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Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

It seems to be that all the most mature people I know have something in common: their parents treated them like adults even as children. (Exact details vary, and the changes show in the person, but this general theme holds.) This sort of trust is hard, no doubt. The world can be a dangerous place, though probably not as dangerous as the nightly news would have you think, and children are, well, children after all. However, a big part of growing up is making mistakes, and maybe getting hurt. The important thing to remember, though, is that these mistakes are typically more frightening then they are damaging.

Take the recently posted (and very controversial) story of Lenore Skenazy, who left her 9-year old son at Bloomingdale’s (in Manhattan) with a bus/subway map, twenty bucks, and a few quarters in case he needed to call home. People have been calling for her head, or at least for child abuse charges, but for nothing. Her son made it back fine, proud of himself and better prepared for life. I’ve made a similar trip before a bunch of times, and it is significantly less difficult then most things we ask young children to do. If you remember a few numbers and follow signs (both very useful things to teach children, especially in New York), it’s a piece of cake. From what I can gather in the story, here are a few key take-away lessons.

Prepare your child. Lenore didn’t just dump her child in the middle of nowhere. She gave him a reference point, a map, and more then enough cash to make the trip. I’m sure, as well, that she’s taught him a million little lessons on subway and bus navigation while they’ve traveled around New York. So he wasn’t really doing anything new, he was just doing it independently.

Realize you can’t always prepare your child. The world is simple too novel a place to account for every possibility. (Fun fact: linguists suggest that most sentences you ever utter are unique to your experience, and will probably not be uttered again.) At some point, you have to trust that, even if your children reach a point where they don’t know exactly what to do, they’ll be able to fake their way through it. After all, you probably do the same thing every day (who taught you how to deal with that customer service rep?).

You can’t always protect your child. As stated in the article, “The statistics show that [child abduction] is an incredibly rare event, and you can’t protect people from very rare events. It would be like trying to create a shield against being struck by lightning.” In fact, I would argue that being overly protective of children does more harm than good. It’s impossible to protect your children from everything, and odds are if someone really wants to hurt your child, they can and will. Instead, if something happens to your child, you should hope that they are independent enough to take car of themselves. Take little Ashlie Chumley, one of several amazing your children I’ve heard (but not very much) about recently.

Last year, 11-year-old Ashlie Chumley of Houston was abducted from the hallway of her church. Having seen Escape School on television a year earlier, she escaped from her abductor by waiting until his car slowed down, and then jumping out. She found her way back to the church by running more than a mile in the dark, following the glow of a steeple on a church that she remembered was next to her own. Within 45 minutes, she was back with her family.

True, it would be a traumatic experience for a child. Odds are, though, that law enforcement couldn’t have helped, at least not immediately. Instead, she got herself home, and is safely with family.

You don’t always need to protect your children. My favorite line in Lenore’s column is this:

I trusted him to ask a stranger. And then I even trusted that stranger not to think, “Gee, I was about to catch my train home, but now I think I’ll abduct this adorable child instead.”

Most important of all, recognize that being too protective is harmful to your child. Your child is not you, is not a pet, and sooner or later your child will be an independent person. Without letting them learn how to be that, you’re hurting their chances at being successful. So join Lenore’s new Free Range Kids movement, and give your kids the sort of childhood you probably remember having.

“Here’s your MetroCard, kid. Go.”

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On Adventure

If anyone ever made a comic book about my roommate and I, odds are each issue would start with me loudly proclaiming, “Look at that [weird thing]! Lets follow it!”

Which isn’t to say that it happens that often. I wish it happened more often then it does. However, when the opportunity arises, I am always excited to go after the next weird thing. You know what? I’ve yet to be disappointed.

So whether it’s a spontaneously forming mob or wandering ghosts, I’d say go after it. It will probably be funny, or at least a funny story to tell later.

On a related note, I love this comic.

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