Last April, columnist Lenore Skenazy let her 9 year-old son explore the City on his own for the first time and wrote about it, even started a blog about parents easing the reigns on their children. This sparked a debate about what age it is OK to let your kids roam on their own.
Now, I’m reading that a conductor on the LIRR objected to Skenazy’s son, now 10, traveling alone. NY Times’ Motherlode blog points out that the conductor should have checked his company’s policy.
It’s been pretty interesting following this controversy. As someone who works in an inner-city public library, I regularly see our space morph from a computer lab for job-seekers in the morning, to the de-facto community after-school program in the afternoon. Rarely do we have time to verify the ages of the children that come to the library. We do look for anomalies, of course. If a child under a certain age, say 13, shows up before school is out for the day, that sends up a red flag. A staff member – the guard or a building manager – might try to talk to the kid and find out what’s up. Generally, it’s the same story. The parent is off working or looking for work, the child is sick but needs to explore. The public library is the exploration station, the parents’ choice for a place to stray when their child must stray somewhere.
It may be that I’ll be seeing a lot more children with no other place to go in the future. Not because of any movement against helicopter parenting, either. Trust me, no parent in East New York is worried about this issue. Work is scarce and good paying jobs are getting harder to come by. Parents here have a difficult enough time as it is being home for their children. For these parents it is not simply a choice to let kids fend for themselves – it’s a necessity.
My sister always gives me the best gifts. Her card read: “This should keep you warm.”
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Putnam on Flickr
Yesterday’s Daily News ran a story on the letters to Santa written by children who were not as concerned with getting a PSP as much as having clothes to keep them warm and enough food to keep from starving. This is one of the first times I’ve seen any of the newspapers latch on to a story like this (though I doubt very much it is the first time this sentiment has been expressed by children in Crown Heights, where the poverty level has been fairly consistent even when time were good.