Glorious freedom.

It’s standard for parents of children my age to mourn the loss of their Widdle Girl, as the less-widdle adolescent begins to make her appearance. And, truth be told, I sometimes take out the box of baby pictures and get a little wistful. Mostly, though, I look on a successful passage out of elementary-school as an affirmation that at least we made it this far. And then we work, again, on those pesky time-telling skills.

I missed this story when it went around a couple weeks ago: Columnist Lenore Skenazy, who lives in New York City, did a shocking thing.

Skenazy recently left her 9-year-old son, Izzy, at Bloomingdale’s in midtown Manhattan with a Metrocard for the subway, a subway map, $20, and told him she’d see him when he got back home.

And guess what? He made it. But Skenazy suffered a few wounds of her own:

As she wrote in her column about Izzy’s big adventure: “Half the people I’ve told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It’s not. It’s debilitating — for us and for them.”

Izzy had been bugging his mom for a while to let him try it. The reaction was predictable; Skenazy anointed herself America’s Worst Mother afterward, and I get the sense she was waiting to do so. But so what? I, as America’s Second-Worst Mother, salute her.

Say what you want about Michael Moore, and “Bowling for Columbine” might have been mean to poor old Charlie Heston, but he hit on a very important truth in that movie, and hardly anyone talked about it: Americans are constantly spoon-fed a diet of Fear, and it shows in the decisions they make, including how they raise their kids.

One day last winter, I called Kate at a friend’s house, a friend who lives one (1) block away. I’m sitting at my bedroom window now, and if there weren’t a house in the way, I could see this friend’s house. I told her it was time to come home. Two minutes later, headlights swung into the driveway — my neighbor, dropping Kate off.

Later I said, “Please, just let her walk home. It’s one block. She won’t freeze.” I assumed Kate had asked for a ride because it was cold outside. But no: “Oh, really, I don’t mind. If anything happened to her, I’d never forgive myself.” The chances of something happening in one block are, as Skenazy points out, about the same as being struck by lightning, but ah well.

“What do we pay outrageous taxes for, if not for safety?” I replied. She pointed out that taxes don’t buy safety, and she’s right. But fear doesn’t, either. Sometimes you just have to take your chances in the world. Paul Campos, a Rocky Mountain News columnist, wrote of Skenazy:

Skenazy notes that one acquaintance told her that he requires his daughter to call home after she has walked the one block to her friend’s house, even though they live in a typically crime-free suburb.

Other parents informed her they don’t allow their children to walk alone to the mailbox.

This kind of thing encourages children to see the world in fear-ridden terms, and to grow up to become the sort of people more interested in having their government protect them from largely imaginary threats than in preserving their civil liberties.

Here’s Rod Dreher, the banner-carrying Crunchy Conservative, a man whose very existence is defined by fear and whining, showing his faith in his fellow man:

John Podhoretz told me once that growing up in NYC in the big bad Seventies, he used to take the subway around by himself when he was not much older than Matthew is now. And that that wasn’t unusual. Nowadays, though, you’d be out of your mind to let your kid do that in NYC, which is vastly safer than it used to be. Or if not out of your mind, at least that kind of behavior would be extremely unusual.

This was in the midst of a big post about how his own children can’t go around the neighborhood unsupervised, but can in his Louisiana hometown. (For some years now, Dreher’s been threatening to go off the grid and retreat to a plot of organically farmed land, to encase his family in the warm cotton batting of no television and homeschooling. I wish he’d just pull the trigger and put the rest of us out of our misery.) Note the twisted logic: John Podhoretz navigated the city safely when it was far more dangerous. Now it’s far, far safer, but if you let your kids do it today, “you’d be out of your mind.”

I live in a suburb so safe that the vandalism of a For Sale sign makes the newspaper. (Seriously: The headline was “Sign bent.”) I may live to regret it, but just for today, I’m going to assume my taxes buy something other than potholes and lousy city government. Fly free, little bird.

(Oh, and about those time-telling skills: Of course Kate can tell time. She just loses track of it. One condition to the freedom I give her is, she has to be home on time. Inevitably, she forgets.)

More on America’s Worst Mother, and her blog, Free Range Kids, where you can read the column that started it all.

So, bloggage:

While we’re on the subject, I wasn’t offended by Miley Cyrus’ back, either.

God bless America? No, god DAMN America! And John McCain asked for his endorsement.

My Indiana alma mater’s circulation: 24,196. One-year drop? More than eight percent. I confess, my jaw dropped.

Back to work.

Posted at 10:03 am in Current events, Media |
 

44 responses to “Glorious freedom.”

  1. Peter said on May 1, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Actually, I would prefer my kid ride the subway by himself over riding the bike on the neighborhood trails – there’s plenty of buttons and buzzers to push on the train, and I fear neighborhood pre-teen bully assholes swinging their chains and soccer moms on the phone running the stop signs (and running junior over) much more than the stoned homeless guy who isn’t very mobile.

    Boy, those newspaper circulation drops are almost as breathtaking as the real estate price drops. Well informed nation, indeed.

  2. nancy said on May 1, 2008 at 10:25 am

    That’s the unspoken truth, Peter — kids in the wild have more to fear from their peers than from strange adults.

  3. Sue said on May 1, 2008 at 11:07 am

    My nature made me overly-vigilant with my children, but I don’t regret it. Driving the kids to school and requiring phone calls at various destinations, even close to home, are so commonplace among my “parental peer group” that the kids never became fearful – all the moms and dads were just “stupid”. Of course, even in my small town, during the time my kids were in grade school there were at least two legitimate (not fabricated) attempts at child enticement that I know of; I assume the other grade school in town has similar stats. I consider myself in the best of all worlds – a small town within driving distance of a larger city. And since we are from IL, my lucky children have dual citizenship, and became comfortable with both Milwaukee and Chicago.
    One thing, though: my daughter simply refused to be protected, the brat. All the arguments in the world did not stop her from doing whatever the hell she wanted anyway, from a very young age. She now goes to college and lives in Milwaukee, working her way through school by bartending, which brings her home to her apt. near a more dangerous part of town 4 days a week at 3 a.m. I’m scared for her and proud of her at the same time.

  4. Soulwhat said on May 1, 2008 at 11:19 am

    I could not agree with you more. This has been at the top of my pet peeve list for years.

    As a kid growing up in suburban Philadelphia during the 60’s I remember spending summer days without any real adult supervison other than moms making lunch at noontime. Otherwise we were pretty much left alone to entertain ourselves.

    Those were the days of sandlot baseball, schoolyard basketball , Buck Buck (yes! the game made famous by Bill Cosby) and boxhockey. No adults to get in the way of having fun. There was a great evolution of maturity. We played and fought and made up and learned how to get along. And we did this with little adult intervention.

    Today adults have invaded every space kids have. They schedule them to death for fear that they will be left alone and get into trouble. No matter what you do kids are going make the wrong desicion from time to time. They need to do this. They cannot grow unless they have learned to be independant.

  5. MichaelG said on May 1, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Years ago when we lived in San Francisco and my daughter was the age of Ms. Skenazy’s son she had an adventure. Stephanie was going someplace with her YMCA group on the Muni bus and fell asleep. The group got off wherever they got off and forgot the sleeping Steph. She woke up at the end of the line somewhere. She didn’t know where she was and to this day I have no idea where she went. Someplace in San Francisco. I didn’t know what bus route they had taken since they had left from some intermediate destination. So there she was, nine years old and stranded Lord knows where in a major city without a dime. But she’s always had an excellent sense of direction and a fast mouth (you wouldn’t believe) and great confidence in herself. So she BS’d her way home on the Muni. No tears, no calling the cops, no calling one of us, no problem. She got home earlier than she would ordinarily have – laughing. To Stephanie the whole thing was a lark. We had to call the Y to tell them she was safe. I think kids are a whole lot smarter than we give them credit for.

  6. whitebeard said on May 1, 2008 at 11:23 am

    We went to New York City to see a play a few weeks ago and we pointed out the central clock/information booth in Grand Central Terminal to our grandson, 13, who llives with us, and said that is where we will meet if we get separated. Mind you, he is 5 foot 10, 170 pounds and looks like a young Muhammad Ali (or would that be Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. then).
    We have let Ishie (short for Ishmael) wander off on his own at carnivals, fall fairs and giant flea markets since he was much younger. We all carry cell phones in case one of us gets lost and confused (it’s usually me).
    When his mother, then 6, was let off her school bus in Montreal at the wrong stop, we went into panic mode, called the school bus people and drove frantically all around the bus route to look for her. Meanwhile, she calmly walked home and went to the neighbor’s house when she found our front door locked. Children are very resilient and smarter than we sometimes acknowledge.
    My wife calls me on her way home from work to see if our grandson has been let off the school bus, but this is to check to see if she has to stop by the middle/high school to pick him up after baseball practice. It’s 18 minutes by car, so it would be a long walk home.
    We will let him go jogging for about half an hour or more but we will not let him ride his bike to a friend’s home because people around here drive like idiots, even on a back country road.
    When I was much younger than him I would ride my bike seven or so blocks on a busy downtown street in The Soo (with saner drivers) every week to the library to get a basketful of books.
    Even before that I would walk to my cousin’s house many blocks farther and consult my city map to make sure I was headed in the right direction (because then, as now, I am somewhat directionally challenged).

  7. MichaelG said on May 1, 2008 at 11:26 am

    And the follow up? Now Stephanie has two kids and is your classic soccer mom. Soccer, swimming lessons, kung fu, etc., etc. I just try to be as bad an influence on the kids as possible.

  8. mouse said on May 1, 2008 at 11:28 am

    The News-Sentniel continues to rot—you can’t even buy a copy in Angola until lake season rolls around.Even then,it’s only in a few stops right off I69.I guess they made a good career choice for you Nance.

  9. Jolene said on May 1, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    The idea that kids need extensive protection and support reaches into many corners. Just recently, for instance, I’ve been learning a little about how the Kaplan courses that kids take to prepare for the SAT and ACT tests work. When I took the ACT roughly a hundred years ago, I simply went to the place where the test was being given and answered the questions. No expensive prep course; no tutoring.

  10. Crabby said on May 1, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Here’s a Editor & Publisher article from a few days ago about circulation figures in the nooz biz, pretty much not so good all over.

  11. brian stouder said on May 1, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    If I could ever get my lovely wife to post here, she would much higher value contributions to make on any child-raising issues than I ever do; but my childhood was much like what Soulwhat describes (playing all day/checking in to eat/home before dark).

    I think that two big factors are family size (if you’re the 4th of five brothers, life is free and easy) and neighborhood stability. My mom STILL lives in the house I grew up in, and back in the day, it was a rare event to see a neighbor move away, and get a new family

  12. Lex said on May 1, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    When I was 8 I used to ride my bike over some fairly busy streets from home to the Charlotte Nature Museum, a little less than two miles as Mapquest flies. Even at the time I thought I was in less danger from anything en route than I was of having my (locked) bike stolen while I was inside at the planetarium show.

  13. kayak woman said on May 1, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Whitebeard: The Soo? The one where it snows until July or whenever? I am from the Soo too. The family still has a beach up there.

    Very interesting topic today in general but too busy to write a coherent comment, not that I’m ever very coherent. Just thinking of how kids grow up and go off to college and Africa and whatever.

  14. del said on May 1, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Agree wholeheartedly with the post. A fear bordering on paranoia seems to have enveloped America concerning its kids. As mild-mannered Jeff would probably note, we tend to see the past through rose-colored glasses and it’s probably no less safe now than it ever was. My 93 year old grandma was 12 when she was walking home in Lansing, MI and saw a commotion on the front porches. She then learned that many kids in nearby Bath Township had just been killed in a school bombing –many more than at Columbine. Here’s the Wikipedia entry:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath_School_disaster
    Badness is nothing new — just the fear . . .

  15. Sue said on May 1, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    This just in: “Lucy Mercer Involved in Love Affair with FDR”. A headline in the Chicago Tribune (online). The article actually seems to be a travelogue thing, with some really basic (and not necessarily accurate) biographical Roosevelt information thrown in. I thought it was an odd headline.

  16. Peter said on May 1, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Prep courses for the SAT? Brother, we’ve been getting mailers for prep courses for the HIGH SCHOOL exam!

  17. harrison said on May 1, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    nancy,

    i bet a lot of parents nowadays have done what lenore skenazy has done. most of them don’t publicize it. she put it out there to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

    and it would be interesting to know how many people wrote her to congratulate her.

  18. derwood said on May 1, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    When I was 14 and we moved into the city limits of Fort Wayne, I rode my bike all over town that entire summer. North, South East and West. When I finally got my drivers license I was the only one of my friends that knew my way around town.

    I also talked my mom into letting me ride my bike up US 33 to Ligioner where my sister lived. Did that ride twice and once to Angola. My mom used to shake her head and wonder what she was thinking.

    I don’t have kids so I can’t really say how I would handle the same situation. I have many friends and relatives that completely smother/protect/control their kids. It’s going to be a heckuva shock when those kids get out in the real world…assuming of course they ever move out of mom and dads house.

    d

  19. Cathy D. said on May 1, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    As long as the NS continues to depend on The Rant and pictures of peoples’ kids to sell papers (also, Kevin Leininger’s columns), it’s got nowhere to go but down. Plus, it was late again last week.

  20. MommyTime said on May 1, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Yes, well, I JUST started letting my son go check the mail by himself. He’s four.

    So much over-protection saddens me: there are elementary and middle-school kids in our neighborhood who are never outside playing because there is no one available to “watch” them. And we live in a safe, quiet, small town. I struggle with this all the time. Although my youngest is too little to be outdoors alone, at 2 years old, I already let the 4 year old play in the backyard without me keeping hyper-watch — and I hope that as he gets older, his freedoms will increase. It is hard, though, when others’ fears infest your own. When I was growing up, all the kids on my street were outside all day long in the summer — but because of that, there were A LOT of parents looking occasionally out their windows to check on what was going on. And we had free-range in each other’s houses for drinks, bathroom usage, etc., so that although we were playing “on our own,” there was a sort of network able to keep tabs on us. Now that it’s no longer the norm, I also worry that if there were a problem, it would take far longer for anyone to notice. Does this worry you?

  21. Dorothy said on May 1, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    My family’s first house was about 10 blocks from church and school, the two places we went most often. I walked those 10 blocks (as did 7 of my 9 siblings) to and from St. James School all the time. We didn’t have a car and there were no school buses. (We moved when I was 11 into a much bigger house)

    Only once between first grade and fifth grade do I remember being bothered by anyone, and it was other kids. My sister Chrissy and I were “jumped” walking home one day after school. They pressed in around us and threatened to take our coats and tear up our school books. But suddenly they changed their minds when Chrissy started crying. I put my arm around her and led her away from the spot. When we couldn’t hear them anymore, we took off in a full run towards home. Chris told my mom how brave I was. But my knees were shaking the whole time.

    I was the kind of mom you are, Nancy, being more inclined to let the kids walk within the neighborhood. But that wasn’t always possible when we lived in a very rural community from ’92 to 2002. Even on Halloween we had to drive them house to house.

  22. Danny said on May 1, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Here is another interesting story from San Diego that has made national news: Fugitive Mom Arrested in San Diego After 32 Years on Lam.

    And she was from Michigan. Our connection deepens Michiganders. reading through it, it really is a tragic tale of how the whole trial went down all those years ago with a guilty plea from a 19-year old girl to save family embarrassment and then no leniency from the judge.

    This one has the credentials for at least a made-for-tv movie if not more.

    Hey, speaking of child rearing, India has a ways to go. Hmmm.

  23. Jen said on May 1, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    When I was in high school (6-7 years ago), I was the only one of my friends really allowed to drive anywhere in big, bad Fort Wayne. I think a few could make the trip to Glenbrook Mall or the Coliseum, but they usually weren’t allowed to leave our county. Meanwhile, I used to drive to IPFW weekly for sax lessons by myself starting when I was 16. My mom waited about 6 months before she let me drive alone through downtown Ft. Wayne to my piano lessons on Hoagland Avenue, near Wildwood. I was always the one piling kids into my car and driving to Fort Wayne for stuff.

    My mom, who is from Fort Wayne, used to just laugh at everyone’s overprotective parents. Of course, some of these parents had never driven in Indianapolis before, so that probably explains their attitude.

  24. derwood said on May 1, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Jen,

    I just want to laugh when people complain about driving in FW. Come on down to Indy and I’ll show you driving…or better yet lets take the Dan Ryan and zip around Chicago for a bit. The later makes my wife cry…she just closes her eyes until we get to our hotel when visiting the windy city.

    I worked with a woman in the late 90s in FW and she was complaining that she needed to go to Glenbrook and couldn’t find anyone to go with her. I asked why she just didn’t go by herself. You would have thought I told her to stab herself in the eye. “I would never go to Glenbrook by myself it isn’t safe” she exclaimed. I just laughed. She asked me if I allowed my wife to go to the mall by herself. I said she is an adult and if she wants to go to the mall she can. Amazing.

    Of course friends of my wifes brother are still shocked we live in Indy and don’t walk around with a concealed weapon.

    d

  25. Sue said on May 1, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Tacky comments coming, so close your eyes:
    1. I dislike driving in Chicago because frankly I’m just not practiced enough at it. And it’s regional, as well, not just Chicago. When you pass into Wisconsin, everyone slows down and I seldom see the over-three-lanes pass that you see everywhere in northeastern IL. After a weekend in IL, it’s not uncommon for me to find myself doing 60 down the main highway of our town without feeling like I’m speeding. I’m very surprised I haven’t gotten a ticket yet.
    2. There are people where I live (40 min NW of Milwaukee) who not only have never been to the city, but haven’t even gotten on the Highway 41/43/45 exits that take you to Milwaukee. There are different kinds of fear, not just parental fear, apparently.
    3. When my in-laws wintered in Tucson, AZ, (where a lot of retirees live), a common bumper sticker said “Helen Keller is alive and well and driving in Tucson”.

  26. nancy said on May 1, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    For a long time there was an urban legend that unspecified “gangs” used Glenbrook for their initiation rite — pledges had to lie underneath a parked car and cut a woman’s achilles tendon while she was getting in, or something like that. I forget what they had to do with her afterward. Perhaps rape her. I heard that from half a dozen people who should have known better, and many more who didn’t.

    Bottom line: For some people “isn’t safe” = “black people.”

    One of my friend Adrianne’s college friends came to visit when I lived there. The visitor was a sophisticated city girl (she and Adrianne gone to school together in Boston), and had some cousins in the “region,” i.e., an adjacent county. She stayed with them two days before coming to Adrianne’s apartment, and reported all they did was go to Glenbrook. They’d get up, have breakfast, go to the mall. Have lunch there, then come home for a couple of hours, eat dinner at home and then go back to Glenbrook. They just walked around the place. Whee.

  27. Sue said on May 1, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Nancy, that’s not Glenbrook where the achilles heel guy is, that’s Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. I know ‘cuz I used to live in the area, and someone told me, so it must be true, right? In fact, the first achilles heel guy was from Detroit, if you believe Snopes, the urban legends website. Oh, and next time you get gas, watch out for the aids-infected needle someone has embedded in the handle with the sharp end sticking out. Also, did you know that it was SO COLD in Michigan last winter that an ice wave formed near Macinaw City (yes, Macinaw City) when supercooled water broke through the surface and instantly froze? There’s a picture and everything. Thank goodness for email or I wouldn’t know anything.

  28. Danny said on May 1, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    I thought it was Troy where the achilles heel guy was…

    snicker

  29. Sue said on May 1, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Ok, ok, achilles tendon… Sorry. Sheesh.

  30. Jen said on May 1, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Yeah, I can see not wanting to drive around Chicago. I did back when I was in college, mainly just to prove I could do it. Then I realized I could drive to South Bend, take the South Shore electric train to Chicago and get everywhere I need to go on the El. (Way, way easier – I highly recommend it!)

    But Fort Wayne? Even at the worst times, there’s barely any traffic. Well, except in the mall parking lot around Christmas, but I’m never doing THAT again! Even Indy isn’t so bad – I lived there for a summer during an internship and never felt like it was that much worse than Fort Wayne.

  31. Danny said on May 1, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Sue, I meant Troy, Michigan. Nevermind.

  32. Marie said on May 1, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    I had a pretty easygoing childhood in DeKalb County in the 1980s, riding my bike down dirt roads without hovering parents, but the April Tinsley case definitely gave my mother pause.

    (Can I paste a link here? http://www.fwpd.org/april/press.htm for those of you non-locals who don’t recognize the name.)

    She was the same age as my older sister, and after that, my mom instituted a “secret word” that anyone picking us up from school would have to know.

    But at the same time, my mom recognized that there’s good old common sense, and there’s really crappy luck, and the latter is probably what April had. Most of the time, common sense is more than enough. Not that Mom doesn’t worry when her kids flit off to foreign countries unsupervised, as I tended to do in college, but she recognized she’d taught us all she could. (Which is my long-winded way of saying, good on you, Lenore.)

  33. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 1, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Kids, parks, walking home, good old days — read Richard Russo’s latest, “Bridge of Sighs.”

    On the other hand, the (spoiler alert!)

    mini-Columbine in “Empire Falls” was the only false note in a fine book (IMHO), and Russo acknowledged in interviews that his daughter’s high school years overlapping Columbine provoked the passage.

    Kids aren’t more violent today than they once were, but they do have a very peculiar perspective towards it, which adds a surreal element to their acting out of aggression, combined with a tendency to massive over-reaction by authorities who know mishandling a threat to a child is one of the few ways to get quickly fired as a public employee.

    And i trace that in large part to the distance kids now have from death and pain and blood in real life, whether in the chicken coop or stock shed or grandpa laid out in the parlor. Media portrayals of violence are an index, not a cause — one of the ways i part company with Mr. Dreher, who has some interesting points but peculiar analysis leading to incoherent conclusions.

  34. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 1, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Oh, and i thought the mayor of my town, growing up, had a switch in his office (and maybe one at home) that he threw when the moms let him know it was time for the kids to come home, since that’s how it worked for all and sundry of my acquaintance. Photocell technology was a harsh learning in my dis-enchantment of the everyday world.

  35. Catherine said on May 1, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    I am a little late to this party, but let me just say: a-MEN.

    In a former life I worked on safety programs for kids. The most frustrating part was that very few people were interested in the (easily available on government websites) statistics that show:
    1. Children are way more likely to be physically abused than sexually abused.
    2. The most common abuser (like on the order of 80%) was a family member or close family friend.

    But still, we would be asked to do programs around stranger danger. “What about helping kids figure out what to do when they find out a friend is being hit by his/her stepfather?” I said. Cue the crickets.

    All to say, I think we as parents need to stop focusing on the less likely, but dare I say perfect-for-local-news, scenarios, and commit ourselves to facing up to and addressing the real dangers for kids.

  36. joodyb said on May 1, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    dammit, people keep taking my unofficial titles!

  37. derwood said on May 1, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    And I thought the achilles tendon dude was hanging out at gas stations….that’s what the email said…and everything on the internets is true…right?

    d

  38. whitebeard said on May 1, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Some people believe whatever they read without thinking about the logic involved or how farfetched it is; they also believe what they hear or half-hear and it becomes gospel. Case in point, I read a news item on the air in The Soo about a high level of strontium-90 found in some milk from cows in Western Canada. Six months later a woman called and asked whether it was now safe to drink the milk produced by two local dairies in The Soo. Huh?
    I always like to kid the folks about life in The Soo, kayak woman, nine months of winter and three months of poor sledding, or would that now be three months of poor snowmobiling.
    And sure, you can swim at Lake Superior beaches, on July 15 between two and four in the afternoon.

  39. Mary O said on May 2, 2008 at 12:03 am

    My kids ride their scooters *horrors!* without helmets or kneepads or elbow pads in the church parking lot across the street and they have a grand old time. They’re 7 year old twins and they know to be wary yet respectful of cars, people and animals. I love nothing better than hearing them yell “wheeeeeeee!” as they roll down the gentle hill — as I go about my own work around the house. I don’t need to watch them constantly. Do they fall? Sure. I tell them to shake it off (they are young enough to take me literally as they shake their arms and legs as they get up). If they are slow getting up, I make my way across the street to make sure they’re OK.

    They still come home way to soon — geez, we stayed out for hours on end when I was their age — and I have to shove them out the door again. Yet they’re far happier than their older sister, and I’m to blame. I wouldn’t let her do it at that age.

    Yet my neighbor still can’t bear to let her own kids out like that. She holds them by the wrist whenever they cross the street. What kind of life is that? I ask you.

  40. Dexter said on May 2, 2008 at 2:13 am

    Toledo is my “big city” now and there is lots of crime in mall parking lots , especially at holiday time. The Toledo Blade publishes a crime watch page and it reflects crime around mall areas. I was never careful around cities until my friend’s brother, a Toledo cop,was shot by an 18 year old “clean-cut white boy” just after a bank robbery. He survived with complications, but at least it made me a bit more aware.
    I used to go to Chicago a lot. One time I was riding the 151 bus to Wrigley Field when a parade changed the route. I was a bit disoriented so I got off and caught a State Street subway/L (used to be the Howard Street B Train…now I think it’s the Red Line) , and the next day I read in da Trib of how a man carrying a couple hundred in cash was stabbed and killed about 10 minutes after I had caught my subway car. Right there where I stood alone moments before. Very creepy. So it’s not all myths and paranoia.
    I’ve driven in most US megalopolises and never felt out-of-place doing it. Boston’s Old North End? A real challenge. Monster traffic jams all the way from The Bayshore (101) to San Jose? Irritating. But I had a lot of fun at places my cars carried me to, also.

  41. Terry WAlter said on May 2, 2008 at 6:02 am

    Many moons ago,my wife & I went on our honeymoon in New England. That brought us into Boston. It was a real challenge to try to find our destination following their poor signage. As I was deftly manipulating the brake & accelerator at the same time, I was ready to say “this is fun”. At that time, an opposing point of view was heard (funny how some things never change) “get me out of here”. I allowed as how since we were already there, we might as well go to our destination, the U.S.S. Constitution. While leaving the parking lot, I heard a disturbing noise when I hit the brakes. Not wanting to enter the fray unarmed, I decided we should stop & check things out. We pulled into a parking lot in beautiful downtown Boston. I jacked it up & pulled the rear drum. There was a return spring rubbed in two. So my wife decided to go chat up the parking lot attendant. Do you know how many auto parts stores there are in beautiful downtown Boston? Start with zero and work with that. So the attendant, who was a former cab driver that admitted even he didn’t know the town all that well, tried to give to give us directions to the nearest one. Noticing the glazed look in our eyes, he made an offer. Parasailing,bungee jumping, whadda you gonna do for excitement on your honeymoon? Try hopping into a car with a perfect stranger in the big city (a fairly young man) & hope he takes you where he says he will. As it turned out he did. But then there was the little matter of how to get that spring stretched into position. After all, the only tool I packed for the trip wasn’t any good for that. So he ‘gained access’ to another car in the lot, and came up with a pair of pliers. As Bush would say, mission accomplished.
    A couple of years ago, we took a trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior around July 4. Stayed at a motel on the beach. During the time there, I saw exactly one jet ski out on the water. There was a shallow white sand beach over by the nature preserve where several people were swimming.

  42. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 2, 2008 at 7:30 am

    [putting “Old Fart” hat on head]

    OK, now i’ve seen the Miley Cyrus picture. I’m with — was it Sue? — being more creeped out by the pic with her dad, but must disagree with Nancy, or at least ask if i’m misreading something.

    The back thing? Sure, no prob — but in the context of sitting up into a pulled up piece of bedclothes, with tousled hair and smeared lipstick? Call me cranky, but that sure sounds sexualized to me.

    [removes “Old Fart” hat for going out into public]

  43. nancy said on May 2, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Jeez, you guys, they were just relaxing together before heading out to the Purity Ball. Dirty minds!

  44. LAMary said on May 2, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    I’ve seen photos of Miley Cyrus at different events dressed like no 14 year old I’ve ever known. I think people are cranky because they want a limit on how sexualized their child stars are. Strapless minidress, big hair and false eyelashes ok. Bedsheet, no.