Lenore Skenazy will appear Jan. 24 at the St. Paul JCC, in an extended Jewish Book Fair event
AJW Staff Report
In the practice of journalism one never knows what will strike a nerve. New York Sun columnist Lenore Skenazy found out in April 2008, when she wrote about her decision to let her nine-year-old son ride the subway home alone from a shopping trip.
Skenazy’s son had been begging for weeks to be allowed to find his own way home; and one Sunday, she armed him with $20, a subway map, a Metrocard and some quarters to do just that. He arrived safely and incredibly proud of himself. However, when Skenazy shared the story in her column, she became the center of a raging controversy.
On her blog, Skenazy recounts: “Two days later I was on the Today Show, MSNBC, Fox News and all manner of talk radio with a new title under my smiling face: ‘America’s Worst Mom?’
“Yes, that’s what it took for me to learn just what a hot-button this is — this issue of whether good parents ever let their kids out of their sight. But even as the anchors were having a field day with the story, many of the cameramen and makeup people were pulling me aside to say that they had been allowed to get around by themselves as kids — and boy were they glad. They relished the memories!”
Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry (Jossey-Bass), will appear 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24 at the St. Paul JCC. She will discuss contemporary parenting and her controversial opposition to “helicopter parents,” who hover over their kids and worry incessantly about their safety.
A Time magazine cover story (Nov. 20, 2009) focused on the “growing backlash against over-parenting,” with an illustrative photo depicting a mother swaddling her child from head to toe in bubble wrap.
Of course, the notorious Skenazy’s was featured in the Time story, which discussed how she is fighting back against the skewed calibrations of risk being made by American parents — whether it is about their kids’ safety navigating city streets alone or being vaccinated.
The article by Nancy Gibbs notes: “By worrying about the wrong things, we do actual damage to our children, raising them to be anxious and unadventurous or, as [Skenazy] puts it, ‘hothouse, mama-tied, danger-hallucinating joy extinguishers.’”
The article quotes Skenazy as saying that, “10 is the new 2. We’re infantilizing our kids into incompetence.”
“She celebrates seat belts and car seats and bike helmets and all the rational advances in child safety,” Gibbs writes. “It’s the irrational responses that make her crazy, like when Dear Abby endorses the idea, as she did in August, that each morning before their kids leave the house, parents take a picture of them. That way, if they are kidnapped, the police will have a fresh photo showing what clothes they were wearing. Once the kids make it home safe and sound, you can delete the picture and take a new one the next morning.”
- Lenore Skenazy: Ten is the new two. We’re infantilizing our kids into incompetence. (Photo: Courtesy of the St. Paul JCC)
On Skenazy’s lively blog, supporters and detractors weigh in. She explains that she started the site “for anyone who thinks that kids need a little more freedom and would like to connect to people who feel the same way. We are not daredevils. We believe in life jackets and bike helmets and air bags. But we also believe in independence. Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage. The overprotected life is stunting and stifling, not to mention boring for all concerned. So here’s to Free Range Kids, raised by Free Range Parents willing to take some heat. I hope this Web site encourages us all to think outside the house.”
An author event with Lenore Skenazy will take place 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24 at the St. Paul JCC, 1375 St. Paul Ave. The cost is $6 for St. Paul JCC members, $9 for the community (free for People of the Book). For information, call 651-698-0751 or go to: stpauljcc.org.
Lenore Skenazy has contributed an essay, “Tu B’Shvat: The Paris Hilton of Jewish Holidays,” to the Forward. She talks to friends about their Tu B’Shvat memories, and traces the development of the holiday from antiquity to its current status as a sort of Jewish Earth Day.
Tu B’Shvat is Jan. 30.