Saturday, May 10, 2008
Why I let my 13-Year-Old Ride the Colectivo (Bus) Alone
A lot has been made of the mom who let her 9-year-old son ride the NY city subway by himself. Her editorial in a NY newspaper (Why I let my 9-Year-Old ride the Subway Alone) has generated a lot of talk among parents all over the globe.
Some praise her while others vilify her has the worst parent on the planet. Shocked by the article at first, I found myself agreeing with the author's main point—We as a society have gotten too protective of our kids due to an irrational fear of crime. You can read more about her thoughts on her blog: Free Range Kids.
The crime per capita against children has gone down over the decades since the 60's. Only the perception of crime has gone up because of the 24-hour wall-to-wall news coverage of isolated crimes against children.
I often get asked by other parents if BA is a "safe" city for children. I think it is. But like any large city you have to take precautions. My biggest fear is that my kids will be run over by a car or bus while crossing a street.
However, for the most part we feel much safer than if we were living in Downtown Dallas or Houston with our children. There is no question to me that it is safer here than living in NY or San Francisco. This could be because crime is way under reported here.
I spend a great deal of time each day escorting my kids to school events. My son goes to a "jardin" or kindergarden for 3 hours each day. My daughter spends time between homeschooling at a friends house and various other classes around town. That is a lot of time on the bus going back and forth.
My oldest had been bugging me to let her ride the bus home from our Spanish class. As a parent, I was worried that she did not have the street smarts to figure out where she was and know where to get off.
Finally, a good friend just said you got to let them make mistakes. They will never be 100% ready to venture out on their own in a parents eyes. Only by making mistakes will they figure things out on their own and grow.
So the other day she had to get back early for a doctors appointment which would mean that I would have to miss my hour of Spanish class. I gave in and let her go back on her own. I was worried the whole time and made her text me when she got on, passed the midway point and got off.
It was a success. She walked straight to the bus stop, go on, and rode across town and got off right where she was suppose to. She was surprised at how easy it was. She now has much more confidence and a sense of independence.
Would you let your thirteen-year-old ride the bus on her own? In the US I wouldn't even think of letting her. Here everyone takes the bus. Our route from Spanish class is often filed with kids as young as 9 leaving school on their own.
When we ask friends that live in the city of Buenos Aires, everyone agrees about how safe it is and that she needs to be independent by taking the bus to where she wants to go.
However, if you ask wealthier Porteños and expats in the northern suburbs, they react in shock at such a thought. Hell, my daughter's friends in the northern suburbs aren't even allowed in the city for fear they will be kidnapped. We always have to send her in a hired car out to the suburbs to see them.
What are your thoughts? How safe is BA for a thirteen-year-old?