Gotta admit, this boy has mine beat. A 5-year-old hopped on the New York City subway yesterday and rode it 34 stops, emerging, according to the cops who found him, happy – even ecstatic. (His mom, whom he’d slipped away from, was, of course, hysterical. THEN happy, even ecstatic. )
I started this whole blog last year after I let my 9-year-old ride the subway alone, wrote a column about it and was immediately pounced upon by the media who saw me as a parenting lightning rod.
To my shock, they were right. Millions were the people who believed that any mom who deliberately let her single-digit child out of her clutches must be insane/negligent/unloving/criminal/shot at dawn. Take your pick.
Since then, of course, we folks who believe that children are more competent than society gives them credit for have found each other here. It’s not that we want our kids to go dashing out of arms as the subway pulls into the station. But we do believe in preparing them for the outside world and then letting them explore it. We have confidence in our kids, our community and our own parenting skills. Simple as that.
I can’t toast this kindergarten commuter because even I, “America’s Worst Mom” (thus dubbed after my subway story), think tots should stick near their mommies until their mommies let them go. But I am pleased to see how safe the subway was, even for a 5-year-old – same age that many kids around the world start going to school on their own.
Once the pendulum starts to swing back toward less terrified parenting, more and more kids will be getting themselves to places on their own, and more and more parents will think this is fine and dandy (and not just because it frees up several hours each day). Until then, underage subway riders will continue to make the news, even when – to everyone’s shock – they are just fine, thank you very much. – Lenore