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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Angelina Jolie gives kid a knife (and you should too)



Jolie In the upcoming November issue of W, Angelina Jolie talks about sharing her love of knives with her son, letting 7 year old Maddox buy daggers. She emphasizes that the knife blades are dulled so they’re not dangerous, and that the purchases are accompanied by discussions about violence. Still, some horrified blog moms are aghast. It doesn't help that there's always a creepy undertone to Jolie's fixation on sharp objects. She wore a vial of Billy Bob Thorton's blood around her neck and has been open about her past as a cutter, someone who deliberately draws blood as a way of dealing with emotional trauma.

The idea of handing over a hack saw to a first grader may seem out there. But some far less wackadoo parents say it's a good thing to let your kids do dangerous stuff like use a knife, build a fire or ride their bike alone to school. It gives you a chance to teach them how to spot the dangers and how to dodge them. In other words, how to grow up.

Knife Gever Tulley is the founder of The Tinkering School, a summer program where kids are provided with and encouraged to explore, build things and learn about danger. He has a short video here where he makes the case that children should make a fire, own a pocket knife, throw a spear, deconstruct appliances and drive a car. He thinks we are cutting off kids from valuable opportunities to learn how to be creative, confident and in control of the environment with all our hovering and cushioned table corners.

Subway Then if you are really in a mood for some lecturing about helicopter parents, check out Free Range Kids. This site was founded by the New York writer who let her 9 year old take the subway home alone armed with only a subway map, a MetroCard, a $20 bill and several quarters in case he had to make a call (she didn't want him to lose her cell phone).  The outrage was thunderous. Read her essay on why she did it and what the backlash was like to get an eye opener.

I have to admit to my own helicopter tendencies, which first got challenged when the Cub Scouts wanted my second grader to get a pocket knife and learn how to build a fire. That's when I realized all the "dangerous" things I did as a kid, like walk to school in second grade, babysit at age 11, and ride a bike all over the neighborhood when I was 8.

I can't say I'm entirely easing up yet, but I'm trying. I think I can let my 10 year old stay home alone while I run to the store. I let him ride his bike around the neighborhood unattended. He has a pocketknife. But I'm not letting him loose on public transportation and no way, no how is he getting the keys to my car, even when he does have a license.

-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:57am]


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