The end of responsibility: Part 2 / When can a kid ride the metro?

If you google up “America’s worst mom”, a lady named Lenore Skenazy comes up as the top entry. Why? Because she let her nine-year-old ride the NY metro on his own.

Does that not make you upset? All this lady did was to teach her son take responsibility for himself, find his way around and use his wit. And this labels her as a mother worse than the child abusers and substance addicts?

I do not see the problem with letting your child ride the metro. I see the problems that arise from not allowing your child to do so. Rather than questioning this supposed “worst-mother-in-America’s” motives, hanba questions the “good” mothers’ motives. What drives them to prevent the kids from riding the metro on their own until the college years? Doing so, are the good mothers honestly acting out of love towards their children? Is it good to teach your children that the metro is a horrible place? As Ms. Skenazy writes in her blog, most of us grew up being allowed to do these things and “lived to tell the tale.”

Hanba believes not allowing a child to ride the metro serves the parent’s needs more than the child’s. Let us deconstruct the situation out of a needs-perspective.

The following three needs are satisfied in the parent:

  1. A need to feel like a nurturing, dutiful parent in your own eyes and in the “Jones’ ” eyes.
  2. Avoiding anxiety about the kid’s whereabouts.
  3. The parent gets ego kicks from being needed by a child for survival.

The following needs are satisfied for the child:

  1. Safety.

The following needs are being denied for the child:

  1. Learning overall life skills (taking care of oneself in a strange situation)
  2. Developing problem solving skills
  3. Developing social skills
  4. Independence
  5. Expanding the sphere of activities.

Surely life is more than a list of pros and cons. Furthermore, I do not deny that the child has a need for safety.  It is a basic need and has to be attended to. However, a public transit system is not exactly a wilderness by night. What can be a better arena to teach about life skills than a public transit system? Better that then having them grow up  without even having learned to deal with the city transportation.

The kids won’t stay in our sphere of influence forever. The wide world is out there and it’s calling out to the kids. Just like the first monkeys left the trees to trot along the savannah, the kids take up their own journey out to the wide world. Like arrows they leave our bows. This inevitable motion cannot be stopped by wrapping the kids in a protecting layer of soft cotton, or by making them dependent on us.

Recently, one of hanba’s friends, a doctor, told a story of a 26 year old female patient. She came to the office because the wind had blown a piece of debris in her eye she was unable to remove on her own. The woman came to the office accompanied by her mother (who had taken a day off from work to fulfill the chaperone duties). The young woman was uncomfortable with having the doctor poke her eye, and started fidgeting and weeping. Seeing this, the mother went to stand behind the patient, soothing her, saying: “Mother is here, mother is here.” Meanwhile, this mother, aged 60, is also a patient to the same doctor, receiving antidepressants and dealing with issues of “not being able to deal with all of life’s demands.”

Hanba believes the “good” parents in the when-to-ride-the-metro-issue are selfish and do not take their responsibility of teaching how to take responsibility. While I do not know if this 26-year -old daughter knows to ride the metro or not, she is obviously a product of this “no-metro” parenting, unequipped to deal with the smallest problems of life.  I would like to ask these “good” mothers whether they look forward to the inevitably lonely years as an elderly citizen, when they still have to keep on nurturing their grown kids.

(Hanba sincerely recommends this brave lady Lenore Skenazy’s blog titled: “The Free-Range kids)


One response to “The end of responsibility: Part 2 / When can a kid ride the metro?

  1. We all want to do the best for our kids, but as hanba points out: Sometimes leaving them to their own devices develops the very things we want most for them: self confidence, resourcefulness, and the ability to go to the doctor, solo, at age 26!

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