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A 9 year old alone in New York City? Yeah. What's the big deal?

Published on: December 30, 2013

There's a new parenting blog that's getting some attention. It's spawned from an April 4 New York Sun article by Lenore Skenazy about how she let her 9 year old son find his way home from downtown NYC using things like subways and (gasp!) walking alone.

Her article sparked some serious controversy and now she's blogging her ideas over at Free Range Kids. Here's an excerpt from her original article:

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.

We'd love to know:

  • Would you let your 9 year year old make his or her way from Seattle Center to, say, Ballard?
  • Would it be different for your son vs. your daughter?

Sound off here.

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