Amtrak to 12-year-olds: You Are Babies

Hi Readers! Were you planning to have your tween take the train to your ex’s this Thanksgiving? Too bad. Amtrak has just raised its unaccompanied minor age from 8 to 13.

That’s right. Five years of a child’s development are gone — poof! — in the blink of a bureaucratic eye.  It’s like lopping teens off at the knees and saying now they’re too small to go on the ride. As of Nov. 1, any traveler younger than 13 must be accompanied by someone who is 18 or older. Why? Jeff Snowden, Amtrak’s senior director of service (so-called!) delivery, said, “This is not in response to any incidents,” but “out of an abundance of concern for the comfort and safety of all our travelers.”

Got that? Amtrak is admitting there is zero REAL reason to make this new rule, just “an abundance of concern” — an abundance that somehow manages to feel not at all concerned about the legions of parents who believe their kids are ready to travel solo. And why shouldn’t they? A kid on a train is not like a hitchhiker flagging down ice road truckers. The kids know where they’re going. (It even is written on the ticket!) There are conductors to answer questions. There’s a snack car to sell overpriced, undercooked hot dogs. There’s nothing to prevent kids 8 and up from getting where they’re going — except the brick wall of baseless worry.

How baseless? You can SEE the train brains casting around for a rationale. Here’s one they tried: In the past, guardians had to bring their minors to the station, get them a wristband and then wait with them till their train departed. But sometimes, an Amtrak spokesman explained to MSNBC, “if a specific train station ran out of wristbands, we’d have to deny travel to that child because of no fault of their own.”

So to REMEDY that, the corporation is denying travel to ALL children? That’s like saying, “Because once in a while we are total boneheads and forget to order milk for the cafeteria, from now on no child gets any milk.” Must be that ol’ “abundance of concern” welling up again. And here’s another dollop: The spokesman added that these new rules are “more customer-friendly.”

Yeah, the same way not allowing fliers to bring their water bottles through security is more customer-friendly.

What this new edict does — besides dismay me, a train lover who has taken Amtrak from New York to Chicago many times and even on to Arizona once — is to make official the trend I call “10 is the new 2.” That’s the trend of treating our kids as cute little nincompoops who need parental help every baby step of the way … to college.

Remember that we are living in an era that already is selling us things such as computerized play date organizers because our kids can’t possibly make their own arrangements. And then there’s my favorite whipping boy, the child carrier backpack that’s designed to let parents schlep their offspring up to (according to the company’s website) “60 pounds or seven years of age.” So this is a culture that sees nothing wrong with treating 7-year-olds like infants.

And Amtrak is right on board. Until last week, a third-grader could travel solo. Now even a seventh-grader can’t. Yet another big institution has no faith in our kids. That should be of abundant concern to us all. — L.S.

How could Harry Potter ever have started at Hogwarts if everyone under 13 needed a chaperone on the train?

179 Responses

  1. My Amtrak rides always felt sweetly safe and communal… people talking to strangers, even having long conversations, sharing meals. The vibe is everybody watching out for each other, all in a bit of a cocoon.

    The wristband approach strikes me as curious. I’ve seen kids moving about a train independently, a helpful boredom-buster. So, in the extremely unlikely possibility that someone was targeting kids, wouldn’t the wristband make their choice easier?

  2. I would point out that the ‘customers’ they are trying to help have a better trip may be the adults that are on the train with these children.

    I think if I sent my 10-year-old son on a train ride, I could be fairly sure he’d behave. But I also feel if the average 10-year-old were seated next to me on the train, with no parental supervision, even WITH parental supervision, that would be a very unpleasant ride. Most kids don’t behave worth a crap.

    So… consider that when getting your outrage going, eh?

  3. Bose- that thought about the wristbands immediately sprang to my mind, too.

  4. Granted I haven’t ridden Amtrak, but on the trains in Europe and public transit here in Utah, it’s not the 8-12 year olds who are loud & obnoxious for other passengers, it’s the teenagers. I think a better rule than under 13 not allowed without someone over 18 would be 13-18 year olds should be accompanied by an under 13 or over 30.

  5. Reading this, I was really curious to know if the national train company here in Switzerland has any restrictions on children traveling alone.

    It would seem that they do not. Their website is here: http://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/tickets-for-switzerland/children.html

    It says, among other things, that “Children under 6 years travel free of charge when accompanied by a person* holding a valid ticket.”

    Implying that there may be *unaccompanied* under-6s traveling on the train, who have to pay for their tickets. It goes on to clarify:

    “*The accompanying person must be at least 12 years old and may then take up to four children with them free of charge.”

    …So while a 12-year old in the US is no longer considered able to take the train by himself, that same kid here could plausibly be responsible for not only himself but for four kids under six as well!

    Crazy.

  6. Corey – so your kid is the exception to the rule, but other 10-year olds couldn’t possibly be expected to behave without adult supervision? When I was 10, I traveled by plane from Denver to DC to visit my grandparents. My parents raised a level-headed responsible child who could handle herself, which is exactly what I did. If they didn’t think I could handle myself alone on a plane for a few hours they wouldn’t have sent me alone. They wouldn’t have expected the airline to bar all children from traveling alone. There is great benefit for a child’s sense of accomplishment and self-worth in allowing them to do things (even big thigs like travel) on their own.

  7. I don’t care how old my fellow passengers are or whether they’re alone, supervised or whatever. I just want to travel in peace and without hearing someone shouting on a cell phone, or any impoliteness that’s crept in to society now…

  8. That’s just sad. Some overprotective bureaucrat decides that there might possibly be danger where none existed before and a new rule is born.

  9. I don’t have a lot to say about this one as far as experience. I never traveled as an unaccompanied minor. I don’t know if I would send my kids at age 8 to do that personally. Mine are only 4 now and I have no way of knowing how responsible or mature they will be in 4 years but I am guessing I would not be comfortable with it at that point. The age they gave is more what I would probably be okay with 12 or so. I traveled a lot as a young child without my parents but I did have some adult with me whether it be a friend’s parent or a grandparent or a dance coach, etc. I was never completely on my own for any significant time of the trips until I was like 16.

    I am sure some kids are very mature and can handle it, but I don’t know if I would feel comfortable with that personally. A child was molested on an airplane when they were being an unaccompanied minor and that does ick me out a bit. I don’t even like having to sit next to weirdos, nevertheless my child having to sit next to them and I am not there.

    The way I feel about it is if someone wants my child to visit them or go somewhere they better invite me along to or pay for me to come along too or chances are they won’t be going.

  10. Also to add with the way airlines are about the strip searches and pat downs and scanners etc I would not put my child through a lot of that even with me there so I definitely would not want that happening if I was not there at all. So another reason, why I am not such a huge fan of unaccompanied minors.

  11. I didn’t realize how young the UM age on Amtrak was!

    I looked into my 17yo daughter taking the train down from Vancouver, BC to meet me in LA last month (basically recreating the trip I did but 3 weeks later), but she couldn’t because thier age to carry anyone across the border is 18!

    She can FLY across the border by herself (and did at 14), but can’t take the train?? Why not??

  12. I think the point here is that the choice has been REMOVED from parents. I think it should be my choice to decide whether my child is mature enough. I’ve seen nine yo that are more mature than 15 yo, so age is definitely not the way to judge.
    I wonder if there is a place on the website to complain…

  13. @ Jade, the Deutsche Bundesbahn (German national railway) sounds a lot like the Swiss railway system. It doesn’t have any age restrictions on children traveling without an adult. Children under 14 or 16 can travel free with a parent. But kids over 6 who travel alone have to pay the children’s fare, which is usually half the adult fare.

    If Germany had that kind of rule for kids under 13 being required to travel with an adult, the morning and after school trains would be even more crowded than they already are. Because many smaller towns don’t have secondary schools, kids take the train to school on their own starting in 5th grade. My son doesn’t take the train to school because we live fairly close to his school. But he has taken the train by himself, or with other kids, to visit friends who live in other towns. My son (age 12) has been taking the train, or bus, to other towns by himself since he was 10. When he started taking the train, I taught him how to buy his ticket at the machine on the platform. He’s now an expert at buying his own tickets. My son also knows that he should ask the nearest adult for assistance if he has trouble opening the door on an older train car (they can be hard to open unless you have muscles like Arnold Schwarznegger when he was Mr. Universe).Train conductors here in Germany are used to seeing kids traveling by themselves and don’t think anything of it. My son’s reaction to his first solo train ride at 10 was, “That was fun. I want to take the train by myself again.”

  14. I agree that this probably has more to do with adults complaining about traveling with unaccompanied minors. If Amtrak came out and said as much I could almost respect the decision. If the statements in this post are the extent of what they have said on the subject clearly someone has a screw loose.

  15. I took my first solo flight between parents at the age of 7 (in the late-80’s). I went from El Paso to Chicago without incident. Starting the following year, just after turning 8, I started taking twice-yearly flights to see my dad, flying from Hawaii to Chicago. One year at Christmas, I even faced mechanical trouble and a cancelled connecting flight in Colorado and stayed the night in a hotel room with two flight attendants and two other unaccompanied minors. We watched t.v., played video games, and ordered cheeseburgers from room service. It’s one of my most fun childhood memories🙂 Both parents offered to fly out to meet me halfway so I wouldn’t be scared, but I told them I was fine and went about my business arriving unscathed in Chicago the next morning. By the time I was 13, I was a seasoned traveler, clocking in more air miles than many adults. Why are we so overprotective of children these days?

  16. My kids have flown on planes as unaccompanied minors every year since they were 6. Other than an airline employee refusing to let them on the first time because “They were too young” (They weren’t; the supervisor came over and told him to let the kids on the plane.), everything has gone fine. Kids tend to rise to the occasion when you give them this sort of responsibility.

  17. My first unaccompanied mini plane trip was at 8. I then flew unaccompanied several times a year. Short trips between philly and DC to visit my father, as well as cross-country trips from philly to San Diego to see grandma. I had more solo frequent flier miles by 18 than most business travelers. And by 18, I was totally comfortable heading off to Europe by myself, including navigating airports and trains in languages I didn’t speak. I just can’t imagine this generation of kids being able to do that … it this generation of parents letting them.

  18. @Corey: I ride Amtrak frequently to Chicago and back. My last trip was with my 15 year-old son, who spent the train time sleeping. But my seatmates on solo trips this year? OMG.

    There was the drunken Airman who was apparently already bombed when he boarded in Syracuse, and spent the entire four hours getting more so and not understanding “Please stop touching me or I’ll have to tear your sack off like a wet paper towel.” He took grave offense to me finally losing my temper and slugging him, and called me an “unpatriotic whore”.

    There was the college kid pissed off at his folks. He argued with them on his cell phone for 3 of the 4 hours I was stuck next to him on the full to bursting train. There was the snotty medical student who felt that his status as a med student meant he could demand I close my laptop and cease working because he didn’t like who I work for. And let’s not forget the 40ish fella sprawled across two seats on a jam packed train who called me a “fucking bitch” when I asked him if he could please move his feet from the seat the conductor assigned to me.

    Then there were the youngsters, like the ten year-old who politely asked me what it was I was doing on my laptop (working), and getting a little goggle eyed when I answered the question of who I worked for. And the nine year-old who asked if my Mom let me dye my hair purple, and roared with glee when I replied “I AM the Mom!”. And the ten year-old who noticed that I was fiddling with my DS and asked if he could borrow my charger for a little bit, he packed his with his socks and couldn’t get to it easily. We chatted amiably about Professor Layton and Final Fantasy III and the merits of the Fat DS over the DS Lite.

    If it’s all the same to you, I think I’d much prefer the company of the kidlets I’ve been seated next to. They’ve been FAR more well-mannered than the sorry excuses for “adults” I’ve been subjected to.

  19. I too immediately suspect the entitled adult as the culprit behind this move.

    Far easier to ban under-13s than to deal with even one whingeing adult with an inflated sense of his/her own importance.

  20. That’s really stupid. Can’t say I’m surprised though. It seems to be the bent our society has taken these past 30 years.

  21. The problem is that all Amtrak recieves is the complaints. When they get enough of them they feel they have to do something. They don’t hear from the thousands of people like Maggie who have good experiences with the kids, rather they hear from the one or 2 disgruntled adults who would probably be disgruntled no matter what happened on their trip. They develop a skewed outlook. And once a policy is in place it’s very hard to remove it. Maybe as we go about our daily lives we need to notice when kids are behaving responsibly and make it known to the businesses. If we encourage the behavior we want we should get more of it, right?

  22. Actually I’m not surprised – child development experts *are* seeing the pace of maturity slowing in response to cultural trends (unfortunately) – 8 year olds are acting closer to 5 year olds a generation ago, 12 y.o. closer to 8 year olds, etc.. I am not saying that this applies to every child, but as a general rule… society infantilizes our children, and they’re starting to respond accordingly.

  23. “an abundance that somehow manages to feel not at all concerned about the legions of parents who believe their kids are ready to travel solo.”

    Not just those who “believe their kids are ready,” but also the people who just plain NEED to be able to do this. They aren’t concerned for them one teeny, tiny bit.

  24. “I think if I sent my 10-year-old son on a train ride, I could be fairly sure he’d behave. But I also feel if the average 10-year-old were seated next to me on the train, with no parental supervision, even WITH parental supervision, that would be a very unpleasant ride. Most kids don’t behave worth a crap.”

    And the ones that don’t, are generally as likely to act that way with their parents as without them, so this is no solution to that, either.

  25. @ Jennifer
    My memory is that once upon a time adults present in situations like these could fairly reliably be expected to be protective of children. I hope this is still true!

    I did have an eleven-year-old daughter who was grabbed and propositioned by someone she described as a subway employee. She fought free of him and called me at work. Nothing serious had happened, but she was certainly, and justifiably, very upset. It was after 5:00 on a Friday and the local police told me to call back on Monday!

    Did I subsequently tell me daughter not to use the subway? No. Was she afraid to use the subway? I don’t think so. The police in the next jurisdiction were more responsive and agreed that a problem with an employee in the subway station adjacent to them crossed narrow jurisdictional boundaries. By Monday they’d told us that the man was a maintenance man for a contractor with Boston’s subway system, and he would no longer work for the system; he’d clean offices after hours. I hope he didn’t behave inappropriately with female employees.

    I would love to know whether the owner of this site has a daughter. I mostly agree with her, either way, but I am struck by the degree to which parents of daughters are often more protective than parents of sons. Some of this is, sadly, rational. Much isn’t.

  26. Not that this makes it any better, but I would guess that a large part of the decision has more to do with the possibility of kids misbehaving when parents are not around. People are never sure anymore how or if they should discipline kids that are not theirs. Like I said not any better of a reason.

  27. Wow, you’d think Amtrak would take all the business it could get. But I guess since it doesn’t have to rely on actual profits to stay in business, such issues are moot.

  28. Check out picture number 17 here!

    I’m more shocked at jumping into the Hudson than at doing it from the rooftop!

  29. The one time I rode Amtrak, there was not assigned seating, and the train was half empty. If the problem is an annoying kid, what’s so hard about changing seats or asking the conductor to find a new seat for the kid?

    My sister and I started flying unaccompanied at ages 8 & 10. At ages 12 & 14 we dealt with getting bumped from a flight and spending the night in a hotel (we were old enough to not be registered with the airline as UM, so they really didn’t care if we were kids). At 13 & 15 we flew from North Carolina to Okinawa, Japan, alone, a trip that involved 3 layovers, including one in Tokyo, and going through customs alone. At the end of that summer, I flew home without even my sister to accompany me, though my dad did put me in the care of a mom-with-child that was on the same flight. Although each of these situations stretched us, and we had the help of various adults along the way, we gained invaluable experience, loads of self-confidence, and a faith in the goodness of other people.

    Now, with the so-called security measures at airports, I don’t know that I’d send a young girl through alone. I might stand in line with her until she cleared security, then let her go on by herself.

  30. Well as a parent, I CAN understand where adults who complain about annoying kids come from. There are a lot of brats out there right now and I would be annoyed as hell if I was traveling and got stuck next to an unaccompanied minor who was a brat. Heck I would be annoyed if I got stuck next to a brat that had an adult with them, mostly because the reason they became brats in the first place was their parents don’t make them behave so they would continue to act up the entire time.

    I love kids. LOVE kids. I worked with kids for years. I have kids of my own and host playdates where I invite 20 other kids to come trash my house. So I am not a kid hater, but I also hate dealing with disruptive kids including but not limited to my own and others.

  31. Pentamom: What kid “needs” to travel? Last time I checked travel was a luxury, not a necessity.

  32. Pentamom: What kid “needs” to travel? Last time I checked travel was a luxury, not a necessity.

    @Dolly: I guess you don’t know any divorced parents who live in different states, yet still need to adhere to the court ordered visitation plan? This is a rather common situation, and to claim these kids don’t “need” to travel is shortsighted.

  33. Choo-choo has gone coo coo. I like the comment below from Amtrak. The best part is …..”out of concern for the COMFORT…..”

    Come again? Comfort? Eh?

    Jeff Snowden, Amtrak’s senior director of service (so-called!) delivery, said, “This is not in response to any incidents,” but “out of an abundance of concern for the comfort and safety of all our travelers.”

  34. Here’s an idea, Dolly. If you’re curious, ask nicely instead of snidely.

    Most likely is necessary visiting of non-custodial parents.

    Next up – visiting any other family member. Just because Mom and Dad can’t afford a ticket or time off of work doesn’t mean you should never meet your cousins. Yes, I would consider that necessary.

    Or, let’s say your kid goes to a weekly boarding school. Should you head up every weekend to take her home when she’s capable of going stop-to-stop on her own? Or, instead of boarding school, what if the kid is in foster care (maybe a group home?) but can see their family on weekends, not an uncommon situation in NY. Should they be unable to see their family unless their family can afford to make a trip and a half or the foster family (or group home staff, or caseworker) is willing and able to take them?

    Or maybe you live in some sort of evacuation zone (I’m picturing Katrina) but YOU are needed to do some sort of emergency work, so you need to send your child out of the city alone while you do whatever it is you have to do. (A single parent who’s a cop, maybe?)

    Or perhaps the child is a serious gymnast/student/musician and needs to travel to compete/take an entrance exam/take music classes at their level. They should be denied this chance unless their parents have the time and money? (That one seems significantly less likely, as Amtrak is hardly the MetroNorth, but it’s still a possibility.)

    I don’t know how many other possible situations there are. My imagination isn’t as great as it could be sometimes. The point is that there are always more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Dolly.

  35. Maggie: No, I don’t because in most cases the parents live close together in the interest of the child, cost and practicality. While that problem may exist I am not going to necessarily feel sorry for the parents on that issue since they chose to get a divorce and chose to live far away from each other. It is a problem of their own making.

    You don’t have to like what Amtrak did here and you can certainly let them know you don’t like it and spend your money elsewhere. It is a business however and they can do what they want in the interest of capitalism. They don’t have to please everyone or make their business to suit everyone’s lifestyles.

  36. This shit is so irritating, especially since so many families are spread out these days. My parents and inlaws live in the neighboring state of Ohio. I’d like to think that when my kids are old enough I can just send them to visit their grandparents in the summer on their own. Apparently not.

  37. Seeing your cousins is not a need. If it was then my kids must be neglected as they have never met their cousins. Better call CPS on me. Seeing any family is not a need beyond maybe your custodial parent. If I can’t afford to go visit my family, I don’t go.

    As for the activities stuff most of the time when kids go to stuff like that with a chaperone so the unaccompanied minor thing does not apply. I went on a bunch of trips like that and always had my coach and other adults with us even if my parents did not go. And again, activities are a luxury, not a need. My parents shelled out bunches of money for that stuff.

    I Boarding school is also not a need. Boarding school typically sounds like a very bug luxury. I I know I could never afford to send my kids to boarding school.

  38. Martha: Or you could go up there with them for a weekend visit so you can see your family too. Then leave the kids there and you travel back alone. Then do the same when it is time to go pick them back up. I would actually love an arrangement like that. I get to visit my family for a bit and get free babysitting.

  39. Dolly, you said you didn’t have much to say on this topic, so stop diarrhea posting please. Other people have opinions, ideas, thoughts, and yes family structures, that are just as valid as yours, as hard as that is to believe. It is NOT necessary that you respond to everyone and tell them why they are wrong.

  40. It’s seems strange to me at at age 8 and 10 my boys flew from Arizona to Europe in order to visit their grandparents, and this was considered fine by the airlines. But a shorter visit from one city to another wouldn’t be allowed by Amtrack.

  41. Are we really so helpless that we can’t stop this? What a tragedy.

  42. @Buffy, Amen! That’s the thing I love best about the Free Range movement. It’s about making the decisions that are best for your own family, your own children and your own living situation AND not judging other people for making their own choices based on their own lives. I think Colonel Potter said it best: “Just remember, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything and the wrong way is to keep trying to make everybody else do it the right way.” That’s what directives and policies like these are doing, is trying to make us do things the “right” way and that’s precisely why we should be fighting against them.

  43. Jade,
    I live in Switzerland and you beat me to it! I was going to post SBB’s rules as I had just recently looked them up regarding my own children. My 8, 10 and 13 year olds are all comfortable with riding public transportation, including trains, alone. The youngest, 5, has a few years to go yet. However, the oldest children all know what to do in an emergency and how to find their way around the area using maps and transportation timetables. Boo to Amtrak for taking this away from kids.

  44. I’m with Corey here (“I would point out that the ‘customers’ they are trying to help have a better trip may be the adults that are on the train with these children.”).

    So many kids behave like little terrorists when there’s no parents or teachers around to keep them in line (and tbh quite a few when those are around), this may well be the reason.
    But then again, by that logic they should raise the ban to 18, as the worst miscreants are teens around age 15-17, not 8-10.
    Who knows though, they may yet do that and release us all from the terror of having to travel with a bunch of teenage hooligans in designer jeans and hoodies.

  45. “Pentamom: What kid “needs” to travel? Last time I checked travel was a luxury, not a necessity.”

    When I was a kid, I needed to travel to get to school. Not by train, it is true, but servicing a very large area my highschool did have hundreds of kids arrive alone after travelling long distances (10+ miles one way was nothing) by bike or bus.
    Even the primary school I attended most kids arrived alone, travelling several miles by foot or bike at age 5-6 (I wasn’t allowed to, because my parents didn’t trust the area enough, what with there being a mental institution and a juvenile prison in the woods between our home and the village housing the school, but those fears were not very logical as during weekends we were allowed to roam those same woods alone all day long).

  46. Actually…

    “out of an abundance of concern for the comfort and safety of all our travelers.”

    That actually sounds an awful lot like “we are sick of disruptive and misbehaving children on our trains, and we can’t do anything about it in situ because when they aren’t accompanied by a parent, we can’t kick them off. Therefore, they must be accompanied by a parent who will keep them in line, or bugger off.”

  47. @Karen … child development experts *are* seeing the pace of maturity slowing in response to cultural trends (unfortunately) …

    Can you provide source of that claim? The study would be best, or at least an article. Not nitpicking, honestly curious and would like to read more.

  48. @Dolly Last time I checked travel was a luxury, not a necessity.

    You are joking right?

  49. I am not saying the whole thing does not suck. I am just saying that I take issue with the whole wording of parents “needing” to send their kids on a train to travel alone. I don’t know how many parents “need” to do that. Travel has always been a luxury. I know some kids who I grew up with that never left this county growing up. They were not abused or neglected because they never traveled.

    If a business does something we don’t like we can yell at them and boycott them and I do that too when I get annoyed at a business. But in the end they are going to do what is best for their bottom line and we have to respect that.

  50. I took my first solo flight from Denver to St. Louis at the age of 5. Took a Greyhound from Denver to San Francisco at age 16. Greyhound… think about that.
    My kids have traveled quite a bit, one of them has been to Japan, Germany and Ireland. Loads of Amtrak trips.

  51. Dolly, the divorced parental issue is a lot more common than you believe. If my biological father had the least interest in asserting his visitation rights I would have had to travel across country. As my mother could afford neither the time off her multiple jobs nor the extra expense of her going traveling alone would not have been optional. In our case the deadbeat didn’t so we were not forced into that situation. On of my best friends however did have to travel several times a year from Florida to Virginia alone for the same reason. I can think of three friends who are in similar situations right now and another that will be there shortly when her ex-husband’s new wife decides she hates living in NYC.

    Is it best if the parents stay geographically close to each other? Yes. However you can’t always control where the work is available, where your next military station (or deployment) will be, or if your ex is just a prick who likes to make things as difficult as possible for you.

  52. Dolly — consider the child of separated parents who live a distance apart, who cannot afford two extra two-way tickets to accompany the child each way, or the time and money to drive.

    They don’t “need” to in the sense that no one will starve, and if one or the other parent completely restructured his life choices in order to live closer, but *in the real world,* if the kid actually wants to see both his parents….

  53. I would guess the ten-year-olds who are unable to ride the train without making a fuss are the ones whose parents have the abundance of concern. Which comes first, the fuss or the concern? I would say all of this concern and more importantly the reaction to it are creating unstable children who grow up to be unstable adults.

  54. The most disturbing riders I’ve ever dealt with on Amtrak were college kids. They blast their music (even with headphones on they’d play it so loud I could hear it a couple rows away) and would yell and throw things. I took the train to and from school during breaks because my dad was an Amtrak engineer most of my life so I rode free. It was insane. I’d take an unaccompanied 10yo over a bunch of idiotic frat guys any day.

    That being said, this “rule” surprises me because back in 2006 I took my nephew who was then 14 downtown in Chicago (on the L) to catch his train back to Missouri. I went to pick up his ticket which I preordered online and he was asked for ID. I was like, “he doesn’t have ID, he’s only 14.” They then told me he was not allowed to travel alone. I asked why since just a couple years ago he made the trip just fine at 12 and no one said a word. They said they recently changed the rules and no one under 15 could ride without an adult. I called bullshit and the kid was going to be 15 in like 4 months. Not to mention he was almost 6′ tall and looked 18. They said it was for his own safety because anything could happen. WTF!

    So, instead she refunded the ticket and I had to borrow my dad’s car, strap 3 of my kids in (a newborn, 3 1/2yo and 4 1/2) and drive him the 8+ hours home on my own and then drive back. I was pissed. So was my dad who had was out of work after having a heart attack (he retired a few months later, never having returned to work at Amtrak).

    Service at Amtrak has been going down the toilet for many years. My dad has many stories of the internal crap he put up with, how they tried to force him to retire in his early 50s with almost no benefits because his seniority was too high. When he finally did retire he was the #3 engineer out of Union Station so he could hold any hours he wanted and got 5 weeks of paid vacation and they (the suits and the people below him) hated him and the other 2 guys ahead of him. They did everything to make his life hell so he’d quit or retire (including making stuff up).

    I used to love to ride the train when I was a kid. It was such a great experience. One of my last rides in college I had a broken ankle and was treated like a waste of seat by the crew. No one offered to help me because I hadn’t prearranged it (never mind I hurt my foot like 2 days before I got on the train and you had to prearrange special help 2 weeks in advance). I almost peed my pants because I sat on the train for 6 hours and had no way to get to the rest room without help and the car attendant NEVER came down to our level once it filled up except to toss luggage right where I had my leg extended. She even grabbed my bag out from under my leg letting it slam against the floor and while I was crying in pain she tossed an even bigger bag on top of it. On MY BROKEN FOOT!

    I almost didn’t make it off the train on my stop because I couldn’t get up and gather my 3 bags on my own. Luckily another passenger took pity on me and helped me off. I called my dad the next day and he said it didn’t surprise him but he complained anyway.

  55. Dolly,

    Have you considered that just because you do not personally know any divorced parents who need to live in different states for whatever reason, does not mean that they do not exist?

    Sometimes parents cannot travel with their children to visit their non-custodial parents because they cannot afford the extra ticket (as mentioned by some above), sometimes they cannot get off work at those times without being fired.

    From what you have shared, it sounds like you have lived a very blessed and protected life growing up, and good for you. However, not everyone has similar life experiences, and we should not judge others according to what we are accustomed to. To do so is similar to saying missionaries of old going to cutures different from the ones that they came from and calling them barbarians, or someone from the US judging Europeans as unhygienic because dogs are allowed into restaurants, or an Asian judging people from the West as unfilial because offspring generally move out of their parents’ homes at 18, or a right hander judging a left hander, or a potato eater judging a rice eater… Doing so is more than being intolerant. It is bigotry. And the world has enough of that.

    We should all try to understand one another, and to empathise. Peace.

  56. If they are going to increase the age to ride mass transit, why not raise it for driving as well. Just tack on 5 years so you have to be 21 to drive. US kids are behind other industrialized nations in math and science so why should it surprise anyone that our kids are also deemed idiots when riding the train?
    I suggest instead of changing the minimum age, institute a “competency” exam for those riders in question. If they pass, let them ride. Questions like “what should you NOT do in the Quiet car?”

  57. “I’d take an unaccompanied 10yo over a bunch of idiotic frat guys any day.”

    That’s a good point — not to pick on frat guys specifically (though not to exclude ill-mannered frat guys from criticism, either!) but while I’ve frequently found myself annoyed by ill-mannered children, far more of the real annoyance I’ve experienced in any setting has been caused by people over the age of 13, *or* by ill-mannered children whose parents are right there watching and don’t give a rip (or even think they’re being cute.) There is no reasonable argument to be made that children without accompaniment are being excluded because they might be annoying, when no one else is excluded for being annoying, and accompanied children are not prevented from being annoying. The only *reasonable* possibility is some overblown safety concern, which is unreasonable in a different way.

  58. “I don’t know how many parents “need” to do that.”

    How many does it have to be before it “counts” in your book, and it ceases to be unreasonable that the necessity is interfered with for absolutely no good reason?

    If it makes life excessively difficult for even one person WHEN THERE IS NO GOOD REASON FOR IT, it’s legitimate to point out that it is, in fact, a necessity for that person.

  59. I realize that life is perfect, sunny and going exactly as planned in Dollyworld, but for the rest of the 7 billion people on the planet, life sometimes has a way of throwing unexpected curve balls. Marriages fail. People lose jobs and need to move to get work. Birth control fails for long distance couples. Children’s vacations don’t coincide with parents’ ability to take off work. Money is too short to send everyone to grandma’s. Dream jobs are found in places away from hometowns. And the myriad of other reasons that someone might need to travel.

    Further, not everyone is Dolly. I have always been a wanderer. I need to travel to be happy. Further, I have absolutely no desire to be a suburban SAHM. My career takes me to places away from family and friends and travel allows us to connect. It also means that I can’t always spend time escorting my child somewhere.

    Dolly, you really need to look outside your small little world and see that there are other ways to live happily. Things that are necessary to you are probably repugnant to others. Travel may be a luxury to you and necessary to others. If everyone was exactly the same, earth would be a very boring place.

  60. Freedom to access transportation should be a right for all citizens, regardless of age, gender, religion, physical impairments, etc. One of the most gratifying skills a child can acquire is the independence to travel freely- to school, to the library, to Grandma’s house.

    We talk about the importance of self-confidence and how to instill it in our children. Yet, how can you teach it when they cannot be trusted to do anything alone?
    What if you are a 12 year-old, unwed mother? You can have a child and raise it but can’t be trusted to take a train alone?

  61. You know, this strikes me as more of an attempt to boost ticket sales. Now, instead of selling one ticket for the 12 year old to go from A to B, they’ll sell 2! Because, even if it greatly inconviences mom/dad/adult and increases the cost of the trip, most of the time if you were going to send the kid from A to B by themselves, it’s cuz they need to get from A to B, and parents are going to pony up for the extra ticket so they can get from A to B.

  62. @Andy… I’m working on a master’s degree in early childhood education, and I made the comment based on many a lecture and interview with elementary school teachers, parents, pediatricians, and social workers over the past three years, not particularly any specific published articles. Although if you are really that curious, I’m certain I could track some down

  63. That is really too bad. One of my most exciting memories was when my brother and I (12 and 10) took Amtrak from San Jose to San Luis Obispo (180 miles) to visit our oldest brother in college. I felt so grown up and responsible.

  64. […] View post: Amtrak to 12-year-olds: You Are Babies […]

  65. At least from what I have heard in most divorce cases they require both parents to stay in the same state if they want visitation. I know of several cases of that around here. Could just be my state that is like that.

  66. Travel is always a luxury for everyone. There is no arguing that. Besides work travel, you don’t travel if you don’t have the money to make it happen. Just like you don’t go buy diamonds if you don’t have the money. It is a LUXURY!

    Guess what? I can get snarky too and for your information I travel A LOT. Because we have the money and we save up for it. I go with my kids though. But if the money was not there, we would not go. I have family all over the place. So what? If I don’t have the money to visit them and they won’t give me the money to visit them, then the visit does not happen period! That’s life. We don’t even have trains to take in our city and only a select few planes fly out of our city too. So the whole thing hardly even applys to us. If you want your kids to go somewhere out fo this city you are probably driving them yourself.

  67. Lollipop: The 12 year old mother thing is a kinda a terrible analogy. Just saying. No 12 year old has any business being a mother in the first place. Now being 12 and traveling on a train alone, sure. But trying to equate that with raising and providing for another human being? not so much.

  68. Dolly, you really don’t pay attention to anything anyone else says, do you?

  69. Now Jes makes a GREAT point. That may be why they are doing it. Just like when the movie theaters require the parent to buy a ticket and sit with the kids in an R rated movie. Just getting the parent’s permission for the kid to see the movie is not enough. The Parent has to buy a ticket and sit there and buy concessions etc too. I always saw that as a money making scheme by the theaters that they got into cahoots with the MPAA to do.

    So if you think they are doing it for that reason, by all means, protest and complain and boycott because that is bull.

  70. Beth: If could be turned around to say that none of you guys are paying attention to anything I am saying either.

    Even if you factor in the divorced parents thing, that is not why everyone is bitching. They want to be able to do it for trips to grandmas and other relatives and other things that yes are not neccessary and can be done without. Maybe not something you want to do but not a necessity. Like I said earlier, my sons have NEVER met their cousins and they live 45 minutes away. Yet my sons are perfectly happy little boys. Their life is not ruined or neglected or abused because they never met their cousins. Family relationships and visiting family are nice things but not essential to living and therefore I am going to call bull when people try to pass that off as a “Need” because it straight up is not.

  71. So the Amtrak staff definitely aren’t smarter than a 5th grader!

    Is there somewhere we can petition to get this stopped. My kids are 4, love trains and don’t want them to have to wait until 13 to ride alone – that’s nuts.

  72. “Family relationships and visiting family are nice things but not essential to living and therefore I am going to call bull when people try to pass that off as a ‘Need’ because it straight up is not.”

    Yes, if you are striving for a DYSFUNCTIONAL family they are not essential. Most of us, however, are trying to keep these important relationships strong and traveling to see relatives is something most “normal” people do all over the world.

  73. I travel to see my relatives. The ones I like at least. But it costs money. I would see my mother a lot more if she didn’t live an hour away and gas was not as expensive as it is. But it is. Therefore we make do with what we have. That is what people have to do. You don’t see me saying gas needs to be lowered because I NEED to visit my mother more. It is not a need. It is a want or a luxury.

    Actually some of you are more lucky than I am. If my kids visit anyone it would have to be by car for the most part since we don’t have trains or something like that and could not afford airfare. I would even be willing to travel with them by train if that was an option, but we don’t even have a train. I always have to drive. When my boys are 13 I will still have to ddrive them due to not being able to afford airfare and no train. I am not getting out of this till they are 16 and have a car of their own.

  74. No one ever said visiting family is not normal. I said it is a luxury and it is.

    Just like a tv is a luxury, a diamond ring, private school, designer clothes, pets, pedicures. The point is if you have the money to make it happen, great. If you don’t you do without. I grew up only seeing my only cousin maybe 10 times because he lived 6 hours away. We didn’t have money to fly down there all the time. We would have to drive and didn nto have gas money or time to do that all the time either. so what? I turned out fine and so did he. Our childhoods were not horrible or lacking.

  75. “They want to be able to do it for trips to grandmas and other relatives and other things that yes are not neccessary and can be done without.”

    IN YOUR WORLD, Dolly. Some other people (obviously not as perfect as you) might think that knowing grandparents IS important, and in THEIR world travel to see said grandparents is also important, possibly even a necessity.

    Is there any ghost of a chance you could try to understand someone else’s point of view. Just one time? Please please please please please???

  76. It’s actually worse than it looks – the list of restrictions for 13-15 year olds are so ridiculous, it’s pretty much a de facto ban for them too – look at this :-

    Children 13, 14 and 15 years old must travel in accordance with the Amtrak Unaccompanied Minor Policy, which includes the following conditions:

    * Travel is permitted only on Amtrak trains. Travel is not permitted on Thruway motorcoach service, or on any other other connecting services.
    * Both boarding and arrival stations must be staffed. (Please note that even certain staffed stations do not allow for unaccompanied minors.)
    * The scheduled departure time may be no earlier than 5:30 am and arrival time no later than 9:05 pm.
    * No transfers of any kind are permitted.
    * All travel must be within the United States. Unaccompanied minors may not cross the US-Canadian border.
    * Both boarding and arrival stations must be staffed.
    * For each unaccompanied minor traveling alone, the adult bringing the child to the departure station must complete and sign a release form.
    * The child must wear an Amtrak issued wristband for the duration of travel.
    * The adult must remain at the station until the train has departed.
    * Upon arrival, an adult (at least 18 years old) must be present to pick up the child. The adult must display valid current identification meeting the Amtrak ID policies.
    * Full adult fares are charged. Tickets for unaccompanied children may not be purchased online.
    * The unaccompanied child may not have any life-threatening food allergies.
    * The child must be interviewed by station personnel to determine if the child is capable of traveling alone.

    So…if a train has a problem and has to be replaced by a coach they have to abort their journey. They can’t travel to/from unstaffed stations (and they say this twice for emphasis). Their travel times are restricted. They can’t transfer from train to train. They can’t cross the border. An adult has to bring them to the station and sign a release form (so they can’t go to the station on their own). I don’t get the wristband policy – how is this useful? The adult bringing them has to remain until the train departs? Why? Another adult has to collect them from the arrival station – again why? and what happens if they are not there? Does Amtrak force the child to remain at the station? Do they put them on the next train back? Amtrak will double the price they charge just because the child is on their own/with other kids. How will they define “life-threatening?” And finally – what the hell is this interview thing? How long will it take? What form will it take? How is the decision reached? I can see Amtrak employees deliberately failing kids at this bogus “interview” stage to block them from travelling.

    For all intents and purposes, it’s not just a ban on under 13s it’s a ban on all under 16s – what a joke.

  77. “At least from what I have heard in most divorce cases they require both parents to stay in the same state if they want visitation.”

    That is not remotely true in ANY state.

    “So the whole thing hardly even applys to us.”

    So why exactly is this topic filled with comments from you?

    Dolly, you’ve made it very clear that outside of your mother, nobody in your or your husband’s families live up to your standards. Fine for you, but most of the other 7 billion people on the planet actually like their families and staying connected to them is a NEED as deep as food and shelter.

  78. Um, Dolly, clearly you have no clue what happens outside of your quite limited experience. I can absolutely guarantee that states can not force parents to live in the same county, state or even country in order to hold parents in contempt of court if they do not abide by the court ordered visitation agreement. My best friend was forced, by the court, to visit with her father in another state or her mother would have faced contempt of court. Even when she was 17 and wanted nothing to do with the deadbeat. This is hardly an isolated incident and is happening more now than when we were teens. As I have also said I have other friends in that situation. The court does not care. So not *all* travel is luxury, unless you consider avoiding court sanctions a “luxury”.

  79. Travel I have done that I do not consider a luxury:

    Going to visit my father when he was dying.
    Flying to another country to pick up the child I was adopting.
    Moving across the country to take a new job.
    Driving many hours to my Grandmother’s funeral.

    Sure, I could have lived without these things. I could also live without a house, car, almost all my clothes, friends, and family. But if we define “luxury” as “anything a person does not absolutely need to survive,” the word loses a lot of practical meaning. The things on my list were all important enough that failing to do them would have meant a great loss in my life. They were not frivolous. There are plenty of times it is very important for people to travel, and policies which unnecessarily make this more difficult hurt people.

  80. I know I could never afford to send my kids to boarding school.

    On the contrary, Dolly, most private schools offer scholarships and financial aid, sometimes even very generous financial aid packages. Diversity is the big thing right now, and they have many ways of getting that diversity.

    Plus, not all boarding schools are like that at all. Some are public (yes, there are public boarding schools in the US!), some are for children with specific disabilities (deafness springs to mind) whose parents feel they are better served in a special environment but who don’t live in a community big enough to support a school for that disability in and of itself, some are for children with behavior problems.

    And what you consider a necessity is not what other people consider a necessity. End of story. You don’t know what you’re talking about, and you’re just going around offending people because you can’t shut up.

  81. I was always raised that if you don’t have the money to do something unless it is going to kill you, you don’t do it. So if I don’t have the money to drive to a funeral, then I don’t drive to that funeral. We don’t believe in debt or overspending or living outside our means in this family. So to me, even though traveling to do some of the stuff like Jennifer mentioned is definitely important, it is not something worth doing if you can’t afford it.

  82. I am thinking that this is based on Amtrack wanting more paying fairs, and they would do it up to 18 if they thought they could get away with it.

  83. Milton Hershey’s school a perfect example as well…

    I was just thinking how strange it would have been if these rules applied a only a few generations ago when kids were being sent to America (on ships from other countries)….wait, fill out this form and here’s your wrist band….

  84. I guess I am crazy that I would tell my sons not to bother coming to visit me and bring the grandkids to see me if it meant spending money they did not have to do so or taking time off of work they could not afford to do so. Sure I would want to see them. Probably more than anything, but it is not worth getting into financial trouble or trouble at work over it. I can make do with letters, phone calls, and emails till they save up the money to visit me. Maybe because I am so selfless. The thing is that my grandmothers are the same way. They always worry about me with gas money and traveling at night etc even though I am coming to see them. They think more about us than themselves.

  85. ps- my husband did not even go to his own grandfather’s funeral in the same town. Know why? His family did not tell him in time for him to ask his boss if he could get off work to attend. So he didn’t go. No funeral or family function or seeing family was worth losing his job over or risking getting on his boss’s bad side. Doesn’t make him heartless, makes him a responsible father and provider and husband. If he lost his job that would be 4 people that would no longer have food to eat.

    My main point here that I have been contesting is it is that idea of people seeing wants as needs that has gotten this whole country into all the financial problems it is in.

  86. Dolly, are you seriously suggesting that, since I was a college student with no money, I should have said, “Oh, well, I don’t need to see my father one more time before he dies. It’s certainly not worth going into debt over.”?

  87. Some people’s lives are not controlled by money. For some, family relationships are a need they cannot live without, and a separation from them is a separation from sanity and reality.

  88. Dolly – what if your adult son(s) could not get work off (risk being on boss’ bad side) BUT he could afford a train ticket for your 9 and 11 year old grandkids to come to visit you…maybe their stay with you would even be helpful to him financially (“free babysitting”) not to mention, the trip might be wonderful (all be it “unnecessary”) for your relationship with those grandkids….maybe their cousins even live right near you too…who knows…

  89. Well,Dolly, bully for you. If you DO have the money for your CHILDREN to see their cousins (but not you), you’ll sit on that money just for the lulz?

  90. “At least from what I have heard in most divorce cases they require both parents to stay in the same state if they want visitation. ”

    Besides everything everyone else has said, that’s totally irrelevant. You can actually arrange to have your kids visit their other parent WITHOUT a court order, you know. The parents could amicably work out an arrangement allowing such.

    If you want to believe that kind of thing is so rare as not to matter to anyone ever at all and keep believing that travel isn’t “necessary” to anyone, you can do that, but that’s superstition, not a rational belief. Or else, it’s a made up definition of “necessity” that only works and you’re only pushing because you refuse to admit you were wrong about viewing travel as a “luxury,” always, for everyone, in every situation.

  91. Jennifer: It depends on several factors. Like how much in debt would it cost you? How are your currently doing financially at that time? Is there some kind of back up plan if you cannot make ends meet like getting money from a relative? Could it cost you your college education if you end up having to drop out to pay bills? Just to give a few examples. If I was dying I would not let it jeopardize my son’s college education for him to see me one more last time. It is your life, but sometimes decisions like that can highly impact the rest of your life and you have to weigh the importance. Family is not the end all be all for many people. I worry more about food on the table.

  92. Jes,
    Not just a ticket for the accompanying parentadult from A to B, but a ticket back to A again. (and that’s just for the child going 1 way)

    Beth,
    I think that is very unlikely.

    Dolly
    “No funeral or family function or seeing family was worth losing his job over or risking getting on his boss’s bad side.”

    So what happens in the case of Heather’s friend who *had* to travel to another state (or would otherwise be in contempt of the court) to see her father, but her mother could not get off work because she might “(lose her) job or (risk) getting on (her) boss’s bad side”? As I see it, the mother only has these options:

    a) obey the court order, send the daughter to visit her father on her own, keep her job/on her boss’ good side
    b) obey the court order, accompany her daughter and risk losing her job and getting on her boss’ bad side
    c) disobey court order, keep daughter at home, keep her job and be on boss’ good side (what’s the consequence for not sending the daughter to the father if the court orders it? Could the mother lose custody of the child? (I’m not in America)

    I’m just curious to know if I’m missing something that you might see in this situation that would create a win-win solution (obey court order, mother keeps job and boss’ approval.

    Also, you seem somewhat close to your Mum. If you were in Jennifer’s situation would you consider travelling to see your Mum one last time a need or a luxury? (putting aside the issue of $, there are more to needs than affordability – for example, we all need to eat. Even if a person cannot afford to buy any food, got mugged in a foreign place and has no one to turn to, perhaps, he still needs to eat.)

    (I’m not trying to be mean or anything. I am genuinely curious)

  93. UIy: My kids don’t see their cousins not for money reasons. For relationship reasons.

  94. Lisa: I already talked about how if it was up to my mom, my sons and I I would see her every day. But she lives an hour away and we cannot afford the gas for me to see her even every week. So we don’t. I give up time with her because I got bills to pay. End of story. She understands that. She has bills to pay too thus why she is not paying for the gas to come up here constantly too. She plans on moving here once her husband (my stepdad) passes away and she sells that house. Till then we only get to see each other maybe every two weeks if we are lucky. So that is a real life example right there about wants versus needs. I have to explain to my 4 year olds daily why we can’t drop everything and go see their Mimi and they are usually crying on top of that about missing her. Doesn’t change the fact that gas is high and we cannot afford it.

    So yes, if I did not have the money to go visit her one last time then I would not go.

  95. “Family relationships and visiting family are nice things but not essential to living and therefore I am going to call bull when people try to pass that off as a ‘Need’ because it straight up is not.”

    Ugh. We just moved back to California after almost 20 years away. Years in which I didn’t see my mother, to whom I am very close, and who has had several heart ‘incidents’ in the last couple years. Years that my grandson didn’t know his extended family, ie great-gramma, uncle, aunt, cousins. We made a choice to leave an apartment and a job to stay in a friend’s basement until we can pony up enough dough to get our own place again. Ya’ know what? After a life-threatening illness last year, the only thing IN THE WORLD that truly matters is family connection and community. To me. To my husband. I can’t even imagine having cousins 45 minutes away and never in 4 years meeting them! Holy smokes!
    Now, being here, where my grandson is (he needed us. Nothing else mattered. Not having a job, not having a place. Nothing. Else. Mattered.) I am so f*&$ing happy! We’re still in the friend’s basement. I just started a job this week. But I see my grandson every day! I get to drop him off at school, and meet his bus. He feels so much better and happier with Gramma and Papa close by. If you weren’t aware, we raised him from 18 months to his 5th birthday, which was just in May, when his mommy was finally ready to take him back. I don’t CARE about money! I care about the PEOPLE in my world. Travel was hard, so we moved. We have nothing (and I mean nothing), but we have each other, and love, and support, and community, and the ability to spend time together. My grandson now goes to the same school as his cousins. They play together almost every day. They ride the bus together. They have beach trips together. My daughter is sooooo incredibly thankful that we are all here. It’s something she didn’t have, and finds more valuable than anything else watching her own small boy romp with his cousins in freedom and total acceptance within his family.
    So no. It’s not a luxury for us. It is a necessity, based on our values. Our FAMILY values. Which means we value our family, and those people are worth whatever sacrifices we have to make. Sacrifice a job to be there daily for my grandson? My mother? My daughter? To have my own soul nurtured by frequent contact with them? No-brainer.

  96. Well Jimmy, like I said that is why the US is in a financial crisis. People buy things they cannot afford. So you would put your family in the poor house over visiting your family? You would make the tax payers buy your food stamps because you can’t afford to buy groceries since you spent all your money on traveling to visit relatives? If so, then shame. I don’t care about anyone’s sanity but my kids and my own. I don’t want to pay welfare for someone who squandered their money on frivolous things like visiting relatives when they should have spent it on rent, utilities, food and other necessities.

  97. Grammomster: Well I hope you are not taking government assistance. If you want to give up things to be with family, by all means do so, but don’t expect taxpayers to cover your expenses either. I would give up a lot of nice things to be with my family too. But if it came down to the things you cannot live without like food, rent, health insurance, then it is not happening. That is what this whole discussion is about-want versus need. You need a place to live. You need clothes on your back. You need food to eat. You need heat and water. Last time I checked no one ever starved to death from missing their family but they can starve to death from no food.

  98. And Dolly, while you might not want your son to risk his education to come see his dying mother one last time, as a former college educator, I can assure you that most professors are quite flexible when it comes to things like that. Nobody is going to fail a kid for going to see a dying parent.
    Also, I have many adult friends that made a choice not to visit an aging parent, that parent died, and they have carried the grief of not being able to say goodbye, to give a hug or kiss, or tell that parent that they were loved, for the remainder of their adult lives. A powerful regret. No second chances. So, while you may not value that for your son, what if that was the choice your son wanted to make? Would you deny him that because it ‘wasn’t practical’?

  99. Grammonster: I would tell him my dying wish is for him to finish school and if he could not get away to come see me without negatively effecting his schooling, then he better respect me and not come. He has to support himself the rest of his life and one day maybe support a family of his own. He would need his job or schooling to do so and by God I would not want to mess that up for him. I am giving in that way. So while I could not force him one way or another I would STRONGLY urge him to put himself and his future over me. That is what mothers do.

  100. It is not really that hard to imagine not seeing cousins that live 45 minutes away ever. I don’t get along with my inlaws. So I am certainly not going to bring the kids over there to see them because then I have to deal with my inlaws and I don’t do that anymore. My husband can take them to see them, but he doesn’t because he is lazy and obviously does not care that much either. Not everyone is super close to family. We have best friends that are more like our siblings. We see them weekly. He is with his BFF as I type this. But last time he saw his brother was gosh maybe this Spring. Something like that. So long ago I don’t even recall. I prefer friends to family because I know with friends they don’t have to like me, but they do. I know where I really stand with them.

    My kids don’t lack for friends and don’t need their cousins. They had 30 kids at their birthday party.

  101. Dolly, for one, my husband and I ARE taxpayers, have been for 30 years. So, none of your dang business how we afford or don’t afford what we do. We haven’t ever had an excess of money, but for the last 2 decades, having a largish house, two cars (used and paid in full, but two), new clothes etc. took a much higher priority than traveling to see family. But, like I said… life-threatening illness will make you re-evaluate your priorities right quick. And on my priority list, disposable income, two cars and a 3 bedroom house don’t even come close to the top anymore. I’ll take one old beater, enough of a job to keep rice and beans in the cupboard, and a little studio cabin here close to those I love, and be far more happy and fulfilled in my life. When it comes right down to it, anything else can be replaced, if it proves to be truly needed.

    Second, your list of actual ‘needs’ cracks me up. Health insurance?! Hahahahahahahaha!!! You’re kidding, right? With advanced degrees, we never had a job between us that offered benefits that we could afford. The last time we had decent medical, we were in college and it was part of our student fees.

    And third, you can starve to death in a way from distance and isolation. It’s a spiritual kind of death, but it’s sucky and painful, and for some does in fact lead to a wasting death from sheer alienation and depression. I NEED my family to be whole. You may not. I do. They are not a luxury. They are my lifeblood. It took me 20 years and serious illness to realize this, but I figured it out in time to be here for the next 20.

  102. Nobody has said anything about travel they can’t afford except you Dolly. To the contrary, we’ve all said that making children forgo visits or forcing parents to pay for accompaniment that they can’t afford is wrong. Not single person said that this situation was a problem because they really can’t afford ANY train tickets but will still buy one to send their child someplace. You just have nothing to say about the subject since it, admittedly, doesn’t pertain to you so you are going off on tangents that have nothing to do with anything.

    And give me a break. Making a decision to only see your mother every 2 weeks instead of every week is a totally ridiculous comparison to seeing a parent for the last time. You couldn’t give me a single material thing that could take the place of being with my father for his last week. My law professors bent over backwards for me so I could go, but I was prepared to take the semester off if they had refused. I had money in savings from my job the summer before, but I would have put the plane tickets on a credit card if necessary. For most of us, family IS that important.

    Frivolous purchases and vacations are what have gotten people in financial trouble. Visits to see dying parents are not since those are rare (probably only 2 in your whole life).

  103. And I would definitely have sent my kids traveling alone at 10 if it had been deemed by myself and my husband to be necessary. All kinds of stuff we can give up for a month or two, or put off for a few months to buy a train ticket.
    I will admit though to being more comfortable with them flying than taking Amtrak for any distance. We’ve taken Amtrak as a family, and while it is my favorite mode of travel, it’s pretty darn easy to get off somewhere you shouldn’t, or miss getting back on after a station call. Once you’re on a plane, you’re on the plane. Point A to point B, not stops along the way in which you’re off the vehicle.
    Of course, my Amtrak trips have all been reaaaaalllly long distance, not just Chicago to Grand Rapids, say. But, when my kids did come visit their grandma individually, they both took Amtrak from Michigan to California. They were late teens, but they traveled alone. She came one year, he came the next. They had an opportunity to get to know their grandma as adults, and she got to know the people they had grown into. Absolutely, to me, necessary. Invaluable to them.

    Oy vey… just read your newest comment. Your whole, “That’s what mothers do” thing… Guess I only thought I was a mother. Whoops. Silly me. I thought mothers respected the wishes of their grown kids to do what is right FOR THEM. As adults. Oh. Wait. Isn’t that the whole point of the free range idea? To have those kinds of adults?

  104. I would guess that this really has nothing to do with safety at all. I’m betting that adults were complaining about kids that were misbehaving. Unfortunatly even though 8-12 year old should be expected to ride a train quietly, there are probably quite a few who take the opportunity away from adults to be obnoxious. Most likely these are not free-range children who have been given amounts of freedom and proved to make good choices. These are probably mostly kids that come from over-protective parents who go crazy when they know no ones watching them and telling them how to behave. Personally, this does not affect me, we don’t travel on trains at all. I do think this is a ridiculous rule, I also think it’s ridiculous that there are 10 year olds who don’t know how to behave. I am a SAHM, but I sub once a week, I have seen some horrible children! There are so many who will not be quiet and behave. It is such a shame and probably a side-effect of overbearing parents.

    @Dolly, I think you have some serious issues, no wonder most of your family doesn’t get along with you!

  105. Dolly: Wow! Awesome! You can afford a birthday party with 30 kids in attendance? Just think of all the gas to Mom’s that could’ve bought…

  106. Dolly, you may not want your son to come visit you but everything in life is not about you (shocking, I know). Me spending my father’s last week with him was not about him. It was about me and what I needed at that time. I needed to be there. I needed to say goodbye.

    I will say that one of my biggest regrets in life is not spending that last Christmas with my father. I made the sensible decision. My boyfriend and I had already booked a cruise for my Christmas break and I couldn’t afford to do that and another cross-country plane ticket (truthfully, I couldn’t afford either one; he paid for the cruise). We couldn’t cancel the cruise so I went rather than him losing the money spent on the cruise. I had fun, but I regret not pushing him to take a friend and going to Florida for Christmas.

  107. @Karen Hi, I’m really curious, but if it requires more than little work from you do not waste time with that. I would like to know what the real differences are. The general feeling “we have been more capable as kids” is not that much trustworthy.

    It seems like interesting feed for thought and very interesting topic, but I have no real usage for it. I’m not psychology expert and do not work with kids.

  108. Ugh.

  109. My 18 year old college student regularly rides the train back and forth to visit from college and you’d be amazed at how many people express shock that I think it is ok for my ADULT child to ride a train across the state with no transfers.

  110. Dolly,

    Thank you for your response. I did say putting the money issue aside, but your response actually explains a lot.

    You did not share your thoughts regarding the situation regarding Heather’s friend, though.

  111. @Lara – Many years ago I decided to move to San Diego (from Georgia). I drove cross-country by myself in a very indirect route incorporating visits to family and stopping whenever the urge struck me. Several people expressed amazement that my mother was ALLOWING me to do this. I was 28 at the time!!!! Apparently some have always believed that mother should have some control over what their ADULT children do. Luckily my mother wasn’t one if them and just looked at her friends like they were insane.

  112. Dolly, you stated that you can only afford to see your mom every two weeks, so that’s what you do, even though it is a hardship. What if you could only see you mom once a month? Once a year? Once every five years? Maybe it’s the internet, but it SOUNDS as if you are equating a two week absence with a year long absence. It’s as if you are saying that because you are making the sacrifice to only visit your mother every two weeks, then other people should be just as able/willing to make the sacrifice and only see their mother once a year, so why are they complaining?

    Anyway, I get your point about the train being a business and getting to run it however they choose, but in my opinion, it is a public service type of business, so it should also have to serve the public. Unless it has never, ever been given any kind of public support (deferred taxes, land grants, financial grants, etc etc etc).

  113. All I can say is that my train loving kids will be disappointed about having to wait even longer for a solo trip to see Grandpa.

    We almost always take the Amtrak to Chicago. My kids could probably tell you all the stops on the Lake Shore Limited from memory, give you advice on the best way to make the trip enjoyable, and tell you the entire menu from the snack bar and the dining car.

    It’s seriously messed up that they introduce algebra concepts in 4th grade, but independence concepts get delayed until college. Totally bassackwards in my humble opinion.

  114. I think this ruling has more to do with the sex trafficking of underaged girls than unruly suburban tweens. How many kids are really taking the train long distances solo? Longer than NYC to Philly, say?

  115. @Bonnie, you’re being sarcastic, right?

  116. Lisa: Well I actually said I might concede the divored parents visiting issue but still that is one issue. That does not account for all the other “needs” that people are saying would occur. Still in Heather’s issue I would answer “Get a better lawyer”. I would think that if you cannot afford the fare or the time off to make sure your child can visit their other parent then the lawyer would be able to argue that in court. Then either the other parent would be required to pay the fare or come get the child for their visitation or the visitation would not be required to happen. They can’t squeeze water out of a rock so to speak.

  117. That is why a lot of parents are told they have to stay in the same state for visitation purposes. Do any of you watch “Teen Mom”? They had several episodes in fact about that issue. Maci just up and moved with her son to another city without asking the father and not informing him till the day of the move. He went to a lawyer about it and the lawyer said they could fight her in court on that and make it where she could not do something like that ever again.

    I also know someone who was told they were not allowed to move with the child out of state. So they moved to the furthest most city in the state from where the father lived to be able to technically be following the orders but making it more difficult for the father to come get the kids and therefore not seeing them as much.

  118. Dolly, If you are gonna spout legal advice, Teen Mom is probably not the best basis for it.

    But, yes, you can sometimes prevent a child from being moved out of state. The custodial parent cannot be stopped so you’d have to be willing to take custody if she still wants to go. Visitation, however, does not stop if a non-custodial parent moves out of state. Also if the move is for a job, rather than simply to move, the court is much less likely to step in because parents need things like jobs to support their children.

  119. My son read the post and the rules about kids having to be accompanied to the train and at their destination. His response was, “That’s wrong! They’re sure weird in the States.” This is from a child who has been riding trains and buses fairly short distances by himself since he was 10. My son and his friends will often walk to the train station, buy their tickets, then get on the train by themselves to visit friends in other towns. When they come home, they walk home from the station by themselves. Our apartment is only a 10-15 minute walk from the train station.

    On another subject, my son was just talking to my sister-in-law (husband’s sister) about his trick-or-treating. He said that he went with two friends. When my SIL asked if my husband or I went along with them, he said, “No! I’m not a baby!” He explained that my husband dropped the 3 boys off on base and told my son to call when they were finished. My SIL was totally amazed that we would let 3 boys ages 12 and 13 go trick or treating without an adult. They trick or treated on a military base, which is about as safe as it gets. People now seem to forget all of the things that they did as kids without adult accompaniment.

  120. “Unless it has never, ever been given any kind of public support (deferred taxes, land grants, financial grants, etc etc etc).”

    Unless I am much mistaken, Amtrak remains directly subsidized by direct grants from the U.S. federal government — not in the sense of tax breaks or some benefits that many private businesses get, but direct subsidies as a public service. So they’re actually NOT a private business that can do whatever it wants, in any sense.

  121. Oh, it’s more than that, actually. Per Wikipedia:

    “The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak (reporting mark AMTK), is a government-owned corporation[1] that was organized on May 1, 1971, to provide intercity passenger train service in the United States. ”

    Not only is it not purely private, it’s not at all a business. It’s government-OWNED. So, no, they can’t do anything they want if they’re going to monopolize the rail industry and leave taxpayers no other options for legitimate travel.

  122. What about the kids (9, 10, 11) that have already been riding solo?

  123. So….anyone want to take any bets on how long before the airlines sets up the same rules? I bet they are looking at this and kicking themselves for not thinking of it first!

  124. When I read this article, all I could think about was when my brother, at 12 years old, rode a Greyhound bus across Pennsylvania. It was twelve or so years ago (ugh I’m so old!), and he was visiting me at college for the weekend. He had absolutely no problems. I’m sad that I won’t be able to put my daughter on a train to visit her uncles out of state when she’s that age.

    I also want to say that I’ve traveled extensively with young adults. I’ve taken 12-14 year olds to conferences around the country (Florida, Georgia, California, Arizona, Tennessee), and they were always very respectful and easy to travel with. Of course, there was about 5 of us adults with 20 kids, but we let them do what they wanted and it was on them to get to the gate on time, be at their room by curfew, be ready for dinner, etc. Never had an issue and were angels compared to the adults you typically encounter when travelling.

  125. Dolly- I have tried to give you the benefit of the doubt, but you crossed the line with this one:

    “While that problem may exist I am not going to necessarily feel sorry for the parents on that issue since they chose to get a divorce and chose to live far away from each other. It is a problem of their own making.”

    I would explain why you have NO CLUE about divorce and how it happens- about how sometimes one parent starts using drugs and gets abusive and the other flees, or one cheats on the loyal other, or any other such reason where at least one person is not at fault. Maybe a death causes an unhealable rift, or an accident that one was involved in tears them apart. But all divorces are just lazy, assholes who are selfish and don’t want to commit, am I right?

    I might also explain that with this tough economy, you might need to take care of an ailing family member, or any other reason. A parent might have to move away from the other to take a much needed job. I would tell you that maybe that money may be needed to support that kid, and that kid would like to see that parent! But nope, Dolly doesn’t like it, so no travel for a kid! Screw them and their parents, who deserve to not see their kids because YOU think their sitation is all their fault and, as such, should suffer accordingly.
    (I bet if a parent didn’t take that job, and stayed in a town to be near their kid and the other parent, but needed public assistance, forget it- that’s too bad too! It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to hear you y such a thing.)

    But you know, I think I would be talking to a wall. So instead Im just going to say you are an ignorant, rude, and hostile person. I have no clue why you even come here, I guess you just like to argue? Your opinion on other peoples lives is disgusting, closed minded and judgemental- this isn’t the first I have seen it. I hope someday YOU get to deal with these issues, since its obvious you are so wonderful that divorce and relocation could never happen to you……

  126. I want to point out, that all those divorce parents and dying relatives are unnecessary extreme examples. Some things are neither luxury nor necessity. Books, CDs, boardgames, oranges, playgrounds and tons of other things are not luxury but definitely not a necessity.

    Huge cars and diamond rings are luxury.

    Kids most often go to school by train or visit relatives and it is ten times easier for everybody if they can do it alone. To deny them the right to do so without no rational reason is as controlling and aggressive as you can get.

    None has the right to ask them for reasons. They do not ask for a government subsidy or a free ticket. They ask for a right to do so.

    It may be legal to stop them, but it still shows that you are controlling, that you like to make other peoples more difficult and that you do not care a bit about them. Denying them the right to easy travel just because somebody else can not afford tickets is simply wrong.

  127. … that you like to make other peoples lives more difficult …

    sorry, mistake

  128. I agree, travel is a luxury. Why stop at 12-year-olds? No one “needs to travel”, let’s confiscate everyone’s passport and shut down Amtrak all together. Also, no one needs a house. Tents and caves were good enough for our ancestors, why aren’t they good enough for us? And who needs an education? The cro-magnons didn’t read and write books, why should we?

    No one needs to see cousins, that’s a luxury. And why does any one need to see their parents? Family is a luxury, let’s just stick everyone in a govt-run daycare with a high fence and leave it at that.

  129. Does Dolly actually exist? Is ‘she’ in fact a misanthropic 50-year-old childless single male simply trying to get a rise out of everyone?

    I have been reading some of ‘her’ comments over the past few months, and some of them are too ‘off the wall’ to be real. The above are some of the worst/best, depending on which way you want to paint it……That’s the ‘fun’ thing about the Internet – you can spout the worst garbage, pretend to be anyone you want, and no-one actually knows who you are.

    I think I’m a middle-aged working mum from the Deep, Deep South of the World – but who knows🙂

  130. And really, who cares…..Keep up all the ‘wonderful’ comments Dolly. You display a mindset that is is so fantastical it seems completely false. You are obviously from someplace off the planet I currently inhabit. You make a change from the sane and sensible people I am lucky enough to mix with in my real life – we all need a good laugh, so keep the insanity coming. Even if you don’t really exist…..

  131. Sorry, no time to read all comments. I only have to say that the only “sane” reason I can think of for this decision is the possible misbehaviour of unsupervised kids on board.
    However, this is nonsense. I’m sure there’s a policy concerning disruptive travellers, isn’t there? Why can’t they apply it on minors? You vandalize the train, you disturb fellow travellers, then you get kicked off the train, and they escort you to the station office where your parents/guardians will pick you up.
    IMHO, the real problem is the incomprehensible embarrasment people have when they have to scold other people’s children. It’s like a parlizing panic to confront… kids!!! I don’t get it.
    You know, children ARE people. Most of them can hold a conversation and everything. If a brat is kicking my seat on an airplane, I turn and ask them to stop, as I would if an adult was inadvertently stepping on my toes on the subway. I don’t search for an adult to translate.

  132. Dolly, please, be quiet about things you have no clue about.

    I am the divorced dad who lives in another province in Canada away from his kids. here are some facts for you

    1. I did not choose the divorce, my ex wife did, sometimes it works that way.

    2. I had to move to keep my job, so that i could continue to provide for my kids, what was I supposed to do my employer said I had to go, i had to go.

    3. I need and want to see my kids, so even If i can’t afford it, I make it happen. They want to see me too, so thats a need in thier eyes.

    I have thought about letting them use my airline points to travel to see me sometime, they would be unaccompanied, at least they are teenagers so they can, I think you have no clue how the noncustodial parent feels, i would sell a kidney to see my kids, it is a need pure and simple, if you cannot get that sometimes things happen and we have no control over them then too bad for you. I did not ask to be moved away, but it was a choice between unemployment or employment in another city, I chose to keep my job, does that make me a bad parent? I hope not, because any one who wants to judge me as a parent based on a very difficult decision I had to make can kiss it, you included.

  133. Not to mention, not all separated parents are divorced, or want to be. Sometimes – especially in a bad economy! – parents are separated for reasons of work.

    That’s what happened when I was very little, we didn’t see our mom for nearly a year because she came up north to work and my dad stayed in Louisiana with us where the rents were cheaper and he had an established (though poorly paying) business. We didn’t come up to NYC until she was more settled.

    Sometimes a married couple can’t live together because they both need to work and they can’t manage to do that in the same area right now. This really sucks, but it does happen.

  134. Oh and Dolly?, I may not starve to death from not seeing them, but it does not do my mental health any good, what about that?

    They are all I have good to show from my marriage.
    More important than money or food, or anything else.

  135. Excuse me Stacy, I DO deal with these issues. Did you not notice where I said I had a stepdad? My parents were divorced too. It was from crazy circumstances too, try my mom finding out my father was gay after she was already married to him. So what? After they divorced which was a decision I had zero input into, we no longer had as much money since they had to pay for two houses now, etc. So I stopped getting fancy clothes and we stopped going on fancy vacations. So what? It sucks, but it is life. You don’t have the money, you don’t have the money. I really don’t get what people are arguing here? Are you guys arguing its okay to go into debt? Its okay to spend outside your means? Because that is an argument you would lose and should not even be making.

  136. JustaDad: You sound like a good Dad. But you cannot get into debt just to see your kids. No one should be living outside their means. Now giving up cable or cell phones or driving a clunker to be able to afford to travel to see your kids. Yes, definitely do that. But just saying the money is not there and then going anyway. That is not a good idea.

    I got made fun of in school daily when I was in middle school because my mom could only afford Kmart clothes for me after the divorce. It was disturbing my mental health big time. So much so that I tried to commit suicide. Did that mean my mother just threw caution to the wind and started buying me fancy clothes? Nope. She didn’t have the money so it didn’t happen. I lived through it barely. But it was what it was.

  137. No dolly, You did deal with these issues, actually, not really, as you were a child, Boo hoo, no fancy trips/clothes, try being far away from your kids , and struggling to see them, and making it work, and sometimes(gasp) going into debt a bit to see them, then maybe you would understand, that sometimes travelling is a need, not a luxury. It has to be done, If that means I have to go into debt to see them, than so be it. the rewards outweigh anything else. again, you have no clue.

  138. Dolly, I did drive the clunker, until it was pointed out that the cost in gas and repairs to keep it on the road were costing me more than the payments on a new car would, so I went into debt again, on a smaller more fuel efficient car, shocking, I would rather see my kids and then eat Kraft dinner for a week, my kids are aware of some of the sacrifices, both of us make for them so they are appreciative of what we do provide, My kids do not wear designer clothes because they are not shallow and think that what you wear makes you who you are. And everyone gets made fun of in middle school at some point or another it is just a fact of growing up.

    I have gone into debt to see them, racked up my line of credit, and a credit card, but it was worth it, every penny. and I would do it all again.

    and as for the cell phone, it is my only phone, no land line, the cell phone is cheaper, plus it means they can always contact me.

    Like I said the choices are not that black and white, and everyone has different decisions to make.

  139. Okay JustaDad, so you are getting into debt to visit your kids. What happens when you get elderly and still have that big debt? How are your kids going to care for you if you have not saved up any money for retirement or your debts are just so big that you can’t pay your bills? Are they going to have to spend THEIR money to pay for your nursing home? Are they not going to be able to do nice things with THEIR kids because all their money is going to take care of you?

    Everyone keeps throwing the lucky and blessed thing around about me. Actually I have been given a bunch of crap in my life over and over again. However, I play it smart, I rise above it. Sometimes that means doing without or hard living, but I do it. I would never want to saddle my kids with having to take care of me when I am elderly. I want them to live their lives and concentrate on their kids. They can visit me and call me if they can, but it is not their job to provide for me. Therefore my husband and I try really hard to stay out of debt and try to save money too.

  140. Also don’t try to pull that idea that “Everyone is picked on in middle school”. Bullying is NOT okay and should be shut down immediately. Have you not watched the news lately about how many kids have taken their own life over bullying? It makes me think you are not a very compassionate person to brush off a young girl being bullied so bad she tried to commit suicide like I admitted to. It wasn’t just my clothes that got me picked on but it was one of the things. I also was barked at by boys every time I walked down the hall. It was no one wanting to sit with me at lunch sometimes. It was no one wanting to partner with me in class sometimes. It was constant mean things being said to me by others. So go ahead and brush all that off but it makes you look like an insensitive asshole.

  141. Dolly, I have a pension plan, 2 of em in fact, and by the time i am retired, my kids will be in thier 30’s so the debt will be gone, and as for the middle school, stuff, you didn’t elaborate, you said you were pcked on because of your clothes, that was all you said, bullying is wrong, I was bullied, my son was too. I’m sorry that it made me appear insensitive but that was not my intent.

    I’m just saying that you don’t have my life, I do, I and I make the choice to go in debt or not, when the kids are grown, and I have the money back from child support that I wont have to pay, then the debt will be handled period. As for right now, seeing my kids is what matters. period. you are lucky that you are not in my situation, but what would you do if you were?

    unfortuneatly for me, I had to find out, the hard way.
    On the plus side, I know now that I would do anything for them including buying only second hand clothes (for me) and furnishing my home with second hand items, so that I have the cash to see them, but if I have to put a tank of gas on a credit card, so be it. I don’t feel guilty either, I have learned that it is a useless emotion, my guilt over my marriage failing nearly paralyzed me.

    but it is not always balack and white, my lawyer told me that if my ex wanted to move further away for employment, that could lead to a better finacial situation for her and the kids there would be nothing I could do, Best Interest Of The CHild (note waht the acronym spells)

    I am also lucky that my ex wife and I are very amicable, and our agreement was done by us, certified by lawyers and done, no courts, no aguements nothing, not even specified visitation, just and agreement to arrange what ever works for us. I have free and easy access to them. (she dislikes me, but loves them so she knows they want me in their lives, so she is easy about this)

    Do I always have the money to do big deal things with them , no, but they know I will save up so we can, Again makes them more appreciative of what I can do for them.

    And I am glad that you were able to rise above what happened to you in middle school, from your description, it sounds like it was horrible.

  142. And Dolly, I wasn’t brushing it off, I was just stating that it does in fact happen to everyone at some point, even as adults.

    and yes I have seen the reports on those kids, but Then Michigan passes a stupid law

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/michigan-anti-bullying-law-protects-religious-bullies/2011/11/06/gIQAhZIdtM_blog.html

    that makes it okay, if you believe you are morally or religiously correct.

    Try being a man in a divorce support group, the only man, the bullying was there too, believe me.
    But to tell me I cannot go into debt to see my kids. That’s Just crazy, would you rather I was just another dad, who pays child support but has no involvement in their lives, like some of those women in that support group suggested to me?

    I would rather be in Debt (manageable) right now and see them than have all the money in the world.

    Here’s a hint, when I pay you to manage my finances you can have an opinion, till then, no.

  143. Dolly, none of us are talking about spending outside their means. You’re making that up. People are talking about having the money to send the child alone, but not having the money to make two round trips to accompany that child.

  144. Dolly, seriously. I’m toning down the language I’d like to use, but WHO MADE YOU THE BOSS OF EVERYONE IN THE WORLD?

    (I’m pretty sure that, among your eleventy-billion posts on this site, there was one that said “I don’t judge.” ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha)

  145. lol. Oh Dolly. Your at your old shenanigans again. People do what THEY will do. People will think what THEY will think. But for you to argue YOUR point, as to make everyone else concede to your views and ideas are just arrogant. Reading all the comments here and your reply to them, as well as other comments you’ve posted on this blog, you really have very little clue, except in your own little world. Hey, more power to you if that’s what you believe, and things you do work for YOU. But don’t be so ignorant that you force your views on others, by telling them they are wrong to do what they feel is right for them and their family. What THEY do works for THEM.

    I agree travel for leisure is a luxury. But who are you to say people can’t spend their money as they please. They worked for it, they can spend it as they will. If they are broke afterwards, well…that’s their business. They just have to work some more to make more money. So that they can spend it as they please. But when it comes to children traveling across state to visit their father or mother (divorced), that’s not a luxury. Going to see family who is dying or have died and your attending their funeral, or seeing relatives once a year, those aren’t luxury. FAMILY aren’t luxury. Sure, not many people can make a trip to another country to see family. But if it’s important enough, even if it’s last minute, most people would make the effort, and spend whatever money is required to go see family. My folks went back home to attend my grandmother’s funeral (my mother’s mother). Us kids stayed home. Couldn’t afford for the whole family to go. We understood even at a young age. Family is family. There is NO distance, NO money, NO excuse not to be with them in times of need. NONE. So what your husband’s family didn’t give him enough notice, the point is they told him. And I don’t know any company that will not give time off to employees to attend family funeral, even if it was last minute. In fact, in most places it is law or part of a collective agreement with the employee. So either your husband’s company is absolutely terrible and heartless, or your husband couldn’t be bothered for whatever reason. In my experience, and many here, where there is a will, there is a way. Family first. And I’m sure many here have gone out of their way, just to pay respect to family. And you can’t tell anyone here they are wrong for doing so.

    As for the Amtrak issue, they are just covering their own asses, just in case there is that one time that some parent will make a big stink and sue Amtrak. Most kids I know under 10 that have traveled on their own, have ALL been behaved. It takes a certain mindset for children to travel on their own. If they are unruly, the parents wouldn’t have put them on a train or plane on their own. At least any responsible and conscionable parent. I’ve take the train numerous times and have seen children under 10 traveling on their own. They are the most quiet and behaved kids. I’ll even go as far as say mature beyond their years. It amazes me, but it doesn’t surprise me. Because I know what children are capable of given the opportunity. It’s unfortunate many adults these days never give them the chance, for their own selfish fears and/or arrogance.

  146. “Also don’t try to pull that idea that “Everyone is picked on in middle school”. Bullying is NOT okay and should be shut down immediately. Have you not watched the news lately about how many kids have taken their own life over bullying? It makes me think you are not a very compassionate person to brush off a young girl being bullied so bad she tried to commit suicide like I admitted to. It wasn’t just my clothes that got me picked on but it was one of the things. I also was barked at by boys every time I walked down the hall. It was no one wanting to sit with me at lunch sometimes. It was no one wanting to partner with me in class sometimes. It was constant mean things being said to me by others. So go ahead and brush all that off but it makes you look like an insensitive asshole.”

    Now I see where your standoffish attitude comes from. Well for one, you watch to much news. You are the epitome of heli-parents. There aren’t very many news stories this year related to suicide by bullying. Although, one is still too many. But it’s not an epidemic. It’s a problem all over the world, something that should be taken seriously. But to imply that’s it’s an uncontrollable issue is ludicrous. Let me ask, what did you do when you were bullied as a kid? Did you talk to your parents about it, school teachers, guidance, counselor? Did you ever confront the bullies? Did you take necessary steps to help yourself? Most victims of bullies never speak out. They keep to themselves, and hope it will go away soon. But kids who commit or even attempt to commit suicide because of bullying, has more issues than just the bullying itself. Family problems, abusive parents, alcohol and drug related issues (to cope with their other problems), etc…all of this factors into messing a kid up. I was briefly picked on back in elementary school. But because I was taught to stick up for myself, and to tell my parents or teachers of the problem, as well as confronting the bully, it didn’t last very long. The first time I was picked on, I told the kid to stop. When he didn’t, I told the teacher. The teacher made him stop. I then told the story to my parents, not to “tattle”, but as a story of my day at the dinner table. I was encouraged by both my parents that if push comes to shove, not to be afraid to protect myself. Well the next day, push did come to shove, except I “shoved” much harder. Yes, I got in some “trouble” from my teacher, in which my mother had to come and pick me up. But that kid never bothered me again. We all have a choice, and our choices dictate our future. Be it standing up to bullies, telling someone, or even taking the train by ourselves. What may not work for you, cannot be said the same for others. That is THEIR decision to make, no one elses.

  147. Dolly-why does a kid need to see what is in most any R rated movie? The law is what it is, for ratings, for a reason, in that any R rated movie is guaranteed to contain nudity, or profanity, or extreme violence. The theater is also not a babysitter for someone’s 12 year old that freaks out at the content of the movie and then wanders the theater in the absence of parents (that feel the price of a ticket=babysitting services). My wife is the assistant manager of a 15 screen theater and sees this all the time. She has no problem calling parents at home to get their kids, or ejecting the more troublesome ones.

  148. Jennifer-Yes, that is exactly what she is suggesting. I have some friends that are Dave Ramsey-bots and suggesting things like this is a daily occurring for them. They have limited, boring, uninspired lives, and they forgo opportunity at every step because they have to spend time agonizing over “what would Dave Ramsey tell me to do….”. According to them for example, Student Loans, and even college itself, is a luxury, too, as is any form of credit. Ive repeatedly asked them how it is they manage to reserve hotel rooms in advance, or purchase tickets for air travel, and they either answer with blank stares (his employer pays for it all, so they have no idea that many times you need a credit card) or they risk never getting a room when they travel because they assume that they can just get a room wherever. Never mind that without a college degree neither one of them would be able to work in their respective fields (and they both had loans, too “shhhhhh!”). They both have paid theirs off handily with the wages from their jobs, yet they now live like misers and never spend money anything because of ‘what if’ and ‘just in case’.

  149. Dolly, what kind of workplace worth working for doesn’t have a bereavement policy of some kind-written or unspoken?

  150. Dolly-who’s going into debt and spending outside their means? Many people have perfectly good jobs and have money to do these things. The only one repeatedly bringing up the debt and money angle is you. If YOU can’t afford to do it, DON”T do it. That doesn’t apply to anyone else, though.

    Funny, once again you are applying your very limited world view onto the general population as the only way to see/do/be anything.

  151. I might be wrong, but wasn’t middle school a long long long time ago, at least for most of us??

  152. Maybe Dolly doesn’t even have kids? Maybe Dolly is just drunk and bored.

  153. @Violet. Amen, my point earlier. Dolly is so much of a caricature that I am beginning to wonder if ‘she’ is even an American. ‘She’ could indeed be the invention of my delightfully misanthropic uncle, retired with plenty of time on his hands and too little to occupy his copious mind. He could probably get around the timeclock thing – he has one of those techno-geek minds-, and is just the kind to invent this cartoony version of a midwestern Bible Belt housewife…..Come on, Uncle Chappie, admit it – it’s you, isn’t it?! Go and find something better to do, like make another surface to air rocket in your backyard….

    Can’t believe I didn’t pick it up earlier….

  154. Thanks, Lucy, for the Amtrak comment link. I posted the following comment there, and encourage other readers to comment there as well:

    I am extremely disappointed to hear that you have raised the minimum age for unaccompanied minors from 8 to 13. Given the existing requirement for a responsible adult to drop off and pick up the child at the origin and destination stations, and the lack of any actual evidence that children in that age range have experienced problems or caused disruptions on Amtrak trains, it is truly sad to see that you are forcing these children to fly instead of taking the train. My niece (aged 9 at the time, three years ago) traveled on her own by plane from Berlin to NYC, and in the 1930s my mother traveled unaccompanied to and from Germany by ship – a week’s voyage each way. I strongly encourage you to re-think these new restrictions, which contribute to the ongoing infantilization of our older children, who are increasingly denied the possibility of taking responsibility for their own lives in even the smallest ways.

  155. This is very disappointing – I hope that other train services do not follow suit! My 12-year old daughter just recently took NJ transit on her own, returning from a weekend with a friend’s family in NYC. I figured that now she has to pay full fare and is taller than me, she can be treated like an adult on the train (she does behave like one, in public at least). She has been flying unaccompanied to Europe since she was 7. How retrograde of Amtrak.

  156. Cedric: If you are referring to my husband, his work does have a bereavement policy. However you have to tell your boss about the death before just taking off. They called my husband at 6 pm on a Friday night to tell him about the funeral at 9 am on Monday morning. So by the time they told him his boss had already left for the weekend. So no way to alert his boss in time to make it to the funeral. You cannot just take off without permission in most jobs. Now the whole picking a very stupid time to tell Hubby about the funeral was the fault of his family. They do crap like that all the time so no surprise there. They made sure it was a good time for his brother, but totally did not even think about my husband. Can you guess he is not the favorite child?

  157. Cedric: who said 12 year olds? In my state you have to be 18 to see a R rated film. Other states I believe it is 17. So my dad was not able to go with me to the ticket booth and say “This is my daughter who is 17. She wants to see this movie. I am okay with that.” nope, they made him buy me a ticket and sit there with me. Just a scam to get more money. And that is a very anti free range thing to say, you know? There are plenty of R rated movies that younger kids can handle. I was watching R rated movies when I was really young depending on what it was. Some kids are more mentally mature and can handle it. My favorite movie was “The Lost Boys” when I was a little girl and it has drugs, vampires, blood, gore, cursing, etc. So what?

  158. Yes, Eric let’s just brush off bullying and somehow make it the fault of the bullied. Typical. Yes, I told my mother everyday it happened. I also told teachers. Nothing was done. I was not physically bullied so there was no way to punish the offenders. I was just psychologically bullied and at least back then they didn’t do anything about that. Plus kids are smart, they did it when the teachers were not there. It was my word against theirs. Girls bully differently than boys. I begged my mother to pull me from school and she wouldn’t. I did end up missing probably 2 out of every 5 days of school from fear of being bullied. The teachers knew that was why I was missing school too because my mothe rtold them,

  159. JustaDad: Well if you have your finances set up to take care of the debt and work it out, then good for you and I apologize if I insulted you.

    You guys are wrong though. Several people did say they would spend whatever money to visit family and go into debt and not care about the financial repurcussions.

    And no, we do not follow Dave Ramsey. We just believe if you don’t have the money, you don’t buy it. Because I believe buying things when you have no intention of paying for it in a timely manner is essentially stealing and I will have no part of that.

  160. and FYI whoever said I watch too much news. You look like a dumbass because I have stated on this site before, I don’t watch the news ever. I hear random tidbits of news from various places but I never watch the news. The news bores me and I have better things to do.

  161. “The Lost Boys”? That would barely be PG 13 now, Dolly. As for the ‘R’ rating, talk to the MPAA-they are unaffiliated with the movie companies and directors, and tick them off just as often as they do movie goers with their capricious rating system. The point is, a line had to be drawn, and at 17, you would be on the wrong side of it. Since “R” means “adult content” and you weren’t an adult………..? The point here is that maybe your parents knew/thought you were ready, and that is fine, but when you go out into the rest of the world there are still rules to follow and for every parent that is fine with their kids watching R rated movies are 20 others that dump their kid off with 20 bucks for the afternoon and then complain later when their precious snowflake comes home and tells them about the movie they watched. It isn’t the theatre’s job to be a babysitter.

  162. Dolly, believe it or not we’re not all hanging on your every word. You can say it a hundred times, and still some people will forget that you don’t watch the news (assuming they read that comment in the first place). Nobody cares that much.

  163. College degrees are not a necessity. Two people very close to me didn’t graduate college and have jobs with more prestige (and bigger paychecks) than mine, even though I’ve got that lovely piece of paper.

    It’s really hard to not go into debt over college. My parents scrimped and saved to send me, but if I hadn’t gotten a full scholarship my first two years, they (or I) would have been in debt. A lot of parents don’t think it’s their responsibility to pay for their kid’s higher education. A lot of parents want to help, but they just weren’t able to get the money together for whatever reason. Both of those people without degrees are still paying off their loans.

    So if you’re in a position where you’re not going to be able to pay for your kid’s education in full, and they’re not going to be able to pay for it themselves without going into debt, then they just shouldn’t go? Seems risky.

  164. Dolly, I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume your husband’s boss has a phone or email and could have been notified about the funeral sometime between 6pm Friday and 9am Monday had your husband wanted to go. Going simply wasn’t enough of a priority for your husband to pick up a phone and that’s fine. Some people don’t care about family events (or get pissy about being notified late and don’t go out of spite). But you can’t impute those views on every one because for many people family is extremely important and they would pick up the phone to call bosses or travel long distances if needed to be able to attend a grandmother’s funeral.

  165. I feel like this needs to be reposted about a thousand times

    Dolly. Is there any ghost of a chance you could try to understand someone else’s point of view. Just one time? Please please please please please???

  166. This is sad. Starting at age 11, my friends and I often took the train from our suburban town to Boston (about an hour ride) and spend the day exploring the city. Granted, we got lost on the subway a few times, but nice strangers always helped us out and we never missed our train home. It is really disheartening that other kids won’t get the opportunity to be independent.

  167. I know someone who was a product of bitterly divorced parents who did send her via greyhound back and forth, state to state, alone, ages 6, 7, and so on. She says now how traumatized she was about it, but what choice did she have at the time? She was supposedly “mature” enough to handle it, but hated it and looks back at the situation now and wonders how parents could do that to a child so young. She resents her parents for the whole situation. I realize ALL solo-child travel isn’t a traumatizing situation, but parents should think first before acting so selfishly. 6 or 7 or 8 year olds should not have to be forced into confusing travel all by themselves. There was one time where her parent “forgot” to pick her up – leaving her sitting at the station for hours, confused! I would not allow parents to get away with this…before the age of say, 10.

  168. The summer I was 14 or 15, my sister (4 years younger) and I went to Chicago to visit my aunt. It was agreed between my mom and my aunt that my sister and I would ride Amtrak back home, without supervision, as we were old enough to do so. Also, as I was on crutches due to minor surgery, the train would be more comfortable than being packed into a car on the ride home, dealing with traffic. Everything SHOULD have been fine, except my uncle bought us tickets to go to Detroit, MI but then had us sit in the car that was for passengers riding to Birmingham, MI – because he couldn’t remember at which station my mom would be meeting us (this was before cell phones). It should have been fine, but the conductor had other ideas. The conductor first went on a rant about our parents let us riding the train alone. Then he got angry because the tickets were for Detroit and not Birmingham. He told us we would have to pay the difference and upgrade the tickets to Birmingham. However, he refused to actually tell me how much the difference would cost. Instead, he kept berating us and my mother about traveling by ourselves, to the point that I got upset and started crying because I was trying to ask questions to understand what we needed to do (I had a limited amount of money for the train ride, so wanted to know if we could afford to pay the difference vs. moving to the other train car) and he refused to answer and would just yell at us. I found out later that the difference in ticket prices was $3 each. And my mom picked us up in Detroit, but since then, I have realized that Amtrak is not concerned about anyone’s safety. Instead, they care only about whether or not their conductors THINK they have more work. If the conductors THINK there is more work, it pisses them off, and god forbid that a conductor have to answer a question at some point. this change in policy is is for no reason other than Amtrak’s own convenience.

  169. I wonder how many of you have actually taken a long distance trip on Amtrak. They have trains that operate for 2.5 days to travel from Chicago to Los Angeles. I’ve been on plenty of these trains for work-related and family travel. While many of you may think the experience is like a plane – – it’s not. There can be 10 or so train cars and there is scant supervision at night by conductors. There are typically 2 conducts for the entire train and 1 attendant for every 2 coaches. The train stops in the middle of the night at remote stations, sometimes these are extended “smoke” stops for passengers. There is a bar lounge where folks can buy liquor. And children can have full access to these areas and the sometimes seedy fellow passengers that stay up all night to drink – – sometimes brining their own supply. So, I applaud Amtrak for making this move. Goodness, why can’t parents be parents and actually make the effort to take their children places? Oh, I guess that’s because we want it to be easy to shuttle kids between divorced households. But lecturing aside, an Amtrak trip is not the same experience as a commercial flight.

  170. Oh wahhhhhh. Kids all over the world have been traveling for thousands of years, why do we, the enlightened society, infantalize our kids? No wonder they never move out. This heinous distrust of anyone outside of ones insular circle is to blame for many current societal ills.

  171. As a boy growing up in Edmonton, Alberta in the early 1970s, I rode the city bus to school and back, located in the central core of the small city. The bus ride included a transfer from one bus to another and crossing a busy intersection or two. I was 6 years old; my sensible Mother insisted I travel with one one of my five sisters. This became a burdensome imposition on play time after a few weeks because I finished 30 minutes before they did. Mother relented and allowed me to travel alone…in grade 1…in weather reaching 20 below in January.

    I relayed this story to a friend who grew up in sister prairie town, Regina, Saskatchewan. He described how, during fall season, friends hunting together who did not own a truck, had to bring their shotguns into school so they would be at the ready when the bell rang at the end of the day. – Not a minute to spare during the short open season. Prudent teachers insisted guns be safely stored in lockers and not brought into classrooms.

    These stories sound only quaint today and yet it was not that long ago.

    The British Navy knew about developing responsability. Young boys went to sea as early teens or younger and could have 10 years of experience as 20-year olds and become Captain at 21. How this compares to the grown children today who return from 4 or 5 years of college and live at home; never having worked!

  172. I came from a sophomore (maybe junior) class in the US were we were still allowed to have rifles and shotguns on campus, provided that they were racked in the vehicles. Im only 35 so it’s not that quaint or that long ago. I live in the Midwest, though, so I supposed to our Eastern or Western coastal dwellers we would seem quaint, though. Ive thought in the last several years that a 2 year required conscription might be in order-and I didn’t enlist until I was 22, married, with a child, and in college-because it paid better than working at Walmart while taking care of my mom’s medical issues. I quit school and moved back home to care for her, almost done with college, and discovered that WM didn’t pay enough for one family, much less two. So, after mom stabilized I enlisted in the Army in early 2001. SUPRISE! there. BUT it did some major good for me, and aspects of that first several weeks still shape me today. the idea of larger self demonstrated, the idea of a visible team cause and effect, the instilled idea of shared sacrifice and gain did me wonders, coming from an insular collegiate environment.

  173. When I was 4 (in 1963), I told my parents I wanted to take the bus to grandma’s house. They let me.

    The bus stop was right in front of our house. My parents explained to the bus driver which stop I would be getting off at and that grandma would be waiting for me. (she always was). I had a note with my vital info pinned to my shirt. I sat in the very front of the bus, across from the bus driver, watched everyone getting off and on, and marveled at the fare box and all the change being dropped into it.

    The trip was about 45 minutes with no transfers and my stop was at the end of grandma’s street.

    Grandma, however, always worried about me taking the bus at that age and would always drive me home.

    I did this until I was 7 when the city changed the bus route.

  174. The Dutch railways just reintroduced the Tienertoer (Teen tour) ticket, which lets 12-18 year olds travel unaccompanied for three days on any train in the Netherlands. I have great memories doing this as a 14 year old (with a friend) and 15 year old (alone), visiting museums (I was kind of nerdy) during the day and staying at family overnight.

    I think it’s great that children and teens are encouraged to use public transportation.

    My 10 year old regularly uses the train to visit classmates who live in another town, and he loves it.

    An Onny: I can imagine that after a messy divorce a child would feel very unsafe and lost, and in such a situation it is of course terrible if your parents insist you take a long-distance bus when you don’t want to.

    Of course, you should sometimes encourage your children to do things like this, but you should always take their concerns seriously.

  175. Hmmm. This makes me so sad. Kids are so capable even at very young ages and then we turn them into babies. We make them think that they can’t cope in the world. I wonder where the concern is coming from here. Is it other travelers? Whatever it is, this trend is very troublesome.

  176. […] gives them credit for. So I thought I’d present a letter I just got from someone who read my Amtrak column in a newspaper, not here at this site: My question to you, have you ever ridden Amtrak?  My wife […]

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