©2009 Lenore Skenazy; (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC
"Skenazy flies the black flag of "America's Worst Mom," a title this syndicated columnist and NPR commentator earned by allowing her nine-year-old son to ride the New York City public transit alone in 2008. Here, she puts parents' fears to bed by examining the statistical likelihood of the dangers we most fear (murder, baby-snatching, etc.). Drawing on facts, statistics, and humor, she convincingly argues that this is one of the safest periods for children in the history of the world, reiterating that "mostly, the world is safe...and mostly, people are good." Even the lowest-flying helicopter parents would have trouble disagreeing that "we have entered an era that says you cannot trust yourself. Trust a product instead." Skenazy argues that it's time to retire the national pastime of worrying and that "childhood is supposed to be about discovering the world, not being held captive." The obvious has never been so hilarious." (Library Journal)
I read this today and was relieved to find it was written by someone who can actually write, has a sense of humour and - best of all - can succesfully avoid triggering the gag reflex of a 41-year-old male curmudgeon. I was quite interested at the range of emotion it provoked in me, from wanting to shake her hand and buy her a drink to wanting to hurl the book across the room. I didn't hurl it though because it's an audiobook and my ipod is precious so I hurled James Joyce's "Ulysses" instead. Even after all these years it's surprising how therapeutic that can be.
Anyway, she's very good* on educational toys, Baby Einstein DVDs ("Even Mozart didn't listen to Mozart as a kid. His kids did though - and who's ever heard of them?"), and general running-about-outdoors-and-making-a-mess. she is fundamentally unsound** on breastfeeding and bicycling***. There are some dodgy applications of statistics in there and some hackneyed health-and-safety-gone-mad stories are trotted out, such as that old chestnut - no pun intended - about conkers being banned throughout England by government fiat. On the whole, the buy-her-a-drink tendency outweighed the throw-Ulysses-across-the-room tendency about 80:20, so buy the book if you're in the mood to have an argument with the author in your head or if you need an antidote to society's excesses but that's about it.
*=by which of course i mean "she reinforces my prejudices"
**=by which of course i mean "she does not reinforce my prejudices"
***=alliteration aside, even i would have to admit it is unwise to combine the two...."
Whether you agree or not, this is a good book for any parent to listen too. We have found ourselves in a world that is overly protective and layered in bubble wrap and the only people that suffer are our kids. I often find myself having to reflect back on the wisdom shared in this book to ask myself if I'm going a little overboard in the decisions I make for my kids on a day to day basis. It is important that we allow our kids to grow up and keep our own desire to protect them from hampering their ability to experience life to its fullest.
I found this book really enlightening - although I thought that childhood had changed too much over the years, I was amazed at the statistics of reduction in crime (or some crimes never really happening - Halloween candy issues anyone?) and the mania that we have all bought into. I don't know that when I have kids that I will be as bold as the author (letting her 9 yr old take the subway by himself), but I remember my cousin and me at 9 and 6 going out to dinner by ourselves in Brooklyn to my aunt and uncle's favorite neighborhood restaurant. That meant walking a few blocks, eating, paying, walking home. I don't know if my aunt and uncle called ahead... but it was an awesome feeling. And I took a cross country flight at 11 with another 11 year old friend. Of course, the flight attendants were watching out for us. And I took the flight home by myself. And another flight at 12 alone. I don't know many parents who would do this now. And the book wasn't just statistics - it was a lot of fun listening to this book.... But beware, after you listen, you may get into a heated argument with some friends with kids (just as a did) about not doing our kids any favors by keeping them so cloistered. Highly recommend the book!
This was an enjoyable listen. Apparently I am 'free range' parent and didn't even realize it. I appreciate the authors debunking of some common myths that we guide our lives by. The way I see it, there is enough fear in the world that we don't need to make up more things to add to the list. The one star off is because the tone the author takes makes it seem like she has a bit of a chip on her shoulder on the subject, which I didn't appreciate.
Headline for all American Parents: Mostly, Things Go Well --- This is what I really took away from Lenore's book, that yes, bad stuff happens, but mostly, things turn out okay. This doesn't mean to ignore or neglect your kids, but it notes how parenting in America has become this micro-managed activity where parents don't even feel comfortable letting their 12 or 13 year old go to the park without them.
It reminds us how we grew up-- without cellphones, with free-range of the neighborhood, walking to school or being out of touch with our parents for hours without them thinking we were abducted.
Why have we become such helicopter parents? Lenore's book looks at the question and considers the media and well, the disapproving looks of other parents and compares what we do as parents in America versus other parts of the world.
It's a great book to listen to if you want to give your kids more independence, but are worried about it or what might happen. I think it will be a book I will listen to on many occasions to re-remind me how much independence we used to have and how to help our kids have a little more.
Oh, the only negative in the book is at first you might think the reader is going to come off as annoying the whole book (almost a know-it-all), but her voice becomes more of a comfort than a hinderance as the book progresses.
I'm only on Ch. 3 and I feel as if I've got my money's worth. The biggest message for me: relax, trust myself, only 1 in over 1,000,000 children ever get abducted, don't let media ruin my experience as a parent and my child's experience of childhood by sensationalizing VERY rare tragedies. Thank you Lenore...and Susan.
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