In 2008, a New York mother was criticized for allowing her nine-year-old son to ride the subway alone.
Labelled “America’s Worst Mom,” Lenore Skenazy, spent time on The Daily Show, CBC, and was interviewed by the New York Times and Washington Post among other news outlets as she argued for “Free-Range Kids.”
“I have focused for the last eight years on how we got so afraid for our kids… that fascinates me, the fact that somehow we believe that our kids are incapable of doing the same things we did as children and surviving,” said Skenazy.
She’s providing presentations to the Shuswap and surrounding areas in January, speaking on free-range parenting.
She’s visiting Salmon Arm’s Sullivan campus, Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m.
Skenazy will also be making rounds to Kelowna on Jan. 23, at 7 p.m. at the Rotary Centre for Arts and in Kamloops, Jan. 26, starting at 6:30 at the Sandman Centre.
The Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap Society and community partners are hosting the presentation in Salmon Arm during Unplug and Play Family Literacy Week.
This event came about because the CATCH Coalition (Community Action Towards Children’s Health) in Kelowna asked Skenazy to speak to create a community conversation, said LASS literacy outreach co-ordinator Darcy Calkins.
Skenazy will ask parents questions like why won’t they allow their children to do the same things they did when they were young?
“We talk about how come that is. There’s something in the culture that has made it almost impossible to raise our kids the way we were raised. A lot of it is based on fear,” she said.
Skenazy’s reasoning comes from the 24-hour news cycle, saying how it exaggerates the likelihood of an child abductions.
“It’s not like I hate the media, I just hate what the media feels like it sometimes has to do, which is show us the worst, scariest picture of the world so we’ll keep watching.”
Part of the reason for parental fear also comes from our litigious society, she said.
“When you live in a litigious society, you start thinking like a lawyer. Like, oh my god, I found a dime in my soup and I could’ve choked, and sued the place for a million dollars.”
Marketing plays another role, she said.
She used the example of the list publishing 10 of the most dangerous toys for children, noting how ridiculous the reasons were.
A popular toy dinosaur was listed as dangerous because the button to activate the toy is set on the “rigid” tail, which could puncture the child.
“You can come up with dangerous for everything, and we do,” she said.
“Free-Range Kids” is a concept Skenazy created to combat the helicopter parent.
It’s letting a child have their independence and experiment on their own.
“I never present myself as a parenting expert… but you don’t need to be an expert to raise your kids. I can’t get your kid to take a nap or eat his broccoli, but I guess I’m an expert on fear,” she said.
After eight years of doing talks and spreading her philosophy, she feels like people have split opinions.
“At first when I started my blog, twice in a row my one was the most controversial of the mommy blogs. It was so radical what I was saying. ‘Maybe we should get a grip on the fact that the stranger danger, for the most part, is a myth. Certainly, it’s presented to us out of proportion with the reality.”
At first, the label of “America’s Worst Mother” bothered her, she worried for her children. But as time continued and the attention grew, she became accustomed to it and people began to accept the idea of free-range parenting.
It’s (become) sort of who I am,” she said.
Children feel happier when they’re left to discover things on their own, she said.
“People feel happy when they have some control over their lives,” said Skenazy.
Reservations for the presentations can be made at this web address: firstname.lastname@example.org.