How young is too young to ride alone?
Lenore Skenazy started a national debate when she wrote a column about allowing her 9-year-old son Izzy to ride the subway alone. Now she's started a website and is touting a parenting philosophy called "Free Range Kids."
"At Free Range Kids, we believe in safe kids," she writes on the site. "We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts. We do NOT believe that every time school-age children go outside, they need a security detail."
His solo status upset a conductor who called the police, reports the New York Times. Izzy tried to explain he had done this before, and he even got his mom on his cell phone, but the conductor refused to speak to her. Finally a policeman did get on the line. By this point Lenore was getting a little frantic -- not that Izzy was in any danger riding alone, but that a zealous cop could actually mean her son could be taken from her.
She explained to the officer that she had checked with the railroad information booth the first time the boy had taken this very ride and asked, "What age is a child allowed to ride alone?" The agent had said that there was no specific age, but agreed that 10 "sounded good, if there was someone waiting at the other end."
Her story continues:
"The police officer listened and agreed this sounded reasonable. He said as much to the conductor and the boss and they got back on the train. My son was free to go. The policeman wished me a 'Merry Christmas.'"
"But if I had been given a summons as a delinquent parent, or hauled into family court, or had my child had been taken away from me," says Lenore, "this would not have been very merry at all."
As it turns out, the MTA, which runs the LIRR and Metro-North railroads, does have a written policy about minimum traveler age on their Web site -- "They have to be 8 or older."
At what age would you let your child ride the train alone?