Thursday, April 03, 2008

On the Broad Street Line

This morning on the Today Show, there was a feature segment on a kid who started riding on the NYC subway by himself when he was 9 years old. (I think he’s 10 or 11 now – I didn’t have the sound on for the first part.)

When I first saw the topic on the screen, my first thought was “so what?” However, I guess I am one of the few people who thought that because both Ann Curry and some psychologist lady seemed to be berating the kid’s mom for, GASP, letting little precious travel by himself. That kids that age don’t have the developmental skills to handle something like that by themselves. His mom, who was handling this thing so much more calmly than I would have, was trying to make the rational arguments that, um, he seems to be doing fine and how is he supposed to learn how to get along in the world unless he actually gets along in the world. (I think – I was getting ready for work at the time and half-paying attention.)

As you all may or may not remember, I started going to Doogie Howser MS/HS in Philadelphia (the same illustrious alma mater of Justrose) when I was 9 going on 10 and I took the subway AND the bus back and forth to school every day by myself. It was not a random unusual thing – lot of other kids did it and I do believe that the world of the 1980s wasn’t vastly safer than the world of today. I’d even argue that today is safer in a lot of ways. But what once was considered somewhat normal when I grew up is now almost grounds for child endangerment, and I don’t know how I feel about that. It kind of upsets me on a basic level.

See, this is why I’m semi-wary of having kids because the rules seems to always change about what kids should be allowed to do at what age. OK, now it’s fine that little kids are supposed to be able to start writing paragraphs in Kindergarten, but it’s not OK for the same kids to ride their bikes around the block by themselves when they’re eight. I’m so confused.

I remember how competent and independent I felt to be able to go to school by myself. Yes, the Philadelphia subway transportation system was not the most hygienic and there were some weirdoes along the way, but my parents didn’t raise any fools (although the jury may still be out on me . . .) and the majority of people in the world are good and decent and just going on about their business. If we make things uber-scary, then guess what? Kids will grow up thinking relatively normal, harmless things are uber-scary.

I don’t think this has a point. I’m just rambling. But that segment ticked me off and I’m trying to pinpoint why. Maybe because it sort of invalidates and devalues my own childhood experiences? Negates the brief feelings of control and mastery I felt as a child? (Other than in academics, I sure as heck didn’t feel that way anywhere else . . . and I still have problems with it now.)

Anyway . . . as you were . . .


Anonymous said...

I don't know if the world seems like a scarier place these days because it has changed or because I'm a parent, but I rad about abductions of children and it just chills me to my core. So, I don't think I'd let a 9 year old ride a subway alone, even though I roamed freely much younger than that. I just don't think it's as safe as it used to be. (I alos wouldn't berate the MOm, though at that age it's really a judgement call.)

Virginia Gal said...

Here in Copenhagen I've seen kids like six or seven riding public transport alone. Not sure if I would feel so comfortable doing that in another city, but Copenhagen is very safe.

ps - stat's in the summer, smart idea. That was such a boring class!

Merci said...

Random acts of violence on the Philly subway system (SEPTA) have been in the news lately, with one beating resulting in a death.

I would hesitate to use the Philly subways alone these days, though I would travel on the high speed line alone to center city during the daytime hours. The NYC mass trans was a bit overwhelming to me the one time I used it, and the subway was a pretty scary.

I think it depends on the specific city and the specific child. 9 seems young to me, but I'm a suburbanite.