A woman in New York City gave her 9-year-old son a subway pass, $20 and some quarters and left him in Bloomingdale’s, telling him to get home by himself. He made it home fine, and the woman says that this will teach him much more independence than keeping him on a leash for his whole childhood. (Note that the kid had been begging her to do this; it’s not like she just sprung this on the kid one day.) I cannot imagine leaving Ryan (who’s eight) alone downtown to fend for himself.
Part of me agrees with her. She’s certainly got guts, not to mention confidence in her child, and in the long run this independence is a very good thing for her kid. The other part of me is thinking “If I throw a butcher knife in the air with my eyes closed and happen to catch it by the handle, does the fact that I didn’t get hurt mean that it was a good idea?”
Now, this woman lives in Manhattan, so her kids have grown up in the city. If we lived in downtown Toronto, walking around downtown would be less of a big deal. And New York has an extensive public transit system, with which the kid is probably very familiar. My kids have never been on the TTC, and have only been on GO trains a couple of times, and there are no busses in Waterdown at all. So we’re not really comparing apples to apples here — if my kids had grown up living in Manhattan, perhaps I might have a different feeling.
Ryan will be nine in the fall. His school is about a 20 minute walk from our house, but he does not walk to school. Now part of that is convenience — Nicky is too young (five) to let him walk, so we have to drive to the school anyway. But even if that weren’t the case, there is the obvious fear of abduction, although Waterdown is a quiet little bedroom community and such a thing has never happened here (to my knowledge). I don’t think he’d get lost, and I don’t think he’d wander off somewhere instead of going to school. (Nicholas is different story there — he wouldn’t care if he ever made it to school.) There’s one major street he’d have to cross, but there are lights, a crosswalk, and a crossing guard there. I was walking to school by myself when I was his age, in fact when I was a year or two younger than he is now, although my walk was a little shorter than his. (Though strangely, I have no memory of walking with my younger sister. I wonder how she got to school?)
But am I paranoid and overprotective, or just cautious? I don’t know the answer.