Admirably imperfect mom of the week: Lenore Skenazy
Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
You may know the infamous Lenore Skenazy as “the mother who let her nine-year-old ride the New York Subway alone!” The erstwhile New York Sun columnist was widely vilifed after she casually confessed to this in print last April. Finding herself at the center of a media storm, Skenazy defended her actions: “I let him do this because he wanted to take a trip solo, he knew how to read the map, and I had every confidence that he could find his way home.” As she put it, “The mere fact that I’d let my son out of my sight made me seem nuts to more than a few people, who wondered why didn’t I follow him, or keep checking in with a cell phone, or wait until he was 34 and balding before I let him go out on his own.”
This is a little extreme: I doubt Skenazy’s outraged critics seriously expected her to wait until her son was 34 and balding. As perfect parents, they’d naturally suggest she’d wait until he was 34 and enjoying a full head of hair, thanks to the $27,000 she’d invested in Ecuadorian scalp treatments.
I tend to support Skenazy, who went on to create a popular blog called Free-Range Kids, which evolved into a book of the same name. At nine, I’d done much more reckless things than ride a subway alone, such as water-ski without a full-body floatation device, risk public failure by joining the Youth Bowling Council, and construct a “house-plane,” that surely did not meet Federal Aviation standards, from an old shoebox.
That said, even as an admirably imperfect, funny mom, Skenazy is not entirely admirable. In the latest installment of her “Parental Fear” video series, she defends another modern mom taboo—letting kids eat raw cookie dough. When the video pans over a bunch of eggs (at 00:56), I was shocked to see that the eggs have apparently been sprayed with gold paint, much like the poor woman who costarred in the Bond film, Goldfinger, and reportedly suffered poor health after the gilt experience. Is Skenazy subliminally encouraging me to spray-paint children gold?!