Saturday, May 22, 2010

It Pays To Be Outrageous (Or Why I Will Not Drop My Kids Off at the Park and Leave Them There)

Apparently, if you want to get noticed, all you have to do these days is be outrageous.  Do something controversial or say something that gets people up in arms, and you can pretty much write your own ticket.

You'll probably get booked as a guest on the Today show.  Or get your own reality series.  Or your own parenting column.  Or, if you're lucky, your own parenting movement.

All you have to do is let your child ride the subway alone in New York City.

Lenore Skenazy made headlines when the columnist at the New York Sun wrote about how she let her nine year-old son take the New York City subway by himself.  Skenazy was instantly dubbed "America's worst mom," and while that might seem like a bad title, it seems to have served her pretty well.

She now writes a column at AOL's ParentDish, warning other parents about the dangers of holding your kids too close.  She's also the force behind the Free Range Parenting movement and has written a book entitled Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts With Worry).  And, if she hasn't been busy enough, she's also the woman who brought you 'Take Your Kid's To the Park . . . And Leave them There Day."

That's right.  Leave.  Them.  There.


Okay, call me a co-dependent mom.  Call me a helicopter parent.  Call me crazy.
I just don't like it.

I understand where Skenazy is going with the idea that parents today are paranoid and totally freaked out by a 24/7 media cycle that makes the world seem a lot scarier and more dangerous than it actually is.  I think that somewhere beneath all the insanity, she actually makes a valid point about the way our own irrational fears can hamper our kid's independence and development.

Yes, Lenore, American children do need to spend more time outside playing with other kids instead of inside playing games on the computer.  

But I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole "Free Range" kids thing.  It feels too much like a gimmicky slogan designed for getting media hype.  To be fair, I haven't yet read the book, and when I do, I'll revise my opinion if necessary.

And, by the way, if you're interested in participating in this little experiment, "Take Your Kid's To the Park . . . And Leave Them There Day" is today.  May 22nd.  (Yes, a date has been set, and it has been well broadcast.  You know, for the full benefit of all the sickos and perverts out there who might be interested.)

But if you happen to see my kids at the park today, you'll see me there too, in full helicopter mode.  Free range?

Thanks for the idea, but I'm raising children, not chickens.

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