The death of spontaneous activities

Marc Lalonde
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Guess what, parents? Time to drive your kid everywhere!


Last week, I wrote in this space about how pining for the good old days was pointless and silly, given that with all the technological advances in the world today that we are living 'the good old days,' but with one exception. With all due respect to the Wealthy Barber, there is one way the good old days were better – and that's the level of independence our children once enjoyed, versus how little of they enjoy today. Gone – forever, sadly – are the days of pickup street-hockey, basketball or football games. They have been replaced by day cares, sanitized versions of games we vaguely remember as fun and high levels of supervision. You will no longer see groups of kids whiling away the afterschool hours building a fort in Terra Cotta woods, or walking the paths of Angell Woods without a parent in sight. In fact, should you see a child wandering unsupervised, you're encouraged to call the police ASAP, lest that child somehow fall victim to a horrible, unspeakable crime or accident. This hit me the other night when I was driving over to pick up my daughter at her jiu-jitsu class, rather than her riding her bicycle home from the class, much as I would've when I was her age.

I wrack my brain trying to figure out exactly when it was that we, as a western, (ostensibly) free democratic society decided that letting kids wander around on their own was an invitation to a brutal murder. My daughter is a great, independent little girl, but I must say, I fall into this trap as well. If she's out of my sight for more than a minute, I want to know what she's up to and I want to know yesterday. You may have heard of Lenore Skenazy, a journalist and the founder of Free Range Kids (, who was vilified a few years back when she allowed her grade-school-aged son to take the subway home from midtown Manhattan by himself, but the reality is that your child is far more likely to die being driven somewhere than they are walking. But don't take my word for it.

 On her site, Skenazy writes 'as parents, we want to keep our children safe from everything. What we don’t realize is: We can’t. Even driving a child to school comes with it the possibility of getting into an accident. It’s a very small possibility, so we manage to shrug it off. But it’s a far more likely danger than then the chance of a child getting kidnapped and killed by a stranger. (If you want numbers, about 50 children a year are killed by strangers. About 1,400 are killed as car passengers.)'

 I worry, OK? Sue me. Still, I know that my worries absolutely must take a back seat to their needs – and kids need to run around and have free time that is not accounted for in a schedule. They need to be free, to run around and most of all, be free from the worries of a parent who won't let them experience the world for themselves. So, I've learned to push my fears down deep inside, down below the part of me that knows that what they need is more important than my irrational fears.

Organizations: ASAP

Geographic location: Manhattan

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