Friday, March 8, 2013

Lenore Skenazy's PEP Talk Nearly Made Me Pee My Pants

Lenore Skenazy at PEP Talks in Vancouver, 7 March 2013
Last night I went to see Lenore Skenazy, aka "America's Worst Mom" speak at the Vancouver Playhouse, the first in the Parenting Education Program Talks. Before the 'educational' part makes you think it was one of those dry workshops where you're struggling to keep your eyes open, even though you know it's supposed to be important, let me tell you it was immensely entertaining.

Lenore is a syndicated columnist who lives in New York City & she first became famous--well, infamous might be a better word--when she wrote a column about allowing her 9-year-old son to take the subway home. Alone. In New York City. (cue ominous music) After her column came out, the barrage of interview requests from the likes of the Today Show & even the Howard Stern Show surprised her. Her son had asked to take the subway by himself & she felt comfortable allowing it, as he'd been riding these trains all his life. What was the big deal?

After becoming a media sensation & being christened "America's Worst Mom", she soon realized her
common-sense approach to parenting--allowing kids to take on responsiblity when they're ready, rather than protecting them from everything all the time forever--was worth writing a book about. She authored Free Range Kids in 2010 & it's become a best-seller. I read the book a year or two ago & I really agree with her perspective. It's by allowing kids to explore & learn about the world that they become safer. Street smarts can only be learned on the streets, right?

Lenore's high-energy talk jumped around in a way that she claimed was a result of downing a large Starbucks before taking the stage. Like her writing, in person she's approachable & funny, with a liberal dose of stream-of-consciousness digressions in her narrative. Through anecdotes that had the audience nearly in tears from laughter, she lambasted the irrational fears that we have as a society over the safety of our children.

Though fear of abduction by stranger is her biggest target, she also pullled several dubious safety products out of her purse to question their validity. I have to say, my favourite was the rubber ducky bath thermometer--c'mon parents, you know the one--that will say "HOT!" on the bottom if the bathwater is too warm for baby. The best part was when she asked an audience member to read out a line from the packaging, telling parents that they must test the water with their hands before ever putting a child in the bath. A product that explains its own redundancy!

Lenore's talk & her book, Free Range Kids, is what parents need. She lays out in words her common-sense attitude toward child-rearing without prescriptive tips or fear-mongering. She reminds us that crime rates are at an all-time low & raising children to fear strangers will not keep them safer.

As I mentioned earlier, PEP Talks is a series: there are three more yet to come, featuring Dr. Sheryl
Feinstein on "The Adolescent Brain" April 10, Deborah MacNamara & "The Lost Art of Play" May 15, then Lisa Bloom on "Raising Smart Kids in the New Millennium". Tickets are $35 per event, available online on the PEP Talks website, with proceeds going to support the Vancouver International Children's Festival.

*Disclaimers: I was given free tickets to see Lenore to help promote the series. Also, the link to Free Range Kids is an affiliate link.

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