure that you were a little concerned about your kid (I would’ve been as I have to little ones) which shows that you are human and that you love your son but what an excellent lesson for him.

    I grew up in a third world country, where supposedly everything is more dangerous than in America for example, but over there, kids which their schools don’t have bus service, they will hop in a city bus and go to and from school every day. I never had a friend that was harmed or kidnapped or anything alike.

    In Europe it is the same thing. Kids go to school by themselves either via bus or train.

    I believe that doing this with your kid, it will show him that you trust him and his decisions and make him mature and learn to make his own decisions.

    One thing that my parents always reminded me when taking public transportation by myself was to always be smart on the places and time of the day to do this type of things. I recommend that you do the same with yours, explain to him all the risks associated with traveling alone, establish places and times to do this and always have him tell you if there was anything that made him feel comfortable.

    Best of luck!

  197. Jennifer April 25, 2008 at 5:13 am #

    Bravo! I’m in my 30s and grew up a “latch key kid” in the 70’s and 80’s. Amazingly enough I’m not on crack, have a stable job and think overall I’m a decent human being that contributes to society. I remember back in the day, single mother’s like mine were scolded for their “latch key” kids and warned how we’d all turn out horribly screwed up.

    I think a big reason of why I’m a responsible adult is because my mother taught me good values and good decision making skills and then let ME make decisions.

    For some time now I have really been concerned about how much kids today are put into a bubble. They are not learning responsible life skills because they are never allowed to make choices.

    On a side note, in college I couldn’t help but notice that it was the classmates who came from very restrictive, controlling households who seemed to go the most buck wild as soon as they were on their own and would get into serious trouble.

    I am giving you a thorough round of applause and I think this is a fabulous website idea!

  198. Headless Unicorn Guy April 25, 2008 at 5:13 am #

    What is dangerous is raising children who can not deal with the world. What will happen to these children when they are finally on their own?

    They will grovel before any thug who can make them afraid.

    Or flock to a Fuehrer who promises to protect them.

    That is, if they don’t die of anaphylactic shock because somebody 100 meters upwind opened up a can of peanuts. Or OD at a “pharm party”.

  199. Diana April 25, 2008 at 5:15 am #

    I grew up taking the public transportation system at an early age. My parents taught me not to talk to strangers or follow strangers. My parents taught me independence and responsibility. It is ridiculous for people to think that a nine-year old needs constant surveillance.

    As a mother of two, I want to raise them to have confidence, independence and responsibility. What Lenore did is normal, and I commend her for having trust in her son and teaching him to be self-sufficient and responsible.

  200. Anonymous April 25, 2008 at 5:25 am #

    I have to say that I am an overprotective mother and have tried to loosen up a bit lately. I do not want my children to grow up in fear of everything. I am taking baby steps…home school mom just allowing my children , one being a teen, to go to the park across the street unsupervised.. but I am getting there.
    The first thing I did was disconnect cable. Not because of what the kids were watching but because of what I was watching. Just like the internet..if something catches my eye, I read it but if it is about another child abduction or another school shooting, I do not read it. I am trying to let go of those fears that the media has generated.
    My children understand the need of the “buddy system” but I also teach them to be aware of their surroundings and how to handle situations on their own. My kids now that there are a lot of bad people out there but I counter that with telling them that there are a lot of good people out there too. I think that if more parents prepared their children without scaring them, that they would do just fine on their own. It is my job to prepare them for adulthood and the “real world”. Like I said, I am taking baby steps, but I am taking them.

  201. Jeff Wicker April 25, 2008 at 5:26 am #

    I was just having this conversation with a friend on how when I was 7, that’s right 7, I walked to school, rode my bike all over my hometown and generally ran wild without ever experiencing any problems from strangers. My son is so sheltered. I want him to ride the subway, get on his bike and make me worry! I am 49 and was so much more streetwise at 9 then he is at 10. Lots of his friends are the sameway. I worry more about him not having the skill set to handle situations in public in the future. Maybe because we didn’t have a car and my parents both took public transportation that I learned at early age to hanlde all manner of interaction. Yes don’t talk to strangers, but not every stranger is out to kid nap you. More often then not, we should fear danger closer to home then out in the world of strangers riding the train!!

  202. ChristieB in KC April 25, 2008 at 5:26 am #

    My free range kid (now 21 and very much alive) was allowed quite a bit of freedom as she was growing up in a very safe suburb of Kansas City. (Parts of KC are extremely rough, though.) I cringed, I sat and rocked myself to calm down sometimes, she crawled out the dormer window and went down a tree to escape her room as a teenager (found out later, of course), but she survived. At 15 I let her go to Coachella with 7 other friends, at 17 she went to Europe with a supervised group from school, and at 18 she went to India all by herself to volunteer at an orphanage. I sent her to India as an adventurous girl and she came back a woman. Of course, I aged ten years that summer! But her courage continued to amaze me as she then went off to NYC for college. People asked me if I worried and I said, “After India, no way! NYC is 100 times safer than where she was.” She now lives in NYC and survives on her own, never asking for money, but knowing there IS a support system should she need it. Her pride and courage keep her going, and I know deep down that if she had stayed in KC and gone to KU down the road she be just another spoiled suburban brat. She’s seen true suffering, experienced the thrill of making it on her own and without being given some freedom as a kid she would have never made it so far. I say she has the heart of a lion, and THAT will serve her best for the rest of her life.

  203. Dom April 25, 2008 at 5:30 am #

    I just recently read you story and I have to say “Kudos to you”! I’m not even a parent but I see nothing wrong with what you did. Not only did your son learn how to be independent but you showed him that you trusted him.

    I have to give a big “DUH” slap in the face to those who are toting that it’s not safe anymore. Nowhere is safe, but I beleive that as long as children are educated and know what to be careful for there is not problem.

    I’m from Las Vegas, NV and I see thousands of students your son’s age and younger walking miles to get home and taking our bus system…which isn’t always the safest route. Even where I live it’s not the safest area, but where is?

    I agree that keeping kids under lock and key and always monitoring them is not only tweaching them to be reliant on parents for the rest of their lves but also inhibits their growth and independence.

    So once again…..awesome job and do not let these people who lash out in fear of their own children wanting independence, stop you from raising your child the way you see fit.

  204. Deb April 25, 2008 at 5:35 am #

    The world IS a more dangerous place than when I was a child, like it or not.
    I am really sorry that no one here agrees that as such parents should be more cautious with the most precious and irreplacable things in our lives, our children.
    Staying with our children, while teaching them about the realities of an increasingly dangerous world (vesus telling them and then pushing them out into it alone), does NOT make me a poor parent. It is my job to provide that extra safety net, until they are grown and the most capable for themselves.
    I also had a 14 yr old brother disappear in 1983 from a rural midwest area, on the SAME EXACT road (different perpertrator) as Ben Owensby did in 2007!
    I know it happens!
    We were LUCKY both boys made it home alive, unlike so many who are found dead, or are still missing decades later. This is not ‘fear-mongering’ it’s REALITY. The world changes and we need to adjust accordingly, like it or not.
    Let your kid ride the subway alone of you want, but be thankful that I am still there (sitting next to my own child) and will call 911 when I see someone trying to kidnap/rape/rob/molest/murder yours.

  205. Don April 25, 2008 at 5:44 am #

    don’t see what the big deal is – I used to ride the bus and subway system when I was a kid in Brooklyn in the 60’s and 70’s……all by myself!…wow, imagine that – an hour or more each way….going to the orthodontist, or to school in Bay Ridge…..even GASP! at the same age as this young man….GOOD FOR HIM AND GOOD FOR YOU!

    We have enough of a nanny-state in our gov’t now…we sure don’t need to smother our kids like that….one of the edges I had from growing up like that was the “Street Smarts” I acquired that has helped me my entire life….

  206. scott April 25, 2008 at 5:50 am #

    Good for you! I’m happy to see so many people applauding your efforts here. You obviously taught your son how to make it home and do it safely. I know some over-protected 15 year olds who wouldn’t even be able to get back to their own house from Bloomies. And how is that any safer, say they do get kidnapped one day (God forbid). Safe, responsible independence is a good thing. Thanks for sharing your story.

  207. Robin April 25, 2008 at 6:20 am #

    I am a single mother of two and I can tell you that too much control over your children will cripple them! I was a freaked out over protective mother to my first son. He is now 18 and has no idea how to function in the real world and I blame my fears and my belief that I could control the world around him and I for that. My second and youngest son is 3 and I am far more lenient and laid back in my thinking. If you teach your children how to be safe and cautious (not to the point of scared to death) then we should be able to let them experience life and become self reliant. I say good for you and him! You have obviously given him the tools that he needs and ability to use them.

  208. Lori April 25, 2008 at 6:20 am #

    Deb – the world is NOT a more dangerous place. Thanks to various media outlets (TV news, radio, Internet, etc) we simply here about every single incident, with every single solitary detail, within minutes of occurence. Mass media is guilty of peddling fear – because fear sells. You think anyone’s going to watch news about allllllll of the kids who walk home from school safely every day? Hell no! We want the salacious details of the tragedy du jour, right now, right down to the color of someone’s underwear.

    Safety involves education, common sense, and self-confidence. Independence is key to that. I don’t want my daughter growing up to be a woman who depends on a man to define her self-worth or safety because she’s been taught that the world is a scary and fearful place where she is incapable of surviving on her own. I will instill in her the confidence and life-skills to make smart choices, take calculated chances, live a life full of adventure and not equate overprotection to safety. My child will not grow up spoiled, petulant and ill-equipped to be an adult.

    We are all lucky to be alive – there are perils everywhere, in every day life. More children die in car crashes than are abducted each year – have you stopped taking your children in the car with you??

    I feel sorry for your children, I really do.

  209. art April 25, 2008 at 6:21 am #

    Not only did I take the bus when I was 9 but I many times took my younger brother who was four. He got on free because he was under six. We used to go the library about five miles away, a block away from Hollywood and Vine. I even taught my brother how to write his name so he could get a library card. We bought ice cream cones at the drug store on the corner before we came home. We had to walk four blocks from the bus stop to our house. When I was eight a friend and I cut school and hitched rides to that same library. I remember riding in a truck that delivered diapers, so this was a long time ago.

  210. Tina April 25, 2008 at 6:27 am #

    I am so glad to see other parents giving their children the freedom to learn how to take care of themselves. I have noticed such a drastic change in what children are able to do on their own. I am 33 and was a latch key kid. I looked after my brother after school and cooked all the meals from the time I was 11 years old. My mother worked two jobs and didn’t have the time needed to be there for us.
    I raise my children pretty much the same way. I tell them how to cope with problems on the streets. I tell them facts about what can happen if they are not smart.
    I am now a single mom, who leaves for work well before my children wake up, and don’t get home until after 7Pm at night. They cook their own meals, and get themselves off to school. They are healthy and happy. They also have a lot of confidence. But a lot of my 16 yr old sons friends can’t even fry eggs let alone managing to get them selves off to school.
    When my kids go off to college, I want to be sure they know how to cook, do laundry, and fend for themselves. So many children are coddled to the point of not knowing how to make a simple decision on their own. It’s so sad and scary to think that these children are our future and at the age of sixteen can’t fry eggs!

  211. Lori April 25, 2008 at 6:33 am #

    I will clarify a statement I made above. More children are killed in car crashes each year than are victims of non-family, stereotypical kidnapping scenarios (where the perpetrator is someone the child does not know or only very slightly knows, who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.) Family abduction is, of course, much more common.

  212. Nicole April 25, 2008 at 6:42 am #

    I just read about you letting your son ride the sybway by himself and I say bravo!!! I’m 30 years old, my mom was VERY overprotective because she was a stay at home mom and had nothing better to do but worry, worry, worry. My grade school was a 1/2 mile away, but I was NEVER allowed to walk there or back. My high school was a city bus ride away from my house but I was NEVER allowed to ride it. And I was NOT allowed to drive. I asked her if it was because she didn’t trust me and she said it was because she said she didn’t trust the OTHER drivers. I had a friend who lived ACROSS THE STREET and my mom would watch me walk there from our driveway!!! I resented this throughout my childhood and became so depressed because of it. I would always be late to high school so nobody would see me, a senior, being dropped off by my mommy. Thoughts of suicide and hopelessness were normal and I felt so isolated from everyone else. I even started to become super worried myself and have irrational fears about silly things. I knew this was not normal and when I went off to college, I went on a mission to become super self-sufficient and I haven;t looked back.

    Sure there are lots of scary things out there, but a parent can’t be there at every moment of their kids’ lives–and SHOULDN’T be– and they should have confidence that their child has the skills and resources to deal with whatever comes there way.

  213. Bren April 25, 2008 at 6:50 am #

    She’s an idiot and we’d all be watching her cry and beg for her son’s safe return on the Today show if this exercise in independance had gone south. Today she’s a hero in most of you other moronic parents eyes because he did manage to make it home. She risked her son’s safety by putting him in that situation, plan and simple. I love my children and want them to be happy, contented, contributing, independant adults but I would never put them in a situation where they could get abducted or worse! That doesn’t make me a “helicopter parent”…it’s called responsible parenting with boundaries. We have to put our children on the subway alone in the biggest armpit in the nation in order to teach them how to take care or themselves??? Help!

  214. Sidnie April 25, 2008 at 6:51 am #

    You go girl! That is how my children and I were brought up in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn. My children grew up in the days of the late 80’s and early 90’s to boot and they are professional members of society.

  215. Danielle April 25, 2008 at 6:53 am #

    I live in Boise Idaho, And for all you real big city folks, parents aren’t letting their kids out of their sight here, either. I rarely see kids on bikes without their trailing parents or kids making an errand to the corner store or playing outside in the front yards. It is so sad. When I decided to let my oldest son walk with his brother (8 & 6) two blocks away to grade school to play, I knew my neighbors thought it was edgy. But, when I was girl growing up and running all over the countryside, there were countless times I could have been seriously hurt or – died and that was attributed to the wilderness and not humans. But, I learned enough about my environment to respect it and to make it respect me. I will allow my children “longer tether” as they mature and grow older. If my children grow up believing a false notion that every adult out there wants to kill them or rape them, how will they see their own worth or value in this world? I want children who can navigate the real deception in this world rather than being capitalized upon by video games, junk food and coercive politics. That’s what parents need to worry about.

  216. Kristan April 25, 2008 at 7:00 am #

    I’ve roamed the clubs of Belfast and walked along the streets of London at all hours of the day and night – alone. I’m a small town, American, 4′ 9″, 110lb female. And I was able to comfortably travel those sidewalks in the dead of night because I didn’t have a cell phone growing up with my mother calling me every 5 minutes. I had one rule and one rule only – Come home when the street lights come on. I read the news daily. I know what’s lurking around every corner. I live in the state that is number one in rape victims per capita, we’re number one in alcoholism, we’re number one in domestic violence. But I’m not cowering in the corner with a hard hat. I do believe that the world is a more dangerous place but you can’t think for your children their entire lives. All you can do is give them the tools you think they’ll need to survive. I know not to get into cars with strangers. I know to trust my gut more than my head and heart. I know how to think about the consequences of the choices I make. Do your children?

  217. Andy April 25, 2008 at 7:08 am #

    I was born in Chicago in 1931.
    My parents were separated in 1934
    When I was in first grade my mother and I lived on a third floor Lincoln Park West apartment across the street from Lincoln Park.. (today it is a quite exclusive address, but in 1936 the rent was about thirty dollars a month). I walked to and from school alone almost every day. I played on the shore of the lagoon in Lincoln Park and quite often visited the zoo alone.

    At lunch-time I came home, opened the door with my own key, opened a can of soup and heated it on a gas range. Many times I was left alone in the late evening when my mother was not at home.

    At the age of nine we moved near Riverview. Many evenings I would be at the park until nine PM, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone.

    Was my mother worried?
    Yes, she was, but she prepared me for what could harm me. She warned me to always be careful of strange men. She said there were many perverts in the world. She told me never to accept anything or go with a stranger. She also told me never to go into a public washroom alone.

    By today’s standards I suppose she would be accused of child neglect.

    Was the world a safer place then, than now?
    Hell, no.
    Just to recall a few:
    In 1932 Lindbergh’s baby was kidnapped and murdered, in 1947 seventeen year old Bill Heirens kidnapped and horribly murdered seven year old Suzanne Degnan. He is still in prison having served over sixty years.
    A friend of mine in fourth grade fell off the pier at North Avenue and drowned.
    Kids were being killed and abused then, and considering there were a lot less people and perpetrators were convicted and punished more than today. it’s difficult to determine whether or not we lived in a safer world, but a safe world is an illusion.

    Did it harm me?

    Not at all. I married ( and still have the same mate for over fifty years) we raised five children and have ten grand children.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my childhood and would not exchange it for any these kids have today.

    Did I allow my children the same liberties I had?

    No, not quite as much as I had, but they were allowed a good degree of freedom. Much more than is acceptable today. Yes, did worry about them when they were out of sight. That is natural but it is something not to become paranoid about.

  218. Anita April 25, 2008 at 7:15 am #

    Thank you for speaking out, today’s teenagers seem to have no skills or common sense. Looking back, I don’t know how any of my family ever lived past 5 or 6. If this trend of over protectiveness continues, then there will be no civil liberties in just a few short years, so many have been lost in my lifetime. Common sense negates the need for big brother (or big parenting). When you can make decisions about your welfare you tend to keep an eye on others actions which when practiced in society as a whole creates safety. Someone always knows what happened or at least part of what happened.

  219. Lori April 25, 2008 at 7:31 am #

    Anita – you make such a good point. Common sense does negate the need for big brother tactics, and unfortunately, I firmly believe that many teenagers today do stupid things (criminal things even) because mommy and daddy have always been there to pull them out of whatever mess they are in, and fully expect that will continue regardless of how they are and what mess they get themselves into.

    Not every kid should get an A, not every kid should make the baseball team, not every kid gets invited to every single party. Unfortunately, we’ve become a society where teachers, coaches and others are sued by the parents of molly-coddled kids who say they are trying to raise adults who can function “in the real world”. Well guess what? Adults don’t get every promotion they deserve, sometimes they don’t get to buy that new car, and sometimes they have to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and suck it up!

    Those of you who are equating smothering supervision with “good parenting”, give me a ring when your 30 year old needs to move back in with mommy and daddy because they’ve lost their job and have no savings or life skills to deal with the real world. They’ll come running back…because they’ve been taught that you’re the safety net.

    Your kid could be abducted right from under your very roof – ask Elizabeth Smart. You can’t shelter your child from everything, so why not teach them the skills to cope, survive and thrive??

  220. R Long April 25, 2008 at 7:36 am #

    My husband & I applaude you! We have 3 children of our own and believe its our job to prepare them to live their lives on their own. We will not be around forever to hold their hands. Parents who hover over every move their children make are creating a gnereation of people who have no clue how to live in the real world. They may be able to count to 1000 and speak spanish by age 3 but they won’t know how to pay their bills or what to do if they get a flat tire. They are doing their children a disservice. They are actually making them targets because of their lack of knowledge and gullibility. Those are the parents who will complain when their children are 35 and moving back home because they couldn’t make it without them.

  221. Lynette April 25, 2008 at 7:51 am #

    Finally, now I know I’m not crazy. My daughter is now 19. Every adult who meets her is amazed at her independence and her sense of responsibility. She has a 3.7 average in college and works 30 – 40 hours per week. My daughter drank alcohol (legally in Germany) at age 16, she road a train with a friend to Paris and stayed several days at age 15, she traveled alone by plane with a friend at age 12 to the United States from Germany over Iceland. That was the Christmas after 9-11. Most of the European kids I met were years away from their American peers in experiences and maturity. Any questions? The rest of the world is raising independent spirited children and young adults. As Americans we still have parents checking on their kids in college to make sure they are “being good” or that their grades are okay. Hello? Have we decided that 21 is the legal age to be an adult? If so, then we need to stop sending all those kids to war and change the legal age of marriage…which is still 15 in some states! They hypocracy is amazing. I’ve seen seven year olds playing violent games that are rated for over 18, yet the same kids are not allowed to walk alone more than a block from home. What doesn’t seem right about this scenario? It only takes common sense. Perhaps that is what’s lacking for so many parents.

  222. 3 boys mom April 25, 2008 at 7:52 am #

    Over the summer I was in the mini van with my smart mouthed 9 year old. I forget what he was going on and on about that day, but I had had ENOUGH and I told him so. He kept talking about whatever.

    I warned him “keep talking and i’m putting you out of this car.” He says “put me out”. So I did. I pulled over to the side of the roadand pressed the button on the automatic door. He called my bluff and hopped out. I called his bluff and drove off. Ok, I actually just went around the block and came back to where i’d dropped him. He was gone.

    In my mind I could see myself on the news, him in a gutter and all manner or terribleness happing to both of us. I drove round and round, but could not find my child.

    Finally I headed home to call the cops.

    I pull up in front of the house and there he is. Just sitting on the porch calm as anything.

    I asked him “how did you get here?” I walked he said (we were about a mile from home when I dropped him off). Were you afraid I asked him “at first he said – then I just took the short cut home.” (which explains why I didn’t see him.

    It was an eye opening lesson for both of us. At 9 he’s not a baby and I need to loosen up. I also need to figure out better punishments.

  223. Heather Wales April 25, 2008 at 8:14 am #

    Just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your article and that, yes, we as parents are COMPLETELY in danger of crippling our children’s sense of efficacy and independence with our modern “helicopter” attitudes. I have had to struggle with this myself; my three children are nearly 15, 12, and my youngest is 5, but I never let them out to play the way that I was allowed as a child, for fear they would be snatched by a stranger, hit by a car, you name it–I was afraid of it!

    When I was a kid, in the ’70’s, our mom looked askance at us if we were anywhere near the house before dinnertime! We were expected to tell her if we were going to a friend’s house or to the park, but she never hovered over us and, as a result, we learned how to function with greater and greater levels of independence and responsibility. I am currently doing the same, albeit slowly and painfully (for me) with my kids. I know it is the best thing for them, in spite of my own anxieties.

    Anyway, keep up the good work and may your son grow to be a strong, independent individual!

  224. Laura April 25, 2008 at 8:26 am #

    I just wanted to applaud you here, Ms. Skenazy. I wrote about you after seeing this in a local paper a couple of weeks ago. Just wanted to give you one more vote in your camp!

  225. Mom of five in Alaska April 25, 2008 at 8:30 am #

    As everyone has said before, “thank you. We allow our sons to 1) ride the public bus, 2) ride their bikes across town, 3) walk to their friends house, and 4) go outside and come in before dark {this is an Alaskan joke, it doesn’t get dark in the summer}.

    As an employeer of students as young as 15, I have parents that attempt to attend job interviews with their children. It is not only crippling the child, but jeapordizing the workforce. I can always tell which of my young employees is allowed to make their own decisions at home, it resonates here at work.

  226. RICK K. April 25, 2008 at 8:40 am #

    Just stumbled across this blog.I say kudos to Ms. Skenozy.Judging from some of the remarks here our society has definitely become more rude and crass.As a kid growing up we played outside from sun up to sundown in the summer and fall.Growing up in the Okla.panhandle in the 60S and 70s we played along the Canadian river.We played sensibly though as our parents had taught us to be alert and use common sense.Some of the things we did though would make the nanny state so-called child safety experts cringe.My
    wife of over 2 decades and I raised two children in New
    Mexico.We gradually let them have more freedom the older they grew.They are both young adults now but we
    had a wonderful time raising them in New Mexico countryside.Swimming,bumming around and yes playing supervised in the arroyos whem ne or my wife was present.Their are too many talking heads trying to tell us how we should raise our children and that they think they no whats best for us and our families.Tune them out and give your kids some freedom .In my case it turned out wonderfully.

  227. Candy April 25, 2008 at 8:48 am #

    This is a double edged sword. First, let me say I found the fact that you did not give your son a cell phone for fear he would lose it, seems to be an oxymoron to your point of letting him find his own way home.
    Second, i do remember in the early 70’s being out all day in a quiet suburban neighborhood with my parents not knowing where i was for hours on end. I personally would not let my children ride the subway alone for the simple reason that we live in a rural neighborhood where they are not at all used to cities or subways. In that manner I do not see how riding a subway if you are a city dweller is any different from your children riding thier bikes around the block of the neighborhood.
    The very same risks are there. I am sure all of our children have rode thier bikes past a potential, accused or a convicted sex offender. We don’t have to hold our breath and cross our fingers. There are precautions we can take as parents. I beleive 9 years old might be a little young to open the floodgates of independence, however each child is different. I have given my own children a long leash, but instead of the subway, it was to the mall with friends at 11 years old.

  228. Maria B April 25, 2008 at 8:53 am #

    I was reading your article today and I have to say great job. I am in my 20’s and I was lucky enough to have a mom who gave me and my brothr independence. In the fourth grade I took a babysitting course at a local hospital. It was not for babysitting other children but for myself and younger brother. My parents had divorced and when my father left for Florida(I grew up in Ma) my mom had no other choice really. I walked home from school when I took after school programs and cared for my bother everday. I remember riding my bike everywhere. I enjoyed my independence and remember telling my mom that I felt grown up.
    I feel that some parents now a days are to sheltering. Yes the world can be a sacry place but it’s even scarier when you don’t know what to expect. My mother taught us to always be aware of your surroundings and look for an escape route if need be. She also taught us how to be independent and not to rely on her for everything! So again great job. O yeah both my parents grew up in the city and took the subway at a young age…ALONE!

  229. T23 April 25, 2008 at 9:15 am #

    This story is me. Born in 1964, I grew up in Manhattan, and had extreme independence. I rode the subway at 8, walked to school alone before that. (Coincidentally, a trip to Queens to Shea stadium is part of the lore.) There are some noteworthy differences between this story and mine; the 1970’s was a lot sketchier, and my home life was unsettled and unsettling. Also, Bloomingdales? 34th st crosstown bus? Not exactly crips and bloods. And one subway ride does not a parent make.

    That said, I am here to tell you, Lenore, please believe me when I say, imploringly, this is a mistake.

    I have 2 kids, 4 and 6, I still live in Manhattan, and I am not a reactionary. I know, in fact, that if I left my child on our street (large crosstown thoroughfare) alone, there would be 300 strangers looking out for them for every 1 person trying to take advantage.

    However, what you did is just not done anymore. Time’s change, and I am a proud helicopter.

    I am probably the most aware and resourceful person I know, and much of that comes from the old-school approach of my parents. But I have no worries that my kids will be unable to change a tire, unable to take a plane, be too wimpy, or live at home until they’re 40. Resourcefulness can come from trials, but it can also come from a sense of well being and optimism.

    I also believe that people’s tendency is to downplay the bad things that happened to them during their childhood. Lately, I ask myself, is there anything wrong with wanting your kids to NOT have any broken bones in their lives. To limit the ‘experimentation’ of various kinds. If the trade-off is raising your children like veal, then that’s not good. But most of my ‘learning experiences’, I could have done without.

    I can guarantee that when your son has a 9-year-old, he’ll look at his own child and think, ‘My mom let THAT take the subway alone?” And he’ll feel a sting of abandonment. He’ll think, why not at least use the cell phone? He’ll know that you used his precociousness (which I had in spades), to justify your irresponsibility. Hate to break with feminist tradition, but I must ask, would you do that with a girl? Please promise me you won’t. (Boy or girl, I will admit here that the risks of independence are different at Bloomie’s than in the projects.)

    I welcome the new focus on children, and take glib attitudes very personally. Is everything so great in our world, is everyone so happy (Oh, I forgot, happiness is wimpy) that we can’t try to make a connection to child rearing practices of old and today’s issues?

  230. Angela Jackson April 25, 2008 at 9:39 am #

    BRAVO!!!! Our society is being reared on huge doses of fear. We fear the air, the water, the food we eat, the old man next door and any and every ethnic group we do non’t understand. We used to play in the dirt and drink from the hose pipe.People, news flash…”THE WORLD IS NOT OUT TO GET YOU”. Perhaps we were more safe in days gone by BECAUSE of the freedom we were given and the independance that developed as a result of that freedom. We were aware of our surroundings and leary of strangers and we did not get into cars for the sake of a ride…we enjoyed the adventure of being outside…(remember outside?) We have wrapped kids up in plastic bubble wrap and then wonder why they are not able to adapt and cope. Shame on ALL of you who criticised this mom!

  231. Me April 25, 2008 at 9:40 am #

    I was a child in NYC in the 80’s ..a much safer time period than now……..

    I was 12 years old when my mother let me ride the subway alone……….

    I was molested several times…………..pick pocketed…………and one guy tried to get me to come home with him………….

    I dont think a city….any “city” is a place for young kids to roam free.

  232. Jordan April 25, 2008 at 10:21 am #

    What a breath of fresh air this is. I live in Chicago, and I have friends who let their kids ride the bus and el to/from middle school. They do just fine, and I’m sure my kids will do the same someday.

    And, BTW, I was just in NYC 2 weeks ago – I hadn’t been there since the late 80s – and I was SHOCKED at what a mellow city it has become. On this trip, I never felt unsafe, there were families with kids and strollers absolutely everywhere, areas that once felt scary to me were cleaned up to such an extent it was, well, weird (and, even a little sad to see some of the character of the city gone in that way)…it’s remarkable. I was sad, in fact, when I was there, thinking about how many people must have pictures of “big, scary city” in mind when they think of NYC when, in fact, I would have no qualms about sending my smart, responsible kid home on public transport when he is ready. But then again, I’m raising my sons in a “big, scary city”, too, and so much of urban life is impossible to imagine for people who don’t live it, I’ve found.

  233. Elizabeth April 25, 2008 at 10:23 am #

    Thank you!
    Thank you!
    Thank you!
    I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s as an independent only child! I walked to school until I got my venerated 10 speed 26 inch bicycle for my ninth birthday (September 1980). That’s when I started riding my bike to school (without a helmet or pads)! I played in the neighborhood creek some 4 blocks from home, where I stepped on a rusty nail, which pierced my Nike and my pinkie toe. I learned how to deal with the neighborhood bully. Then eventually, I married the neighborhood bully from a different neighborhood. My parents let me make my mistakes and learn from them, including marrying the bully.
    I escaped an abusive marriage with 2 beautiful children. The elder is 7 years old and in first grade. I seriously wonder if I hadn’t been allowed to make my mistakes and solve them with love and support from my parents as a child if I would have been able to escape the abuse I encountered as an adult. After reading Perfect Madness a few years ago, I decided to back off a bit from my parenting style. I hover less and tell my children to solve it diplomatically on their own when they quarrel. I give them healthy meals and expect them to try what is served. I own a business. I live by myself with 2 children. I am active in the community. I make my kids birthday cakes from scratch, (French butter cream) serve somewhat gourmet meals most nights, have a cluttered but mostly sanitary home. I am supermom, I know, but I very carefully choose where I devote my energy.
    I let my 7-year-old walk 3 blocks to a friend’s house last week. I was so immensely proud of him(and myself!)! He is the only kid in the neighborhood allowed to do this. My hat is off to you! How will our kids learn to handle life if we don’t let them live it? Oh how I wish that public transportation was available in my area. My son adores the school bus and I think it’s because of the independence and social hour.
    As children, we were taught to travel in packs for safety. In suburbia, our folks dropped us at the skating rink with a friend for the morning. We played until dinnertime and came home. Most of us ate whatever was fixed.
    I truly believe that my heady experiences with independence as a child gave me the strength and courage to escape an abusive marriage as an adult, rebuild a career as a business owner and achieve many of my rather significant accomplishments in adulthood. Incidentally, I also traveled Europe and Hong Kong by myself. I wonder what will happen in 20-30 years when our hovered upon children encounter hiccups in life. Will they become catatonic? Will they call mommy and daddy to bail them out? Ladies and Gentlemen, strap on your children’s bicycle helmets and send them out to see the world!
    Call me when your children go, let’s set up a group playdate to teach the kids to travel in packs for safety. Oops, I’m hovering and micromanaging mothering in the 20th century, again!.

    What are we doing to our kids?

  234. LP April 25, 2008 at 10:56 am #

    I congratulate you on allowing your son to ride the subway on his own! I teach middle school kids, and the overprotectiveness of the parents astounds me! I grew up as a latch key kid and enjoyed the independence. Bravo for not being a helicopter parent and for showing your son the need for independence at a good age.

  235. Jeannie April 25, 2008 at 1:06 pm #

    How interesting that so many of us grew up with so much independence! My mother was a single professional woman in the 60-80’s. I was an only child. We had no family in the town I grew up in.
    Never thought twice of taking a cab for 3 years from 10-13 yrs to extracurricular activities. Then, switched to my beloved bicycle until the sweet age of 16 and complete independence.
    Went the OPPOSITE direction when raising my own children. Couldn’t do enough for them….guess what?..That didn’t do them any favors.
    They are in their early 20’s now and after much tough love, looks like they are finally able to STAND ALONE.
    Good luck to you and your son. Encourage critical thinking skills and independence, but remember it is okay to have occasional assistance. Jeannie in the West

  236. Mom of Three April 25, 2008 at 2:10 pm #

    I wrote about this on my blog about a year ago, because I was being frazzled by helicopter parents who would only hold play dates if they stayed or I stayed. Even after we’d checked out each other’s homes really well!

    Have you read, it’s extended into college! Parents are calling professors if Johnny gets a bad grade. They can’t even go away to school anymore!

    We have a boisterous neighborhood with tons of kids and when the weather’s good, I open the front door and tell my three to GET OUT!

    I think you did the right thing, but watch CPS! They never shut down the meth house around the corner with the 7-year-old caked with filth, but they’ll concentrate on garbage like this!

  237. Lee Connelly April 25, 2008 at 3:09 pm #

    Great adventure! Let the kid grow up. Hovering parents and helicopter moms are some of the reasons we’ve got a generation of kids unable to take care of themselves and make rational decisions. Look sideways at a child and you’re labeled a molester because of people like these parents. I don’t recall ever reading about a child abducted off a public bus, while they seem to be taken out of the next bedroom while the parents or other guardians are home! Your son was probably safer on the subway with 50 other people present to stop a potential problem then he would have been in many other places with fewer people. Grow up Izzy and enjoy life!

  238. Anne April 25, 2008 at 9:19 pm #

    I just read about this on washingtonpost.com.

    I think of how I try to let my 12 year old daughter gain some independence which is hard because I live in a place were you have to drive everywhere. My mother will complain that she is only 12 she can’t do this or that. I remind her that she left me and my brother to come home alone when I was 9 and he was 6. And every summer we were home alone all day while my parents worked. This was on Long Island. We lived in the Bronx before that and I remember walking to and from school, having to cross the Bruckner Expressway via overpass and walk about 3 blocks to my school. While a neighbor’s 9 year old son was supposed to walk me, I usually made the trip solo at 6 years old because the 9 year old didn’t want to be bothered with me when his friends were around. When I remind my mother of these things, she says things were different then. Were they really?

    Kudos to you for allowing your son to spread his wings!

  239. T23 April 25, 2008 at 10:51 pm #

    1. A 9 year old is not a 14 year old. What’s appropriate for the 14 year old is not appropriate for the 9 year old. Posters are making sweeping generalizations.

    2. If you want your child to know how to fry an egg, you use an egg and a frying pan, not a subway.

    (BTW, I let my kids eat snow, leave them with assorted parents and nannies on play dates without me, have ice cream for breakfast once in a while, play with worms and bugs, wipe their own butt, climb precariously, but I would still consider myself a hoverer. None of the above has anything to do with taking the subway alone.)

    It also seems strange to me that across 250+ posts, hardly anything bad seems to have ever happened to anybody. Either everybody here had charmed lives, or the posts are skewing pollyanna.

  240. Lisa April 25, 2008 at 11:20 pm #

    Playing a little russian roulette with your child!? Find something else to take a stand on and in the meantime maybe you can find something safe for you and your child to do together besides the potential mugging or abduction. I am all for teaching your child responsibility and giving them freedom but not at there expense. Of course children at that age start wanting some freedom but please who is the parent here? Is New York as safe now as it was in 1963? Short answer- No. Do you have a daughter and how would you feel about a little girl finding her way home on the subway?

    Loved the post from T23, I hear you!

  241. PJ524 April 26, 2008 at 12:29 am #

    Good for you. What a great debate.

    I am, for another day, a community college professor. Wanna hear out of control helicopter parenting? Last summer, I was leading a group of 29 college students on a study abroad tour. We spent three weeks visiting cultural sites in London, Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome. On our second-to-last day of the trip, two female students got separated from the group. We made a practice of counting the group often, so at our next stop, at the Baths of Caracalla, we noticed that they were missing.

    So, time for a decision. I was the lead professor. My colleague accompanying me was on her first tour, more of a training mission than anything else. We also had a tour-company courier with us. Normally I would have let someone else lead my students through the Baths, but neither my colleague nor the courier had been there before.

    Finally, one of the two lost young ladies had been on a previous tour to Rome with me, she knew the city, we had already been in Rome for four days, and everyone had maps and knew to simply return to the hotel in case of something like this. Since my tours are made up of college students, they have plenty of free time every day, and by this point they should have known their way around the city well enough. Sure enough, when I returned to the hotel later that afternoon, both were safe and sound. End of story, or so I thought.

    Three days later, safe at home but exhausted, I received a call from my Dean. The other young lady, at the tender age of 23 (!!!!!!) had called her mommy and complained that she got lost. Poor baby! The mother then raised holy hell with my administration, and I was pressured into a “voluntary resignation.”

    Helicopter mothers. For 23 year olds. And it’s worth someone’s career.

    peace, y’all

  242. Bev April 26, 2008 at 1:03 am #

    Kudos for you! Our first visit to NYC was when my kids were 5 and 8. I was so impressed by the number of kids on the subway alone. You are not the only one letting a 9-year-old ride alone. Public transportation is PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. Kids are part of the public. And if you think a hundred New Yorkers wouldn’t come to the aid of a screaming child, then what planet are you from?

    And everyone in NYC knows the targets — adults, more so than kids — are the ones who look like they don’t know what they are doing. (Hint, no matter what city or country we go to, we map out transportation routes before we walk out the door.) The ones who run the risk of being harmed/robbed are the ones who stand at the map scratching their heads.

    Have any of the bellyachers heard of the kids in Uganda that have to leave their homes at night, walk miles and miles to sleep together in cities on sidewalks because if they stay home, they run the risk of militants kidnapping them and giving them guns to go kill people? Go to invisiblechildren.com and then you might have something real to complain about.

    And what about these religions (AKA cults) that marry their teenage daughters off to pump out babies?

    Don’t get me started… If we continue to bubble wrap our kids, then, how will our society instinctively know how to protect ourselves one of these days? Or know how to do anything without being told what to do?

    Let’s get real, here!

  243. Sensible Mom April 26, 2008 at 1:43 am #

    He’s not responsible enough to be entrusted with a cell phone, but he can ride a subway around NYC alone? I think you ought to examine that angle of your decision a bit. And, just because our kids beg us to do something, doesn’t mean we should let them.

  244. Allergy Mom in NYC April 26, 2008 at 2:17 am #

    I love your site and applaud your backbone.

    I have a 10 year old that we’re just allowing to stay alone without us around for extended periods of time. Not sure about the subway with her (she doesn’t like it and would probably prefer a bus). I think your son could have a summer job teaching other kids the benefits of navigating the city alone – or better yet, what about HIS own blog? I know my 10 year old would love that…

  245. Matt April 26, 2008 at 4:03 am #

    I am proud of everything you’ve done.

    My mom is a helicopter mom and it has been an insult to my existence since I was 8. Not only controlling, but always telling me how I should do things instead of letting me figure it out, and always wanting me to live with her values. Don’t forget to add that I was very strong willed and vocal about my feeling mature enough to handle my life, although they brushed it off as “immaturity/rebellion” from day 1.

    I’m now 25, living on my own, and resent every minute of the 8-18 years that were made hell due to disrespecting that I felt prepared for more in life. I love my parents, I respect them for being my parents, I did take positive values away between the bad values, but they have earned no respect and sympathy for the poor treatment over the years.

    I have cut them out of my life aside from letting them know I am alive, basically.

    Let that be a lesson to the parents who do not respect their childs freedom: respect and an open relationship goes both ways. If you never let go of your child, they’re just going to run away from you.

  246. Teresa April 26, 2008 at 6:42 am #

    Wonderful! I am a NYC born and bred woman who grew up in lower Manhattan (Broadway-Nassau stop on the A train) and rode the train to I.S. 70 (14th St. stop). It was 1975, I was a fairly independent, tomboy-ish 10 year old and I felt as if my world had opened up!

    My parents instructed me correctly on how to use the subway, to ensure my personal safety and protect me from those who would harm me.

    They never did.

    I wasn’t kidnapped nor abused. The worst that I suffered was the average pushing/shoving/riding without a seat.

    In turn, I had a son that I raised in the city and he too rode the train alone. Again, at 10 years old, however, this time it was from Times Square, so that I’d have him swear up and down to call me the minute he was safely inside the sanctuary of his Greenwich Village school. Sometimes he did and sometimes he didn’t (forgetful boy!).

    He lived. He also thrived because of the independence (and the responsibility that goes along with it) that I gave him and has grown into a loving, independent adult.

    Shame on these parents that are slinging “abuse” allegations at you.

    They should go back into the insular, pre-historic cave from whence they came.

  247. Carolannc April 26, 2008 at 8:45 pm #

    Wow! this provoked an entire evening of discussion between my husband and I and my parents.
    I live in the UK, we have our own horror child abduction stories and an increasing public mentality of fear and blame.
    My kids are a bit younger than yours but already push for trust and independence daily, causing ongoing discussion between my husband and me as to what we feel we can give without going grey!
    And that’s the crux of it, freedom is a gift, some people don’t have it. As a society, we take it away as a punishment and yet we justify locking our children up as protection.
    All we need to make this work, is confidence in the majority of people – the strangers! I was face to face criticized by a complete stranger for taking 4 children, my two and my sister’s two to a childrens zoo. “That’s too many, you can’t possibly manage all those” was the hurtful comment.
    And yet, when on holiday last year I saw why, at a family attraction a 7 or 8 YO child was left crying while adults walked around them. After watching for 20 seconds, I approached him, hunkered down to his level and, in a loud enough to be overheard voice, told him it was ok, I wouldn’t leave him until he was with his parents or a member of staff. In less than 2 minutes a distraut parent showed up and the child flew into their arms… a no brainer there then. WHY was he left? WHY did nobody help him? and lastly, WHY did he not know how to seek help himself?
    I didn’t have to take him anywhere, we just waited, but, would anyone have stopped me if I did start to walk off with him? WHY did nobody else offer to get a member of staff and bring them to us?
    As parents we all want our children to grow up to be confident, fun, happy, successful, caring individuals. If children learn by example, all I can see is a generation of timid, willingly blinkered, knowingly ignorant individuals ahead.
    I don’t know when I’ll be confident enough to let my son and daughter ride a bus or subway alone… or light a fire, or camp in the back garden over night… it’s now something to aim for! But I will make every effort to ensure my kids are able to know what to do if in a fix, how to seek help and equally to watch for other people who may need help.
    I wonder how many of the issues we have today, child obesity – or parents for that matter-, increasing numbers of depressed mums, increasing school truancy, increasing poor behavior in schools (-recent report published in UK by NUT and Cambridge Uni), people leaving having children until later and later, can be in part attributed to the perceived protective arrangements necessary to raise a family and a decreasing in children developing their own sense of self reliance.

  248. Jessica Gottlieb April 27, 2008 at 7:06 am #

    To: mdhatter, on April 12th

    A quick FYI… I would never never vote, I’m from Los Angeles and we don’t like to read all that much.


    … patiently awaiting a home address so I can call 911….

  249. Daddy Sherpa April 27, 2008 at 7:05 pm #

    This subject is the theme of my blog, more or less, and dear to my heart. I couldn’t resist linking to you in my last post.

    Most of the discussion on this subject so far has been entirely myopic. People need to spend more time in the city.

  250. Kayla Iles April 27, 2008 at 8:32 pm #

    I think that you’re doing an awesome job here! Parents are too overprotective and from a kids perspective, it’s suffocting. I mean, when you think about it, when you let a child have more independence and freedom, it helps them become more rounded people in adulthood. You can tell the kids who parents coddled and babied them because they can’t function properly in today’s society. Can’t cook, clean, or even live on their own because they’re used to mommy and daddy doing everything for them.

  251. Rop April 27, 2008 at 8:52 pm #

    I always enjoyed taking American visitors to the children’s park here in the east of Amsterdam. It’s a place basically run by the city where kids ages 6 and up are handed hammers, nails, saws and (for the slightly older ones) crowbars. They then build huts on a big field. And yes, they have a first-aid kit which is well-used, and at least once a season some kid is hospitalized for something. From age 8 or so, kids go there and back alone on their bikes.

    Which is not to say the same trend doesn’t exist here, we have parents at least as scared as some of the ones you describe. But I am glad to report responsible parenting hasn’t died here. I’m worried about the situation 10 years from now though.

  252. Sarah April 27, 2008 at 9:24 pm #

    I read your article and absolutely loved it. I am now 17 years old and at age 15 my parents trusted me to take a trip alone across the Atlantic from JFK to Alexandria, Egypt….with my two younger brothers in tow. Needless to say, we got there and back unscathed and I can honestly say it was one of the most fortifying experiences of my life. I currently take the train to and from the city from the suburbs and find nothing threatening in the experience at all. Trust me, parents, allowing children to think on their own and allotting them certain responsibilities won’t kill them. It will make them independent. And independent kids will have an easier time when it comes to college and what comes after.

  253. Laura April 27, 2008 at 10:13 pm #

    I applaud your decision to allow your son to get home on his own. Kids these days are totally coddled, overprotected, and whiney. I find it refreshing to see a parent who has the confidence in her child to let him “roam free”! When I was a kid, we left the house early in the morning, stayed away ALL DAY LONG, our parents never had a clue where we were. As long as we were home by the time the street lights came on, all was right in the world. I don’t know when America as a whole became so paranoid about kids. I never had a helmet and pads for riding a bike, and neither did any of my friends. I made mud pies and **gasp** DRANK WATER RIGHT FROM THE HOSE. I went into the city all the time with my friends when we were in 4th, 5th, 6th grade….with no parental supervision. And I lived to talk about it today.

    Kudos to you for not being a hovering “helicopter parent”. We are not doing kids any favors by being so overprotective of them. Independence never killed anyone, and neither did giving them a little bit of trust and freedom.

    Kudos to Izzy, also, for being such a responsible, independent little free thinker. I like that kid.

  254. Karen Sapio April 27, 2008 at 10:25 pm #

    FWIW, I asked my own kids ages 8 and 10 what they think about this issue. They both said they though 9 was too young to ride the NYC subway alone. What age did they think was okay? Thirteen or older.

    They have grown up riding public transport in Portland, OR fairly often and now the Metrolink and L.A. busses and subways, so they have a pretty good idea how public transit works and how it is navigated.

  255. Laurali April 27, 2008 at 10:36 pm #

    No, I don’t have kids, but I think you’re right about giving kids some independence and letting them fend for themselves.

    I was 8, my sister 7, and my brother 6 when we first rode the PTC to school alone. Mom waited at the bus stop for us and we got off at the stop in front of the school. We were all supposed to wait for each other before getting on the bus to come home, but my brother reached the bus stop before we did and got on the bus by himself. The bus left without my sister and I. We panicked and found a friend’s mother to take us home. She dropped us off at the same bus stop my brother had just disembarked at. Mom was waiting at the corner while my brother ran down the block to our house. She was startled that we’d panicked at all. He knew where the bus went and where to get off and with all the other students on the bus was perfectly fine riding by himself.

    If you expect your kids to become functional independent adults you can’t insist on escorting them everywhere. They’re going to have to figure out how to get where they want to go (literally and figuratively) on their own steam. If you know your kids you’ll know when they’re ready.

  256. westchasemom April 27, 2008 at 11:19 pm #

    I was delighted to find this site and am confident it will serve me well for parenting advice and support. As a single mother of two young boys (3 and 5), I am in constant question of how much independence should be allowed. We live in a quaint little village just north of Tampa that reminds me of life straight off the Truman Show, but as the media drills us with fear, I often still find myself thinking I am a bad mother if my eyes are not on my kids every second. There is a field around the corner from my townhouse where village kids of all ages play while parents chat on their front stoops. Last week, I completely panicked when my three year old was suddenly nowhere to be found. Within minutes, I had every available parent combing the streets calling his name. As it turned out, he had simply walked home (literally less than one block) to use the bathroom. I felt like such a horrible mother for losing sight of him and reprimanded him for the decision. In retrospect, I realize I’m not a bad mother at all. I now see his action as a reflection of the his confidence – confidence I helped to instill. My sweet baby – at three years old – is confident enough to navigate the way home to take care of his own needs. Granted, I prefer he let me know in the future, but the point is that I’m proud of my son’s development and have a new perspective on how to build on that confidence. I think i will let my five year old ride the bus next year to kindergarten and, when he is a few years older, he will also be allowed to ride his bike through the village to his elementary school.

    I applaud Ms. Skenazy for igniting a movement to give parents the push we need to teach our children independence and have bookmarked this site as my now favorite parenting resource!

    Amy M.

  257. sobasysta April 27, 2008 at 11:20 pm #

    Kudos on this post and the faith you have in your parenting, your son and humanity. It’s time to take back what is ours and quit letting fear run our lives.

  258. LeNae April 27, 2008 at 11:41 pm #

    I am a mother of a 16 year old and a 2 year old. I do not consider myself over-protective, and I believe that children should be given “freedom and independence” to the degree appropriate with their age.

    Being safe and keeping our children safe is a matter of making wise choices. Was it wise to drop your 9- year old son off at Bloomingdales with a few quarters, a map, and say good luck, son, I hope you make it home okay?

    Ultimately, we as parents are each individually responsible for the health and wefare of our children, and we will each take our own path and make our own decisions to ensure that end – some parents are just wiser and make better choices than others.

  259. Alan George April 27, 2008 at 11:48 pm #

    I remember getting $5 from my parents- and taking the bus, gettting a paper tranfer(remember those?) taking the train to Fenway Park. I bought $2 bleacher seats, a hot dog, a coke, and an ice cream sandwich…fond memories…..of an 11 year older!!!

  260. Danielle April 28, 2008 at 12:00 am #

    It’s about time….! I’m so sick of parenting feeling like a prison. My son is ten and I have always been shun because when I need to do something like go get groceries and he doesn’t want to come, I’m labelled neglectful..

    I refuse to live in a society that is training us all to live in fear, when I was a kid we were never in the house, always out, now kids are afraid to leave there own homes, video games, television.
    Rubbish I commend all parents who have the foresight to see that raising our kids the way society wants us to is killing the independence of our future generations. And shame on the people who wrote such hateful things towards this editor.

    Kids need there freedom to find out who they are within there own skins. The same way we did when we were children. The world is just a dangerous as it was when I was a kid, so why the change?
    I support all the Men and Women who have freed themselves and there children from the prison society tried to contain us in… Trust starts within…

  261. David April 28, 2008 at 12:25 am #

    If I tell a child “you can only take this one street home” and one day there’s a dangerous dog on that street, and the child gets bit, the child will say, “it’s Dad’s fault because he said I could only take that street.”

    If I warn a child about every rock in the path, he’ll never learn to look for them himself, and as soon as I look away, he stumbles, he’ll say it was my fault.

    Hovering over the children doesn’t make them safer. Children are much smarter than we think if we let them be. On the other hand, they’re more than happy to make a bad move just because they want to point out the faults in their parents.

  262. Ingrid April 28, 2008 at 12:43 am #

    I am all about free-range kids. My son is 4.5, and I am under the firm belief that I am NOT raising a kid to become a kid, but rather a kid to become an adult. In my community, it seems every day another friend or aquaintenance has made plans to home-school. I think it is, indeed, a personal choice, but when your kid wakes up with you, eats breakfast with you, takes his spelling test with you, plays with you, and then is fed dinner by you, exactly how much are they really getting out of life? What sort of stimulation?

    I feel confident my child could find his way home, as well, at 4.5 (albeit by a cab, maybe? and not the subway, as we don’t have one where we live); he could also call someone. He knows to go to a fireman or a policeman or a store clerk should he gets lost. He can recite 911, my phone number, name, and even address.

    Keep at this free-range parenting, people. SOMEONE will need to supervise and manage those kids who were not ever allowed to think for themselves as adolesents! I think our kids might be well-equiped!

  263. Jenny April 28, 2008 at 1:05 am #

    First, I wish I had that luxury, but my oldest son is autistic and unable to function on his own. He is a “runner” as well. I have to know where he is at all times. I imagine that that lifestyle will carry over until my youngest, now 3 and not autistic, points out that he is 15 and I don’t let him leave the house.

    When my oldest was born I never imagined that something would occur to change my plans –I was single, but it didn’t phase me, my kid could be the gypsy I was and we’d roam around the world have adventures together. But of course, autism, much like S**t, happens. My son is severely effected. So, 11 years later I am righfully uptight.

    I haven’t really formed an opinion on this yet. I am sure I was your sons age or younger when I used to run around with the kids on my street. We would leave the house in the morning and not come home ’til dinner time –we ran all over this street, into the woods and down to the playground. We would walk the half mile to the store for ice cream or to just walk around.
    I can remember being that age, and I have no doubt that I would have been able to get home just the same as your son. I was mature enough to know what to do if things got hairy.

    One of the stats mentioned in the Newsweek article is how few stranger abductions there are and the % of sexual assaults committed by strangers –and these numbers seem to support your idea of it being rare.

    But two things come to mind. I am not sure I agree with you that you cannot prevent these rare things from happening. Actually, I think you can.

    And I have to wonder if those rates are so low because of how protective parents have become now.
    I would like to see the numbers when compared between kids allowed the extra roaming freedom, vs those strictly supervised by their parents.

    I also think about those stories you read about adults getting molested on public transportation and planes, etc. Grown women who can’t bring themselves to do anything (to stop it, report it, etc), and I wonder how kids would react in that situation.

    So, I am split on this. I will have to think about it.

  264. IndependentTeen April 28, 2008 at 1:46 am #

    While my identity may be anonymous, I would still like to hopefully comment and contribute somewhat.

    On the internet, anyone may look up the National Child Abuser Registry, or whatever its called, and they can see who is a child abuser in their cities/neighborhoods. There’s red dots ALL over, and most of them are near SCHOOLS!

    Am I worried? While I see the kids walking by these houses daily after school, I don’t see them being abducted or anything. Kids today are WAY too coddled and protected. When they’re finally in college then what? Even many college students still depend way too much on their parents. Its sickening and saddening to create such a ‘baby’ culture among adults, teens, and kids.

    I saw a cartoon once, it used to come on TV, called ‘Recess’, and I watched it with my younger sister (a teen, around 12 at the time). In that episode there was this kid who was so germaphobic he convinced every kid in the school to scrub scrub scrub the playground and walls and doors and everything. Then the admins saw this and ordered a cleaning crew from the school board to disinfect the entire school, including the playground equipment, and have everyone always wearing ‘bubble’ suits to protect themselves from germs. I believe that episode was a satire on overprotecting our kids, and it speaks truth.

    In order to build resistance to disease, we must be exposed to the danger of it. In order to combat crime, we can’t have our kids living in fear of it.

    Girls are not going to be raped or abducted the moment they step out the door. If that was going to happen, it would happen right on your front lawn, or as soon as they got outta school, or even they’d take you both at gunpoint, tie you down, and make you watch as they raped your daughter in front of you. There are always sickos and assholes out there. Anything can happen, but you can’t be afraid of it, you just teach your kid how to handle themselves and hope for the best.

    A cell phone isn’t a bad thing, as long as it isn’t overused. I find prepaid phones work best for this purpose, as its always ‘do I wanna waste minutes on this?’.

    Good job on being a better mother then most people. I applaud you and your efforts. It would definately cut back on the lame whiners online and offline.

  265. kelley April 28, 2008 at 1:53 am #

    I do not have children, but i agree that teaching children the ways of the world are important. I believe that with the proper communication children can be raised with knowledge of what to do. I see this in my niece and nephew.

    Learning to take risks is a part of life. Learning to make mistakes and correct them is an valuable tool to navigate this world.

    Teach your children well, let them fall and pick themselves up and we as a community will be right behind them to help bandaid the knees.

  266. Therapist By Day April 28, 2008 at 1:55 am #

    When our son was born, my husband’s protector reflexes kicked in and he deemed nothing safe enough. As Christians who believe in a sovereign God, we were able to say, “God loves our child more than we ever could and He is ultimately in control.” We will use our best judgement as to what’s safe and to pass that on to our son because that’s why kids have parents. I’m sure Ms. Skenazy loves her son and did not make this decision lightly. My only concern is that she said one reason her son doesn’t have a cell phone is that she’s afraid he’ll loose it. If a child isn’t responsible enough to manage a cell phone, are they able to mange the subway? (I’m not being rhetorical- I’m not used to the city so I really don’t know the answer.)

  267. Dave April 28, 2008 at 2:08 am #

    I had overly protective parents who were concerned for my safety and kept me close to home. I was not allowed to take any public bus and never walked to school. After I got my driver’s license, they only allowed me to drive within 10 miles of our home until I turned 18. There are so many things I don’t know how to do because they were so protective of me. I don’t think I could ride the bus even though I’m 20 now. It would be a little awkward, and god help me if I got lost. The only reason I know my way around is because I have a Garmin GPS.

    Don’t do that to your kids!

  268. Gloria C. April 28, 2008 at 2:19 am #

    I read your article and I applaud you. This day and age, these so-called parents are hovering over the children like hawks and then they wonder why the child is not self-sufficient and can’t even think for themselves, because they need mommy and/or daddy to do everything for them. I grew up in a time when we didn’t have cell phones, not too many house phones and my parents had to work, there really was no such thing as after-school, so you had to find ways to entertain yourself. And yes, this included me and my brother riding the train to grandma’s house. I loved every minute of it. My brother and I would explore Central Park, Coney Island, etc. Now that I am a mother of 12 year old fraternal twins, I let my kids travel to their respective schools alone. I did purchase them cell phones, only because they are available today, and it’s more for them to keep me abreast of their activities, not so much for me to be hovering. New York is the greatest place in the world and their is danger lurking everywhere. But I think if you are honest with your child and raise them to be aware of their surroundings and self-sufficient, that’s the best parenting you can do. You go girl!!

  269. Kari @ InThisStorm April 28, 2008 at 2:59 am #

    Haven’t time to read through all of the comments, so please forgive me if you have already addressed this (and point a finger up (to the comments, that is)) please…

    I ask in all honesty – do you think you would feel differently had you been abused by an adult (not in the family, and one of those adults we are supposed to be able to “trust”) when you were a child?

    (And I am a brand new reader with not a lot of time, so my apologies again if you have addressed this in any way already!)

  270. Raising Young Adults April 28, 2008 at 3:00 am #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for standing up to the “fear-mongers.” I coordinate a volunteer program for “young adults” (ages 18-30) and see first-hand the crippling effect this trend is having on our youth. It’s a challenge for me to get 21-year-olds to feel comfortable riding the bus by themselves, not to mention the host of other opportunities these young adults are missing waiting for someone to hold their hand.

  271. Kari @ InThisStorm April 28, 2008 at 3:00 am #

    I have no idea how that little winking guy got up there /
    But it wasn’t on purpose!!!

  272. protecting Children April 28, 2008 at 3:11 am #

    Y’all better not come crying to the media when your child disappears!!

  273. idajoon April 28, 2008 at 3:32 am #

    I rode the NY subway as a 7 year old with my 8 and 9 year old cousins. It’s really not that big a deal. I grew up in a nice LA suburb and even though some of the things I saw were very different from what I was used to, I was NEVER frightened. As a mother of two girls, ages 2 1/2 and 1, I think I am far to frightened of the big bad world. I think we are conditioned to think this way. I don’t think that the world is any more dangerous now than it was 20 years ago but there are so many fear mongerers in the world these days.
    What is really scary is that I was never harmed by any strangers, but was I was abused by someone in my own family. It’s a reality check. I’ll just leave it at that.

  274. niemasross April 28, 2008 at 3:39 am #

    this is the best thing ever! i remember growing up with divorced parents and having to FLY alone to new york and taking public transportation alone, but the main thing i remembered is not ever feeling like someone was going to jump out and take me! my parents took the time to show me the routes, gave me extra money and also pointed out safe places to duck into if i felt uncomfortable. i never went out alone at night and i always knew what streets to never go down. and this is when cell phones were are luxury. its amazing that as soon as certain individuals become parents they lose their mind and some of their common sense. when did being parent mean we have to be in our kids faces all the time? i am so over the holier than you motherhood syndrome; motherhood is forever yes, but your kids do move out and if you have spent their entire life catering to them and holding their hand, how are they supposed to be functioning adults? what ever happened to creating individual, bright, creative, INDEPENDENT children? i give my kids rope and allow them to think for themselves, parents aren’t going to be there to help all the time!

  275. katan-ko from alexandria va April 28, 2008 at 4:02 am #

    Hi, I read with interest the article which I found on via msn mail site. I don’t quite know what to make of it. I would think a chid and one or two friends could make the daytime trip after much discussion. When I was in grade school my father was a US Diplomat assigned to Tunisia. My friends and I took electic train to the movies downtown from our residence in the suburbs on Saturday afternoon. At 15 I flew from BWI to Saipan with a night layover in Hawaii alone in Hawaii. (Friends of my parents met me and took me to my hotel, out to dinner, and I taxi’ed to the airport alone the next day.
    However, when I relocated to District of Columbia area in 2005 I was returning by metro from Ballston ( a nice stop) to Alexandria ( a very nice stop) after spending several days with my fiance who was hospitalized during an emergency situation. In the early afternoon a maniac, in a crowded station, man wearing a business suit sprayed me and other passengers on the platform with a substance from a cannister which resembled pesiticides. I coughed for about 3 weeks.
    One night in October of 2003 I was on my way home from Union Station (it was late and I thought I would save the taxi fare apx $30.00 by metro to Alexandria. A man with a gun sat beside me his friend stood next to him also beside me on a nearly empty metro car – at the next stop 2 Hassidic Jews boarded the car, the men beside me both began to mumble -I hoped to exit at Reagan National Airport with the Jewish men and called out for help. I was blocked from exiting when the man standing up pulled a gun, his friend then cut my head with dental picks which he showed me after untying a gray flannel wrapped piece of cloth. I fainted and regains consciousness at Eisenhower Metro where I saw a shooting. All this on one night. I don’t think a child should be on metro alone, and if deposited at a bus stop parents should be there and be assured someone is waiting on the other end of the trip. We have to admit this is a different world. than the world in which we grew up.
    Why not encourage independence by teaching life skills letting child (even Boys) plan menus and cook, research family vacations on internet and maintain budget, check out routes on map quest, why not develop independence by sending child or taking child on camping trip or summer camp with involved adults. Why not teach groups of children subway safety and what to watch out for then let them go on short trip together with adult at both ends of trip? I think New York City, subway, child exiting a store alone, this is really irresponsible on part of parent. I love New York, I spent time alone in New York and had wonderful and positive experiences I was widowed overseas and hoped to locate my late husband’s parents whom I had not met and had lost addresses (Coluzzi Nyack New York) People were wonderful to me (I was at of all places the YWCA in Chelsea) I could have had a terrible ordeal but was very Blessed by meeting nice people , total strangers who did not attempt to manipulate of mislead me. However my mother’s friends son who was to meet me for lunch was the scariest person encountered. The woman was lucky, I just hope she doesn’t push her luck. She is not a terrible mother, she wanted her child to spread his wings and show him trust and her confidence, which is fine, but as my friends always say – it’s people around you you need to watch out for. And lady, there are people in retail who spot customers with children and might have thought you gave the child the card. What were you thinking?

  276. 90slatchkey April 28, 2008 at 4:09 am #

    While I’m not a parent, I was a child development major, work in various capacities with children (and thus their parent), am currently studying college counseling and student services, and am presently employed in student affairs at a major CA state university – with that said, sorry ladies, you ARE crippling your children. A lot of this varies depending on the cities and states in which we live, but as someone who was raised pretty bi-coastally, (and flew from CA to the east coast on the plane by myself at age SIX), I had (and still have) a level of independence which may as well be a foreign language to the 18 year old “millenial generation” students roaming the college campus today. These students (your children) are not particularly good at conflict resolution, decision making, self sufficiency, or initiative for that matter – all skills learned by being freedom, expectations to rise to, and the benefit of the doubt that the MIGHT be able to make it without you waiting outside of the movie theatre in your hum-v.

    All this to say, the children that you coddle now (by ushering them from one practice to the other – of teams YOU signed them up for btw – scheduling their playdates (where did THIS come from??? I would’ve DIED had my mom try to 1. select and 2. schedule my friend times…omg), and not letting them experience the at times painful (but very necessary) shock of failure from time to time, that doesnt magically go away once they turn 18 and move to college. The only difference between your 18 year old high school senior and the 18 year old you drop off at college is a 3 month summer and trust me, they do NOT turn into adults during those summer overnights. They enter college those same children who left your house, only now they’re expecting others to take your place.

    Again, I am not a mother, but was once a child and was once a college freshman, and am now one of those student services personnel trying to explain to your 18 year olds that a little adventure is ok,…and so what if they take the wrong bus….whip out your cell phone and call for directions – initial success is not gauranteed, regardless of what your mom told you.

  277. Ricardo April 28, 2008 at 4:42 am #

    Congrats for your courage!

    I’m Brazilian, spent 6 months living in the U.S. as an exchange student, and after witnessing how overprotective most U.S. parents are, feel refreshed to see there are still people trying to change this reality. It was pretty sad and disappointing to see such a great society, built on values like liberty, courage and entrepreneurism, being deeply affected by its own fear.

    As for myself, I am very thankful to my parents for letting me grow up at a healthy and liberal enviroment. I’m pretty sure your kids will feel the same way I do 10 years from now.

  278. erika April 28, 2008 at 5:54 am #

    There is more media covering scary stories these days, and there is more technology for criminals. I think that is not the world going bad, it is just evolution.

    Also, it seems these days that children are their parents’ little trophies. The parents want to coddle and protect their trophies so that they can perform for them and make them look like great parents and dynastic heads. That is not helpful for children to become independent, openminded, confident people. Everyone complains that adolescence is delayed these day – this is why! The parents THINK they are being helpful by helping their kids play into the system, by never letting them make mistakes, get behind, waste time — god forbid have a broken arm and not be able to get that baseball scholarship, or look bad or feel awkward. Then the child might have to experience hardship and LIFE and actually need to TALK with their parent about something REAL, instead of just how to get ahead and look good.

    My parents weren’t always great at having those conversations with me to the extent I wanted, but THANK GOD they let me try things, fail, get lost, make mistakes, do something different than the way everyone else was doing it if I did not want to always play it safe. I have given my parents a rough time about not listening to me enough when I messed up, but at least I was given the opportunity to mess up and learn how to pick myself up and decide what I really wanted to learn from any challenging experience.

    Jamie Lee Curtis has been talking about this lately – how society is geared now so that everything is easier, especially for parents and supposedly for kids. Well, that does not help kids in the long run – to have a view of life as better when played with utmost safety, conformity, and narrow experience.

  279. Matt Weiss April 28, 2008 at 6:20 am #

    To Kari@inthisstorm: Probably the author would feel differently had she been abused by an adult she was supposed to be able to trust, but wouldn’t a child be far more vulnerable to such an adult at home, perhaps while being looked after, rather than on a crowded subway car during the day?

  280. Kari @ InThisStorm April 28, 2008 at 8:50 am #

    To Matt –
    Isn’t it pretty to think so?

    Sorry – my husband has been a certified sex offender treatment provider in our state for more than a decade. We know *way* more than anyone here would like to even consider.

    And it isn’t just little girls who are at risk.

    The statistics are staggering.

    Which is okay as long it is just your number and not your child.

  281. Brandy Phillip April 28, 2008 at 8:52 am #

    I so applaud you. My sons are 10 and 11 and I have had to fight the abuse sytem for years. My 11 year old son is allergic to grass. This is very scary for us. So we play in the street I have taught my kids to watch for cars and other dangers. I do not know how many times I have had d.facs down my throat for my son playing in the street. One car tried to run my son over swerving to hit him. I called the cops and all they said was that he needed to be in the yard. I have a free range kid and he is so independence. I have walked out of a restaurant that we as a family was eating in. Leaving them with the money to pay and money to get home. Granted it was only 5 blocks but they made it home. I am glad someone has finally brought this to light .
    I really think our kids need to turn the electronics off and experience the world a little more.

  282. Dylan Anonymous(last name(no not real)) April 28, 2008 at 9:19 am #

    OK, the following comment i wrote for some newssite, then it said i have to ba a member to post comments?!?!? It would be a shame to just discard it, it took me quite some time to write… so here it is(some stuff is irrelivent, but it is about the same thing you guys are talking about, just based on an article i read on it).

    Ok i am a kid, and i dont have a cell phone, and i live in (more or less) the counrty (well its a colledge town 😀 ) , I walk to school everyday, My mom is fine with it, In fact, walking to school helps me. I was crossing roads by myself by like 8(at most), and I have never encountered anyone who i Think would hurt me, and if they would, it is very obvious. If your child has a decent judge of character, and understands safety, its fine.
    Also, the only time my mom was genuinly worried was when i didnt come home till 9:30 one night (first time ever), and even then, i told her i was with friends, worst comes to worst, i chose the wrong group of friends, some day she meets them, gets pissed, and tells me to stop hanging out with them, and i would .
    Also Also(lol), If i was in danger, most of the time i either have a pocket knife on me, and i am not afraid to show its clip in my pocket, i look in decent shape, and i am in good shape. BECAUSE i am not so afraid and shltered that i am allowed in the park whenever i want to go(leave a note), and i can go with my friends to hang out, which no matter what, it involves walking, and we rock climb usually too, i AM able to socailize, learn that sometimes people make mistakes, and also get in shape, so there is a even LESS chance of me getting in trouble.
    Going back to a thought earlier, when i dont have a knife, i am with my friends, and there is quite alot of us, and like half of us are older kids, who certainly wont be taken off by some stranger, since we are big, there is alot of us, and well, we appear(somewhat) able to handle ourselves if something came to blows.
    Any critisism of what i said is open and asked for, i love a good argument/comversation. Also i did not proof-read this(short on time) so dont go on and on about spelling(i am not capitalizing every I, so give up on it, and i dont use ‘) , and so on, and grammer, and whatever(yes im aware i had like 6 sentences, and they were all run-ons), but please comment.

    This is a cool forum thing by the way, and i intend to tell my socail-studies teacher about this thing, see her views etc. Every class we share news, and i think she wouldbe interested in this issue (she is a young mom herself).

  283. Dylan Anonymous(last name(no not real)) April 28, 2008 at 9:24 am #

    ok, so i just posted a comment, but i need to add this (consider it a post script)

    Everyone who is interested in this should watch bowling for colombine(yesit is kinda one sided), its a movie doccumentary, it fills in some gaps that really help with the free-range kids thing. and that wink face, it was supposed to be a ‘ and then the end of a parenthesis, i dont know what happened, oh well, lol.

  284. Dylan Anonymous(last name(no not real)) April 28, 2008 at 10:03 am #

    OK i read alot of this stuff, here (wow there are alot of posts), and i must say, some of this is pathetic, some of this is intelligent, and some of this, well… im male, and not a parent, so i kindof cant comment because, though ive seen parenting reflexes, i have never experienced them (though i do get horribly wierd cravings that can be described as “…. are u shure you r not pregnent?” 😀 ). There is so much stuff i can share hear, i wish i could just say it (type whatever) it all. So ill just do it bit by bit, day by day. First off, a while up on the comments, there is a girl, her namwe was something along the lines of IndependenTeenager, i can say right now, there are 3 (last i knew) convicted rapists in my town, and some parents of friends i knwo wont let them (yes they are girls (and one guy)) hang out on a saterday night wothg sopme friends. Now yes, some kids may experiment in acts that maybe they shoudn’t try until their older (like kissing, or further…) But they have to learn somehow, and if you are to afraid or neglectful to understand that, or tell them about certain “changes” they may experience in life, or that this thast the other is ok, but blah blah blah is not true, and please,… well you get the point. And many parents (for good reason), are afraid that something bad may happen….. if it does,, you learn from the mistake, move on, if it is life threatening, or premenatly/mentaly damaging, then that is when u say NO, you cant, for X Y and Z, but come on, dont just say that i dont trust your friends because they are teenage boys, its not like there are other girls in the group or anything(ok cruel, but true, if something were to happen, whats the chances that we would do it when there are plenty of people to object, and tell), yes thats sarcasm, atleast 1/4 maybe over 1/3 of my friends are girls, and guess what, none of my friends have molested them, and in fact, we have talked about stuff that prevents that type of thing. Now i am very tired, cause i havn’t been getting alot of sleep, so im just kindof going to trail off, and start something else entirely…….
    One of my friends cant go on a huge field trip that my school does every year for kids in our grade ( yes a grade schooler (K-12) is writing all of this stuff), and guess what…. its not because his parents cant pay, he is willing to pay for the money out of pocket. OK here it is, first reason: your bro and sis didnt go, so you cant, helllllllooo, he is willing to pay for it, let him have some independece….. Second reason: (ok so i dont remember perfectly 🙂 ) his dad is afraid that something could happen ( like sneak away, get abducted, etc.) in the three days we are there. Guess what? We are in a group of like 10 at all times, with atleast 1 chaperone, and a strict scedual. I think someone would notice if u went missing, and if you got into trouble from your own stupidity, they will learn, if not, you will be found very fast, sent home, and well, dealt with later. ALso, our school hired GUARDS for the hotel, AND there will be teachers staying up late TOO, AND we take up like 2-3 FLOORS, i doubt anybody would try and do anything, with or not with the trip.
    Okay, now im falling asleep while typing, so g-night, and i hope what i contributed helps. Once again no proof-reading (sorry, hope you can sort through all those errors im shure i made…)

  285. Dylan Anonymous(last name(no not real)) April 28, 2008 at 10:04 am #

    OMG any wink things i did not do on purpose… ignore them

  286. Nomno April 28, 2008 at 11:29 am #

    I have seen many times kids on the subway alone, and yes it did surprised me, but it was also a good feeling, when i was a child in a Mexican city, i had many adventures like that one, some were bad some were good, but it made me who I am, and would change it for a restricted childhood anytime.

  287. Natasha April 28, 2008 at 11:40 am #

    I would just like to ask, would you leave a bag containing a million dollars in cash on the seat of the SUBWAY?? I am thinking NO! Yet, you chose to leave your PRICELESS child alone on one. You were afraid to loose your CELL PHONE, but not YOUR SON?? Honestly you need some parenting classes! Children are NOT replaceable or monetary items. Freedom to be independent is something every child needs, lack of proper supervision when the situation calls for it is not. What you end up with by practicing your “parenting style” is a statistic and MANY sleep less nights spent mourning your poor choices.

  288. Kelsey H April 28, 2008 at 1:08 pm #

    I wish my mom was like you. Hell, I’m 19 years old, getting married in October, and still have a curfew of midnight by mommy dearest’s rule. She’s constantly calling my cell when I’m not at home, and demands to know where I am and who I’m with.

  289. Drake Crane April 28, 2008 at 2:00 pm #

    I understand the concern, by that age though kids should be responsible enough to travel short distances. I live in Japan and see school kids traveling all the time by themselves. Some even younger than 9 yrs. You shouldnt over protect your children it only stops them from learning.

  290. xpez2000 April 28, 2008 at 4:52 pm #

    No matter how much confidence you may have…it’s always a risk.

    Would your fourth grader be able to fend off a child molester or anyone….

    Why dont you do a search on your neighborhood and subway stops to see how many sex offenders share your subway route.

    You might be surprised with what you find…

  291. momto4kidsny April 28, 2008 at 8:43 pm #

    I applaud you teaching your son independence! If we the parents are always doing for our children and always around our children how are they going to learn to do something on their own?? I grew up in a small town in PA and I was never home until after dark! Now I”m in Upstate NY and I alllow my daughter who is 9 soon to be 10 to ride her bike to a store for a special treat, allow her to ride her bike to a friend’s house 3 blocks away…while I sit home with her brothers. And when the boys are older they too will be able to do this!
    I stand behind you!!

  292. sherry April 28, 2008 at 9:17 pm #

    I most cherish the memories of playing in the neighborhood into the sunset- hide and seek, kick the can- of walking to school, boots in the snow- and new umbrella and raincoat in the spring- from the time I was in kindergarten. Now I am living in the smallest of small towns in PA- I wouldn’t dare let my daughter (age 9) walk the few blocks to her school. I am not afraid of anything happening to her- but I expect the reaction would be one of abuse or neglect- endangering the welfare of my child. In contrast we now spend our weekends in Brooklyn. I am delighted and was at first amazed to see kids, of all ages, sizes, and cultures, everywhere- walking to and from school, riding their bikes, walking to the store. It is SO refreshing. As we conteplate our move there this summer I am excited at the thought that I could let my child walk to the corner store. This is not insanity it is normalcy.

  293. Patti April 28, 2008 at 11:44 pm #

    I can say I was out of the loop over the weekend and just came accross this story today. At first, I was a little surprised but the next I realize as a kid, we enjoyed our freedom of independence. The difference was we were taught thoroughly what we should and should not do as in respect to our safety.

    Recently, I encountered a situation with my son. At first, I was upset and frightened but soon realized that I need to calm down and explain the situation to him and why i was concerned for his safety. He and a few neighbor boys had become friends and were playing out doors in a parking lot of a church. A new neighbor had moved to the neighborhood and did not have any boys, but had befriended the boys once afternoon and invited them in the home to play video games. I had always taught my son not to go into a strangers home without my permission first. He ignored this because of the other boys were doing it. This particular day I had needed to go to town and never leave him out playing when i have to do this so i went looking for him and could not find him. Asked all the boys parents and they too had not seen them for a while. I combed the street yelling for him and finally he steps out of this man’s home with the other boys. I was totally upset. I did not react appropriately at first, After calming down, I explained to him why this was not a good idea for him to have done. After painting a pretty graphic picture of what could have happened, he understood and promised that it would never happen again. I feel confident in that fact he now knows why he needs to be more cautious.

    I too believe that the strings are needed to be loosed so that he can gain some greater independence. With this greater independence I have found it to do wonders to his self-esteem. So I’m slowly loosening the strings and allowing him to grow for himself, just with knowledge.

  294. Natasha April 29, 2008 at 12:49 am #

    I keep reading posts justifying this by saying….”when I was a kid”…..YES when we were children we did all those things, BUT this is NOT the same era as it was THEN. I wish it were. I did ALOT of things as a child that I would NEVER let my children do. We NOW live in the present and in THIS time chicldren are stolen from their FRONT YARDS, from their HOMES, even from their BEDROOMS. I live in close proximity to where a girl of 16 was dropped off at WORK and NEVER came home. They found her remains a few years later and her parents got to receive her BONE BY BONE! Search missing and exploited children’s web sites for a while before you even THINK of doing something like this. We are NOT living in the PAST, we are living in the HERE and NOW!

  295. Valerie April 29, 2008 at 1:16 am #

    Good for you! When he was in 5th grade my son begged me to let him take the public bus to school alone. I finally relented, and he was ecstatic! Now, at 14, he can read a bus schedule and get anywhere he needs to go in the Denver-Boulder area. It’s good for him; it’s good for me; it’s even good for the environment. I think the world is no less safe than it was 30 years ago, but the “politics of fear” has worked its way into every facet of our lives. Being afraid to let your kid roam in your home town is no way to live.

  296. theresa April 29, 2008 at 2:00 am #

    When I first read it I had mixed feelings. I tried to place myself in the same situation. I thought about this article for a good 48 hours going through a number of different emotions. “How could she do that?” “What a great feeling of independence that little boy must have now!” “What if someone would have taken him?” and on and on. Would I let Ellie ride the subway by herself? Well of course not. Ellie lives in San Diego, not New York. Ellie’s has never been on a New York subway, but this little boy rides one everyday of his life with his mom. To him it’s a daily norm.

    So last night it all came together for me. GOOD FOR YOU LENORE!!! Good for you for trusting him enough to do the right thing. Good for you for teaching him Independence. Good for you for allowing him to become his own person and not trying to mold him into what you/society thinks he should be. Thank you for raising your child they way you feel is best and thank you for sharing with us, your story!

  297. Carrie April 29, 2008 at 4:37 am #

    My sister just turned me on to your blog- we are both free range parents who terrify some of our helicopter friends. I have 5 children, from 3 to 12. When my oldest was 11 she was allowed to stay home with the next 2 youngest alone for an hour or so at a time. Now that she is 12, she stays home with all 4 of her brothers and sisters for up to several hours. My husband and I started slowly- having a neighbor keep an eye out while we went to a restaurant no more than 5 miles from home. But she has proven herself, and the others have done the same. They have followed directions, stayed indoors, even brushed their teeth before putting themselves in bed at the appropriate time! Its amazing what a little independence will do for kids. I plan on forwarding your blog to all my helicopter friends in the hopes that they will understand my style a little better- and perhaps give their own kids some breathing room. I agree with what some others have said- things are relatively safe even today, and there are kids in poor neighborhoods or with working families who have no other choice- but just because you have the time or resources to coddle your children doesn’t make it right! Thank you for having the courage to talk about your brave son’s experiences.

  298. gracefuljanes April 29, 2008 at 4:38 am #

    I can’t be to terribly sure that I would let my daughters ride the subway this young but I also say that as someone not that familiar with one. I do think that you are onto a fantastic topic here though. As a parent who has seen her child survive a tragedy you would thik that I would be fiercly against letting him go afain but I am not. It actually did the opposite. My son was in a terrible car accident that resulted in the death of tow of his friends. Survivor injuries were extensive. He was a passneger and did not even have a drivers license yet. At first I thought how could I let him get in a car with another teen driver and I really thought that had I been more protective that he would not have ben hurt. I quickly realized how ridiculous and futile this effort was. First of all, there was not even a known cause for the accident. – no speeding – no intoxication – no out past curfew – in fact they were all following me, someone made a driving error. Someone simply made a mistake. What happened could have happened to me or anyone else. Them, or any of their friends. Bottom line – none of us know how long we will be here, and none of us have complete control over when we will leave. Within the limits that we all are comfortable setting for our children we HAVE to let them live a full life here. And, sometimes that makes us uncomfortable because it forces us to confront our lack of control over what will happen.

    Thanks for being bold enough to address this head on.

  299. Dylan Anonymous(last name(no not real)) April 29, 2008 at 5:39 am #

    Natasha, when you talked about all the people saying “when thay were kids”, you were right, buti AM a kid in this day and age, and let me tell you, your horrific story, though true, is in a MINIMUM of a 1in like 100 Blillion, its a 1 in a million chance have anything horrific happen to you as a kid(abduction, rape, etc.), let alone something like that.

  300. karrie April 29, 2008 at 8:02 am #

    I think the individual child’s maturity level and experience with the situation at hand needs to be considered. We’re just across the river from Boston. Looking forward several years, I can see allowing my son a short solo subway ride during the day, although more likely it would be with a group. By the time he’s 9, he will have ridden the T with family countless times. Many kids ride the T to school, as I assume many kids in Metro NYC also use public transit as a way to get to and from their schools every day.

    OTOH, I’m not fully in favor of saying “Hey! Have fun. See you in time for dinner.” without having some idea of where he is and who he is with, until he’s much, much older and has proven himself responsible and level-headed.

  301. karrie April 29, 2008 at 8:13 am #

    I’ve read through a few of the comments, and while anecdotal, I feel this is worth mentioning: while I did play outside a lot as a kid, alone and with friends and siblings, my mother was a bit overprotective for the 70s and 80s. She worried. One day while I was at a friends, a girl across the street was kidnapped, violated and left to die in the woods. I think this scared my mother quite a bit, and made her want to protect and warn us even more.

    Somehow, I still managed to move to a major city alone at a young age, love to travel alone, and am fiercely independent. I think my mom’s honesty about her fears helped make me wiser and to develop street smarts, which seems to be pretty much the opposite experience of many others who have commented.

    And to the person who mentioned low income kids navigating dangerous neighborhoods on a daily basis, excellent point.

  302. Natasha April 29, 2008 at 11:55 am #

    Again, leaving a million dollars in cash on a subway would not be something most people would do and yet many posts have agreed it would be ok to leave their child. I will NEVER be able to fathom that mind set. I respect other’s opinions it just isn’t something I would or could ever do. In reply to Dale, 1 in a million still does not make me comfortable placing my children in a high risk situation. I am afraid some nut case might think they are “1 in a million” as well. They have their independence and freedoms, they are just within reason. THIS situation and the age of the child are NOT reasonable to me. I actually find it irresponsible and neglectful. Like thousands of other people I don’t leave my purse or keys lying around in strange places where they could be stolen, I certainly would NEVER leave my child in that situation.

  303. karrie April 29, 2008 at 7:49 pm #

    Natasha, I have to wonder how often you and those who are so upset, actually ride a subway on anything approaching a regular basis?

    Here in Boston, during the day, the average commuter is a college student listening to an iPod, or some guy guilty of hogging three seats with his spread out WSJ. I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually felt threatened on the T, and both instances were the last train of the night, leaving a high crime area with a good number of drunks on board.

    As for NYC, I’d be more worried about the narrow paths between the tracks and pushing/shoving people than I would crime on an afternoon train.

    I think for many people what is missing is that riding the subway IS a pretty ordinary situation, and falls “within reason” for urban families.

  304. Karen April 29, 2008 at 9:34 pm #

    Re: 9 yr. old riding subway

    I think that you have lost your mind…I live in a huge city and would never ever think of having my 10-year old ride the subway himself. In fact, during the past month a gentleman was beaten and murdered on a subway platform in upscale center city. It’s not a matter of being overprotective–it’s a matter of protecting the life of an innocent child. Granted, I believe independence should be fostered, but certainly within reason for the child’s age group……I would definitely consider you a horrible parent. Crime is much worse than it ever was and I would never ever subject my child to something that I could have prevented.

  305. Tyler April 30, 2008 at 1:24 am #

    Re: Natasha

    You need to relax a little bit. You are comparing your child to your keys or purse? Have you lost your mind? A child is a HUMAN BEING that has a voice and hands and legs. They can scream/bite/pinch/kick. Something that your purse, your keys or that bag of a million dollars cannot do.

    You show me ONE stranger that would not protect a child screaming for their life. You continually say that this era is not the same as it was — you are right — it is MUCH safer. Nowadays everyone has a cell phone, there are cameras everywhere, we have the Amber Alert system, the highway billboards, GPS tracking on cell phones, etc, etc, etc.

    Time to loosen up those strings, helicopter pilot, your children will thank you for it.

  306. deshaun April 30, 2008 at 2:07 am #

    i have an idea. call the police precinct that covers the area you are speaking of. ask the seargent on duty if he (or she) thinks it is a good idea to let your 9 year old ride the subway alone. then report back to us what he said to you.

    just let the profesionals decide, as they are the ones would would be handling the case if there was a problem.

    the police deal with the subway safety situation daily, let them guide you, they are the experts

    seems like a common sense approach.

    do you have any objection to doing that?.

  307. Natasha April 30, 2008 at 2:19 am #

    You hit the nail on the head Tyler. My point WAS a CHILD is NOT a replaceable material item and yet she left her son in a place where people WOULD NOT leave such things unattended. A scared child is going to behave LIKE A SCARED child, filled with panic and possibly frozen in fear. One that might not be able to bite, kick, scream etc. ADULTS who are far more prepared to combat that type of situation have frozen in fear. The ONE stranger would be the one that has a HOLD of him. Although I agree there are cell phones, cameras, the Amber Alert system (which by the way IS IN EFFECT due to a child abduction with a horrible outcome), most of these tools are used AFTER an abduction. Also, his mother was afraid to LEAVE her CELL phone with him out of fear it might be (SNIFF) LOST! I don’t need to use public transportation to realize the risks involved in it for a child of 9 years. They FAR out weigh any amount of risk one should take with their CHILD. I don’t mind being labeled a “helicopter”, when the day is done, I sleep in peace knowing I didn’t take UNNECCESARY (KEY WORD) risks with my childrens’ lives, yet still fostered their independence and self esteem. My children will thank me for being concerned about ALL aspects of their well being, INCLUDING their safety. 🙂

  308. karriew April 30, 2008 at 6:40 am #

    Some children might freeze–and many others would not. That’s why knowing your child’s maturity, comfort and experience level matters at least as much as their age, after a certain point.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and assume a child who lives in a major city, who has a good amount of experience riding the subway, etc. and who is begging to take a short ride by himself, probably has some level of street smarts.

    I would also assume that the author has probably been preparing her son for this kind of milestone for some time–i.e. when you take the subway, look for a car with other people in it, be aware of your surroundings and so on. If you run into trouble, there is a panic button or lever–use it to get help if you need to. And so on.

    I wouldn’t assume a shy 9 year-old, from a small town,who has only ridden a subway once in their life, and has had very limited independence, would be “just fine” riding the subway. Statistically? They probably would be just fine, but they would probably be scared rather than thrilled by the experience. (Which is fine. I just think it is absurd to extrapolate fears about random isolated subway crimes and decide that means a subway ride is an enormous risk. As small freedoms go, a ride on public transportation actually strikes me as safer than say, walking to the library, the park or corner store alone.

  309. l be charlie the spleen missing unicorn April 30, 2008 at 7:10 am #

    how could you say that bitterchild. i think you sniffed to many lemons! =P
    you probably got all the independence in the world when you were a kid.
    a id deserves their freedom freak.

  310. Dylan Anonymous(last name(no not real)) April 30, 2008 at 7:28 am #

    First, myname is dylan…. not dale. Also, we are talking about all unique casses, every case is different. Some kids may very well be afraid, and unable to handle these situations in which something may occur. YOU as a parent should know your kid well enough to know how they would hande thess experiences. I can tell you right now, when i was 9, i would have reacted violently, but maybe not so loudly, peple would still have notied, and I am shure that my mom and dad would have understood how i would react, and be able to predict it, in a risky or dangerous situation. I can also tell you, that at the age of twelve, i would have made tons of noise, and been willing, even to specificly target the groin, head, neck, and stomach. Everythiong is case by case, and i get that, but some cases, are actually really safe.

  311. George Shaw April 30, 2008 at 8:34 pm #

    deshaun: The truth is the police (and any other similar professional) will always give you the most conservative & restrictive answer, because if they don’t and you follow their advice, and something does happen, then you will sue them. Professional advice these days rarely takes into consideration much more than “what can I say that cannot possibly get me into trouble”.

    Besides, the police are paid to be ‘professionally paranoid’ – and for them short term solutions for immediate issues (no missing kid report) are the sole yardstick they use. If your kid can’t function as an independant adult when they leave home for college – that’s not their problem.

    Maybe the professionals we should check in with are professional parents… ourselves.

  312. deshaun April 30, 2008 at 9:21 pm #

    george, your view of the nyc police is a blantantly incorrect, unwarranted, sterotypical, cynical and childish description of the many fine brave people who risk their lives daily so that, ironically, you are free to decide whether you want to gamble your child’s safety alone on the subway. they deserve better. without their presence, this discussion would not even be taking place. instead of making sweeping generalizations like this, i encourage you to make the effort to pick up the phone, call your precinct, and have a conversation about this issue. i hope you will learn something that will improve your perspective.

  313. Leah April 30, 2008 at 11:31 pm #

    When I was a kid (not that long ago) we did everything by our selves. Rode our bikes to school, library, store, ect. I agree with you that we are now raising a nation of wimps because we are not allowing our children to figure things our for themselves. I’ve got three little ones and I hope that I, as a parent can teach them what they need to do to get home by themselves. What to look for in people if they do need to ask for help, and more than anything common sense. We live in a small town, so no subway here. But I would expect my child to pay attention if we were in New York to know about the subway and the stations. No I’m not going to let my 4 year old do it himself, but I would think 9 is a good age to start. Aventually they are going to have to do it themself, why not now.

  314. Kristina Corey May 1, 2008 at 1:08 am #

    I just wonder that as a parent, we take for granted this knowledge that we have and forget to pass it on.

    When I about nine or ten, my mother worked in downtown Denver and took the bus to get there. When we did our “Take Your Children to Work” routine, she didn’t change her routine because I was there. We took the bus where I learned about how to pay the fare and how to request our stop. We both had our little bagged lunch. She showed me how the elevator banks worked. All of these little things that in turn made up the experience of working downtown.

    When I was older, living on my own and money was tight, I took the bus to work. It didn’t bother me – I had learned how to years before because of my mom. My husband, a smart man, a clever man, has no inkling on how to read a light rail or bus schedule. The only time he’s been on them is when I’m there to take the lead. It boils down to it being an experience that he never had.

    I think people, not in your place, over react. You let him come home from Bloomingdales! Oh no! It scares me because I’m not familiar with New York. But would I let my child take the light rail from our part of town to the only 70mm screen theater in the state? Sure! Why? I know the area, I’ve done that myself. I know what to expect. If anything, I suppose, if you can’t be a complete Free Range Parent, don’t be afraid to at least take your children to the mundane places you go and how you get there. Parents that dump their children off somewhere so they can “go shopping” or “have lunch” bug me. There are learning opportunities abound; let your children partake in them. You’ll be doing them a favor in the long run.

  315. mspickettoyou May 1, 2008 at 10:07 am #

    Not even sure what it’s worth to add, but… this whole debate is yet another worthwhile one in the world of Mom v Mom. In my suburban life, it boils down to: my kids can’t be as Free Range as I would want because the kids around us are way, way too “busy.” The real safety, especially in the ‘burbs and especially for girls of all ages, is safety in numbers. I just can’t get those numbers.

  316. monica May 1, 2008 at 11:28 am #

    Let’s get to the bottom-line here. This is really nothing new, it’s just a modern day, street level application of darwinism. If the kid is too stupid or slow to defend himself down there, he gets weeded out by the bigger, stronger, faster. Isn’t that the way it has worked for eons? In the big picture, you’re doing our species a favor. I like you, you’re a pragmatist. He either makes it on his own or gets wacked, and then you dont have to waste your time raising a pathetic weakling (and you were smart to keep your celly, clever lass). I can definitely tell from reading these comments that most of you are with me on this. Keep it up folks, go for it with all your kids!

  317. Tahi Lalat atas kepala May 3, 2008 at 2:35 pm #

    As parents we have to let go those strings – let the kid knows about liberty and how to be independent. But of course I wouldn’t do to the extend you did. I almost lost my son in a busy supermarket 2 years ago and that really frightened the hell out of me & my wife. But we learnt after that the kid need to be tought how to find his own way to survive – basic things like you did. Thanks for sharing and I support you on your action.

    Regards, TahiLalat

  318. Shawna May 3, 2008 at 9:42 pm #

    I love it!

    I am with you, my husband is the other kind of parent… it is very frustrating and I see it and hear it my youngest child; I also see where our older children (now adults) learned to sneak because of the limits and OVER protectiveness of their father and the learning curve of their mother.

  319. flinny May 4, 2008 at 5:45 am #

    Totally agree – I think it’s really important for kids to have independence. Not only will your son learn to look out for himself, you’re showing that you trust him and also helping him develop judgement of what is safe or not.

    Children who had no experiences like this go to college too, and then face all the same experiences as children who were allowed trust and independence at home. I’d want to think that my parenting had set my kids up to make decent judgement about personal safety – whether to make that walk home alone, how much to drink in an evening and still get home safely, whether to ask a male friend to walk you home – and I think parents are the most important teachers.

    A child who has grown up with everything being dangerous maybe won’t be able to make that call. If a subway has always been dangerous, how would they know whether a subway in the evening felt safe or dangerously quiet. If they’ve not ever walked home at night, how would they make the call between dark, but busy enough to be safe, and just plain dark and too isolated to call for help.

    Seeing some of the young college students now, making decisions about safety – especially on evenings out, maybe a bit more independence as kids would have helped them.

    Of course, all this is based on the judgement of the parent chosing a challenge appropriate to the age and ability of the child – as in the example here, choosing a safe situation for a child to try to make their own way home.

  320. Robert in Manhattan May 7, 2008 at 10:00 pm #

    Food for thought, indeed. Just because “we did it this way when we were young” doesn’t mean we should do it now with our kids. (The person who wrote about bike helmets and seat belts is simply idiotic. Just because you didn’t know anyone who was hurt, do you honestly think no kids were?) I think jumping from no freedom to setting a 9-year-old free in Blooningdale’s is the height of irresponsibility. Freedom and responsibility should be handed over gradually, and be commensurate with the individual child’s capacity to handle it, not by some pre-set universal criteria. My older daughter, now 17, began with short bus rides between my and her mother’s house around 12. Now she is a fully mobile, savvy NY teen. She has flown by herself, can handle the subway and taxis, makes a hundred little daily decisions. I can see how a 9-year-old could become disoriented, fearful, and traumatized by being set free in a huge department store. The parent might have thought of something smaller and easier-to-manage. I suppose no-harm-no-foul is in operation here. But, if you turned a thousand randomly chosen 9-year-olds free in Manhattan, or Peoria, or tiny farm towns around the country, sure most would return home safe and sound, but a few would not, and not a few of them would have the wits scared out of them. I don’t think fear teaches much, except that one ought to be fearful in what would be, at a different time of life, ordinary experiences. To boot, why does a 9-year-old have to know his way around Manhattan? Is this going to be a regular occurence? Is the parent planning on losing the kid by accident, on purpose, on a weekly basis? Independence is a wonderful thing, but, to everything there is a season.

  321. poetry4kids May 8, 2008 at 7:46 am #

    I am Milou(10). Wow! First I was a bit shocked but reading along I started enjoying it. Here in Buenos Aires we have guards at every second street corner and many of my neighbors have video cameras and big dogs.

    If it weren’t like this I would already be riding the subway alone since I’m 10. I find it nice of you to let your son ride the subway alone, because it has always been MY dream to explore the city alone without my parents at my heels. It feels better discovering things alone: you feel free and more important (respected more by adults).
    Interesting article (even for kids :D)
    Have a great day,
    P.S. Parents tend to be overprotective

  322. Irina May 11, 2008 at 2:46 am #

    I live in Moscow, Russia. My 9yo son goes to school all by himself. It takes him 2 subway stations and 10-min walk. And it is a normal practice for our waldorf school.

  323. Laurie Spoon May 12, 2008 at 10:39 am #

    My mother was insane with worry and would not let my sister and I out of the house unless chaperoned including our front yard. Since she didn’t always have time to take us out, we spent many sunny days inside. We were not even allowed to stay in the toy isle while she shopped. She was certain something unspeakable was going to happen to us the moment we were out of her sight. it was this way until I was a teenager.

    Now that I have two children of my own, I worry about them as well and to whether I am doing the right thing. I choose to let them play outside in the apartment complex where we live and to go to the playground they put here for the kids. I also allow them to go to parties such as SkateWorld and be dropped off and picked up. Much to my mother’s disapproval, I might add.

    This week, my 9 year old daughter wanted to be dropped off and picked up at the movies to watch Nim’s Island with the little girl that lives next door. I agreed, but my sister and mother both voiced their opinions to me today that I was not keeping the kids safe and that “anything in the world could happen to them”. While it is true that anything in the world could happen, chances are it won’t. I don’t want my children to be crippled as adults for things they missed as a child like being independent and loving the outdoors because I myself was held prisoner throughout my childhood.

    But as most parents do, I began to doubt my own judgment and worry began to consume me that perhaps I was not making the right choice for my kids safety. Then I decided to see what I could find from other parents on the internet. And Lo and Behold, I found this incredible website.

    I trust my kids to do what they say and be where they tell me they are going to be. I want to teach my kids independence and to explore the world not cower in terror of it. I am going to loosen the reigns up and I am certainly going to drop them off at the movies, no matter what my mom and sister think.

    Thanks again, everyone, for everything.

  324. Coline May 14, 2008 at 7:43 am #

    I was first shocked to see the headline of your son on the NY Subway alone at his age. However I immediately recalled my own and 5 sisters growing up being all over he.. and creation every day, and obviously here I am – a mother of a 10 year old girl just fine
    I do agree with the thought of giving our kids what we had and yes they have every right in the world to experience that and have the indepence that will and does help later in life.
    I am not sure though if my stomach (fear, anxiety,worry) take that though
    Leaving a mall without her in tow, “yeah I’ll see ya at home”, WOW that’s brave on both the parents and kid side !
    My hats to all the brave parents and kids out there !

  325. Anonymous May 16, 2008 at 8:45 am #

    this artical is very stupid

  326. @2222222222@@@@ May 16, 2008 at 8:47 am #

    this artical is very stupid

  327. Val May 17, 2008 at 2:40 am #

    Re “Justice Department data actually show the number of children abducted by strangers has been going down over the years. So why not let your kids get home from school by themselves?”

    (I’m sorry if this has been addressed already, but 350 posts is a lot!)

    Data show that diseases picked up through feet have decreased in North America. This does not mean that the disease is not as active or as strong, just that people have been wearing shoes.

    While I agree our overprotective culture is silly, it is important to acknowledge that the theory & associated actions around “if I protect my kids they’ll be safer” propogated nation – wide could be supported by the statistics showing kids are more safe.

    (However, they’re subsequently less safe as adults who can’t think or defend themselves, so your points on those fronts are still valid)

    Thanks for bringing this up!

  328. Kiera Brown May 18, 2008 at 11:37 pm #

    BRAVO! I was lucky enough to grow up with a mother who understood the importance of childhood independence and exploration (while still being home in case I needed a little reassurance). I tromped the neighborhood at 7. I went to every neighbor’s house and asked to play with their dogs. (Usually only when the other kids weren’t home…) I went and had cookies at neighbor’s houses without a food-tester. I ate mud and played in the snow till by extremities were numb (and I still have all of them!!!) I built forts with old lumber filled with nails and my jaw still works just fine. My mother was nearly always available if needed and in the rare case that she wasn’t my grandmother was. We grew up poor so that she could be home with us, but I wouldn’t trade my childhood for a billion dollars (even with gas prices the way they are!) I now have a 9 month old baby and often wonder if I will have the courage to allow him the same types of freedoms. Your actions in this terribly news-at-eleven-toys-covered-in-lead-paint-and-arsenic-everyone-is-a-pedophile-oh-my-god world is a reassurance to me. Children have lost so much in the past couple of generations. (Just watch to kill a Mockingbird if you want to see how drastic the change is from childhood-freedom has become.) And for every potential pedophile out there, there are 10 Boo-Radley’s watching your children. Neighbors who know each other at all will usually keep an eye, even if they have to peer over 12 foot privacy fences. For human nature is still to protect children, no matter what the News might say.

  329. Christine May 20, 2008 at 5:27 am #

    It’s not about hovering over every step your child makes, but about doing your best to protect them from what you can. Leaving a 9 year old to travel alone on a subway, is not doing the best you can. No you should not be turned in for abuse, but neglect definately. If you don’t want to actually do the job of a parent, which is to guide AND protect your child, then why did you have a child in the first place.

    I have never hovered around my sons, and I have never kept them from being independant…. but I have protected them to the best of my ability from what I can. That includes not letting a child who is too young to make decisions of which subway/bus/taxi to take home, do so on their own. At 12 or older, that would be something different, but 9 is way too young…. and even at 12 I would be following them, to make sure that if/when they got lost, I wouldn’t be too far away to get them out of the jam.

    You stated in your article that parents are being blamed for the bad things that happen to kids… I’d like to see where that is?? In today’s society, no one is taking personal responsibility for anything they do or that their children do. You are a prime example of wanting the world and your too young child to take responsibility for them, instead of yourself. YOU are the parent, try parenting, it’s much more rewarding when you actually do it.

  330. Chris May 20, 2008 at 9:29 am #

    Like many posting here I was a free range child. Walked to school alone at 6, delivered papers at 8, walked to church at 8. Road my bike countless miles around town as a teen. Took the public bus to the city from my suburban home at 13.

    I am training two free range kids (7 and 10) in the city. Sorry, I do use the cell phone as a crutch. Why not? It is not the 70’s after all. But my older son will walk from school ( 1/2 mile). His longest walk has been two miles from the baseball field. My younger son will walk to the park around the corner. I do none of this casually. Every step has been carefully metered. Making sure they know how to look and hear traffic before they cross the street. Instructing them of the safest places to cross etc.

    I am sure Lenore did this also. It seems that some of the critics of this manuever seem to think Lenore let her son roam NYC with no experience of such things. It is not as if I left MY 10 year old do this. He has only been to NYC a few times (I live in PA). He would not know the lay of the land.

    I would like to quickly stray a little and ask if anyone has noticed that most people do not even let there kids play on there own? I coach baseball, which is obviously supervised, but when one of the coaches suggested letting the kids play pickup games during the summer, some of the coaches did not even think they could do it on there own.

    Maybe that is why we should.

  331. Josh May 21, 2008 at 5:26 am #

    Here’s a good book that breaks down the statistics for this and many other situations: The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things
    by Barry Glassner

  332. Oregon Mom May 22, 2008 at 2:20 am #

    I can’t speak to the subways in NY, I’ve never been there, but if I could convince the helicopter-parents in my ultra-safe suburb to PLEASE stop driving their 11-year-olds six blocks to school EVERY morning, I’m sure it would do a lot for the air quality and traffic woes around here, and be just fine for the kids to boot (exercise? did someone mention exercise?)

    I miss seeing kids out playing like we did when I was a kid. I could let my three-year-old play outside like I did, but for one huge difference — when I was three, I was playing with a half dozen other kids in the neighborhood. There’s safety in numbers. Add to that the fact that there were three moms in addition to my own periodically peeking out the window to make sure we weren’t whacking each other with sharp sticks or what have you. Now I have to be everything to my kid, and it’s like prison for both of us.

  333. L.A Mom with Hope May 22, 2008 at 7:18 am #

    I had read your article just as I decided to let my 13yr old ride the bus alone, that was 2 months ago.

    We have been on Public Transportation for a while now but she has had to ride alone for about 2 months. I am a single MOM of 1 living in L.A. and have no help what so ever. The struggles in life have placed us in the way of difficulties and sacrifices. Decisions that have made me make or force me to make choices that deep down in my heart it hurts.

    When I read your article and noticed that your son was younger it made me cry at first of course coming from a parents’ feeling. However, I have to agree that we must untie that knot for the sole purpose of their independency . I know that maybe i will be criticized that she is a bit older and should be be able to take some of that responsibility that kids her age might have. But she is not like so many kids her age are as I can see. Every family has rules and raise their children as best, but i have been overprotective and strict when it comes to my offspring maybe. ( I cant believe i just admitted that i am overprotective)

    we live in different times, i was forced to walk alone when i was only 9 in the 80’s and took the bus all alone on a commute of 25 miles or more at times to attend school. And i have to admit a secret here on this website that i have kept inside for years. Due to the fact that i was always alone things happened to me, bad things. I would see things and experienced first hand things that you cant forget, that is why i am overprotective. I just finished reading another article that a 13 yr old was held at gunpoint and sexually assaulted walking to school.

    My stomach cringes every time i place my child on that bus in the mornings. And in the afternoon when we meet, a feeling of relief comes out of me when i see her get off the bus. I sit at work all day feeling guilty and miserable. But the 30 minutes that she is in the bus in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon are dreadful.

    what to do? Nothing really, like others say continue our paths and go on as we have to this day right?

    We live in a part of L.A. Calif. that is not pleasant and you see so many things even when she is with me. I know anything can happened whenever..no one is safe. but i have noticed that my child feels important when she is left alone to be free. I know she needs to develop that independence little by little. We wont be there 4ever. but here is what i say.

    “Being a parent is a commitment, a job, a duty, a responsibility, a privilege I think we will always be parents, even after we are gone”

    L.A. MOM

  334. R May 22, 2008 at 9:17 pm #

    WOW this is how I want to raise my kids when I have them. I was an overprotected child and it definately stunted my emotional growth. When you teach your children this kind of independence you are preparing them for sucess! Brava to you!!!!

  335. Justin May 24, 2008 at 3:49 am #

    It’s great to have one of the many stories of kids NOT getting abducted. As you rightly point out, we only seem to hear about the bad events in the ambulance-chasing media, especially local news. It’s disgusting.
    Thanks for the breath of fresh air.

  336. scott May 24, 2008 at 9:42 pm #

    Agree with all except not leaving the cell phone. The fact that the remote potential of losing a $100 cell phone was more important than your child’s safety makes me question your judgment, capability, and sincerity regarding the rest of the article.

  337. Lynn May 25, 2008 at 12:27 pm #

    I question your judgement as a parent of a 9 year old. It is a gamble to leave a child in such a situation, had this turned out negative you would be in jail. Would this have been worth it? How much is your child worth to you? Obviously you are willing to gamble his life as well as yours! Fate has a way of catching up with you, when you are careless of those who are dear to you.

  338. Gillian May 25, 2008 at 9:39 pm #

    Bravo, lady. I was riding the train from NYC to CT and back by myself by age 9, between my parents. Parents are way too overprotective these days.

    People are afraid to set up boundaries with their kids – no you cannot sleep with me. No you cannot interrupt me. No that is not a toy. You can cry if you want but it won’t make it any better.

    I have two young children and I know how hard it is to set boundaries and also to let go. But we owe it to our kids.

    I lived with my father as a child and hence did not have a mom to wait on me. I came home to an empty house, which was a bummer, but I learned how to manage money at a young age, how to care for myself, do all my laundry by the 2nd grade, cook, etc. Hence, as an adult, I knew how to do all these things and thrived on the independence.

    Give your kids responsibility and you both will reap rewards. That kid on the train learned how to take care of himself. He’ll be much better off for it. Kids in NYC ride alone like this all the time. (I’m from there).

    Let go, let go, let go.

  339. Tony May 28, 2008 at 1:36 am #

    Bravo for you and your son!!

    Not just for giving this a try but for bucking the systematic fear-washing of American families. The way I look at the overprotection of children is a bit like a math problem. The questions we should be asking ourselves are, Is my neighborhood a danger to my child? If not the next question is, is my town a danger to my child? If not the next questions is, is the entire city in which I live a real danger to my child? There is always a chance that there will be small pockets of crummy areas in almost any city, so the child is taught to avoid these areas. But other than that, most neighborhoods are fine. It also depends on the child’s maturity level. Personally, my son would not have been able to do that at 9 years old, he has always been a couple years behind the curve as far as maturity goes. But I have always worked with him to push him to look up and around from his electronic games whenever we’re out and about. Now that he is 14, he has a good grasp on his street smarts and I can feel relaxed about dropping him off at football, the mall, a friends house and not worry about him.
    I grew up in the 60s next door to Los Angeles airport (north side) and was free to explore the airport with my friends for hours, or to ride our bikes to Palas Verdes peninsula to goof off, all of us at the age of 8 or 9. I feel it made us smarter and quite independent.
    It’s very true that the main reason that parents are afraid for their kids is the constant bombardment of bad news from around the world.
    Again, good for you and your capable son!!

  340. Jackie May 28, 2008 at 1:45 am #

    Bless you! Our kids need to be prepared to manage life–not scared of life. You are giving a voice to the importance of raising resilient kids. We need a sea change about this issue.

    Right on!

  341. Melinda Tripp May 31, 2008 at 7:47 am #


    We are coming to our senses!

    As a State School Safety Teacher, I know kids can take care of themselves, (I’ve talked to 100,000 kids and their nervous parents)
    Is there anything scarier than a group of aware 8 year olds?
    If children believe in themselves and their inner hero, They absolutely know that if they get into a scary situation they can handle it and there is no stopping the fun and exploration our average kids can have, even in today’s world.

    Here’s to believing in our kids,
    There are good people everywhere…keep giving your kids positive messages.


  342. pastbyer May 31, 2008 at 4:25 pm #

    Hi, I agree with your message. I’m someone who was raised (quite recently, I’m only 19) reasonably free range. From starting primary school in Beijing I was taking buses on my own to and from school (which was an hour’s drive and another 20 min walk away). My parents gave me a stack of 2 yuan notes every 6 months, both as bus money and as spending money for snacks and trinkets and whatever else (which taught me how to manage money too!). I remember vividly that once I forgot to bring money and I missed the free bus home. We didn’t have cellphones at that time, and at any rate both of my parents were working and didn’t have cars (private cars and cellphones were very rare in China just 10 years ago). So did I panic? No! I went to the shop that I usually bought snacks from, and borrowed 2 yuan for the bus. The lady there was kind enough to lend it to me provided that I left my name, phone number, and school. I went and returned her money the next day. Did my parents freak out when they found out? No, they praised me for thinking fast on the spot and solving the problem responsibly.

    Since then I’ve always gone and returned from school on my own, whether walking or taking buses, and I have to say that I am quite proud of my cooking skills too, because my mother has always taught me how to cook (via requesting my help in preparing dinner). I’m not afraid of sharp objects (nothing in my house beats a scalpel in the dissection lab, trust me) or having to take public transport anywhere, or having to cross a busy road or of vague scaremongering about “germs”. Yes, rare, unexpected accidents do happen, but you can’t ever prepare fully for unexpected events, that’s why they’re unexpected. Frankly I’m grateful that I had the chance to learn independence. I really hope that when I do have kids (eventually) that I’d be able to raise them the same way.


  343. Lovelle Overbey June 2, 2008 at 12:21 pm #

    Last year I let my then nine-year-old son Carter and his nine-year-old friend Joe take a trip on their wheelies (tennis shoes with wheels) around the corner from my house in our quiet neighborhood. No more than fifteen minutes passed when Joe came tearing into the house saying that Carter had been hit. I, of course, thought he meant hit by a car and must have set some sort of hundred meter dash record flying to the scene. Thankfully it was not a car that hit him, but the eleven-year-old neighborhood bully on his bike. The result was two permanent front teeth broken in half. After I got Carter home and cleaned up, Carter, my husband and I paid a visit to our neighbors. During the conversation my neighbors suggested that perhaps my child should not have been on the street unsupervised. They chose to take the high road since the bully’s father was standing in his driveway when the incident occurred. He was looking the other way when it happened, but evidently that was not the point. What is wrong with this picture?
    Thirty years ago when I had the run of my small town, if by some chance I were to find myself in need of fourteen stitches or new front teeth, it would have been my fault for making an age-appropriate miscalculation, as it should have been . Today if my child injures himself (or gets mowed down by the local bully on his bike) while playing on the one street where he has permission to roam sans his parental units, it is, once again, MY fault. One reason parents are so afraid to set their kids free is because we are held responsible for every scratch in the court of popular opinion. I don’t know when this parental paradigm shift took place, but for some reason, we Gen Xers seem destined to be blamed for everything.
    Greensboro, NC

  344. owlfarmer June 2, 2008 at 11:48 pm #

    Thank you for the column and for the blog. I’ve linked it on my own because you touch nerves that have to do with most of what I think about these days. We can’t build a better world if we’re too afraid of it to let our kids grow up the way we did. Why would they even want to live in the little cotton-wool universe parents seem to be constructing these days?

  345. A Mom June 3, 2008 at 1:45 am #

    You’ve gotten your “hurrah’s and bravo’s” which I am sure is what you are seeking. However, all these people that have aimlessly wandered the streets of big cities at young ages all seem to have done so in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s when this world was in a different day and time as far as crime and people that seek killing for a thrill.

    I am not one that supports your decision. Your lack of judgement asounds me, and having more concern for your cell phone than your child shows ultimate recklessness with your child’s life. Ask the people that have missing and murdered children at the hands of strangers how wise your choice is. Giving in to a 9 year olds “pleas” to find his way home in New York shows me that your first responses were right. You should be turned in for child neglect.

  346. A Mom June 3, 2008 at 2:12 am #

    I watched “The Today Show” clip after writing my message and I agree with the doctor….teach your kid some independence at home FIRST. You are the one that said he doesn’t get himself up, or even pick his clothes up….yet you send him on the subway alone to gain independence. Shows more about YOU than him….that would be too “non-newsworthy”, wouldn’t it?

    Appears MOM is the one that wants attention. What next? Will you leave him adrift at sea and see if he can row his way home? You want your face on tv, lady?? You just might get it.

  347. frances June 4, 2008 at 12:34 am #

    Well done. I heard you speak on radio today qnd qpplaud you for allowing your son the freedom to find out that the world is not a big bad place full of bad people who want to do you harm.It is so important to remove fear from our lives.You, by showing him you had trust in him and also that you trusted that he would be safe , have given him the best lifecoaching that he will ever need. Yes, there are bad people but on the whole people are caring .He asked a stranger for directions,a man, and he was given what he needed. You lead by your example, if you teach your child that it is dangerous to be out without you then you are in essence telling him that the world is to be feared.We need to raise our children to be strong independant and confident human beings and what better way to start than to give him the confidence in himself that he can do anything he sets his mind to do.I hope that you continue to do what you know is right for your child.I know that he will grow up to be a confident young man.D,ont allow other people to tell you you are a bad mom, you are perfectly entitled to bring him up with a sense of his own responsibility. There is a saying that if you point the finger at someone there is always three fingers pointing back at you. Well done once again,keep up the good work.

  348. eibhlin June 4, 2008 at 3:39 am #

    Heard you on irish radio today. A breath of fresh air. No better way to teach kids but through experience.In a related matter lots of schools here have banned ‘running’ in yard !(Because of ‘compensation’ culture). As a teacher my belief is that kids have to experience falling, etc. and hurting themselves in order to learn how to protect themselves. You have prepared your son about all the pitfalls and let him get on with it. What a great and natural way to learn. Those who point their finger at you are the people responsible for creating the culture of fear which will haunt generations to come. Shame on them. Let more parents be like you and not smother their kids and maybe future generations will have the confidence of past generations. Then the world will truly be a better place.

  349. Shirley Armentrout June 7, 2008 at 12:06 am #

    You’re a class A fool.

  350. KJB June 7, 2008 at 1:12 am #

    I think the thing you need to worry about is having your child turned over to the police or CPS and not being abducted or a victim of some random act of violence.

    As long as no “do-gooders” interfere, you’re son will most likely be fine. If someone calls the police, you’ll be arrested.

    Do you leave your 9 year old home alone unattended? Do you know what your state law is for leaving a child alone?

    Food for thought.

  351. Carennedy June 7, 2008 at 10:03 am #

    OK I do agree that kids need more independance then most parents give, you know the so called helicopter parents the kind that hover over their child.

    I give my kids lots of freedom in our neighbourhood as long as they are home on time (my son is also 9) but I would never leave him downtown Calgary with a LRT ticket, money and a quarters for a phone…. just too far, too much freedom. Freedom is good, but it still has to be safe.

  352. Dr Neil Watkinson June 9, 2008 at 9:45 pm #

    I, too, applaud your initiative in bringing this debate to the fore.

    I look at it this way – not only are we being terrorised by an imaginary foreign threat we are also succumbing to the neglible threat of stranger abduction from public places. It is a very, very rare occurrenace – not zero but very rare – and no more prevalent than when we parents were enoying freedom and self-responsibility before our teens.

    Are we going to let ourselves be terrorised and deny our children the right to learn about the real world in the best way possible – and what’s more learn how to deal with the threatening but sad, and often quite harmless, people who they will meet through out their lives?

  353. Ben June 10, 2008 at 3:37 pm #

    Well done! I’m only 24, I do not have any kids yet, but i’m responsible for a group of boyscouts in Belgium.
    The last few years we are confronted with more and more paranoid parents. They don’t want their kids to get dirty, they don’t want us to let their 16! year old kids alone for hiking 2days. (we usualy controle hem at the evening). The kids themselve aren’t used to a little pain like a scrath from a branch or a kick on the leg while playing soccer.
    When I was that age we could go and play around in the neighbourhood, build camps and stuff. Now parents don’t want their kids to leave the proprety anymore, they have to stay inside the fence of the house. If it rains they don’t send their kids to the scouts! They could get wet…
    More and more kids don’t even play outside. They are less social and have difficulties to make new friends.

    Why is there this drastic change in the educating process? In my oppinion this change didn’t start so long ago. Why this sudden change? Media, more communiacation and more ‘sensation’ news?

    I know one thing for sure, my kids will have to play outside at least a few hours everyday, even if it rains a little.
    I will lett my children take the bus and metro to their friends and school. I hope the kids that are educated the ‘wrong’ way will understaind and educate their kids the ‘old fashion’ way.

  354. Meg June 11, 2008 at 3:19 am #


    At three, I left my family in MO to spend the summers with my grandmother in MI. I roamed the area on my own every day. At 5, I began to row the boat over to the store (about 1/4 mile away) to pick up the daily paper. I walked the lane )1/2 mile) to pick up the mail every day. All on my own.

    At a young age, my mother sent me to the store on my own. I walked to school every day until I was old enough to drive my beater-car handed down from my brother.

    Now, my husband and I are looking into buying a house that backs up to a wooded park and a river. We want nothing more than for our children to be able to run out the back door and play in the woods. To explore nature, build forts, learn about water safety, to experience the natural world in their own back yard.

    They will have chores to help the family.

    I am determined to raise children who are capable adults.

  355. Julia Stewart June 11, 2008 at 10:03 pm #

    hurrah – So pleased to read the article – imagine the extra backlash had you been letting a 9 year old girl do the travelling! Being the parent of two wonderful, confident, bright and able daughters it seems I am required to wrap them in extra cotton wool. What rot!
    My daughters (10 and 12) are obviously making forays into the wider world and enjoying it – not always immediately – they like to think and plan – but the sense of achievemnt they feel when they have done another “new thing”. Clearly we don’t force, we encourage , we don’t plan for them we advise – but within a few years they will be driving and having a social life much more of their own choosing, what I hope to be providing is a basis for making that choice and planning and deciding what are wise choices and what are probably unwise choices. Maybe the cotton wool parents never make a dubious or suspect judgement in their own lives and are indeed founts of all wisdom. I however am a falible person who has some strategies for coping. This is not about learning from mistakes – this is about confidence and wisdom. For all those who criticise – when is ok to let a child grow?

  356. Julia Stewart June 11, 2008 at 10:04 pm #

    Sorry – should have said – UK here

  357. Jill June 12, 2008 at 4:44 am #

    My only thought is…you’re not willing to lose your cell phone, but you are willing to lose your child!! Come on, if you can’t even trust him with a cell phone, maybe he’s too young.

  358. Chris June 12, 2008 at 3:41 pm #

    Good for you!

    I have just been watching you on the BBC in the UK and I think what you did was great.

    Over protecting our kids is becoming a big problem. Far less crimes happen against them now as compared to when we were kids but the news just reports them more.

    Your child will be very confident and well adjusted.

  359. CC June 12, 2008 at 4:00 pm #

    It’s really nice to see somebody NOT wrapping the kids up in cotton wool. The people who are shocked by this, i think, have a twisted view of how dangerous New York city actually is. For anyone not just kids.

  360. Dee June 12, 2008 at 5:24 pm #

    Hi Lenore
    I just heard your interview with Ray Darcy on Today FM here in Ireland & I was so impressed. I’m a 26 year old mother of a 3 year old boy & I let him run around our cul-de-sac, the local playground, the beach without actually holding his hand unlike other parents I know. He’s a child who won’t hold my hand anyway so let him run free!
    It was so refreshing as an Irish person to hear you talk so “normally” – usually we’re bombarded with such over protective parenting rubbish from the States that it would put the fear of God into us all. You should get your own show!!

  361. Scott June 12, 2008 at 6:16 pm #


    I was browsing on the BBC from my desk in Tokyo and came across your story.
    First, well done on being a great parent! (not sarcastic)
    You remind me of my mother, who (being a single mom) encouraged me to be independant and stronger than the other kids. I think she did a good job. I came to japan at the age of 17. Left home for good at the age of 19. I have a huge amount of respect for my mother for letting me find out about things my own way, rather than through protective words and [what if]’s.

    Well done. What you did was a little risky, but now your son can look up to you as a parent who respects her childs wishes. Im not great with words, but dont let all the crap get you down. Your son is still with you, and he probably loves you more than ever. Thats what matters.

    Take care.
    Hugs from Tokyo

  362. Robin Newton June 12, 2008 at 6:43 pm #

    I am the mother of a five-year old and I heard about your son on the UK news this morning and I am shocked to realise that people are shocked that a NINE-year old rode the bus and subway on his own. I assumed it to be natural.

    When did adults forget we are raising children to be independent?

  363. Jamie Jones June 12, 2008 at 6:57 pm #

    Hi Lenore,
    I also just read the story in the UK news this morning, and just wanted to offer my support. I see there is a HUGE furore over there about you being a ‘bad mother’… but nobody is focusing on the most important factor here….

    If everyone is so concerned about there being so many “weirdos and perverts” out there, why are they so focused on your parenting skills rather than the bigger issue of those “weirdos and perverts”? If the streets (and subways) are supposedly not safe for children, why blame the children?

  364. Barbara Revelli June 12, 2008 at 7:36 pm #

    Hi Leonore,
    Another reader from Europe. I’m Italian and I live in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
    I just read the story on the BBC and I just want to offer my support too.
    I believe you are absolutely NORMAL!
    What is the right age to let kids go around alone?! 21? Sorry to say but the USA are a bit of a nonsense for me sometimes!
    Thank you for doing this, Leonore!

  365. Hugh Blackett June 12, 2008 at 10:02 pm #

    A friend of mine in London got a call from the police at Gatwick Airport, a long way from his home, saying they’d come across his son wandering around the airport and could he come and collect him. My friend replied “He got himself there so I am sure he can get himself back!” The boy was about 10. He got himself back and he’s now a very resilent, independent and capable guy in his 20s!

    A short trip on the NY subway and a bus seems like no big deal. Well done Lenore!

  366. James Boxall June 12, 2008 at 10:42 pm #

    One of my faculty colleagues at my university published a book on this topic, within which he made the point that we “bubble wrap” our children. They can never get a cut or scratch or have a “boo boo”. I am also working with some colleagues on a project that uses a epidemiological view which touches on this topic. The “hygiene hypothesis” states that the more we protect our children from germs, the more likely they will develop allergies and potentially harmful health issues later. The point? If we try to protect too much, we can do harm in the longer run. My students have been protected from failure (the millennial generation). Now they are here at university and cannot understand why they fail or do poorly. Every kids gets a ribbon for participating and no one ever wins or keeps score.

    Yes, protect children from harm. Live in fear? Think that every person and every situation is going to cause harm. Think that a child abduction is always just around the corner? Maybe these are more dangerous times? All I know is that when I was nine, I went out for a walk and a trip on the subway in Toronto. By myself. All afternoon. Exploring the city. Just me. That was fun, and even more so when I did it in London!

    What is the fuss about? She, as the parent, felt he could do it and was not going to be in danger. maybe that also meant a little faith in people that they would help her boy if there was an emergency or danger.

    This backlash is sad. It also shows that with all information available, we all give our opinions on everything all the time.
    Me too. Except this is one of the only times I spoke up because the backlash here on on tv and on the web is just crazy!

    thanks Mom…for letting me explore the subway and the city!

  367. anon June 12, 2008 at 11:21 pm #


  368. Helena in Dublin June 12, 2008 at 11:43 pm #

    I congratulate you on bringing up such a responsible and competent son.

    If I listened to all the scare-mongers and their negative comments, I’d never travel on the subway myself, let alone allow my boys to do so. But you appear to have judged the safety of the situation, the route, and the abilities of your son. And you had the faith in your fellow citizens to help out, were help needed. If I were one of your fellow citizens, I’d be mad as hell that a few twerps couldn’t recognise our innate decency and instead marked us all down as perverts and child-abductors.

  369. Grant June 13, 2008 at 12:41 am #

    Hi there,

    I watched a clip on the news about you and your son.

    Let me just say that I think it’s great that you allow your son to build his independance.

    When I grew up, my friends and I would go all over town on our bikes, from the age of 6 on. While in school, I had a half hour walk to and from school every day in which I had to navigate the city streets and use mass transit.

    By allowing him his freedom, he is learning extremely valuable lessons about travel, trip planning, using maps, and communication skills with unfamiliar people.

    There are dangers yes, but your son will develop the skillsets needed to avoid these dangers, by the interactions of people around him, he will form a gut-instinct as to when a dangerous situation may be arising. Experience is the best teacher in life, thumbs up for letting your son have it!

  370. Lisa June 13, 2008 at 4:03 am #

    Hello Lenore! I didn’t know that I grew up “Free Range”. Me and my siblings spent our long hot summers outside all day. We would have breakfast then walk along a ditch out in the country. The irrigation ditch was long and ended at a freeway. We would swim, eat grapes, apricots, and berries that grew wild. Our mom wouldn’t see us till we were starving and came home in the evening. What wonderful and fond memories I have growing up…free. I let my kids walk to school, store, or to the park that’s down the street. I do worry about my kids today. This world can be dangerous. But are they supposed to be locked up and fear our world? Better to let them out and enjoy the good things. Talk about the bad things. We do talk about what to do when approached by a stranger. What to say about drugs. Just keep talking!

  371. David Smith June 13, 2008 at 4:34 am #

    I read about this on the BBC website, you’ve really gone international with this one!
    I just want to say that I think you’re completely right in what you did. The world isn’t a worse place nowadays, it’s just more widely and quickly reported when bad things to happen.

  372. Randy Eddleman June 13, 2008 at 4:58 am #

    Thank God for you having the nerve to do this. I would say you are a great mom and I am right. People give into so much fear that they let fear control them instead of “booting it out the door.” Someone told me repeatedly as I was growing up that they knew it did good to worry because the things they worried about NEVER HAPPENED. Sheesh! I am for you Lenora Skenazy and I am even more for your husband to allow you to do such a thing. It says as much about him as it does you. I wonder what the pioneers did with little Johnny or Melissa? You can’t go out into the world. It might hurt you. Where would any of us be today if that had been the case.
    Those who oppose you in this are overprotective. Instead of teaching their kids of not being afraid of fear they induce fear into their lives to keep them from an adventurous life and finding out what they can do for themselves. Why? Most likely because they themselves are afraid of the “boogie man” and instead of learning how to fight back to conquer every foe they allow the enemy to walk all over them. A bully remains a bully until someone stands up to him and shows him he is not going to bully anyone, anymore. Good for you, Lenore. My vote is for you and your gutsy-ness. :>)

  373. Steven June 13, 2008 at 5:09 am #


    Someone is saying it, and people are getting it!

    Thank you, Lenore Skenazy, for sharing your stand with the rest of us. No doubt your child is very lucky to have such an intelligent, loving mom – a mom who insists that her child’s general well-being take logical presidence over her own unwarranted fears or abject insecurities, to say, of course, if and when the instincts should ever arise. I’m sure that your allowing him this natural rite of ‘free-range’ – of very real and joyous exploration, of independent discovery – he’ll grow up an equally generous and confident individual. Moreover he will enjoy all the delicious childhood experiences which often bond us with our fellow man – indeed our tales of innocent adventure are a magical commonality.

  374. Johnny C June 13, 2008 at 9:19 am #

    Well done…twice! Once for presenting your son with the opportunity to start taking responsibility for his own actions and twice for having the guts to stand by your decision and defend yourself against the gloom merchants who I suspect are making the protests they are doing because you’ve just shown them to be stiflingly over protective of their kids.

  375. K1mum June 13, 2008 at 12:00 pm #

    I am the mum of two very active little boys (aged 8 and 4 respectively) in Australia. At first I thought – the lady is mad. But then my mother’s stuff gets pushed aside by the niggling doubt that is constantly hanging around that decisions I make to ‘protect’ my sons are actually limiting their ability to defend themselves against ‘the big bad world’. My sister (one of them anyways) wont let her kids watch movies like Transformers because its too violent – my reaction to that is – look around you love. I truly believe we have become over sensitive to violence in our world. Its there (always has been just more publised really). WW1 and 2, Korean, Viet Nam etc etc were still fought – you can bet your bottom dollar its wasnt front page news everytime one of our soliders died in those wars – sick people who pray on those weaker than them have always been there too – just were able to hide in the shadows of the lack of progress in the world – now its on the net, tv etc etc. I myself try to encourage my boys to be more independant – I dont want them too scared to move out of home at 20 – its a constant battle but if we dont teach them what violence and the unpleasantness of life is then how are they to avoid or fight against it? I congratulate this lady for having the guts to give her son the space and encouragement to do something this brave – I would call her a great mum (mom to you over in the states) – well done – I just hope I can let go enought to encourage my sons in the same manner.

  376. Anonymous June 13, 2008 at 12:23 pm #

    I really wish that such a blog was written back when I was 9!

    I’m 19 now and my mother won’t let me walk from the bus, a 5 minute walk to my house at 7pm at night. I live in the quiet suburbs as well…as well as this I am constantly got her watching me and invading my privacy so she knows everything that goes on in my life. It really bothers me!

    KUDOS to you though…I really hope your son grows up to be a very confident man with enough independence to really drive his own life!

  377. Abby June 13, 2008 at 12:30 pm #

    I read about your story in a news article. I am an 18 year-old currently living in Australia where most primary school kids ride public transport and walk to school by themselves, why?

    Because it is safe. Society has the goal of attaining safer communities. The U.S, by its global status, should be one of the safest countries.

    I have cousins who live in the U.S and, not to stereotype all american kids, they seem very overprotected.

    Kids should be able to breathe! to have fun. Of course safety is a number one priority for any responsible parent but there is safety in fun.

    Climbing trees, riding bikes, playing sports and things we do as children is important to develop our learning and social skills. Safety should not impede on the acquiring of these skills.

    I myself grew up with parents who, i believe, have raised me very well. I am a sociable healthy being with the best prospects in life. I know what it is to climb trees and do all sorts of things kids are meant to do and i see them as good memories; all the unfortunate accidents i had (cuts, bruises etc) are merely learning experiences now.

    Catching public transport by oneself to get home is, i think, a vital skill that a child should learn in case of anything.

    Good on you for being different, i think you are a good mother who acted on her teaching instincts!
    From halfway round the world i congratulate you for braving to do something out of the norm that should be considered normal and essential in the education of children. You are an inspiration for the parents and youth who wish to stamp out the insanity of “overprotective fever” all over the world!

  378. Envirobot June 13, 2008 at 1:38 pm #

    I’ve only just come across this article, and i find it hard to credit the parents who want to cry shame. i haven’t read all the responses here so i’ll probably be repeating others’ thoughts, but good for her and her son!

    THis is a troubled world bu tthe only way anyone is going to learn to deal with it is by being given the tools as a child – and self confidence and independence are two of those tools. Shame on those wh would wrap their kids up in cotton wool, because those children will live in an unnamed fear for the rest of their lives.

    Congrats on your parenting skills!

  379. Maria June 13, 2008 at 1:44 pm #

    You ask, “Isn’t NY as safe as it was in 1963?” I cannot remember reading, seeing or researching airplanes slamming into buildings back in 1963 or people being probed at airports and schools having metal detectors at their front doors.

    I too am from Australia, and yes Abby, in Australia we do see younger kids catching the bus to school. NY would swallow up half of Australia in population and crime alone. And yes, it may be somewhat safe in Australia, however you may be a little too young to remember the disappearance of Daniel Morcombe, 13 years of age, catching a bus in the very safe Sunshine Coast, he too would have been 18 years old now. Just think, we don’t even have numerous TV stations dedicated to reporting crime like in the US.

    As for good instincts, parents should teach their children how to get home in the event they are lost, however, losing them on purpose……. and hope they make it home someday, that’s something different altogether.

    We should ask ourselves whether 9 year old children should have so much independence. Let’s just hope this child doesn’t start begging his mother for a gun to take to school for show and tell……

    I guess no parent is given a guide book when they produce their children, however admitting you make mistakes and learn from them, is also another valuable lesson for all to teach their children.

  380. Myriam Robin June 13, 2008 at 2:13 pm #

    kudos to you. growing up, my experiences of getting lost and finding my way home have now taught me to keep my head in difficult situations. thank god i got lost a few times, it was well worth it.
    i’ve always found it extremely depressing how we always assume the guy on the subway next to us is a mass murderer. the overwhelming majority of people are also parents with children they worry about, and would only want to help a lost child.
    although it doesn’t sound like your kid was lost. good on you for raising such an independent child

  381. Fredrik June 13, 2008 at 2:31 pm #

    I dont think that you did wrong. Kids today live in a verry overprotected environment. Parents drive their kids everywere in fear of the tragedy that will happen if they let them out of sight for just a second. The problem is the media reporting. I am sure that the statistics for accidents and other misshaps involving kids isn´t wors now than, say 20 years ago.

    Keep up the good parenting!

  382. Paul-UK June 13, 2008 at 3:28 pm #

    Well done!

    As a kid I used to do this every weekend in London using an A-Z and a Red Rover ticket that allowed unlimited use of tube & bus I took a bag with food and drink and dissapeared for the whole day. It was fantastic fun, highly educational and character building.

    Today is a different world but is it truly that much more dangerous? Possibly not. When I was doing this communications were by post/telephone/newspaper/radio/television = SLOW/limited. Today we have the globe at our fingertips instantly and bad news travels fast so it FELLS like the world is less safe. I am not sure that it is.

    I understand your logic and agree with what you did. I bet your son is a better person for it. Are you sharing all of the controversy with him as well so he learns further about the world and the people that populate it?

    The world has become paranoid due to the increased communications but is it justified – probably not.

    I wish you and your family a continued happiness regardless of the paranoid opinions out there. Just keep a low profile from now on 😉

  383. Jack - Brisbane, Australia June 13, 2008 at 5:25 pm #


    While there is a perception outside of Australia of Kangaroo’s roaming down the street here, the reality is that our cities are very big and we too have the scum of the earth out there.

    We allow our 10 year old daughter to catch the bus home from school everyday and then she waits an hour or so for either myself or mum to get home from work.

    My wife is still uneasy with this, but my point to her is that if we cotton ball her this will not help her gain independance and she will rely on others a lot longer than she would need to.

    Yes the world is a dangerous place and I will kill anyone who tries to harm my children but I will also not allow them to be over protected by us. Our jobs as parents is to educate our children about society and family and loyalty and love and we are preparing them for adulthood where they will need to do things on their own and without mum and dad doing it for them.

    However I also think a lot of commonsense has to come into it. Would I allow my 10 year old to roam the streets after dark…No. Would I allow her to go to the more dangerous areas of our city…No. But I might when she is 14. The same as I won’t allow my 3 year old to catch a bus right now on her own. There comes a point in any childs development when they are ready to tackle the next challenge but just because a date has passed on the calendar and now they have hit a new age, it will still depend on their mental apptitude and problem solving skills. I’m sure the parents of the child in New York which has started this debate would not have allowed him to do so if he was not mentally ready or had some kind of intellectual disabilities.

    If more people in the world stood up and said “I will not allow you to harm me today” as victims of crime then the world would be a safer and stronger place.

    Thanks for reading.

  384. Steven Lane June 13, 2008 at 5:50 pm #

    Well done for being so brave with your child. Here in London I think we have over taken New York for voilent attacks, muggings and murder of our young.

    Here’s a letter I recently wrote to Sir Alex Aynsley- Green who has recently presented a report to the UN on children’s rights.

    Dear Sir Alex Aynsley – Green

    I am writing to you in desperation, with regards to the lot of my son and 331 other children in Hackney who have no secondary school to go to.

    My son is due to start secondary education in September. Unfortunately he, along with 330 other children in the borough of Hackney has not been offered a school to go to. Our failing education authority has not provided enough schools for our children (even though we pay one of the highest council taxes in the country).

    To resolve this problem, the learning trust is busily phoning undersubscribed schools in other boroughs which may have places. Unfortunately, the only schools in those neighbouring boroughs with places, are the schools that no one (in those boroughs) wants to go to.

    This policy of chucking our kids into schools far away from their homes forces the children to become commuters. At the tender age of 11 they are expected to leave home up to 2 hours before other kids that have the luxury of a school in their own borough, and return up to 2 hours later when they come home.

    On their way across London, they will encounter kids from other schools, gangs. drunkards returning from all night binges – It must be against their human rights to force them to do this.

    A good example of this is a boy that we know, whose mother is a teacher in our sons (local) primary school. He was sent out of the borough last year and so far he has been mugged for his phone, beaten up and attacked 6 times this year alone.

    On some ocassions he has been returned in utter distress to his mother accompanied by the police, to the primary school. All the kids there, including my son and daughter have witnessed or heard of this and they are absolutely petrified that the same fate awaits them.

    This along with the sense of failure they are given when they see their friends getting local schools and themselves having nothing except perhaps a vague offer of a school in some dodgy neighbourhood up to 5 miles away.

    Our council washes its hands of responsibility for whatever happens to these children on their way to schools, but they are forcing these children (by their lack of provision for schools) to risk their lives every day.

    The problem is that the people responsible for this infringement of childrens rights, are completely unaccountable, the only thing they do ensure, is that their own children, who sometimes live far from our own borough, get the places that should go to local children.

    We are driven to gut wrenching insanity worrying about what on earth we can do, just to have a school place in our borough so that our children can walk to school in safety themselves.

    Another child who came from Poland is being sent back to Poland as over there, they have local schools for everyone!

    I was raised in a childrens home and have had none of the chances that your organisation seeks to give children. I have suffered extreme violence (as a child) from my father, witnessed my mother slitting her wrists at the age of 5, buggery in care, my home recently being destroyed by unaccountable corrupt officers in Hackney council, smear campaigns for exposing those officers corruption.

    Through it all I have had no justice but despite this I have tried my best to stay as sane and law abiding as possible.

    This latest infringement against my son is for me, the last straw, I have watched him go from a gentle mannered, kind, thoughtful, hardworking boy to being very depressed disillusioned and angry – I recognise this as it happened to me in the 60s (although not for the same reasons). The worry , the stress, It takes away your childhood and your soul.

    There is nothing I can do to console him.

    Our council/learning trust seems to rely on the fact that nobody can afford to take it to court. I was wondering if your organisation could force them to do something.

    Please help these unfortunate children have some hope for the future


    Steven Lane

    There is further info at


    PS All of the above could have been avoided 3 years ago, but the learning trust turned down a chance to build an academy on the site of Sir Thomas Abney Primary school, their official reason was that the site was too small but if you look into the details you will find that they turned it down because they did not feel they were being consulted properly by Bernice McCabes team over the naming of the academy and other internal personal indifference’s which they put before our childrens futures. They spent a great deal of money on the planning of it, did not consult the parents (who naturally all wanted it) and then shelved it. The outcome of their personally orientated decision is what we are seeing now. 331 children without a future. Can you imagine what it would be like if you were told at 10/11 years old that you don’t have a school? “Every Child Matters” is a joke to us or more, it’s an insult as we see that quite clearly our children do not matter.

    I would like the opportunity to send my child out on his own to school except he has no school to go to. My partner and I pay 40% income tax and one of the highest council taxes in the country but it seems we are not even entitled to fundamental basic human rights

  385. amber June 13, 2008 at 7:59 pm #

    thank you for you bravery. went i was your son age i was sent on a plane interstate by my self and i did ok. my now 12 year old son has travled by himself by plane a few times he also rides his bike around our town and picks his 6 year old sister up from primary school and walk to meet me . yes its a big scary world out there but. if 911 has thouht us anything it you never know whats going to happen and you cant live your life in a bubble. We took our kids out for a family meal a few weeks ago and 2 members of my partners family where shocked i let my 6 years old go to the toilet by her self.As i told them what am i going to go with her when she is 9 or 10 i dont think so.kids these days need to be let of the cord and learn to be inderpendent.

  386. Garry- Gothenburg- Sweden June 13, 2008 at 11:37 pm #


    Great to see that there is still some common sense out there. I was growing up in Gothenburg and me and my brothers used to ride our bicycles 20 miles to visit our grandmother when we was 9-10 years of age. We also used the tram and went all over Gothenburg just for fun.
    As many has pointed out, it is a dangerous world but we cannot keep kids in bubbles until they’re all grown up and then expect them to act and feel secure as individuals.
    Way to go mom and keep up the good work.

  387. Dianna, Maribyrnong - Australia June 14, 2008 at 12:09 am #

    America (is it safe to be in school) how many children have been gunned down. No-one lasts forever death is a natural part of life so why make such a fuss about a small thing like this. A mugger could climb through your window while you sleep? When are we 100% safe… i think the answer is never. My point is children should be safe to travel on public transport because lots of adults do and we as a society should be watching each others back (so to speak). If i saw a child i would make sure he or she was not approached by some undesirable person. Anyone can be attacked, stabbed, raped, age does not keep you safe… being apart of caring society does. I think a child of 9 brought up to be a free thinker would be smart enough to take public transport home alone and he wasn’t alone because someone drove the bus and sat next to him on the train. As to say he might see something awful… What is the news paper headline today? What shows are on television, what fowl language is spoken in the streets and school yards….. At age 7 i rememer walking to school with my older sister 9 and younger brother 5 without parents. We had a long walk but lived in a quiet suburb called Williamstown in Melbourne-Australia .

  388. Ã…sa from Sweden June 14, 2008 at 5:00 am #

    I agree with you! Don´t listen to all the criticism. The children who gets to discover the society and learn about it, first hand, will handle life in a better way. Go for it!

  389. Liana June 14, 2008 at 8:19 am #

    I commend you for what you did and I’m so happy for your 9-year-old. He has a great mom, and I hope he has/had fun travelling from Queens.

    I’m almost 20 and my parents get paranoid about me walking around after dark. There is seriously something wrong with that.

    I love my parents, and I suppose I’m compensated by being allowed freedom in other aspects of my life, but seriously, being called multiple times about being out after dark even though I’m with friends in a bright, busy street?

    It’d be laughable if not just plain humiliating in the middle of a nice dinner.

    Overprotective parents need to get that death grip of their children’s lives.

  390. Liana June 14, 2008 at 8:20 am #

    I just noticed my typo. I meant ‘Overprotective parents need to get that death grip OFF their children’s lives.’

  391. Trevor June 14, 2008 at 10:12 am #

    Hat’s off too you! First rate parenting.

  392. Sue June 14, 2008 at 11:41 am #

    I was shocked and a little puzzled about all the fuss! and the worse mom label. They did not know my mom who left me in a car down dark alleys at night while she went off to have her extra martial activities, that was scary for a kid of 5yrs, I baby sat over night at the age of ten (alone) Living in Melbourne Aust ,I caught trains and buses, I was confronted by weird people, weird propersitions. I learnt to be street wise, I learnt to read people I grow to a strong woman. Now a mother of two girls (now 23& 14)living in a small town I was and am overprotective, which creates a false sense of security in them, they are too trusting, so…..what is a good parent….a good parent can see each child is an individual and changes the rules and limitations to suit that childs needs… You have proven yourself to be a great mom, you equited your son with his needs (map, money and trust) for a positive outcome ( he grew in confidence and became street wise). I congratulated you on your parenting! I think you have the right balance!

  393. Jill June 16, 2008 at 12:54 am #

    People (OK, moms) who are busy watching their offspring every single second are too busy to pay close scrutiny to what their gov’ts are doing (which, of course, is how democracies remain democratic). Please read http://www.dunwalke.com

  394. K-l June 18, 2008 at 9:28 am #

    Wow! At 9?

    I’m 23, I live in NJ just outside of NYC, and my Mom STILL won’t let me use the train or bus alone to go into NYC. Matter of fact I’m not even allowed to drive LOL. I’ve never been to NYC before, even though it’s technically only 15-20 minutes away. That’s not an exaggeration, either — I’m 23, and I still haven’t gone, or have done much of anything alone of that nature. I’m not sure I would even know how, honestly. If I’m not accompanied by a friend I’m generally not allowed to leave the house.

  395. K-l June 18, 2008 at 9:31 am #

    Also, for the record, when I pointed my Mom to your article I just got a spiel about irresponsible parents and how some parents “just don’t give a shit” about their kids.

    Still, I find it hilarious if only because I’m 23. I’ve kinda given up on the issue and go along with it so I don’t have to hear the shrill screamings.

  396. Gudrun June 18, 2008 at 7:08 pm #

    Here in Belgium, we somethimes laugh with the ‘scared’ American people (sorry folks, but that’s the image that a lot of people here have from you). Also on the news, they were making fun out of it that they gave Leonore the tittle of worse mum. It’s incredible! In Europe, it wouldn’t be a newsitem that children take the metro on their own. Also overhere, a lot of parents overprotect their children, but I think not that much as in America. How can you live normally if you have a life of scare? How can you ever ‘survive’ as a grownup if you were always overprotected as a child? If you don’t prepaire your kids for the real life, then you are a bird for the cat, we say… Learn them the good things, learn them to think for themselve and support them, step by step, to become independente.
    (Sorry for my bad English!)

  397. AV June 19, 2008 at 9:14 am #

    I’m 21, and I grew up in a small suburban town. Growing up in my affluent and homogenous town was sort of like living in a bubble in some ways, but at the same time, I definitely remember occasionally being left on my own for ten minutes or so at around 4 or 5. As I got older, the time I could be left alone increased, and I remember of course having rules like don’t answer the phone, don’t answer the door, don’t use the stove, and I would just sit quietly and read until my mom or dad came back. By the time I was in third grade, I had a key to the house in my backpack in case no one was home, and starting around fifth grade I was on my own every afternoon, walking home and then it was me and my sister until 5. This was during the 90s in New Jersey, so fairly recently. And I never had any problems with being on my own, except for one time getting in trouble for reading my new school library book WHILE walking home, because it was just too good to put down.

    Some of my friends’ parents were definitely more protective, but I’m so glad my parents let me be independent and do stuff like go off to the city with my friends when I was a teenager and try to navigate subways…I studied abroad last year and there’s no way I would have been able to handle being on my own in a foreign country if I had been too sheltered when I was younger.

  398. Hamish June 19, 2008 at 12:58 pm #

    I live in Tokyo and regularly see kids of 6 or 7 riding the subway in groups or by themselves. They often go from school to Juku (cram school) by themselves. There is no question of them being in danger in Japanese society, no consideration of their safety. As a New Zealander, its nice to see the perception of the world as a safe place for children mirrored in a big Asian city.

  399. neurotica73 July 2, 2008 at 8:36 pm #

    I completely symphatize with your ideas.Europeans sometimes laugh at the paranoia Ameicans seem to teach their kids.Don´t talk to strangers,don´t look at strangers,expect the worst from all strangers.Of course I realize that N.Y is a different matter from,let´s say an English countryside town.
    But anyway,American moms in general seem more paranoid than the average european mom.

    Even if people mean well and sometimes paranoia is necessary,I think it´s also harmful.If you teach your kids that everything is dangerous you also teach them to be afraid.
    Even if I wouldn´t let my kids ride the subway in N.Y alone,I still commend you for being so confident.We need to get away from the paranoia in society,bit by bit.

  400. Dave Navarro July 7, 2008 at 8:44 am #

    You did good.

    Every morning before school, I rode the bus in Brooklyn at 9 years old (after walking a mile to the bus stop by myself) and – gasp – nothing bad ever happ-ened. Not even on the walk home.

    Again, you did good.

  401. Andrea July 9, 2008 at 2:22 am #

    Good for you!

    I’m the kind of mom that lets her daughter ride around the neighborhood on her bike, go to the park, visit friends. She’s nine, too. And not once has anybody so much as uttered a fearsome word in her direction.

    Now, my 5 year old autistic son is a different story. Can’t let him out front without supervsion, but I’m sure I’ll figure out how to give him freedoms in other ways.

  402. Andrea July 9, 2008 at 2:31 am #

    Oh, and I also wanted to add that I have taught her to scream, kick, bite, scratch, and do whatever else it takes, to get away from an abductor. She also knows to run to the nearest house or busiest place possible, if somebody tries to grab her.

    Additionally, she’s in Tae Kwon Do.

    Isn’t it better that we teach our kids to defend themselves against potential predators, rather than isolate them and then have them be totally helpless if they have a chance encounter when we cannot be around?

    Again, kudos to you.

  403. Tanimami July 14, 2008 at 1:47 pm #

    I was raised in NYC and there is no way in hell I was ready at age 9 (1978) to ride home alone to Queens from Bloomies on the subway. I remember doing it (a few stops) when I was 11? and sweating through my palms. I felt very nervous. (I do remember riding the buses to and from school when I was 10 and I loved it.) BUT, your son was not me. I applaud you for listening to him and trusting your gut. I trust both you were ready. Your site is great.
    I’m trying to talk myself into letting my 8 year old son go across the street (quiet suburb, minimal traffic on our block) to ride his bike alone like he asks. My husband & I feel like it’s fine. I’ve been letting him go for 10 minutes at a time, but I worry a) what the neighbors will think and b) am I wrong? But I am impressed he does listen and comes back when we agree on a time (10 minutes) and is aware of safety issues.

  404. Steve Harbula July 19, 2008 at 1:27 pm #

    Just saw this article in last month’s Funny Times and it really resonated with me. Some of my neighbors and I talked about this tonight, and we’re not sure how to handle it.

    I wonder how much of our overprotection as parents is really protecting OURSELVES — however subconsciously — rather than just protecting our kids. Protecting ourselves against the potential guilt, shame and grief that would come from anything happening to our children, to the point where we see virtually NO risk as acceptable.

    I wrote about the topic a little more on my own blog at http://atreefalling.blogspot.com/2008/07/can-our-kids-really-be-too-safe.html if anybody’s interested, but I didn’t want to put my whole post into a comment here.

  405. karin July 27, 2008 at 10:40 pm #

    Your position is interesting.!?

  406. Vanessa August 20, 2008 at 2:15 pm #

    I think I might be a minority here on this post. In our NYC neighborhood all the moms let their kids ride without helmets and let their 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 year olds go to school and the playground alone. Not me. I look at my son, seeing he is still a 10 year old child without the strength of an adult who could harm him. It’s just a risk I’m not willing to take.
    My brother, Marshall, died alone on a sidewalk in NYC when he was 18. Perhaps that is why I would rather protect my son until he can protect himself.
    Even when we are there in the park I hear the stories. The day a boy showed up with a long kitchen knife. The day the kid who loves watching wrestling on tv repeatedly threw my 7 year old to the ground. We recently learned there are 4 convicted child molesters living in the immediate area of the neighborhood and this is Chelsea, one of NY’s most exclusive areas!
    I train as a karate-ka and while I more or less know the ins and outs of self-defense more than anything what training has taught me is you cannot overpower your apponent when you are smaller than them. You can disable them. Poke their eyes, ‘nuts’, etc. I look at my 10 year old son and say, no. It’s not worth it.
    He has all kinds of freedom as a home-schooled boy.
    One more thing, I remember when my son was 1 1/2 years, I was reading how important it is to let your child explore on their own. I had read the book and so I was letting him explore alone one night in a garden. Suddenly my gut told me, “Get him!!” I ran to him about 30 yards away and there he was headed for a steep flight of stairs in the shadows, a stair I’d never seen before.
    More important than websites or experts I thin is listening to our own gut. Afterall, we’re the parents.

  407. Vanessa August 20, 2008 at 2:30 pm #

    OK – one more thing. Protecting our children and living in fear are two separate things I think. I live in wisdom not fear. I live in courage. The courage to do what I feel is best for my son despite being the minority in my neighborhood and apparently on this list.

  408. AliB August 22, 2008 at 11:19 pm #

    Thank you for posting this!
    I just had a conversation with my husband and mother last night about the state of out this new generation.

    I grew up in Berkeley/Oakland CA and we had a great time as children: riding out bikes, going to the store, walking home from school…I am raising my 4 precious children in the same manner. Be free! Be a child! We have recently moved to an ATL
    semi-suburb, and this is the most frightening place I’ve Ever lived. it is very rare to see children outside playing (except for my children ) My children have been scolded a few times from “neighbors” for riding their bikes “in the street”. Mind you, there are no sidewalks in this sub-division, and we are at the bottom of a cul-du-sac. Were are the to ride? The street is very quiet and cars only travel before and after work hours. This is a very safe place for children to bike!
    We have to give them freedom to learn! Common sense isn’t common these days.

  409. Emily August 25, 2008 at 7:43 am #

    from a 17 year old. I’m def a free range kids, my parents let me wander off in th back woods, walk home from school without cellphone, let me fly to Paris with my moms friend and fly alone on airplanes when I was 12. as I got older I realized a lot of parents are nuts! They won’t let their kids ride their bikes with our covering their bodies in shining armor. They won’t let their kids got to other peoples houses without knowing the parents and parents telling their kids there going to catch a cold cold from wet hair when it’s 80 degrees outside. Some parents hire babysitters to watch their 14 year old kid. the reason my parents raised me with lots of freedom, since my mom wanted me and my two brothers be raised the way she was raised when she was a kid. Get lost, be messy, make mistakes and have fun.

  410. Anni August 25, 2008 at 10:07 pm #

    I was a latchkey kid, and though I was very passive and shy I made it to 41 in one piece. I was raised in a predominantly Hispanic suburb about 15 miles from downtown LA in the 70s. I mention this because of our fear of gangs today. I remember walking home alone from the bus stop at age five, key around my neck, through three immense city blocks of neighborhoods where I was the only white face. I’d loiter about, soaking in the sounds and sights. One house was painted turquoise, had a low rider out front, an ancient school bus, and a horse in the yard. The residents let me play with the horse and never once did the teen males there try to molest me. Once home, I’d make a snack and spend the rest of the afternoon on my tree swing in the back, lost in my imagination. So often, it’s easier to live in bitterness and terror of the barely-probable: “What were my parents THINKING?!” Those days were the most joyous of my life, and I fear that our kids today are deprived of building such memories of their own. The regimen of the ‘soccer brat’ must stifle and paralyze the soul. Blessed be the mom or dad who gives a loved child her/his adventure (subway, whatever) with faith and confidence.

  411. NewDaddyInNY August 26, 2008 at 1:59 am #

    I admire you. Hope to have the guts to let my (newborn) baby girl roam around Manhattan in 8 years and 40 weeks from now.

    When I was a kid (in Europe) I used to leave the house at 9am and get back by 5:30pm to play with buddies or go for a bike ride by myself. I wonder if my parents were ever worried. This was before the advent of cell phones, obviously.

    That said, I hope that I’ll have the right to make these decisions for my children en myself in the future. The USA seems to be on a course where overbearing conservative meddlers want to curtail my movements as an adult… telling me what’s moral, ‘done’ or the law…

  412. Kit Prate August 26, 2008 at 8:00 am #

    Great going!

    I grew up a “freerange” kid. Afterschool activities were called chores, and we played outside after supper until bedtime.

    I did all those things so polically incorrect now days; played war, played cowboys and indians, read books way out of my age category, spent my summers in the company of grizzled old men at the feed lot learning a lot about swearing, smoking and livestock.

    I didn’t grow up wanting to shoot anybody, tried to negotiate rather than fight, knew my home town like the back of hand, instinctively knew when someone didn’t feel right, and more importantly HAD FUN and established friendships that are still going strong after more than fifty years.

    My parents were my parents, not my social secretaries or taxi cab service. My siblings watched by didn’t interfere. The things I learned as a child were invaluable when I became an adult, and none of those things had anything to do with “organized” playtime. We learned to play fair, we learned to share, we learned to watch out for each other.

    Let children just be children. They are going to be old a very long time!!

    Kit Prate

  413. Mom101 August 26, 2008 at 8:20 pm #

    Just found this article and I want to commend you for knowing your own child best, and pushing past fear to do what’s right for him in the long run.

    I can’t say yet what kinds of children my girls will turn out to be at 9, but I hope that the city will be conducive to this kind of thinking. I still have fantastic memories of being allowed to take metro-north into the city at 10 along with my 8 year-old brother to see my dad, then catching a cab on our own to his apartment. I don’t think I actually tackled the subway until 12 but eh, it was the late 70s. Things were indeed a little wackier then, and not just the bellbottoms.

  414. Kelly August 27, 2008 at 12:10 am #

    I suppose that I could classify myself as a former free range child. I roamed around the woods and through the fields, over to the neighbors’ houses, and even to the little store several miles from my home. And all this throughout the day and well into the evening! The only restraint my parents placed on me was that I had to tell them when I was leaving and a general idea of where I wanted to go. Not once during all this time was I ever harassed or bothered. Truthfully, I felt more unsafe walking around my college campus alone. Which, incidentally, had at least one co-ed murdered and another abducted while I was there.

  415. Mhr August 27, 2008 at 3:37 am #

    I was born and brought up in India and from my perspective, the life of a child in the USA child is best described as “Sterile”.

  416. Sean August 27, 2008 at 4:11 am #

    It’s funny… “back in my day…” I’d take the school bus from elementary school, walk about a mile to my house (yeah an ACTUAL mile! It was a private school though, the public school bus stops are about every 1/4 mile, I’m talking mid 80s here, not the 60s). I throw my bag into the house, grab my bike and head for the woods. Three, four, five hours later I show up at home just as it’s getting dark.
    That was normal. My parents both worked, and if I stayed in the house, I’d sit there alone for 2-3 hours anyway. As long as I was home by dark my parents were ok. Now if it was after dark and they hadn’t heard, they’d start making phone calls.

    At age 32 I took my first trip to New York (this past June). I don’t watch the news (I actually avoid it), but I’ve heard enough in passing, and watched enough TV that I had the appropriate fear of being murdered walking the streets in NYC.

    I was supposed to arrive about 4pm, due to various delays I get there about 11pm instead. I was certain my body would be found on some bench dead the next day. I had rough directions on how to get from JFK to Queens where my friend was staying. I’ll admit, I was really freaked out. I ended up missing the first train and finally worked up the nerve to ask someone. They were extremely pleasant and walked me over to where I needed to be.

    I was there for almost two weeks. I walked around NYC and Queens at all hours of the night. While there were some “interesting” people on several of the train rides, I have to admit, the whole thing was NOTHING like I expected. The people of NY are portrayed as unfeeling busybodies only concerned with themselves, but I found that most people were pleasant to talk to (many times moreso than from where I’m from), and were happy to have a distraction from a dull train ride…

    I completely agree with letting the kid give it a try. However, I will be giving my kid a cell phone, even if it’s a cheap one. I think that the advantage of instant communication is one of the things that have made those who would abduct more cautious, and less likely to do anything. Snap of a cell phone, their face is on the news, quick 911, and cops are after then w/in seconds of the “event”

  417. alanes August 27, 2008 at 7:28 am #

    Bless you. Parents today obsess over the danger a stranger might pose. The real danger comes from trusted friends, relatives, and authority figures such as coaches and– go fig–priests.

  418. Ian August 27, 2008 at 2:09 pm #

    Amen to you. I moved to South Korea when I was 11 years old due to my dad’s job; I didn’t know a lick of Korean yet was still able to ride the bus to and from school. When I lived here in California I still played outside and was actually pretty active, my parents trusted my street smarts yet weren’t scared to let me roam around the creek or down the street to the huge park. I see my much younger cousins overweight and inactive, they sit in front of computers and tv’s not knowing what it’s like playing outside with their own rules. When I was in 8th grade I was roaming the streets of Seoul with friends all night long. I learned to respect alcohol and what it made some people do and how it made some people act. You may criticize my parents but I still made it to a highly regarded public school and am MUCH more sociable than many others at my company and even my cousins. Great posting! I’m proud of your son.

  419. Austin August 27, 2008 at 9:01 pm #

    Good for you….

    9 year-olds in Korea do things like that all the time.

  420. BassMan August 27, 2008 at 11:56 pm #

    Parents are very paranoid today. But, our leaders want us to be frightened so that we’ll be good sheep, consume well, and not make trouble.
    Those qualities will serve them well when China takes us over; that’s just the sort of citizen they want.

  421. Autumn August 28, 2008 at 3:31 pm #

    Bravo to Vanessa; I’m glad I’m not the only one here. There is a happy medium between recklessness and the sort of ninny overprotectiveness that people here are equating with parents who wouldn’t let their 9 yr old ride a subway alone. I guess it always has to be one extreme or the other in order to provoke the responses and get the attention.

  422. Kathy August 29, 2008 at 5:44 am #

    My mother took the streetcar home at six in New York City — would have been about 1936. Her father saw her, and she waved. (she was supposed to have been being watched, both parents worked).

    As it turns out she had been going to museums and wondering around, visiting the neighbors after school, etc.

    They shipped her to her grandparents’ farm until they had a better income and a safer home for her.

    New York City has never been safe for children to wonder around in.


  423. Anonymous August 29, 2008 at 11:17 pm #

    I live in the Bay Area. I was around in SF in 1984 when Kevin Collins disappeared. He was waiting for a bus on Oak & Masonic to go home. He was 9 years old. This was a route he took daily, usually with his brother. His brother was in afterschool practice and Kevin didn’t want to stay. So he left for the bus.

    He never made it home. There was also Amber Schwarz Garcia, Michaela Garecht, etc.

    150,000 children go missing in California alone every year.

    Those are the facts.

  424. Lisa August 30, 2008 at 4:56 am #

    Thank you so so much for writing this article. I grew up in a very safe suburban city (San Jose, CA), where although we never heard news about local child abductions or murders or rape, my mother was convinced that should I so much as stand on the porch alone, I’d be swiped.

    Of course, my mother took it to the extreme. She was an anxious woman to begin with, and hearing stories about child abductions and murderers on the news every night only made her worse. Often, the shows would be about abductions that happened 5, 10, 20 years ago, and always ended with “tips to keep your child safe.”
    So as the result of living in such a fear-driven culture, I wasn’t allowed to walk to or from school until I was 13. Two blocks total. And my mother stood on the lawn and watched me take that walk. In elementary school, my best friend lived across the street from me (literally). at 12 years old, my mother needed to watch me make the dangerous journey across a rarely-used side street, lest the 20 feet between our houses contain rapists. I recall an instance in high school where I was “allowed” to go to the mall with my friends alone. My mother “just happened to need to go to the mall too.” She also “just happened” to go to all the same stores as us, a few moments after we entered. This was at age 15.
    Even now, after I’ve spent 2 years at a college thousands of miles away from my mom, she tries to shelter me when I visit for the summer. I mentioned once that I went jogging most mornings on a bike trail behind her house, and she demanded I never go back there, because if I were kidnapped or murdered there would be no witnesses and it would be more difficult to find the body. “Don’t you see how many of these murders happen in parks and trails where no one can see?” Another time, I was informed I am not allowed to walk outside after dark. Discussion of going on a cruise for a family vacation turned ridiculous upon being informed that “of course, I wouldnt’ be allowed out of her site. Cruises sail on international waters, and are a magnet for rapists and murderers because they know they won’t get caught. Do you know how much more common murder is on cruise ships?!”

    I can’t really blame it on my mother. She’s been fed garbage constantly, about how dangerous the streets are and you need to protect your children in absurd ways. Don’t let them leave the house without a whistle around their neck so they can call for help! Avoid busy streets where your child could be lost in the chaos, avoid empty streets because a kidnapping is more likely when there are no potential witnesses, avoid parks because they’re too large and trees provide cover for assailants, avoid malls because they are known for gang violence. Don’t let your children out of site in your own home, because they will inevitably stab themselves with a kitchen knife or light the house on fire or drown in two inches of water.

    But even as a child, I could see how illogical this was, or how I was becoming socially inept as a result. My mother weighed around 200 pounds at the time, and quite frankly in terrible shape. Let’s say someone had grabbed me two blocks away from the house while I walked to school, then what? Would she power-walk to my aid before the assailant could stuff me into a white van? By 12, I was taller than my mother (I was a tall kid, hit puberty early, though I’m an average height now) and probably more able to protect her than vice versa. I’m sure that this is part of the reason I never connected with most of my peers (making up excuses for why I could never make it to the movies with them was difficult), and I have trouble talking to people I don’t know–something I was never allowed to do growing up, so never got experience doing.

    The lesson I learned from all this? It definitely wasn’t “now that I’m afraid to cross the street without holding my mommy’s hand I am definitely safe from anything.” It was, “I am screwed unless I become a fantastic liar.” Which I did. I recall taking the train to San Francisco under the guise of “going to the mall with Tina, Lauren, and her mom.” It was amazing how many doors were opened by always saying “_____’s mom will be there.” If my mom asked to talk to said mom, I would say “she doesn’t speak English” and that was that. I didn’t let my parents know when I applied for my first job (because “the work place isn’t safe, you could end up in the hospital if you cut or burn yourself, and what if you’re there at closing when it’s most dangerous?”) and kept it secret until I had already been working there around a week so there would be a lower chance of my mother forcing me to quit. I also had to apply to college secretly, because needless to say, the idea of living in a different city or state than my mother, where I would–God forbid–have to take care of myself was completely out of the question.

  425. Ted August 31, 2008 at 1:15 am #

    Unfortunately, Anonymous, your statistics are totally wrong. 150,000 children are abducted in the entire United States (not just California) each year, and 117,000 of those are abducted by family members. Nearly all of the abducted children are eventually found alive. Current estimates are that fewer than 100 children are abducted and murdered each year.

    On the other hand, over 5000 children are killed in auto accidents each year. Should be be as paranoid about putting children in cars are we are in letting them free to be children?

  426. Ludovic September 1, 2008 at 6:40 pm #

    Great post!

    I’ve blogged about it on Richmondtransits, relating it to food: just as we tend to overprotect kids, we also over sanitise everything -and I believe it’s leading to more allergies.

    So, give them unpasteurised cheese and leave them explore.

    The question I’m left with are: are there more kids “incidents” (traffic accidents, abductions and all the other things I don’t want to leave my brain thinking of) or do we just talk about more?

    If the latter, would it be because the medias are increasingly voyeuristic or because we have less kids per family than a century ago, thus make each more precious?

  427. Sarah Ahson September 2, 2008 at 8:50 am #

    Frankly, you are an idiot. But whatever you choose to do with your own offspring is your concern I suppose. But I just shake my head. Whatever.

  428. MAddy September 3, 2008 at 12:09 am #

    Wow!!! your an idiot!


    What if he DID get abducted!?
    It would be all your fault.

  429. TransitionGirl September 3, 2008 at 12:25 pm #

    Thanks for talking about this. As a child growing up, I’m so glad my mom wasn’t a paranoid mother who never let me do anything. I could run around my neighbourhood, go to the store and go to school, all by myself. She warned me about strangers, explained to me what to do if something wasn’t right, but she never shackled me with paranoia. She let me explore, grow, learn, imagine, PLAY. She let me be a kid, free from the troubles and problems of the world, letting me keep my innocence for as long as possible.

    Parents who think that keeping your child under your watchful eyes forever is helping that, let me tell you, it isn’t. You’re teaching your child paranoia, you’re smothering your child, you’re never letting him/her grow and learn on their own, to become an individual separate from you. Above all, you’re teaching your kid that no one can be trusted, that everyone else is bad. You may keep your child physically safe, but emotionally and developmentally, you’re putting them in danger.

  430. Sarah P September 4, 2008 at 3:25 pm #

    Oh wait, i’ll let my little boy ride around a city of millions of people just so I can brag to everyone about how i’m a new age mother and let him be free to roam and ‘find himself’.


    “It’s the parents, blame the parents! They don’t even know where thier kids are and what they are doing!”

    Give me a break! Times have changed, parenting has changed and that’s just the way it is.

  431. ratbayne September 6, 2008 at 5:48 am #

    it was good of you i should know im a child my self and we need our independence every once and a while and we know to be carefull about who we talk to we can be irresposible at times but we can also be responsible too

  432. Karin September 14, 2008 at 6:31 pm #

    Thank you for standing up to this mania. It kills me to feel like I have to keep my kids inside, or that I am a “bad parent” because I let them play outside our home, climb trees or what not. It feels as though I do not have the same rights my parents had . It’s as if nowadays, we can’t “parent” our own children. As if I don’t have the “authority” to let my kids play outside without me sitting there the whole time, to let them walk or ride down to the store for ice cream, or explore? When did we get to this point? I love my children, and would never want o see them hurt in any way, but how are they supposed to become functioning, responsible adults if they never experience anything? What if they did ever get lost, do parents/society/the governments really want kids to not be able to help themselves? It scares me to think about sending them off in this world unprepared and inexperienced.

    Sadly, I am more afraid of having Children Services come in a take my kids away for letting them be kids, and letting them learn how to take care of themselves than having someone kidnap them. I do feel feel we are living in a police state, and people are so wacky these days, anyone could “turn you in”. I think kids are more likely to be harmed in foster care than in their neighbor hoods, and children’s services seems to do whatever they want, with no rhyme, reason or recourse, and that does paralyze me with fear. I hate it. Even worse, you get a nice record on file if they are ever called (because they have to respond) so even if you have a great home, great kids, and they dismiss it, you still have a permanent record/file that NEVER goes away.

    Every child is different, and some mature faster/slower, so I believe in setting boundaries appropriate for each particular child. But it scares me that some stranger with a badge, degree or title can decide how much responsibility MY children can handle when they don’t even know them. My 3 year old uses a steak knife to cut his own meat. He has been doing this since he was 2 years old, not because I want him to stab himself, not because I don’t care or love him, but because he CAN use it safely. He was interested early on in doing that for himself, so we showed him how to cut his food, and he could do it and do it safely. It’s freaking amazing what kids can do when they have the skills they need. I am glad we taught him, because we had the “what are people going to think” conversation about it. My cousin harrassed me for letting my kid “play with knives” (he had a plastic butter knife by the way) and I simply told her he can handle it, the kid even walks with it pointing down if he is carrying it. He knows it can hurt him, and that he needs to be safe with it. This same cousin was also cutting up and spoon feeding her 4 year old. Now tell me, which one is really crazier here? This may be an extreme example, and trust me, my two older kids weren’t ready for that at his age, he just happens to be very mechanical and good with tools.

    I want to take back my rights as a parent, and take back our childrens right to be kids. These early years are the best times for them to make little mistakes. Because they can learn from them, and in turn prevent bigger mistakes down the road. They will be facing far greater challenges and dangers as teens and young adults, and I want them to have some sort of knowledge about life before they get there. At a time when peer pressure is so great, do you really want your kids learning decision making skills?

    Letting your kids ride their bikes out of sight, or walk to school doesn’t make you a bad parent. If you live in a “safe” area, and you still can’t let your kids do these things, there is something wrong. The longer we all give in to this type of pressure and sanctioning, the worse it will get. Before long, parents won’t be able to make a single decision about their children. Sadly, by the time we all realize this, it may be too late. We live in a free country, but I’m not feeling so free. The military trains our children and sends them overseas to fight for us & survive, we need to train our kids so they can survive here. They are our future, and what kind of future is in store for us and our descendants, when the country is run by kids who never played outside, who never did anything on their own until adulthood?

    I’m a great parent, and I have happy, helpful, friendly kids who are learning how to take care of themselves. It wasn’t that long ago, that people thought it weird for a kid to be inside all the time.

  433. Jennifer Stout September 30, 2008 at 5:12 am #

    Hi! I just saw you on Dr. Phil and I want to tell you that I support and respect your decision to have done that with your boy. I lived in NYC for a couple years in my early twenties ( i am now 27) and have never felt more safe, than when I lived there. The people of NYC are, for the most part, amazing, kind, and helpful. I would trust my child alone in that city based on my experience…I never even locked my front door! Although, I think it’s the small town moms that have the right to fear an abduction or something horrible, because there are fewer people around to help the child if needed. A child is much more likely to get abducted, when and if there is nobody watching. I remember one time I was on the subway in NYC and this lady was exiting, she dropped her wallet and had no idea she had done so. At least ten people jumped up to grab the wallet ,they were all yelling to get her attention, and one chased her down to return it to her. To this day, I can’t believe the efforts several people made to save this women from losing her wallet…I can only imagine what the people would have done to save a child that was in harm.

  434. Ola September 30, 2008 at 5:20 am #

    I’m just watching Dr Phil and you’re on the show. I totally agree with you about letting your kids have more freedom to grow. When I was a kid growing up in Toronto (in the 70’s), we went everywhere on the transit system. My cousins were visiting from Boston one time and their Mom (my Aunt) freaked that we were roaming around by ourselves. My Mom told her to calm down that the city was safe and we would watch out for each other. Also I agree, the people on the transit would watch out for your kids. Most people are good!!!! They will do what is right!!!! Good for you. Keep up the good work!!!

  435. Genevieve September 30, 2008 at 6:16 am #

    Do you realize that you just told the world (on the Dr. Phil Show) what block you live in, showed what your son looks like, and let everyone know that he often comes and goes by himself?

    Also, your point about the millions of concerned citizens that you think would help him if he was in trouble really concerns me. Have you never heard of the bystander effect? The odds are more in favour that they would turn the other way to protect themselves from the danger.

  436. Genevieve September 30, 2008 at 6:19 am #

    In response to Jennifer (above) about the 27 people helping the lady with her wallet – it’s a completely different situation when there’s no risk to our own person. But Psychology has shown that if there’s a possibility of retaliation from the assailant, a stranger will probably NOT help someone being attacked.

  437. Lisa U October 10, 2008 at 11:55 pm #

    Hi Lenore – I just heard about this blog and your website the other day. I wanted to share another story with you which may help people understand what it’s like raising a child in NYC. My older daughter at 12 set out on her own from our apartment to meet a friend in Times Square to see a movie. She hadn’t charged her cellphone and of course, the battery died a few minutes after she left the apartment. Upon arriving in Time Square, she couldn’t find the move theater or reach her friend because the friend’s number was stored in her cellphone. She walked up and down 42nd Street for about 30 minutes trying to find the movie and finally decided to go home whereupon she hopped into the subway, took the shuttle across town, stopped at her friend’s house to drop off money for the movie, got back in the subway and headed home.

    Meanwhile, my husband and I were frantic. Her friend had called and said that she never shown up at the movie. We started incessantly calling her cellphone and texting her (not knowing that the battery had died). And, although we have lived in Manhattan for 20 years and are raising our kids here, we started conjuring pictures of strangers lurking around every corner and abducting our child in broad day light on the streets of Manhattan.

    Eventually my husband went up to Times Square to try and find her. He didn’t. Needless to say, I was near hysteria when she walked in the door. Her reaction?
    She looked at me like I had 10 heads and reminded me that she has:
    a. grown up in the city and is well aware of its dangers;
    b. can read a subway map (even studied it in school) and can find her way home from anywhere in the city;
    c. that Time Square is probably one of the safest areas in the city because it is filled with tourists and police officers (not hookers like when I was a kid); and
    d. the subway is more crowded on weekends than when she leaves every day for school at 7 a.m. and rides the subway alone.

    Once I calmed down, I realized that we were actually accomplishing our goal of making a self-sufficient and street smart child. The only thing I had neglected to teach her was that there was such a thing as pay phones and calling collect!

  438. marilyn smith October 16, 2008 at 7:51 am #

    I live seven houses from our elementary school. Today, I was on the way to the park with my 4 year-old and 2.5 year old. I forgot something, so had them plop in front of the school playground while I ran 7 houses down to get it. When I got back, a substitute teacher threatened to call the police on me. The principal then called and said it was borderline negligence and they were within their rights to call Social Services. Now, I know my kids. The little one never leaves his brother’s side. They go around the block together 30 times a day without me. I clearly made a bad decision, but when I ask my kids to wait, I expect they do…and they do. They were right where I left them a few minutes before. Now I feel like I can’t let them go around the school grounds without me running behind. Frankly, I can’t run that much. I want them to be outside more, not less. I don’t know what to do.

  439. marilyn smith October 16, 2008 at 7:53 am #

    Another side note, when we were 3 years old, my parents put us on a direct route Greyhound Bus to our grandparents 2.5 hours away with nothing but a sack lunch. My how things have changed.

  440. Ben Kreis November 3, 2008 at 10:00 am #

    I saw a note in World Magazine about your son’s adventure and the overall response from “responsible parents”. After reading your article I am taken back about ten years.

    I’m 16, living in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska. I’ve just finished reading a book about the life of Johnny Appleseed and I am rarring to go on an adventure!

    I remember begging my mother to let me just walk to the horizon. She would not let me leave our one acre plot.

    Now I’ve got a 9 month boy of my own. I think I’m buying him a backpack tomorrow and a copy of a certain book about Johnny Appleseed.

  441. tyler November 16, 2008 at 3:55 am #

    this guy has a point, if you do lock you kids up with a helmet and cell phone and stuff like he said and keep them away from everything. later on in life they are going to be little bitches and hide from stuff, people today run away from to much stuff its stupid.

  442. tyler November 16, 2008 at 3:58 am #

    oh, a mom wrote this my bad i didn’t put two and two together. listen to this mother shes smart

  443. Wanda November 27, 2008 at 10:22 am #

    Starting at age 8 I walked 3 miles everyday to school and back, no matter what the weather. I did this for years. I never cried about it, even when a school bully was throwing rocks at me. My 9-year-old niece recently fell apart, cried all the way home, when her bus driver dropped her off a mile from her house instead of doing the usual dropoff right in front of the house. I find your parenting approach to be refreshing.

  444. Donna November 28, 2008 at 6:19 am #

    I don’t think that letting a child learn there strengths and weaknesses and to learn to be self reliant makes anyone a bad mom. I had an easier time when letting my son find himself and grow when he was 9 or 10. I found that when he became a teenager it was harder – especially when it faced with things like drugs, drinking, driving and sexual diseases. I think by making him a stronger person when he was under makes it easier for me to let him go and be the wonderful young man he is at 19.

  445. Penni P November 28, 2008 at 6:54 am #

    I just watched you on Dr Phil… and have to say WAY TO GO. I work at a major airport and I can’t tell you how often I get an young adult traveling on thier own when something goes wrong and they just don’t know what to do …and start crying.. If my children turn out like that I’ll scream… while my children only walk by themselves to and from the bus stop…/ no side walks and very busy streets/ they can fix themselves stuff to eat, use the stove, oven and microwave, return items to stores,and stay by themselves for periods of time…they know they only leave an area with select adults and what to do if someone approaches them.
    I want my children to become functioning ADULTS that will make the world a better place. We have just gotten a bus in the area that my children and I will be riding on so they can become familiar with and ride….and as soon as there is a save way to school.. /sidewalks/ they will be walking/biking to school….

  446. alicia b November 28, 2008 at 1:39 pm #

    omg..are you people serious? i think the person who wrote this and everyone who agreed on here should have their damn heads examined and should be turned in to child services..this is not 1930 anymore and there are more sick asses in this world than ever..im sorry but i love my kids to death and i would never even consider taking the chance of leaving them somewhere to find their way home not even 2 minutes from the house and not even worry about them making it home safe!! i dont care how responsible you think your 9 year old is! they are clueless to the real outside world still,they havnt been alive for even a decade yet! my 9 year old daughter doesnt even want to play outside by herself because of things she sees on the news and paper,we live in a sick world right now..you obvisouly dont care enough for your kids to chance their lives may be harmed..any normal mother would not take that risk..just in case,what if? that doesnt bother you at all?you shouldnt be allowed to be a parent! your child may act responsible but they have never been in a crazy situation and when it comes down to a psycho approaching and attacking or somehthing they are 90% in chance of panacking and not knowing what to do and being abducted or killed and then your gonna get that call we all worry about that something fatal has happened and then you are going to hate yourself and say omg why did i ever do that..i thought that he was old enough etc and its too late!!! OUR CHILDRENS LIVES ARE TOO PRECIOUS TO TAKE A CHANCE ON IN THIS BIG WORLD THEY ARE CLUELESS ABOUT!!! GET HELP FOR YOUR CHILDRENS SAKES!! WOW IM SHOCKED AT THIS BULLSHIT…WHACK JOB!!

  447. alicia b November 28, 2008 at 1:48 pm #


  448. Joan H December 11, 2008 at 12:41 am #

    When I was 7 I was living in Memphis and my grandparents were living in Chicago. My older sister (10) took the train from Memphis to visit them. My sister didn’t come with me all the way. She got off in Champaign, IL to visit a friend.
    I rode alone for about 3+ hours from Champaign to Chicago.
    I realize that I was the oldest 7 year old in history, but it was wonderful to be able to assume personal responsibility and be given same. I was so pleased to be treated as someone with good sense, that I behaved as someone with good sense.
    My Grandpa (a retired railroad man) knew exactly what seat and car I was in and as we pulled into Union Station, he was right there outside my window.
    This was many years ago. And, I am sure today my folks would be incarcerated for allowing us to venture across the street on our own. But for the time, it was wonderful. I was fine and am grateful for parents that understood the risks and rewards of letting us have freedoms that we were capable of handling.

  449. Tiffany December 13, 2008 at 1:41 pm #

    I was lost at first while reading your blog but loved the rest. That’s a good point you’re making and that must have took major guts. I’m still aw-ed by this whole thing I just read.. I guess everything is starting to register from shock. haha

    Good for you son btw. I’m going to subscribe to you.

  450. Tiffany December 13, 2008 at 1:43 pm #

    Hey Alicia, whatever floats her boat right? At least her Child is safe. With your attitude exploding over a blog, it makes me wonder how your attitude is towards your children at home. Damn hypocrite.

    IT’S A FUCKING BLOG! Let her express herself.

  451. David Megginson December 31, 2008 at 11:02 am #

    Your son is one of the lucky few: he has a mother who understands statistics. I suspect that many more children die in car accidents being driven to school or friends’ houses by their parents (supposedly to keep them safe) than would if they simply walked or took the bus on their own. Driving in the family car *is* dangerous, relatively speaking.

  452. donnaidh_sidhe January 3, 2009 at 6:23 pm #

    Looking back on some of these comments, what I’m thinking is “…and I thought *my* parents were paranoid for wanting me back home before dark until I was 15.” Of course, I forced them to loosen up that rule when I kept intentionally signing up for extracurricular activities that kept me out until 9 p.m. or so. I still had an odd mix of freedom of transportation and social paranoia as my upbringing, though.

    Even now I find myself reluctant to go take chances because I’ve gotten so used to the “what if something happens to you? what if something happens to us?” litany I used to get every time I did something unusual. It’s understandable in war-traumatized refugees with few resources, but it’s not very flattering or realistic in a 23-year-old with a degree and five years of “real world” work experience who has lived in a peaceful country and city all their life.

  453. Lysander January 12, 2009 at 5:54 am #

    Lenore Skenazy did just fine with her son. It is healthy for a child to develop skills and become independent. Those helicopter moms who hobble their children from developing into healthy independent adults need to quit sniping about this and leave the planet immediately, go back to Planet Obsession.

  454. Joscelin February 3, 2009 at 8:08 pm #

    Hi, from Scotland and I’m faced with children at school not being allowed at school to play with snow because of health and Safety! So, when I read your article I was amazed you didn’t worry or doubt about your childs ability to return safely. As mentioned, the problem is more with us parents being condemned by other parents as being irresponsible, but as you rightly said if our child is happy with it and can do it safely we have to at some point in their lives trust their instincts. Although if we leave it unitl they are 21 they have no instincts left. However, we have the problem that some children here are left to their own devises so much they do become the children in the playground to be feared, because they are so full of themselves, so anti grown ups, anti everything, anti rules..very independent but very anti social. it’s all about balance and as an individual that’s something children need to be able to agree with mum and dad. Independence can be a good thing if encouraged in the right way.

  455. Ariana February 13, 2009 at 1:46 pm #

    I find it amusing that this is such a big deal when NOW in NYC you see mountains of 9 yr olds (and even younger) taking subways and busses home after school by themselves…or more lilkely, to the playground where they run around and ride bikes and skateboards all afternoon without helmets, and make trips to the corner store to buy ice cream. And that’s what I saw yesterday! It’s no big deal at all.

  456. julia April 4, 2009 at 6:24 pm #

    oh my god. I love you.

    Just last year i was arguing with my mom about walking to school alone. She had a problem with me crossing a street- a SINGLE street. It wasn’t even a BUSY street.

    Now, we’ve moved into the expat world, and there are some crazy people out here. Some of my friends say that they’re too scared to take a taxi home without adult supervision, and they have to stay on the phone with their moms the whole time, telling them every last detail of the route, and be able to scream on cue if the driver takes a wrong turn.

    And please don’t tell me you, dear reader, never considered running away from home when you were little. When I told my friends about my hour in the real world, there was some nervous laughter and then, “… But that’s so DANGEROUS.”

    They won’t even talk about subways and buses, not even when parents are involved.

    Pathetic. I need new friends.

  457. leelabee April 23, 2009 at 6:23 pm #

    i`m from ireland and hav just watched you on doctor phil……i hav to say i am quite shocked! i think you are taking a huge risk with your childs safety and for what? to prove a point? your son might have the maturity at 9 to manage a journey alone but as we all know kids develop at different rates so another 9 year ols might think they can handle it but wouldnt. so all these ppl supporting you could be endangering their not so worldly kids by following your lead! i dont know how you can make sweeping statements saying our world is safe enough….how can you say that?just because your child is ok after that journey doesnt mean he always will be. as a parent its our job to expect the unexpected and help minimise the chance of our children (especially that young) walking into tragic situations. in this day and age we can prepare them for the world and teach them life skills but at the same time make sure they are safe.
    i hope you are never in a situation where you will regret your actions. im sure there are thousands of parents who were once like you who now wish they could turn back time and be more careful and maybe their kids would be alive and well!
    and if you are lucky enough not to ever face that kind of torture i dont think you will ever see the error of your ways! i do agree that lots of parents are too anxious and too fussy around their kids but your the other extreme….how cant you see that?
    thankfully im in the middle:) i manage to keep my child safe but also teach him how to be independant. he is a very confident and secure individual with no problems or issues. kids also need to be kids and not hav to grow up too quickly! i think at 9 your son is doing these journeys trying to prove a point for you! he should be out enjoying himself with friends!

  458. Susie May 1, 2009 at 11:34 pm #

    I don’t disagree with Lenore, except 1 thing,
    you would not give him the cell phone because you did not want to risk losing it! I let my kids, now teenagers, go on there own for bike rides and up to the mall by themselves or together – but I always gave them a cell phone – just in case.
    and most often it was me calling them to find out where they were for my own sake. It eased my anxiety knowing I could call them. I also gave them time limits – you can ride your bike to the mall but you must be home by x time. My kids are good and responsible. And I would certainly risk losing my cell phone if I am willing to let my kids go by themselves!

  459. Vickie May 11, 2009 at 10:40 am #

    All of life is calculated risk. You knew your customer and made your calculation. I think parents overestimate certain risks, such as the idea of this subway trip, and underestimate others, such as the idea that your kids are safer being constantly chauffeured around in your car, when vehicular accidents are the leading cause of child death! Lenore, you made your case on the TV interview beautifully.

  460. Maria Carlton May 11, 2009 at 3:27 pm #

    You go girl!

    Just saw you on the news here in New Zealand, and now read the article and blog – guess what! We have the same attitudes here in little old NZ too and I was mocked by teachers and friends alike for allowing my son to walk two blocks to school from the age of 7, or to (now) go across the road to the park with a friend on the weekend. But what the naysayers don’t realise is the importance of teaching our kids to be resilient and self reliant. Here it’s illegal to leave your children alone unless they are 14 years old, which is also a challenging rule. Imagine the response I would get if I made my son come for a walk around the block with me jsut because it’s illegal for me to leave him home doing his homework. Instead I’ve had to teach him to ‘lie’ about my being in the garden or bathroom if the phone call is for me while I’m out for this 20 minutes fresh air. Which is the worse sin?

    It’s so refreshing to know that there are parents out there who also trust their youngsters to do thier chores, learn how to cook and look after themselves and what to do (and how to stay reasonably calm) when the smoke alarm goes off or a stranger knocks at the door for directions.

    My older son has also been fiercly independant from a young age and now left home, looking after himself and the best thing for me is the knowledge that he’s ok out there in the big wide world.

    We as parents have a responsibility to care for and nourish our kids, but also to love them and grow them up. Growing them up means not waiting until they are 21 to give them a key to the house and introduce them to the front door for the first time. It’s not scare mongering to let them know it’s a scary place out there, if you also give them the tools to deal with the sources of most regular challenges they may have to face.

    I can’t wait to read your book Lenore, and applaud you loudly for having the balls to make sure your son has them too! 🙂

    Maria Carlton
    New Zealand

  461. Jenn May 11, 2009 at 10:43 pm #

    I’m 20 years old and have lived in a small villiage in Ohio for most of my life. When I was younger my paretns let me enjoy exploring around town by myself. I love bike riding and when I was younger it gave me a sense of being free of my paretns law for a few hours. I feel that it made me trust my parents more since they thought I was grown up enough to take care of myself for an hour or so.

    I’m very happy looking back at all the fun times I had riding around and finding new places to investigate. I think your a great Mom!! ^^

    Happy late Mother’s Day Lenore!

    My Mother and I are waiting for your book!!

  462. kylie May 19, 2009 at 10:06 am #

    Congrats on letting your kid have the freedom that we enjoyed as children he will truely develop into a asult who knows about risk taking. Todays world puts far too many restraiction on kids. I was just talking to some ladies on a froum and they were telling me what happens at school these days. I cannot honestly believe that kids are told no in fact its apprantly a law that they must be picked up from school they are not allowed to walk home by themselves hmm i don’t remember that law being past. I walked to kindy on my own and home from school by myself as well OK we didn’t have busy streets to cross and only lived down the road but thats not the point.
    Now admittedily i don’t have any children yet however i plan on giving my children the freedom that we had as children afterall it didn’t do us any harm.

  463. kylie May 19, 2009 at 11:41 am #

    Oh and wahst all this crap about not winning a race or similar that matters its particapation. Thats really setting kids up for the real world isn’t it.

  464. Beth May 22, 2009 at 9:44 pm #

    Two summers ago my then 11 year old was signed up for a local summer camp. We live in a nice suburb north of Chicago. So I bought him a new bike (and helmet), got him a prepaid cell phone (he didn’t have one already) and showed him how to get to camp. Then he rode his bike to and from camp each day. My sister, who also lives in the same nice suburb, was aghast. She would drive her three kids to and from school each day, would not let them walk down to the local high school which was at the end of her street, etc. By the end of the summer she was telling her kids to ride their bikes to the local library and other places around town. Fear or no fear, it can be contagious. Thank you for speaking from a place of common sense and being an inspiration to other parents to stop the madness of fear-mongering!!

  465. Bob Hildebrand June 6, 2009 at 2:07 am #

    I applaud you. I suggest you look into the Boy Scout Organization. The BSA teaches citizenship, characterbuilding and personal fitness and used the outdoor experience as a tool to accomplish these goals. You yourself would probably be a great adult leader. I myself was a “free range kid” I’m now a free range adult.

  466. sarah June 9, 2009 at 8:16 am #

    As a child, I rode my bicycle to the general store-a good hour and a half round-trip, on roads both paved and unpaved. The two requirements were that we bring water bottles and wear helmets. No-one ever feared that we would be abducted or hit by cars. This was less than 15 years ago-I find it hard to believe that the world has changed that much. As my oldest son (not yet 2) becomes more independent, I’m already struggling to keep a balance between protecting and smothering-when are you shielding your child from too much??

  467. Jane June 22, 2009 at 2:07 pm #

    I just heard you on Radio National here in Australia. My childhood in the 60’s and 70’s was spent free roaming and playing in the streets with neighbourhood kids and in the back paddocks of our suburbs. We also walked a really long way to school from kindergarten onwards. The ironical thing is that I (and my 2 sisters) were in more danger from a pedophile in our family than strangers on the street. As an educator I see passionless disengaged kids (12-16) who are too afraid to take risks, lack trust in their abilities, scared to make decisions or come up with creative solutions to problems and are reluctant to get their hands dirty. I wonder how much of this is connected to over protective parents and constant TV, video games, being encapsulated in the car being driven everywhere and the internet etc replacing real life social experiences with other kids and the world in general. They have lost their sense of the tactile- as if all their senses have become numbed by the electronic. AND with arts education sliding down the list of educational priorities kids are going to miss out on a whole range of sensory experiences because their lives are so over managed.

  468. Kiera July 1, 2009 at 2:14 am #

    I just saw you on the view this morning, and at first I was weary but then I was like … wow, how powerful that is to be comfortable in your parenting. However, I think the reason we worry is because we don’t want our child to be the one who doesn’t come home – the exception to the rule. Thank you for opening my eyes and helping me to start the journey to a more relaxed parenting and trusting my instincts.

  469. sandra July 24, 2009 at 6:10 am #

    the only thing i found weird is you didnt leave the cell…you didn’t want to lose it? But you’ll take a chance on losing him??? Trust me I’m not trying to be ugly … I wish I could be that trusting that sick people woulndn’t take advantage of a child by them self, but I guess i have just heard to many horror stories!!

  470. ebohlman July 24, 2009 at 9:46 am #

    sandra: Think of taking a plane trip. your chance of being killed in a crash is so tiny that it shouldn’t rationally affect your decisions. Your chance of losing some of your luggage is much greater, to the point that while you shouldn’t obsess over it, you need to consider it while making your plans.

    Lenore knows, both intuitively and factually, that kids losing possessions is a common everyday occurrence whereas kids, especially ones who aren’t teenage girls, being attacked in crowds on the subway in daytime is so rare that it’s newsworthy. She also knows that human beings have self-preservation instincts whereas consumer electronics items don’t (come to think of it, a commercial for a cell phone with self-defense capabilities would make a good sketch on “Robot Chicken”).

    Remember that most of the horror stories you’ve heard are either multiple accounts of the same small number of incidents, completely fictional accounts, or speculation about stories that either end up having happy endings (kid merely wandered off, or was in his house and parents missed him) or being fake cover stories for domestic violence (e.g. the Susan Smith case, or the “kidnapping” in Ohio reported by foster parents who locked their developmentally-disabled 3-year-old in the closet for a weekend while they went on a family trip and came back to find him dead of dehydration and heat exhaustion).

  471. Mik in Montague July 25, 2009 at 10:47 pm #

    My daughter is going to fly to Sweden next week, unaccompanied, so I thought I’d giver her a couple of solo bus trips as preparation for the big event.

    Yesterday she took her first trip. I walked her to the bus stop in the morning and tasked her with going to the next town (we live out in the country), get breakfast at the local cafe, go to the bookstore, do whatever, then get back on the bus at noon and come home. She did and it was fine — except for the part when the kid in the park asked her if she wanted to have a cigarette with him. She’s 12. She said no, packed her stuff back up, and left.

    On Tuesday her mom will driver her to another local town — farther away — and let her bum around doing whatever. She’ll have to take a bus to a connecting bus to get home. I’m sure she’ll do fine.

  472. kherbert July 26, 2009 at 2:14 am #

    You all are doing the right thing. A coworker was telling me about her son. He was at a wilderness camp. The camp dropped this 17 yo off at the airport with others to go home – he called in a panic. Even though they have traveled extensively – he had no idea how to check in and lacked the common sense to ask someone at the airport.

    One of the other kids told him what to do after this paniced phone call home got cut off. The parents spent the next 8 hours trying to track him down on the airline.

    Again this is a 17 yo that is going away to university 8 -10 hours from home next year.

  473. Bob Hildebrand July 26, 2009 at 11:57 pm #

    Great Essay in “The Week” 31 July 2009 Vol 9 Issue 423 titled “Childhoods Lost Wilderness.” Excellent read from a forthcomming essay collection by Michael Chabon “Manhood for Amateurs” see: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22891

  474. nick August 5, 2009 at 11:42 am #

    I am yet another person that is relatively young (23) and is amazed by this newfound culture of paranoia in contemporary child-rearing. With the exception of kindergarten, I walked to school by myself on a daily basis up until I got my drivers license (not that I couldn’t walk after that, but I was seduced by our “american car culture”; ironically it probably took me as much time to drive to school, park the car and walk to the building as it did for me to walk…hah). I cant remember a point in time when I wasn’t free to walk around the neighborhood at will, going to friends houses, parks, etc… By the age of seven or eight, I was routinely riding my bike pretty decent distances (2-3 miles) with my friends, going to get ice cream, “hanging out” (OMG OMG OMG! kids being kids! the horror!) downtown, going exploring in the woods, and, well, just doing kid stuff. All this well before cell phones. We lived in the historic core of a pretty good sized suburb, and amongst the families in my neighborhood, this was pretty much common practice; however, in the sprawling developments just outside of the old center, this type of parenting was anaethma. By high school, I was flying between the US and Spain with only my best friend as traveling companion, same age as myself. My parents were never worried about two teenagers flying between multiple countries with connecting flights, customs, etc… and they, in all honesty, weren’t really all that worried about what would happen when we arrived, taking pub trans in a country where I didn’t speak the language to a friend’s grandmothers’ apartment where we were staying. They raised me to be independent, and trusted my judgement and ability to act on my feet.

    Today, I live in an urban neighborhood adjacent to a major university, where i’d contest that most of the children are “freerange”, so to speak. Yes, we have a great amount of “earthmother”, “granola-hippie” types, which probably feeds into the why, but the underlying reason seems to have something to do with the culture of the neighborhood; its an older area, where few if any of the houses have air conditioning, and consequently, everyone is on their porches, all the time. The “eyes on the street” mentality, as espoused in Jane Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of American Cities” is a major enabler in terms of free-range parenting; when people are watching the public realm at all times, it is a safer place for people of all ages. I’d feel much safer giving my (hypothetical/future) kids all kinds of freedom in an urban environment than in a Ryan Homes exurban cul-de-sac any day. When the garage meets the street instead of the porch, and the homes are turned inward and away from the public realm, the level of citizen involvement in street life is diminished, and contrary to the traditional suburban mentality, it IS safer when more people are around, hands down.

    alright, that kinda turned in to a rant on the suburbs and american development patterns and architecture rather than free range parenting at the end there……..

    but then again, the two are more connected than most are willing to admit.

  475. Brian Perkins August 7, 2009 at 10:00 am #

    Lenore, when I was 11 years old my parents put me on a train in Stockton California. Two days later, I changed to a different train in Chicago, and the next day after that, I changed trains again at Grand Central in New York, and a few hours later arrived at my destination in Rhode Island. A three-day trip, all by myself. And when summer vacation was over, Grandma and Grandpa put me on the train again and I made the reverse trip back to California. Alone, needless to say.

    That was in 1959, and guess what, my parents did not get arrested. And if some government-run child protection agency had taken me from my parents and placed me in some foster home, guess what, I would have found my way back to my real home anyway.

  476. Tired of the lies. August 11, 2009 at 9:43 pm #

    Hi, There are a lot of really good things being said and people are really starting to think and broaden their minds. I hope we as a people realize what is going on in our country before it is too late. We are being duped this whole fear is implanted in our heads by media on purpose. We are so afraid that we are not living outside of this box they have put us in. This is how they want it to be. Zombies doing our everyday, not questioning our leaders, owners, stakeholders. Just being. I demand food free from pestisides and water free from pollution by the mutlimillion dollar conglomerates, this is what is killing our children, with disease and cancer. Yes stop worrying about the subway and worry about the food and other things we are ingesting into our bodies.It’s a fact that certain company’s such as (okay i took this out for fear of backlash) are trying to patent all the different types of seeds in the world so they might own all the worlds seeds, not to mention they are trying to make all seeds impotent, as in they wont produce foods that have seeds to produce more food, which is going to cause people all over the world to starve. Although that is really what these people want. to happen. Control Control Control, DO NOT VOTE IN ANY MORE LAWS THAT GIVE OUR GOVERNMENT MORE CONTROL OVER US!!!!!!!! This is very important.

  477. Andy August 19, 2009 at 1:30 am #

    Children do need a degree of independence. They also need protection. It is a balance which is revised as the child grows and matures. In response to your question, the entire world, including NY, is much more dangerous then it was in the 1960s.
    Leaving a 9 year old child alone in NY to find his way home is child endangerment. You are very fortunate that it ended well, this time.

    Where I live, it is illegal to leave a child home alone who is under the age of 12 years. Not a recent law as it was illegal back in the 1960s as well. I would think this would also apply to leaving a child alone in a city.

  478. Dea August 19, 2009 at 10:07 pm #

    I agree with the tenet that children need more independence. I agree that it teaches them responsibility. I also agree that children who are more independent will be far less likely to be overly-trusting of a stranger and go with them without a thought.

    I do have a question about the statistics of crime rates. You state that crime rates rose in the 70’s and 80’s, peaking in 1993. And that they’ve fallen drastically since then. First, I’m assuming these are crimes on children rates? If so – have you compared them to the rates of younger latch-key-kids? The 70’s and 80’s saw a steep rise in two-working-parent homes, and single parent homes. Thus, a rise in latch-key-kids. We had a rise in kids who, after school, had no where to be except home or outside. Could these rises in unsupervised kids account for the rises in crime rates?

    Since 1993, there have been increases in post-school supervision programs (after school care, day cares that host after school pickup and supervision, etc). This rise in supervision could account for the drop in crime rates.

    To state just that crime rates fell is disingenuous. It is important to see the correlations between crime and supervision.

    That said – I don’t think taking the subway at 9 is such a horrendous thing. Depending on the child (ie – my son has always had issues with anxiety, so it would be a stretch for him) I think teaching them the proper way to get somewhere on there own is age-appropriate as long as it is maturity-appropriate. People are far too overbearing of their kids, and kids have disappeared – not kidnapped, but into the house, in front of the tv.

    Giving responsibility breeds the shouldering of responsibility. My 8 year old is in charge of keeping the kids’ bathroom clean. And in turn, he will step up and dust or vacuum or Swiffer the floor – just offering, without my asking. He knows a sense of accomplishment. 🙂

  479. sandrar September 11, 2009 at 5:38 am #

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  480. Jamie September 25, 2009 at 10:22 am #

    There is a difference between going overboard being overprotective of your child, and putting your child in potential danger by leaving them in a city that’s well known to be dangerous, to children and adults.

    I’m happy that your son has found his independence, and that is a pretty impressive feat for him to get home on his own like that, most 9 year olds his age that aren’t used to the city especially would have more trouble.

    But fact of the matter is New York City and the Subway are still dangerous places. Sure it may not be ‘as dangerous’ as it was in the 1960’s, but that’s because nobody talked about it back in the 60’s and 70’s.

    Cases of child abuse, child abduction, etc. didn’t start coming into public interest until much later.

    It’s good to learn independence, and I was able to do so walking home from school or to the local store with friends. But I was still with friends in a semi-suburban area, not in a large city.

    There are ways to go about letting your kid have some freedom without doing something that could potentially get you in some serious shit.

  481. ashle September 26, 2009 at 9:18 am #

    this is not really related but my science teacher senior year left the whole class by are selves at the entrance of the schools nature trail. its next to the playground that had kids on it at that time. they were staring because two girls took turns riding on the back of vickys wheel chair as she hurt herself at cheer leading. we were by are selves whole time with no teacher and a cordless drill she left the rest of the stuff at the trail but somebody moved it so she left us to find it. that was only 2 yrs ago but now she would probably get in trouble.

  482. PartyPiper October 5, 2009 at 2:58 am #

    Okay, I’m gonna put it like this. I’m 31 years old. My childhood friend is 30.

    Let me tell you about our childhoods. I was left to my own devices. My parents may have given me TOO MUCH freedom. I was responsible for remembering to do my homework and taking care of my school responsibilities. As a result, I wasn’t the best student in elementary and middle school because I had NO IDEA how to prepare for school, remember to do homework, ect. By high school, I realized I wanted to go to college and got serious. I went to college and I unceremoniously flunked out because I had an all or nothing mentality, not to mention parents who had a tumultuous marriage, no adult guidance, I was so broke I could barely afford the $125/month rent I was paying, and my parents got their house repossessed.

    My childhood involved a Christmas where I lied about getting more presents than I really got, because I didn’t want to get made fun of for being poor. I used to get up with my parents at 2 AM to help them with their morning paper route.

    My friend went to a private school, and she had stellar grades. She was gifted and talented, and she got everything she asked for for Christmas. She was a star dancer and a star pupil, and she ALWAYS got straight A’s. However, she wasn’t allowed to wander around the block by herself. Some things, she could only do if I was going to be there (I guess despite all my problems as a kid, I was pretty level headed when push came to shove). She had aunts babysit her WELL into her teenaged years. We couldn’t roam the neighborhood. She didn’t learn how to ride a bike, and even if she had, not like it would have done her any good. She was scared of swimming and scared of everything. Ultimately, looking back, she was a timid, worried child because her environment told her that she couldn’t, that she was in mortal peril all the time, that she SHOULD worry about things that, if they happened, would be national news.

    Okay, it’s today. One of us has a stable marriage with a man she adores, good credit, a decent if not loved job, and is about 4 courses shy of finishing her bachelor’s degree. Granted, it wasn’t the way she thought it would happen, but it happened, and it also happened at a discounted rate because the job that isn’t all sunshine and lollipops also offers free tuition. She’s held that same job for 4 years now, and has been employed steadily since 2000. Knowing that could all change, she’s also got about a 10% debt to income ratio and an emergency savings account.

    One of us had a child at the age of 21, which isn’t terrible, but we had that child because “birth control made me feel funny.” She got involved with the guy after a string of one night stands and relationships that usually ended with her cheating on the guy. The guy in question is literally stupid enough to ask why the Kennedys didn’t get out and swim and MEAN IT. A string of boyfriends later, she’s married to a guy who is verbally abusive and controlling. She got a two year degree from one of those for profit schools, got out into the workforce, and promptly decided that a) she didn’t like her degree and b) she wanted to be a stay at home mom. She is in fact, a stay at home mom, but only after amassing a shocking student loan debt for a two year degree that is probably comparable to the one offered at the local community college.

    Their credit is bad enough that it’s difficult to even get a bank account. Furthermore, while she is a stay at home mom, she made this decision after buying herself a “graduation present” in the form of a laptop computer whose interest is an appalling 30%. That computer is obsolete and NOT paid off.

    Guess who is who? If you’re a free range parent, I think you know that I am the bad kid with the bad grades and the good job, marriage and subsequent life. NOT perfect, but good. My friend was the shining wonder child who now can’t seem to grow up.

    Turns out that in the private school she went to, you could turn in homework a month or more late and not have any penalty. In my horrible, awful, crime-ridden, decrepit public school if you didn’t turn something in on time, you could expect a late penalty, if you could turn it in at all. And if you failed the class? Tough cookies. And by the way, she had NO IDEA who Jane Austin was. NONE. Not that I’m a lover, but I frankly think that if you’re brillant at English Literature, you should have at least HEARD of her. But she was valedictorian of a five person class, and president of the National Honors Society at her school.

    I was a latch-key kid who sometimes ate ice cream all day and played mario brothers. No, not great. But I learned how to handle myself. She was not allowed to play video games… but she had zero judgment when she grew up. She ended up pregnant; she’s damned lucky she didn’t end up with an STD. She still has zero judgment… the electric bill can be past due, but they’ll take a family vacation to a waterpark resort 15 minutes from home that costs upwards of $500 all told.

    I know this is a long rant… but I’m going to post a theory. Helicopter parenting ain’t new. I think that parents who helicopter parent now are often raised by helicopter parents. My best friend came from a very privileged background, and she’s well adjusted. Why? Her momma didn’t buy her everything she wanted and made her responsible for her own actions.

    When Lenore says that helicopter parenting has serious consequences, she ain’t whistlin’ dixie. No, I don’t have an Ivy League diploma with a high powered job and a ginormous house, but we don’t all need to live like that anyway. But I do a’ight for myself, and I made mistakes and I figured it out. I continue to figure it out. I mess up; I learn, I move on. I am admittedly underparented, and there were parts of my childhood that were painful, but I’m thankful that I was given free range as a kid because it’s helped me a lot.

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  484. wesch October 13, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    I am a mother of 5 ranging in age from 28 to 7 yo twin girls. I truly believe we coddle our kids too much. They need to go outside and play, ride bikes and play make believe with friends. Yes safety is important, but they need to learn to think and to act on what they think is right. If they make a mistake they will learn from that small mistake as a child and they will learn that its okay to make a mistake. To many kids are coddled to the extent that they don’t even know how to exist on their own as teenagers. I work with a youth organization, and when 12 year olds come in with the mom still putting the coat on the child and doing it up for him, I think can the child ‘do it’ for himself, or can the mother ‘not do it’ for him.

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