Freedomist Mom Revisits Her “Crime”

Monday, August 23, 2010
Posted in category Tyranny of the Masses

This article in The Week, from “America’s Worst Mom,” is a fascinating reflection on an event that, one year ago, shook the world of America’s most vocal ‘it-takes-a-village’ Safety Nazis.

A year ago, Lenore Skenazy let her independent and spunky 9-year-old child take a New York subway home alone because he asked his parents to let him find his way home from someplace. So the parents, who are best equipped to judge their child’s ability and preparedness, allowed him to journey his way home from Bloomingdale’s along with “a subway map, a transit card, $20 in case of emergencies, and some quarters to make a call.” As a journalist, Mom wrote a column about her son’s experience for the New York Sun.

She was vilified by the media, parenting “experts,” hysterical, busybody parent-peers, and the entire American Parental Safety Entourage. Her ability to raise a child was called into question, and accordingly, I am surprised that social services did not immediately send out a swat team to forcibly remove the child from the home at gunpoint.

I hadn’t made the connection, but this is the same lady who runs the Free Range Kids blog, a neat blog that a reader pointed out to me last year. The central theme of Lenore’s blog is based on her statement that “mostly I’m afraid that I, too, have been swept up in the impossible obsession of our era: total safety for our children every second of every day.” Lenore adds, “it is really up to us parents to start renormalizing childhood. That begins with us realizing how scared we’ve gotten, even of ridiculously remote dangers……We have to be less afraid of nature and more willing to embrace the idea that some rashes and bites are a fair price to pay in exchange for appreciating the wonder of a cool-looking rock or an unforgettable fern.”

Milquetoast Americans love to be afraid, and they love to live in constant fear. These fragile beings desire the government to step in and regulate all of our lives to their liking: the way we play, what we eat, where we smoke, when we can drink, how we drive, how we parent, where we educate – all under the pretense that it is for our own collective “good.” These people are not only hysterical about their own kids, but they are hysterical about all of our kids, and they use the power of the state to force others into obeying rules and preferences set forth by them because they believe that only they know what’s ultimately best for all. These are the self-anointed Safety Czars – mere “concerned” citizens who have a penchant for cross-examining the lifestyles of their fellow humans, and they are never lacking in “expert” advice or a slew of new ideas for more laws to defend each of us from ourselves.

One critic of the Free Range Kids blog wrote Lenore to say, “If you want them to run wild and stay out of your hair, you shouldn’t have had them.” This is a typical and tedious response from a blind advocate of coercive “safety” to any person – such as Lenore – who bucks the conventional wisdom concerning the “rules” of parenting.

On the contrary, Lenore has gone above and beyond the typical passive parenting role. Instead of dumping her kids off at the double doors to the local mall or allowing them to hole up all day in front of black boxes that offer up the pursuit of mindless electronic entertainment, she has allowed her son to develop the soul of an explorer. She has opened up his world and allowed him to use his brain and self-assess his sense of independence while learning how to handle uncertainty and adventure. She has given her son an opportunity that will open up his world to many unique options. Meanwhile, her parenting peers will be slapping down her rights as a parent to decide what is best for her own child, demanding that someone somewhere pass some law that will forever defend their fear mongering preferences and rob the freedom of others to do as they see fit.

I, too, was raised a Free Range Kid. My Dad didn’t have a fear-mongering bone in his body, and Mom just never really cared to spend hours on safety and oversight details. I never took gymnastics, dancing, or piano lessons, but instead, my time was my own and play was unstructured, and I was supervised only from a comfortable distance. I was never shuttled from one predetermined activity to another based on my parents’ proclivities for all things popular and benign. As an adult I realize how immensely I have benefited from those early freedoms to explore and pursue with the blessing of the folks who brought me into the world.

Thanks to Christian Evans for the link.

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12 Responses to Freedomist Mom Revisits Her “Crime”

  1. Joseph Weir says:

    August 23rd, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    I can’t agree with you more!  I used to be allowed to explore our local bus system ALL BY MYSELF when I was about 11.  No problem.  Now, I see 11 year olds being collected by Mom in the minivan outside of school everyday.  God forbid they should be allowed to walk home by themselves!  
    By the way, sort of on this subject….I don’t have kids, but can anyone tell me what the fuck a “play date” is.  That term is in constant use, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what the hell it means.

  2. cousin lucky says:

    August 23rd, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    I was 7 or 8 years old when I began riding Boston’s streetcars by myself to run errands or bring something to or from a relative’s house but that was in the 1950′s and not in New York City!!

    Every child is different; some are very responsible at a young age and others are not!!

  3. Iluvatar says:

    August 24th, 2010 at 2:40 am

    Yeah, but as a 9-year old??

    Hey dude, I was as spunky as they came – my bad!

    it’s just who I was – can’t claim it works for everyone.

    But on my side was the issue of extremely bad parents to start off with (who should not have been allowed to breed to start off with – key factor in evalutaing the appropriateness of these trials to begin with – dah!).

    Developing independence in our children also has with it a concommitant responsibility to ensure that they can go the distance – man, it’s a balance, n’est-ce pas?

    That’s how I raised mine… (usually w/ my eyes closed!)

    & my fingers crossed!

  4. Quints says:

    August 24th, 2010 at 9:02 am

    One quibble is that you DO have to take into account the serious threat that malevolent child predators play. It is difficult for a parent to justify even a minute chance that one’s child would be put in that kind of danger. I grew up in NYC, and I know I would not want my 9 year old in the subways alone. If there were 3 or 4 kids together, I still would not feel comfortable but it would be more of a judgement call.
    In some ways, society has changed. When I was small, 40 years ago, we ran around the neighborhood, BUT, there were moms around, and we were always in groups. Everyone knew each other. Now, you have families in the same apartment building who are total strangers, both parents work, and there is much less a sense of community in the urban areas. That’s just my perception, but to me it is obviously much more dangerous for a child than 40 years ago.

  5. M. Terry says:

    August 24th, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Wow. I never knew how horrible my parents were. I had to walk a mile to school. We used to take bicycle runs all over hell and gone.

    But then, I guess back then everyone I knew had horrible parents.

  6. Alex says:

    August 24th, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Quint, I understand your concern. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t also like Mrs. Skenazy when dealing with my own nieces and nephews, watching them like a hawk whenever I took them to the movies, and thinking that every other adult was a potential “stanger danger.”

    However, I wonder how much of my, or Mrs. Skenazy’s fears, are justified and based on real threats, or media hype? My first real earn-my-own-money job was two adjoining newspaper routes at the age of 12, in the late ’70s. Every morning, I got up at 4:00 a.m., rolled and rubber-banded my papers, and, in the dark all by my prepubescent lonesome and without so much as a pen-knife for personal protection, delivered my city’s morning newspaper until 5:30 a.m. This developed a lifelong work ethic and to this day I get up before the crack of dawn. Even as a younger adult in Basic Training in the Army, I was up and waiting for the Drill Sergeant before he showed up while the other recruits slept!

    Imagine any parent today letting their 11- or 12-year-old kid go around in the dark at 4:00 a.m. all by his- or herself! In that respect, don’t tell ME we haven’t devolved into a thumbsucking wussified country (albeit, as you state, maybe with good reason).

    Like Karen, I was pretty much given my orders of what was acceptable and what was non-acceptable behavior by my parents and then sent on my merry little way as a child. That may be why folks like all of us trend toward the independent, the libertarian, etc. I think that is one (out of so many) reasons young people today can’t think or work their way out of a wet paperbag, they start off with arranged play dates, graduate to neutered little league sports where no one is allowed to suffer the pain of losing to another team, and then end up in public schools that oscillate between undisciplined perversion and overbearing zero tolerance mentalities. There was a time when young men when I was growing up weren’t expelled for getting into fights. As a matter of fact, the gym coach usually gave two guys with beef some boxing gloves and let them work out their beef (by referree) after school. Imagine a male teacher giving a couple of young boys some gloves today and telling them to settle their differences in the gym!

    I truly feel sorry for today’s and tomorrow’s young people. They will never truly live in a time where they can become independent and self-sufficient NATURALLY, and will only be able to do so with great effort and struggle against p*ssified politicians and pusillanimous parenting.

    On a lighter note, as I type this, a Crocs ad for childrens’ shoes is appearing on the right hand of Karen’s page. Too bad those Google ads are server-chosen, as I fear a PopTarts World ad might appear adjacent to her next article on paleo eating!

  7. Zack says:

    August 25th, 2010 at 12:03 am

    I am 36 years old now and have a different life now. So things may have changed in Western Kansas. I learned to drive a pick-up truck at 8 years old. I used to follow Dad to the field when he moved tractor. By the time I was 11 I was expected to drive tractor in the field a full day during the summer. At the end of the day of course I either drove the pickup home or an ATV. By the time I was 14 I was driving grain trucks with 600 bushels loaded on them to the grain elevator. It wasn’t anything special, it was common and expected of boys (and some cases girls) who lived on farms. Some guys even missed several days of school during harvest. God forbid!!! Don’t get me started on the guns and hunting that began for me years before the age of majority.

  8. Tom Osborne says:

    August 25th, 2010 at 12:28 am

    In his autobiography, Richard Bramson pins his road to success on one event in his childhood.  He was riding in the car with his mother who suddenly pulled over in some rural area and said, “Do you think you could find your way home from here?”  Richard looked around and then said he could.  His mother responded, “Prove it,” and had him get out, whereupon she drove on home.  Do you think irresponsible mother?  Richard said that at the moment she drove away, he felt the whole world unfurling at his feet. He understood at that moment that on his own accord he could go anywhere he wanted, do anything he wanted, and by God, that is exactly what he has done.  How many people today would have the courage (or even the IDEA AT ALL) of starting their own record company (Virgin Records), airline (Virgin Airlines), and heck, even their own RAILROAD (Virgin Railroad, of course!), not to mention all the other fascinating things he has done like gas ballooning around the world.

    I know that same freedom.  One time when I was 10, I got separated from my mother in a very crowded shopping area in a town we were visiting (this was NOT where we lived).  I didn’t really know what to do (my mother said I should have stayed in one place so that she could find me, but honestly, that would have been the very LAST thing I would have done) so after looking around for her crowded block after crowded block, I simply decided to walk back to the hotel where we had been staying.  (I wonder if this is something I wanted to have done all along?)  I walked for about two hours the hotel was in a different section of the town, but I found the hotel.  Once we were reunited  (my mother finally gave up and went back to the hotel herself), I got punished for putting her through hell and making her spend fruitless hours with the police, etc, but my grandfather later took me for a drive in his car and told me how very proud he was of me for having achieved that feat, which he characterized as “astounding”.  I still remember his asking me, “How in the heck did you manage to DO it?”  I could only say that I had remembered various landmarks along the way and so it was as if I had had a treasure map.  Since then, I have travelled all over the world, sometimes with little or no money (I know I can always do some work for somebody whenever I need more).

    To those who quake in their boots over the “boogie man” (woo–the dangerous “Child Molester,” let’s everybody scream now!), from 8 years old on up, my mother would stuff some money in my pocket and say, “Take your bike downtown and get yourself a haircut.  Afterwards, if you want, you can go see a movie.  I looked in the paper and saw that a really great one is playing right now.”  I saw some really great movies that way, “Giant”, “South Pacific”, “Lawrence of Arabia,” all by myself.  Take my word for it, I was a very good-looking, attractive kid and I DID talk to strangers.  You think some “pervert” “captured me” or sidled up to me in a darkened movie theater and “subjected me to danger”?  Are you kidding?  Of course not.  Learn about child molestors, okay?  Read their stories.  Find out how they “pick” their targets.  Believe me when I say they don’t pick out boys who go around everywhere in total freedom and self-confidence.  (I also knew how to fight from taking boxing lessons at a downtown “Rocky”-type gym.)  People did not and would not mess with me.  But they MIGHT with some pantywaist who was protected everywhere he went.  The molestors look for the “needy” ones, not the alpha kids.  It’s THESE helpless babies who might have been lambs led to the slaughter, not someone who knows his way around in the world.  

  9. Sean O'Donnell says:

    August 25th, 2010 at 2:57 am

    I’m not sure the mom made the right call (9 year old alone on a subway car in NYC), but I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment and disagree wholeheartedly with the masse condemnation.

    As a 12-year old, I would take the city bus with my 10-year old neighbor/best friend to downtown Honolulu in the late 70′s. We made a trek out of it. No cell phones. No backup. We were gone for hours.

    We both delivered newspapers every day (4:30am on Sundays) and we loved spending the precious profits on a new brake caliper or a handlebar stem, and of course tires and tubes. Arriving at “The Bike Shop” on King Street was a cherished event; the smell of new tires still brings me back. I was thrilled to be the trusted older kid, and my younger buddy I think was also empowered by the chance to ‘figure it out’. He became extremely wealthy running/owning a blue collar business.

    We also went boogie-boarding by ourselves off Diamond Head, rode motorcycles in Kahuku, and rode our bikes to school every day…no helmets…and no f-ing roller bags. One weekend his dad had us both out on one of his tug boats, miles offshore Hawaii, and launched us in a 15 foot Boston Whaler…just the two of us kids.

    Come to think of it, that subway ride in NYC was a piece of cake.

  10. Karen De Coster says:

    August 25th, 2010 at 5:22 am

    Tom, I _love_ Bramson. Should I read his auto?

  11. Tom Osborne says:

    August 25th, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Karen, it’s called “Losing My Virginity” (here is the link although this might not produce anything clickable: ) and most readers really liked it.  I really did like it a lot, myself, and found it was very fun as well as enlightening to read.  I am guessing that you will really enjoy it, too.  

  12. Lenore Skenazy says:

    January 3rd, 2011 at 8:37 am

    What can I say? I love this piece and, reading over the interesting comments, I, too, often refer to Richard Bramson’s autobiography. It was his KNOWING his mom believed in him AND his getting to do something “on his own” that really helped form the guy. And those same things helped form most of us! Free-Range Kids (my book and blog) doesn’t advocate danger. Not at all. Only recognizing the difference between REAL danger (not knowing how to cross the street) and media HYPED danger (predators in every aisle of the supermarket, waiting to steal kids the minute mom turns her back). Thanks for this lovely post! — Lenore “Free-Range Kids” Skenazy

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