Monday, March 16, 2009

My New Favorite Book

I have been a fan of Lenore Skenazy's writing for a long time, since reading her columns in one of our favorite monthly papers, The Funny Times (please keep in mind, if you follow that link, that those who know me best often refer to me as a "bleeding-heart liberal"... this paper leans, perhaps more than slightly, to the left - and, it's really, really funny).

Last summer, I read that Lenore had started a blog, Free-Range Kids, after she became known as "America's Worst Mom" for allowing her 9 year-old to ride the subway on his own. I enthusiastically checked it out and ended up placing Free-Range Kids into my Blogroll (over there, to the right). I love it because it's the antithesis to helicopter parenting; every new post helps me to remember that, while we live in an era of heightened media coverage, we do not necessarily live in an era of heightened crime, child abduction, or Death By Raw Cookie Dough.

Lenore now has a book, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry, coming out next month, and I cannot wait! She's turned the title "America's Worst Mom" around on itself, proudly using it as a rallying cry for those who dare to disagree with parenting experts about how young is too young to ride a bike to a friend's house alone, or use the stove, or... (place your worst fear for your children here). I must say that, as a homeschooling mom with some experience disagreeing with parenting experts on what's right for my children, I am enjoying the free-range/helicopter debate very much!

Anyway, the introduction to the book has now been placed online, and you can read it here. I hope you enjoy it, and I'd love to hear your thoughts about free-range kids; if yours are still young, do you hover more than you'd like to? If they are older, how did you handle their need for independence combined with your need to assure their safety?

I'm still working on the right combination - mostly, I try to stop and think before immediately saying "no." I also try to include the boys in decisions about their independence/my need for their safety, and I'm learning that making mistakes can be good for them. Not set-the-house-on-fire, lose-an-arm kind of mistakes, but still... as the saying goes, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. Thanks to Lenore Skenazy, my 8 year-old makes a great omelet!


Anonymous said...

It's funny -- I just got an interview request from a conservative journal in Canada which ALSO sees eye-to-eye with "Free-Range Kids." As a classic liberal myself, I'm happy to say the desire to let our kids bike to the library and eat an Oreo now and then seems to transcend political views. And thanks very much for this lovely post! -- Lenore "Free-Range Kids" Skenazy

Jena said...

Very interesting! I've always been "too loose" with my kids, but then again, I have a paranoid side, so I guess that helps me stay balanced. Just the other day I found a Mother's Day card in my file. On the back I'd written something like, "Meg rode her bike to Big Lots to get this, didn't have enough money, so the lady in line behind her helped her pay." She was 10 years old, we lived in a Dallas suburb, and Big Lots was on a major street. I can't remember if we had cell phones by that time. I showed Meg and she said, "I can't believe you let me do that!" Looking back on her life, she has a lot more appreciation for her mom. :)

And when she was six, we had a housefull of friends over, getting ready to go to the library--three doors down on the same side of the street with no streets to cross. She was ready and everyone else was being slow, so she wanted to go ahead of us. It was the middle of the morning and I said OK. The librarians knew us well and like I said, it was 100 steps away (Peter had counted). Within minutes she was running back in the door and a policeman wanted to talk to me. He was just wondering why she was out walking by herself. It scared Meg to death and it just made me mad. But it's a small town, and the police station is right next door to the library, so it's a well-patrolled street. Nothing like that ever happened again.

Now Meg wants to drive to Texas in her 1988 Buick. She's almost 17, and we live 800 miles away. Not sure if I'm ready for that yet. :)

Thanks for posting about this site and the book. This is something we need to be talking about.

The Stone Age Techie said...

I know what you mean about 800 miles being perhaps a bit too far :-)

Lenore's most recent post is about a mom who let her son walk to soccer, and the police brought him home claiming that they'd had "hundreds of calls" about this kid walking alone! She felt similar to you, and she was mad enough that she pursued it with the chief of police. Read about it here:
Thank you for sharing!