The New Yorker's Lizzie Widdicombe has written a terrific profile of Reason's Lenore Skenazy and the Meitiv family. The piece credits Skenazy with starting a movement, and like Larry Wilmore's coverage of free-range parenting last week, it shows that that movement has definitely struck a nerve with people who remember growing up in a less playtime-averse society:
The movement was founded by Lenore Skenazy, a former columnist for the News and for the New York Sun, who achieved mommy-blog infamy when, seven years ago, she wrote a column about letting her nine-year-old son, armed with a map and a MetroCard, find his way home from Bloomingdale's. Skenazy published a book and now has a reality show, "World's Worst Mom," on the Discovery Life Channel. In it, she swoops into the homes of overprotective parents and persuades them to let their offspring perform such retro tasks as riding city buses alone and setting up a lemonade stand. "The kids are thrilled," she said the other day at her family's apartment, in Jackson Heights, Queens. "And the parents are happy you've replaced their dystopian horror story with reality."
The Meitiv children own, but were not carrying, the I.D. cards that come with Skenazy's book: " 'I am not lost! I'm a Free-Range Kid,' " Skenazy said, reading from a card. " 'The adults in my life know where I am.' " She added, "Unfortunately, it doesn't come with the phone number of a lawyer."
Skenazy is wispy, and had on big tortoiseshell eyeglasses. She and her husband and two sons moved to Queens from Murray Hill five years ago. A pan of brownies sat on the stove. "They said something I loved," Skenazy went on, talking about the Meitivs. "They said they wanted to raise their kids the old-fashioned way." She ran through a few statistics, emphasizing that children are safer today than they were a generation ago, in the carefree days before "To Catch a Predator." "If you actually wanted your child to be kidnapped, how long would you have to keep him outside for him to be abducted by a stranger?" A week? She shook her head. "Seven hundred and fifty thousand years." She derided the "back-door anti-feminism" of expecting mothers to monitor their children all the time.
Read the full thing here.
Skenazy told Widdicombe that she has had great success convincing parents that the supposed dangers to their children are overhyped. It's harder, however, to assure them that they won't be arrested for ignoring those false dangers, since the law often requires paranoia and incidents like this one are real.
Read Skenazy's archive here.