But fundamentally, what I want most is to be somewhere my kids can ride bikes or walk alone to school, to friends, to the shop, etc. from the age of 7 or so. As best I can tell that pretty much means the Netherlands, parts of Denmark, or perhaps Japan (more for transit than cycling).
Children can't drive, which means unless you're lucky enough to live very close to your friends, and ideally on the same side of the street, your home is effectively your prison in the US and Canada.
And yes, I suppose you _can_ let your kid ride a bike to school alone in the US at 7, but you would be risking arrest, and death. It's often forgotten that drivers are, by far, the leading killers of children. Far more than people with guns. I was an avid cyclist in the US for the first 30 years of my life and I still have a bruised rib and too many memories of very, very close calls with death.
NotJustBikes, who moved from Canadian suburbia to the Netherlands, explores this in more depth at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ul_xzyCDT98
When I was young and growing up in the burbs, many kids walked or rode bikes to school. The roads were much more dangerous back then. Crime was much MUCH worse. No one batted an eye. I don't really understand some people's extreme risk aversion today.
Evolution has wired us to be constantly looking for risk. If we don't find danger, we'll invent it.
As we remove the riskiest risks, the bar on what we're willing to spend and sacrifice to address the next level of risks goes higher and higher.
Then there's the press which lives by sensationalizing every bad thing that happens, leading us to grossly exaggerate risk levels in our society.
Humans are really bad at assessing risk. Parents are more likely to be afraid of a stranger kidnapping their child when their child is far more likely to die on the car ride to school.
Which is sad when you think about how suburbs are designed to make people feel safe even though their road designs tend to be extremely dangerous.
Then I remember back not long ago when seat belt laws came into effect in the US. Before then? Meh. And car seats for 6 year olds?
There are no such provisions in most of the US.
Not necessarily. Your risk of being in a fatal car accident is nearly 3x higher on suburban roads than urban roads.
This is a good video on the deficiencies of suburbia road design if you're curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORzNZUeUHAM
"Fun" fact: On my way home I was wearing a pink/white Nike hoodie and asked a woman for directions and she said something like "sir, please step away I have a child".
I grew up in Europe, so I get what you're saying and agree with it, but for most of the US, that is actually built for cars, it's not true.
That's not a little kid, that's just a kid. Americans have weird standards for kids' independence.
Compare the Japanese show 'my first errand' where little kids go on their first errands:
7 years old navigating streets is not as much rarity as Americans think. And it used to be completely normal too.
(And that's what my original comment talked about. Also, it's just a cute show.)
I don’t believe in helicopter parenting but this is where we live.
I think it's far more common than that -- actually, guessing wildly, I suspect most children around the world get themselves to school and that the US is the outlier.
In Germany, where I live, and where my oldest will be starting school in two months, it's common and encouraged for kids to walk to school in their first year (age 6). Admittedly, ours is only a quarter mile away. We've just started letting our son go alone to the bakery downstairs and across the street from our apartment, and while it's not quite typical, it's also not wild here for a 5 year old to do that.
What shocked me most in this article was the paragraph:
> A mom wrote that she had been so encouraged that, at the grocery store, she allowed her son to leave her to get cheese from a different aisle. When he came back, she added, “That boy was six inches taller!”
That mother never allowed her son to do that before before being encouraged by the author? Poor child.
She has a great video. I'm a German also. I did live in the US too. I'd hate to have to raise a kid there.
The biggest problem with cycling adoption is “cyclists”. My hyperlocal blog has a guy that makes me want to throw my bicycle in the bay just so I’m not associated with him. And I love riding my bike.
Cycling needs a “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” moment.
E-bikes are a great opportunity for Americans to rediscover motorcycles but unfortunately cities are willing to allow motorized vehicles traveling at 20mph on mixed walking/cycling paths.
Other times attentive drivers exhibit attitudes that are less than redeeming. I once flipped on some streetcar tracks. Attentive motorists simply drove around me and went on their way. The people who did check up on my condition were pedestrians.
I've had a number of other experiences in my life that leave me feeling as though people cease to be human as soon as they get behind the wheel of a car. While there are exceptions, they are exceedingly rare. Getting back to the article, I am extremely worried about children being on their own on the streets. It isn't because of those who would intentionally harm them, since that is relatively uncommon. It is because very few people behind the wheel even seem to care.
But mostly the first one. The second you start giving everyone a 2k+ square foot home and backyard and front yard and 2 car parking, you now have everything spaced so far apart that you need cars. And everyone needs space to put their car, so that means huge setbacks for storefronts, huge parking lots, etc.
You cannot have a community optimized for both numerous cars and non car traffic. It is one or the other, and once the layout is done, it is not politically changeable. Certainly not the huge personal vehicles almost everyone drives today.
Beyond this minority damn near every road user (regardless of car vs bike vs pedestrian) behaves perfectly reasonably if you understand what they're trying to do. Once you understand what the other participants are trying to do things become very predictable and safe.
The road user who is constantly having problems is probably doing it wrong themselves in a "man who smells crap all day should look under his own shoe" sort of way.
Crappy cyclists make crappy pedestrians make crappy drivers.
I've biked walked and driven at various points in my life. If you understand what everyone else is doing and choose your own actions to mesh with this you basically never have problems with other road users. You can blow through intersections on a bike. You can jaywalk. You can ignore turn specific arrows. You can do all these things safely. But you gotta have good situational awareness exercise good judgement about the time and the place you choose to do them or you will often be in conflict with other road users.
So, that "just this once" blowing an intersection or red light might be this time that a huge crash happens or someone is killed. Not worth the few minutes saved.
And if repeated, it's unforgivable.
Every time a red light is blown without directly harming someone net negative externalities are reduced.
At the same time, idiotic cyclists are only risking their own lives and that’s it. Idiotic drivers are risking other people’s lives but not their own.
When there is a crash between and a car and a bike that involves a fatality, 100% of the time that fatality is the cyclist and not the driver.
Or will harm someone else than the perpetrator.
 In my country cycling lights are traditionally used are traditionally used as a training ground for new police officers. These officers have to explain why you are actually breaking the law and also have to deal in a correct manner in the abuse from the perpetrators.
I strongly believe that when good protected bicycle infrastructure is built, average folks will be more represented among cyclists — and so cyclists will appear nicer and more cautious.
I try to be a good ambassador for cycling on my bike — got a rear radar, always hand signal, and always stop at lights and signs. But I've already been indoctrinated into cycling by having lived in the Netherlands.
Most like probably number 3 or 4. The "cyclists" are annoying and silly, but on the other hand they aren't literally killing many people.
I find "cyclists" to be as cringey as everyone else does, but cyclists aren't killing 40,000 people a year. They wear silly outfits and are kinda irritating. As far as sins go, those are pretty small in the grand scheme of things. By and large, when a cyclist acts a fool, they're endangering themselves. When a driver acts a fool, they're endangering everyone else on the road.
To be honest, average people riding bicycles for commuting or getting around cycle on the safe side, use the proper bike lanes, do not make left turns in front of the cars etc... while the "cyclists" insist on cycling on the car lanes, taking left turns and changing lanes while going 25-30 km/h on 50km/h road. Those people annoy me to the death while driving and cycling as well.
Until you round the corner on a sidewalk and narrowly avoid collision with a 7 year old on an electric bicycle.
I lived in Denmark for a bit in the 80s and I don't know how it is there these days, but back then, the police pulled you over and ticketed you for the tiniest infractions on a bicycle.
I can't imagine 1/10th of that level of enforcement in the NYC metro area without full scale rioting.
In my teens I cycled to my last three years of high school because I could sleep in (bus took over an hour) and visit friends on the way home. Thankfully the highway had a decent shoulder. I wore my helmet and eventually saw the benefit of wearing a neon-orange reflective vest (rather than stowing it once out of parental sight).
Where I’m living now I’m pushing for improved bicycle routes between towns, in part for tourism and so we don’t have to drive our kid to school.
My only times I've near-collision or actual Collision have been with bikes. this is invariably because they far exceed the speed limit in some sections that are really close to pedestrian traffic or because they bike near a curve full of parked cars where he cannot have enough time to break for incoming pedestrian traffic when the bikers going to ~30 miles per hour.
It depends a lot on your neighborhood. Mine is nice and I see kids running around the neighborhood regularly.
As I mentioned this is definitely a thing in Idaho. My brothers and sister all have families and live in areas where kids can have freedom in the neighborhood but away from home.
From my small experience living in France, Germany, Denmark and spending quite some times in other old EU countries, you can do it everywhere there. From Portugal up to Finland and everything in-between. This is the normal way here.
: Not to be taken negatively, just that I did not had the opportunity to visit/stay in the EU countries from the former East block.
Both my wife and I grew up there, hence why we prioritized getting a walkable place in the suburbs.
I'm way too neurotic about the future to take the plunge and move away from Dublin, unfortunately.
Main street is generally thriving, with the preschool, elementary school, middle-high school, library, and town park/common down said Main street. (The library is one block off.)
Mixed together among the core mile and a half or so stretch is a decent collection of retail establishments (including 2 gas stations, a few coffee shops local and chain, restaurants local and chain, doctors offices, post office, auto mechanics, the now ubiquitous Dollar General, a liquor store, an ole' time hardware store, and a couple good ice cream places), single family homes, a church, a police station/opera house/townhall, and some hotels and motels local and chain.
Side streets with single family homes, and some New England style multi-unit three stories are on both sides of Main street, where the river allows, with a small trailer park mixed in.
There is certainly traffic on Main street, including log trucks, but with a 30 mph speed limit, and lots of crosswalks where people will generally stop for you (the law says you should), it's pretty human friendly.
I will admit it's in many ways a throwback to the way things used to be...
Some metro areas demolished all of theirs, or developed too late to have built any. Rust Belt is surprisingly rich with them.
Why these countries in particular? You can do this in pretty much any EU country and many non-EU European countries.
I walked back 4km from primary school every day. I could go by bus but then I'd had to wait for 30 minutes and everything beats that when you're 10.
And during vacations me and my cousins roamed the forest near my grandparents house whole day every day only returning for a dinner :)
The alternative is called “elterntaxi” (meaning parent taxi) and is very much frowned upon.
So, every school morning, lunch, and afternoon, you have bunches of little kids walking on their own between their schools and their homes, wearing a special reflective jacket.
And I say moms because in Swiss it is moms who are expected to do it and forgo other activities while men are expected to go to work. Men are much less affected by above system.
See that's exactly the mentality problem.
My mum was working too, at lunchtime we made for example a little fire in the wood and exchanged the food our parent packed in, from spaghetti to sausages and so on, made our own snake-bread etc. You have to be really crazy to think your children's have a problem do stuff for them self for 1.5 hours. If it was too cold we eat outside, went back into the school asked the teacher if we can play flight simulator on the apple2's. There is no need that the state has to organize everything for you..children's need freedom too, true?
There are huge swaths of the country that are not the "built up in the 50s and 60s but now populated and trafficked enough to be dangerous" suburban hellscape that you are implying.
Or old pre-car cities in the US.
The point of those is that they have dense interconnection that predates cars. In addition, building roads cost too much in terms of eminent domain, so they don't have very many high-speed roads interfering.
If I had kids I'd let them free roam the city.
With plenty of bright, reflective things on my bike I’m willing to take our kid on the road, and am working on promoting better bikeways around here, for locals and tourists.
Not to say that bike lanes and bike protection couldn't be better, because it absolutely could be.
I think the far larger problem is cultural. It doesn't matter how safe bicycling is if there's a chance for your children to be taken away from you for letting them take advantage of it. That is also why my wife is hesitant about this stuff.
I rode my bike around the (Australian, suburban) streets from age 5, rode to school for 12 odd years, caught the train to the city and skated all over it from about age 13. My parents made a point of letting us (me and siblings) 'rough and tumble' as we grew up.
We had a lot of scrapes, don't get me wrong, but you learn a lot as a kid if you can fall over a few times. Kids are good at taking care of themselves, and each other, if you let them. Within reason, of course, but I see a lot of coddling these days and a lot of soft kids that have never been beyond the padded playground walls.
Most suburban areas (and urban areas too) have a school bus pickup for the neighborhood. Showing up at the bus stop made me a ton of friends right there in my neighborhood, and made for some great long-lasting relationships that continue to this day.
Having friends that lived in the same neighborhood meant I could ride my bike to my friends house, or walk, or whatever.
It would require a lot of capital in the form of patient equity to pull off.
Good old adage is infrastructure first.
Otherwise you can just build taller.
I think the “your home is a prison” is an upper middle class thing. Poor folks don’t have much choice but to let their kids use transit.
I think you're forgetting just how big and diverse the US is.
I think this type of risk deaggregation arises from the fact that in a sufficiently complicated space (climate, economy, children, etc) there are really only two heuristics:
1) Ignore all but a manageable number of variables and optimize for them
2) Recognize a larger number of necessary variable, acknowledge there is no optimal solution, and balance the trade offs between those variables. 
Heuristic 1 is the easiest, requires no nuance, and seems the type of thing our political and media class love to latch onto. Heuristic 2 actually requires admitting you don't get everything you want, or at least the things you want will cost you something you dont.
Legible risks are mostly "heuristic 1." They can be measured, quantified, discussed in discrete terms. You can be yelled at over legible things, like ignoring stranger danger on a subway. It's harder to yell about nuance.
Illegible things are less discrete. The consequences, some hard to describe, many unknown, of growing up without freedom and self reliance. There are dangers here too, but they're more nebulous.
It's hard to justify, externally, a trade-off between illegible gains like building a personality and legible dangers like kidnapping. Hard, but not impossible.
Illegible things are less discrete, but probably more "discreet", on average.
It's much easier to measure large effects on a single metric, than small effects distributed over a wide range of metrics. Concentrated effects that affect one individual/org/group are favored over distributed effects that affect everyone. There are so many examples of policies where this thought process has been applied.
E.g. Should we switch from “status quo” to “change”? Good idea, but if we move to “change” then “this one bad thing will happen”.
A solution might be to use the lieutenant’s cloud, an idea I learned on a thinking course.
With this you simply ask why “bad thing” and then offer a suggestion that solves the why, not necessarily the bad thing.
This is probably easier to do at a closed organisation. In the public eye with an emotive topic like possibility of child abduction, a lot of sensitivity is needed.
The book itself is worth the read on its own. He has a very specific meaning of conservatism that doesn't map well to political landscapes. The book doesn't dispute climate change, and seems to basically accept it, but creates a framework for dealing with it from a grassroots bottom up perspective rather than an international top down perspective.
Dont have the page, but the book is good enough that it's worth reading
It seems that nowadays we have an extremely interventionist culture, and it leaves us ill-equipped to recognize situations where the best thing to do is nothing at all.
It's not just around child-rearing. I have chronic pain from a decades-old sports injury, and well-meaning people frequently advise me to get surgery to fix it. There's a tacit assumption that, by choosing to live with it, I'm simply being complacent. (There's also, for that matter, a tacit assumption that an appropriate procedure exists in the first place.) If I point out that the surgery for my sort of thing tends to have much worse long-term outcomes than choosing not to pick at it, then I'm generally told that I just haven't found the right surgeon. Similar for my nearsightedness - I have one family member who thinks I'm crazy for not getting LASIK surgery. My take is myopia can be effectively treated with an inexpensive and non-invasive device, while LASIK comes with significant risk of causing different kinds of visual impairments that cannot be treated, so the risk/reward balance just isn't right for me. But that's not how they see it. What they see is that I'm just being weak-willed, because I'm opting not to do something when there's something that could be done.
But it upsets me more when it's child-rearing, because then it's adults choosing to screw up the life of another person who doesn't have any say in the matter. Ostensibly for their own good, but, more accurately, I think, because the adult feels like this is how they need to perform their role.
And IMO, perversely, this incentivizes behavior problems. Kids sooner or later (and often sooner in the case of smarter kids) catch onto when adults are making disproportionate ultimatums, or when the reasoning behind a ruling is disconnected from objective reality. What does this teach a kid? Adults are liars, don't know what they're talking about, are undeserving of respect, are not to be obeyed if the consequences of such are bearable, are to be subverted whenever possible, etc.
I mean, there's going to be a degree of disrespect and disobedience when a kid enters adolescence and they start to try to assert their independence as they approach adulthood. But learning the above attitude as a child is going to make adolescent behavior so much worse.
The other thing would be to go to therapy. We don't teach people how to be parents but there is a lot of applied child development skills you can learn.
Therapy presents its own risks, often never discussed. And it screams of a total lack of self confidence.
>while LASIK comes with significant risk of causing different kinds of visual impairments that cannot be treated
The numbers behind LASIK (and PRK) are pretty solid such that one can make an objective claim that it is a low risk endeavor unless you have some specific conditions.
Here is one study:
Low risk -> that paper's definition of "safety" is whether people had good eyesight. It doesn't take into account halos or dry eyes, as far as I can tell.
The clarity with which you can see everything is stunning at first, and the lack of inconvenience is incredible. If you’re interested in dating, it is probably one of the best investments you can make to improve your experience.
You would get at least 10, maybe even 15 years of not having to deal with glasses.
It didn't cause any halos or dry eye. Those would still be preferable over legal blindness.
The bigger problem is they were unable to correct some astigmatism and so in certain conditions I get doubled image without glasses. Still not even comparable.
For low corrections or farsightedness, the risk benefit situation is very different.
I also suspect that another surgery could be risked to further improve on it once technology advances a bit more.
Or older, even. I got PRK at 34 and my eyesight is still 20/20 (or better), nearly 6 years later.
Yes, it was a quick search on my phone. I just remember doing a ton of research for it before I got mine done years ago. I know 6 others who got it done too around when I did, and everyone claims it was well worth it.
I just figured it has been around so long and performed so much, that there would be a lot of people claiming issues and it would show up by now.
I certainly know people who have had worse complications, though, and they might have a different feeling about it than I do.
The overall numbers give a biased perspective. With the way the risk/benefit ratio varies, people with milder cases are a lot more likely to get it. This is in addition to there being more of them in the first place.
The inexpensive and non-invasive device is corrective eyewear.
I believe the OP is talking about glasses/spectacles. Although contact lenses would probably also fit that description.
Of course the times were different (between 1930s - 1970s) and in India the definition/threshold of risk is, let's just say, different compared to the west :-)
Let me tell you you’re very wrong here. Loosing a kid is the worst thing ever and is independent on the number of kids you have. I have 5 kids and I can’t imagine losing one.
The biggest reason IMO for kids having more freedom is not that we have less time for them but that they play more together instead of with us. This emulation leads to more risk taken.
Just send them to a private school where matters are handled privately.
2) Every private school I lived around growing up was religious, and I'd rather children not have religion forced on them.
Are there any examples of this happening? I do not recall reading about any incident where police responded to a school where the cause was not due to physical violence.
If I was managing a school (or any other establishment), I would instruct staff that no one is to touch anyone outside of administering medical aid, for obvious liability reasons. In such cases, I can see it being necessary to call police if a child has to be physically moved or restrained.
Students arrested for social media posts: http://www.5z8.info/openme.exe_bknq
Student arrested for burping: http://www.5z8.info/peepshow_jxbr
Student referred to judge and jailed for not doing homework:
School cops arrest more kids of color, too: http://www.5z8.info/aohell.exe_zane
I know for several of my minority friends, they won't let their kids go anywhere alone due to run-ins with law enforcement.
No, zero-tolerance policies exist because they are low-effort ways of being seen as addressing issues of political concern (and because minimizing discretion of subordinate staff while avoiding creating an incentive to kick sensitive decisions up the chain is itself desirable to decision-makers); excessive restrictions, like insufficient ones, are sources of lawsuits, if schools were concerned about maximum mitigation of legal risk they would have more carefully tailored policies.
EDIT: It’s worth noting that zero-tolerance policies are sold as necessary for mitigating legal risk, but that's because that’s a more palatable sales pitch than “we want neither to permit subordinates to exercise judgement nor to have to consider details of individual cases ourselves”.
Take disciplinary action for example. Very few schools have the same rate of expulsion/suspension for students of all races. How do schools prove to a jury that this is not a result of discrimination or racism? Quite difficult unless they have a zero-tolerance policy.
I guess I fell for the marketing. In any event I detest zero-tolerance policies for just about everything.
(No idea if it would go anywhere in court, but when has that ever stopped someone?)
It all feels good for many people.
School policy has exactly 0 legal weight. It won't protect the school against a lawsuit. Maybe the low end of layers believe it, but there's a reason lawyer's compensation is bimodal.
But by the time school administrators figure this out, they are typically being offered an out-of-court settlement with a confidentiality clause.
I know of communities where they won't let kids go anywhere because the lack of law enforcement (this includes minority communities). So this concern about law enforcement presence is not universal though white allies are big on focusing on that area.
Also: "kids are in so much danger, you must elect me to keep them safe!" or "kids are in so much danger, tune in at 6 O'Clock to find out why!"
I'm not that old, and I remember "be home before dark" when I was in the single digits. I was going outside, by myself, since about the age of 5. As soon as I could ride a bike that was it. Basically my parents made dinner and paid the rent, the rest was all me in my own life.
There was a phase in my childhood where I was actually in a very dangerous environment, and as a result my freedom was restricted. I can compare the two. I think it damaged me quite a bit. I wonder about kids who never knew the freedom to be human beings.
Again as a teenager I experienced that freedom and the good fitness that comes with having a wide range and only feet to get around. And there was trouble (exposure to drugs, etc). But all in all the trouble didn't affect me negatively in the long term, I think it was less harmful than if I'd otherwise been restricted, and most adults don't avoid those sorts of troubles either way.
There is a network effect reinforcing this trend. Kids don't go outside because there's no kids outside. Also I think that while the fear of abduction or a terrible accident is there, I think we downplay other factors in the trend now, particularly the increased demand for creature comforts over the last 2 decades (and longer, but more pronounced more recently) and the availability of stimulation indoors. I remember the middle of the summer and going outside every day not once thinking it was too hot to go outside, then spending the entire day out there. People think I'm weird now for not using the AC in my car. I remember waking up in the morning and there was no inkling to check a phone. People can be immensely stimulated laying in bed now, with phones and videogames and such, and there are positives that come with these new tools but there are negative changes as well, and many people are beginning to come to the conclusion that the negatives outweigh the positives.
But as soon as I was 10 and 11 I was leaving to visit friends. I was thinking back recently to one forgotten friend who lived about 1.5 miles away and the pathway I would have taken to his house. It involved crossing two 6-lane divided highways and another Avenue.
I was safe and patient. But I would be aghast to see it in action today.
When I was 13 and 14 we would take "tours" of the city. Even on foot, I would meet friends and we would start early and walk as far as we could. Then take the bus or call our parents. I love those memories. So much.
I loved the city for its shape before I was an adult. And that freedom and those memories have filled me my entire life. And when I started driving I knew how to get to all of the places.
Before she died my mother would always tell me "the kids don't play the way you guys used to". We really tore it up.
Do you think that's because you believe things are less safe now than when you were a kid? Or is it because societal norms around risks & children have changed?
I say that because when I pass the places I crossed those roads, the traffic itself looks downright frightening. I don't remember this many cars. I don't remember them going _this_ fast.
I spent a some time on my childhood street and saw some teens throwing football. The number of times they had to get out of the street for cars was surprising. And we never had to "dodge" oncoming cars when playing games in the street. I remember someone would say "car" and we would have plenty time to move.
As far as the stranger danger, as an adult male I have zero interest in helping any kids in need. If I saw a kid outside fell and scraped up their knees I would probably not come to their aid. Maybe text a female neighbor.
But as young teens we definitely came across creeps. A female friend's sister took us to a strip club when we were 14. With that as a baseline...
We did things that were dangerous in any context.
We explored abandoned buildings. We jumped on slow moving trains. We rode down steep hills and jumps without any helmets. Swung from insane tree rope swings, some from 10-15 foot tree branches and some from much higher. We climbed bridges under construction. Went out on ledges that seeing today make my feet tingle. We climbed the drive-in theater screen to the top. Carried old bikes up there and threw them off. My dad made me a zip line from my tree house, over the pool, and to a very small perch in a tree. You were meant to jump into the pool (4 feet deep). We made camp fires supervised and on our own. We shot weapons at 10. Explored remote creeks and piloted small craft (15 hp). Drove around the city a good year before my actual license. At 15 we would routinely drive to another state to go a beach. At night sometimes.
Apparently from typing this, I had a real love of heights when I was younger. We had a rope swing in the back yard tied up to a branch some 30 feet. I would climb to the top and grab the branch regularly.
I think I was considered a bit less adventurous than some of my friends. I honestly have no idea how we didn't die.
But as to your question. The city used to be covered with tree swings and I haven't seen one in ages. I would guess they are considered dangerous today, or moreso a liability. Helmets for bicycles were just _not_ a thing - a changed norm for society and myself very gladly. Kids still enjoy access to weaponry, especially in the deep south. But that will be supervised instead of some lessons and "here you go". I know of teenagers that go sailing, boating, etc. I think the age range simply shifted up a few years.
I don't think it's that simple. If you let your kids outside, away from your supervision, there's a very real (absolutely certain, where I live) risk of the police getting involved.
Same for me. CA seems to be full of control freaks who like to control others.
It reminds me of the fact that I used to be crazy paranoid on weed in uni but I ate some a year or so ago and I just felt good. I was terrified of the consequences of being caught. Once the police disappeared as a threat, the actual thing was fine.
This is not really the relationship I aspire to have with my children.
It's not literally I had no relationship with my parents. They got me ready for school in the morning, my mom and I had inside jokes, we spent time together, we went to the grocery store, I had homework. But from the minute I was headed to school until the sun went down most days I was out in the world by myself.
That‘s just so important for kids I think. US playgrounds all look sad to no end compared to the 15 meter high rope pyramids you see here in a lot of schools.
First time you see them, you tell yourself: No way I‘m going to let my kids play on that thingy.
But when you take a close look, all ways down you‘d bump into a rope, there‘s no direct free fall and there‘s usually thick rubber or sand below.
Sure it‘s going to hurt and maybe break a bone in the very worst case if you miss, but that is just super rare.
But what it adds in developing courage, resilience and risk awareness is just priceless.
Then again, having your kids break a bone won‘t bankrupt your family for life over here…
That's the key. I've noticed in places with universal health care, they tend to have more fun playgrounds. Because the owner knows they won't get sued for medical expenses.
That applies in general in places with universal healthcare. My friends who live in those places told me their car and home insurance are much cheaper than when they lived in the USA, because there is no risk of getting sued for medical expenses.
Also, my understanding (although it could be wrong) is that insurance companies in the EU can't sue people to recover medical costs, so at worst you're on the hook for their deductible but you don't have to worry about the insurance company coming for the rest like you do in the USA.
That is why every playground will only buy certified safe devices or get an overall certification by a known certification body. That usually cuts the lawsuit risk down to negligent maintenance. Also, there is liability insurance which everyone in their right minds has (of course you need to check if running a playground is covered).
But last time I checked that playground replaced everything with bulky plastic toys and one of those boring wood castle things with plastic slides
Of course I had to climb it immediately. My son was only 2 at the time so he didn't make it far. He's old enough now that I really want to find another one.
I found a few similar items in other parts of Oregon, but I haven't found one in California yet.
My dad gave me a tiny bicycle at the age of 6, and basically said "good luck". I could go anywhere I want for as long as I'm back home in time for dinner. They had no idea where I was, with whom, or what I was doing.
One day, an older kid hit me in the playground. I came home crying, assuming I'd get some support. I was told to just hit him back, preferably harder. I explained that the kid was much older and far bigger. "Get a piece of wood then".
Standard equipment for every kid everywhere were thick knee pads, as mothers grew tired of fixing bloody knees and probably more important: the jeans. On any day, we'd come home looking like pigs, and almost always with fresh wounds.
Throughout this entire period, outside of formal family moments, not a single photo, audio or video recording exists of me.
Not only was it a fantastic childhood, it has helped me become a robust character. I can handle setbacks with ease and instead of complaining, solve things myself.
By today's standards, it would be neglectful or even child abuse. It wasn't. It was paradise.
Child abuse is imprisoning your own child. Not only obsessing over their security, also micro managing their day as if production units.
As for children "performing", my deal was pretty simple and enjoyable. "Come home with good grades or there will be hell". Zero oversight, only the outcome counts.
A fair deal if you ask me. No daily nagging about doing homework, none at all. They couldn't care less. I was fully free to deliver the desired outcome in any way I see fit. Maximum freedom, whilst also instilling responsibility from the start.
To sum this up, the lack of parenting has helped me tremendously.
The mom left Elliott at home alone, sick with a fever, at the age of 9. She also left the daughter who was 3.5 alone while she went to the supermarket. Their only instructions were "don't get into trouble."
Those would both get you in a lot of trouble in 2021, but I'm not sure I understand why. It's even easier these days to contact your parents, since everyone has cell phones. My son has contacted me via Facebook Messenger through his iPad, so it's not that difficult anymore unlike the 80s. You didn't have a way to contact people except by calling, and if the parent wasn't there sitting by the phone there wasn't even answering machines!
I think people just gave more credit to kids back then and nowadays we just keep them as kids much much longer.
I was a latch-key kid starting at age 7 in the 80s because I hated the daycare that we used after school and advocated for the freedom. I remember being blocks away from home at age 4 or 5 on my own until it was time to eat and heading back home.
It really was a different experience. And, I say this as a parent of a 6 year old in a roughly similar neighborhood environment.
I’m a beneficiary of childhood freedom, to injure myself (tools, fire, trees), to explore (walking for miles through the woods, along defunct railways, and biking the dirt roads), and to read whatever I found at the library. The downside was I didn’t have what I think of as healthy discussions with my parents, perhaps because it was awkward for them?
As a parent now I’m trying to build on their successes, adding emotional mindfulness.
For example: finger crushed in a heavy book? Yeah, that hurts, and it’ll hurt awhile yet (no asking “you okay?” because that’s too binary, and mainly to appease the parent). In the meantime, take long, slow breaths and feel the pain as it subsides and you’re ready to move on. If it doesn’t go away, let’s take another look at it.
I also let my kid fall, and I tell her it’s helpful to feel what it’s like to fall. She’s learning to climb and take steps, and when I’m spotting her for safety I’ll intervene enough to prevent injury but not the initial slip. I largely credit our Early Childhood Education teachers with my own progress here.
For those of you who give your children more freedom, how do you manage your concerns around risk? How do you decide how much freedom to give? What do those conversations look like?
My argument is that it's statistically very safe, especially in our neighborhood, and that we and her older brothers all did similar things. Her argument is that a girl needs to be more cautious than a boy, and that although she knows it's unlikely anything bad would happen, it would destroy us if it did.
We're planning to compromise by letting her do it, but only after we get her her first phone.
I highly recommend Free-Range Kids !
The cars weren't a problem. Getting mobbed by primary school kids on my way back and getting beaten up was a problem. A bigger problem was when I told my parents the reason I was getting home later and later was because of the detours I was taking to avoid getting beaten up, and they arranged a meeting with me, the beaters-up and their parents and them -- and in the end, it was clearly my fault, I had never been beaten up, and these were all friendly kids, brought up all wholesome.
The past wasn't a better place, it just was a place where you didn't talk about being abused, no matter what.
I guess that is true, but an interesting question is: Did the past prepare kids better to become responsible and capable adults?
I have been bothered at times at just how outside the overton window the idea that animals/pets, dog or cats should be able to e.g. see their parents or children, ever again, falls. I'm not a vegan or a big animal person, but it just isn't talked about.
While a common perception, that's actually almost entirely false. Teen pregnancies have been dropping pretty steadily for the last ~70 years and they're now almost one quarter the rate of just 30 years ago. Sex ed and availability of contraceptives (especially IUDs) are quite effective at preventing teen pregnancies.
Varies by neighborhood, though. Our current one's busy-body and kids-only-play-with-parental-escort enough that we had a couple neighbors stop by to warn us that they'd seen our kids several streets over, thinking they'd gotten away from us. Not quite busy-body enough that anyone called the cops (I suspect we were right on the edge of that happening, and maybe just got lucky). Our last neighborhood had wonderful mixed-age "gangs" of kids wandering around playing all the time, and it would have been entirely safe there. That was a much younger neighborhood (in terms of both the ages of the houses and the average age of residents) than this one (not sure whether that's related), and, I suspect, there were some class issues at play (the other had a very high-prole character to it, in Fussellian terms, while this one's 100%, gratingly, middle-class as hell)
As for chances of assault, your main worry by a country mile should be cars, not predators. All forms of attacks on kids by strangers are incredibly rare. Leaving your kid in the company of a specific adult or set of adults is far riskier than letting them walk to the park (yet people do that all the time). Shit, statistically siblings or cousins are far "scarier" and worthy of concern, in that regard, than the risk of regular walks to a park 2 blocks away.
100%, and cars are a reasonable worry that we should do something about. There are well known traffic calming measures that we know slow down traffic substantially (speed being one of the greatest causes of pedestrian fatalities) and even in my very walkable city we're largely not using them.
support traffic calming measures (like narrowing car lanes, adding streetside trees, converting parking to bike lanes, etc.), not for specious reasons like this, but because they reduce distracted driving, and thereby reduce collisions and injury/death. it's at best misdirection to talk about reducing speed, and at worst, leads to poor policy that not only doesn't address the problem (reducing injury/death) but creates unintended consequences (like traffic and more distracted driving).
Of course they both contribute to the problem. So why not both? Traffic calming is the answer, either way.
Well intentioned and mostly just amusing. At least no-one called the authorities when they realized we weren't planning to confine our kids to the yard or accompany them on every idle play-outing all damn Summer.
When I was growing up, I did similar things, taking my 5 year old sister on the public bus with me to get to school when I was 10. If I had some pocket change we’d get ice creams from McDonald’s on the way home.
It depends on what neighborhood you live in, but the world is very safe today and if you’re on HN I assume you’re in a decent area.
I think parents have too much time and energy today to spend worrying about their frankly very competent kids. The smartphone thing is a good idea but I really think it’s best to push your kid out of the nest to discover the world themself, lest you end up with a grown up daughter who’s afraid of the world.
Nowadays just leaving a 7 year old at home alone would be a crime.
"We're planning to compromise by letting her do it, but only after we get her her first phone."
I hesitate to enter into child rearing discussions but ...
May I suggest a slightly different approach: satisfy your wife by following, secretly, your child at a distance the first few times. All the benefits of independence and self-reliance, etc., for your child - and a gradual, baby steps approach for your wife as she gets comfortable with this routine.
May I also suggest that a phone is unnecessary due to the fact that every single other person already has a phone. Further, bad actors will likely assume your daughter has a phone. It's classically selfish behavior but you can piggyback on the (telephone) safety net that everyone else has already constructed. I know from voluminous personal experience that everyone, everywhere, is happy to use their phone to help your child. Just make sure she memorizes your phone numbers :)
Suspect they already trust their child enough to not need to follow her at all. She's capable. The concern is unforeseen events outside the child's control such as irresponsible drivers, bullies, or worse. None of which is any less likely to happen after you stop following the child.
They're not likely to ever happen, and the child's independence is probably worth the risk, but there's no way to ever completely eliminate those risks or put your mind completely at ease about it.
Following the child after apparently granting freedom would be a massive breach of trust: bad enough on its own, but potentially very scarring if discovered. Don't add that risk!
As for the phone, you're right if you only think of the phone as somehow protecting against stranger danger. But as someone who lives alone with health problems I think of the phone entirely differently: it's a lifeline to all kinds of potential help, from a medical emergency to being locked out of my car or apartment building. And of course not only in that direction; it works the other way too where having my phone means I can be a point of contact for help for others. This is obviously a somewhat new aspect of our society in the past 20 years, and I'm certainly not saying we couldn't get along without it; but I am asking, "why would you want to go back to a time before these universal lifelines?".
I know that's still a walk-back from what previous generations enjoyed, but it's not that different from what we both experienced at this age in the 90s. And in parallel to this, we've put a fair bit into teaching our kids to navigate on foot, use public transportation, and safely ride their bikes on the road— all of it an investment in pre-car/non-car teenage autonomy.
In my neighborhood the street is literally full of neighborhood kids almost every day, ranging from 2-3 years old to teens, out riding bikes and playing games. There's a park a few blocks away that my kids (3yo-10yo) walk or bike to unsupervised.
Obviously as a parent you still worry - for me I worry more about someone getting hit by a car than being abducted - but it's nice to know at least that child services isn't going to show up just because the kids are out playing.
That said I'm with you on her walking to the park.
Might I suggest looking into one of those cell phone watches for kids. They allow you to lock down who they can send and receive calls/messages from and have gps and geofencing so you can keep an eye on them. It basically allows you to give them the advantages of a phone, without having to give them a phone.
I don't like giving cell phones to kids younger than 12 or 13 because childhood should be free of a lot of the technology we use today.
The future is technology. You're holding them back, socially and technology skills wise, if you wait until they're 13 to give them a cell phone.
I was fixing computers and was generally the house technology expert well before I was 13. To get to that point required unrestricted access to tech and the internet. If I was locked down until 13, I would not be as successful as I am today in tech, if I was in tech at all.
As an adult, I'm proud of my technical accomplishments. But having no social anxiety, because I learned how to communicate face to face throughout my childhood, has been the biggest boon of all. Not joking.
 I feel I should also add that not getting in to tech until already a teen has never felt like a deficit, or that I was starting behind anyone else. On the contrary, the non-virtual skills that came from playing with physical things like lincoln logs, tinkertoys, building models with friends, etc. gave me a intuition of how the world works that has helped me a great deal in getting my head around the nature of more virtual structures.
Where in the world did you pull this out from?
I remember being 9 and riding my bike miles away to the mall and back. Kids can't do that anymore.
More realistically you are often balancing a high harm, low risk (sometime tiny, eg abduction) event against a low harm, high risk one. This is inherently difficult, but easier I think when framed this way.
You can call her. The watch auto-answers, so she can't ignore it. She can call 5 pre-programmed numbers.
And you can see her location in an app.