Tonight I’m letting my son Nick and his best friend, Max, go to a Yankees game by themselves for the first time. This involves an hour-long train ride from our hometown to the Yankee Stadium stop in the Bronx; then they’ll have to walk about eight blocks to the actual stadium, find their way to their seats, buy themselves dinner and, most important, keep in touch with my husband and me so we can find them in the massive crowd when we come to pick them up (we aren’t quite ready to let them navigate the late-night commute home). In all, they’ll be on their own for about six hours—though, of course, among 50,000+ other fans they won’t technically be alone. I’m nervous, but I know that as smart, sensible, newly minted 14-year-olds Nick and Max need to begin experiencing independence. In fact, Nick got the idea to go to the game sans parents from Executive Editor Darcy Jacobs’ son Matthew. Here’s her story:
When my 13-year-old recently had no school on a weekday, he asked if he could go to a Mets game. I just thought he was being typically obtuse (and sports crazed).
“Dad and I have work.”
“I meant by myself.”
“You don’t have a ticket. Plus, how will you get there?”
“I’ll buy one at the box office. And I’ll take the subway—I’ve done it enough times with you.”
My husband and I looked at each other, finding no other reason why not except our own parental hesitation. His calm and confidence were too convincing to argue against. He was ready, so we had to be too. The next day we walked him through all our rules—text when you get the ticket, text when you’re at the seat, text when you’re heading back to the subway. And be aware. And keep your phone out of sight on the subway. And stay away from anyone drinking. Basically I reminded him of everything except to look both ways before crossing. The texts arrived on schedule: Got tix. At seat. Having fun. Nice pple. Heding home.
He returned unusually chatty and elated, eager to share his adventure: He was shocked by the food prices because he actually paid attention to them, and self-upgraded his seat. While the day was not totally perfect—the Mets lost—it was a true success. For him, the momentousness of the day will fade, just one of the many steps he will start taking alone. For us, though, it was a milestone equal to a first word. He has begun his trek toward adulthood.
I hope Nick and Max get as much out of their solo adventure as Matthew did—that will give me more confidence to okay future unsupervised outings. Wondering if your child is ready to handle a bit more freedom? Read “Benefits of Free-Range Parenting," from our July issue, for more anecdotes and expert advice.
Have you had a similar experience with your kid? Please share in the comments below.
Linda Fears is editor in chief of Family Circle magazine.