Each week Skye has Math Team one day after school. I usually leave the other two at home and drive to Skye’s school to pick her up. A few weeks ago I was stuck in Portland and unable to make it in time. I called Skye and told her she could either wait for me to arrive or just walk home.
Her excitement was palpable. “Really?”, she asked. We went over a few ground rules and basic pedestrian safety. I told her she had to call me when she left and again when she arrived home. She did, and has been walking ever since. A few times I’ve biked her scooter to her so she could scoot home instead of walking. Once she met Kirsten and I at the Dyer Library and gave to us her backpack so she wouldn’t have to carry it.
The day I brought her scooter to school she insisted on riding home alone. I gave her some time to get separation and then began peddling home. I knew she was going to stop by the bookstore so when I rode by I looked for her scooter outside. It was not there. I phoned her to ask if she was already home. She wasn’t. She was in the bookstore with her scooter. She said, “Are you following me!” I said that I was just passing by and that I would see her at home. She later admitted that she was upset that I wasn’t giving her the trust and space she expected.
The arrangement has worked out marvelously. Skye is thrilled by her sense of independence and maturity. If I give her my mailbox key she can pick up my mail and if I give her money she can stop by Nonesuch Books and purchase for me the latest issue of The Economist.
The distance from her school to our house is only four-fifths of a mile. It takes her about fifteen minutes if she’s walking.
A couple weeks ago I was watching an episode of Bullshit! about Stranger Danger.
Penn and Teller introduce the audience to Lenore Skenazy and her son, Izzy. Lenore is a newspaper columnist and author of the book, “Free-Range Kids“. She gained national attention when she published an article in The New York Sun titled, “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone“.
I was excited to learn that I am not the only parent out there who is not paranoid by society and desperate to build a safety bubble in which to raise my children. Her website, freerangekids.wordpress.com, contains letters and articles from other Free Range Parents. Lonore asks, “Had the world really become so much more dangerous in just one generation?”
Yes — in most people’s estimation. But no — not according to the evidence. Over at the think tank STATS.org, where they examine the way the media use statistics, researchers have found that the number of kids getting abducted by strangers actually holds very steady over the years. In 2006, that number was 115, and 40% of them were killed.
Believe me, if I lived in a city like that, I’d evacuate. But crime wise, New York City is actually on par with Provo, Utah — very safe.
Not that facts make any difference. Somehow, a whole lot of parents are just convinced that nothing outside the home is safe. At the same time, they’re also convinced that their children are helpless to fend for themselves. While most of these parents walked to school as kids, or hiked the woods — or even took public transportation — they can’t imagine their own offspring doing the same thing.
Did you walk to school as a kid or use public transportation (a school bus doesn’t count)? I did. Do you let your child(ren) walk to or from school alone? Do you leave them home alone? At what age did you start?
Obviously the maturity of the kid is an important consideration, as is the safety of your city/town/neighborhood. However, if you live in an area that isn’t safe for your children, you probably should consider moving.