The World's Worst Mom?

06/17/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Out of the blue, I've become a lightning rod in the parenting wars. Mention my story and millions of people not only know about it, they have a very strong opinion about it, and me, and my parenting skills - or utter, shameful lack thereof.

Here's how it happened.

In April I wrote a column for the newspaper I work for, the New York Sun, entitled "Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride The Subway Alone". I explained that my younger son, Izzy, had been begging me to let him try to find his way home on his own from somewhere - anywhere - by subway. Here in New York City we're on public transport all the time. Moreover, despite what you see in the movies, it's safe. Not only is New York not among the 10 most dangerous cities in America, it's not even in the top 100. When it comes to crimes per capita, New York is 136th on the list - almost pathetically civil. Our murder rate is back where it was in 1963.

That's why letting Izzy find his way home alone just seemed like a fun idea. Not dangerous. Not crazy. Not even very hard. My husband agreed.

So on that sunny Sunday, I took the boy to a big, bright Manhattan department store - Bloomingdale's - and left him in ladies' handbags.


I didn't leave him defenceless, of course. I gave him a subway map, a transit card and $20 in case of emergencies. I also gave him some change to make a call. But here's the thing I have yet to hear the end of: I did not give him a mobile phone.

It's not just that I think mobile phones turn even grown-ups into babies (always checking in, always asking permission to eat a KitKat before dinner). It's also that while I very much trusted my son to get himself home, I was less sure he'd get the phone there. Who wants to lose a phone?

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