I admit that often I tend to be a bit behind the times in regards to current news, so it just so happens that I missed this one when it happened. That would be the breaking news story about the mother who allowed her nine-year-old son to ride the subway alone. She supplied him with quarters, subway tokens, a subway map, and an extra $20.00 for emergencies. This was a well-thought out and prepared plan that mother and son worked on together. The boy really wanted to ride the subway alone, his mother thought that he was ready, so one sunny Sunday afternoon last spring he set out on a short subway ride by himself. The mother said that she just knew, only the way that a mother can know, that her son was ready to do this. Do I know exactly what she means about "knowing?" You betcha, mothers usually do, which brings me to the point of this post.
The flack that this mother received was incredible. One of the reasons that I probably missed this in the "news" is that she was asked to appear on daytime television (to receive said "flack" by parenting specialists and members of the general public) which I never watch. I have noticed that most parenting specialists exist primarily to tell parents what they are doing wrong. You can now google "worst mother" and this mother will appear.
Today I scanned an interview with her one year after the event. The interview pretty much said that she and her son had no regrets and that she would do the same thing again. My question is, "What kind of society have we become when a mother like this is considered to be the worst mother in the country?" Is she worse than mothers who starve or beat their children? Is she worse than mothers who drink or take drugs into oblivion and leave their children in squalor and neglect? Is she worse than the mothers who allow their children to be molested by staying with the offender? I have very good friends who just went through a termination of parental rights process in regards to their two foster children and it seems to me that mother (she lost her parental rights) is more typical of what I would expect in regards to the "worst mother" nomination.
Yes, society puts enormous pressure on mothers to be more than themselves and sometimes to be more than human. It seems like well-educated mothers who are trying to prepare their children for society are easier to target than the truly horrible mothers because other people can feel justified by comparison, "Well, at least I don't do what SHE did to my children?" I also don't like the rush to judgement in this particular case because our society is so overly safety conscious and so over-protective that we allow the kooks, nutcases, and media to control our lives. Children are not being prepared to live in the world.
A friend of mine and I just had this discussion last week. We both believe in giving our children experiences. Sometimes those experiences will turn out well and sometimes... not so much. The point being that we allow our kids to do things like experience the unsafe wilds of nature. We were hiking with our children and had to caution them when we got too close to a real waterfall. In the media experiences that most children have, the characters do things like go down a rushing waterfall on little more than a raft, so some children might not know that you can't do that in real life. I think many children are not even allowed near real waterfalls because this would be considered too unsafe. Of course it is much safer to sit home blitzed out on video imagines and shoving Doritos into ones mouth, child obesity rates are soaring, how does this prepare them to be functional/healthy adults?
As a society we let the media scares dictate our parenting. Our kids stay indoors getting neurological "highs" from playing video games and watching plasma T.V.'s. Our kids by and large don't get enough experience of the real world. Would I send my nine-year-old child alone on a subway if she was born and raised in New York City, probably not, but then she is not mature enough or ready for such an experience. She might be ready for other experiences though that will help her grow into a responsible adult and as a parent it is part of my job to pay attention to the teachable moments in the lives of all of my children. I am a responsible and educated parent, much like the New York subway mom and just because I will probably allow my children to experience some things independently before they reach college does not make me a bad mother, knowing your children and working with them to navigate the treacherous path to growing up does not make anyone a bad mother.