Cool or crazy: mum wants to loosen apron strings
LENORE SKENAZY takes her two sons to the park and leaves them there. They can meet other kids, perhaps even find their own way home. They play outside alone and walk to school unaccompanied.
While most parents are stuck in high gear, Ms Skenazy is on a crusade for cruise control.
In her home country she was dubbed ''America's worst mom'' after making a controversial decision in 2008 to drop her nine-year-old son in downtown Manhattan to take the subway home alone.
Others may have resented the epithet. Skenazy, a columnist and author, started a movement called Free Range Kids, urging parents to teach their children independence and social skills by loosening the reins.
''Why do we behave as if ordinary life is dangerous and treat our children as invalids?'' she will ask an audience at the Opera House for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas on Sunday.
We live in safe times.
Crime rates in Australia are dropping. Kidnappings and abductions have not risen in the past decade.
''But we treat each excursion of our child's as possibly the last these days. You can almost see the headlines on the news and when you do, you say it's not worth it and you scuttle your plans to let them walk to school alone or let them go to the pool with a friend.''
Fears of public liability have crippled freedom. The availability of 24-hour news has propelled ''missing child'' stories such as that of English toddler Madeleine McCann into lounge rooms and psyches around the world.
Then there's the obsession with being the best parent one can be.
''Walking to school is so simple, it gets kids alert for the day, it keeps them fit and it frees you up in the morning but anything that makes parent's lives easier is supposedly selfish,'' she says.
''Overparenting is equated to good parenting but by keeping our children from the 'everydayness' of life we've taken away the chance of them noticing something on their own or interacting with someone on their own.''
She's either the coolest mum or the craziest.
Plenty of parents have told her she's the latter. Her son's subway trip unleashed a flood of responses ranging from accusations of child abuse to fond recollections of getting lost in the bush and embarking on train trips.