Smartmom pulled a Skenazy. Big time. She let the 12-year-old Oh So Feisty One and her friend, Luvbud, who is just 11-1/2, take the F train to Coney Island.
Take that, Lenore Skenazy! Smartmom let her 12-year-old daughter ride all the way from Park Slope to Stillwell Avenue. To paraphrase Talking Heads, “This ain’t no party. This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no fooling around on the 6 train from Bloomingdale’s.”
This all goes back to when newspaper columnist Lenore Skenazy became Parent Public Enemy Number One when she let her 9-year-old take the subway from Bloomingdale’s to their Upper East Side home.
She dared to write about it, and the ensuing hysteria landed Skenazy on all the talk shows defending her seemingly indefensible position. She even got a book contract — all because she let her little baby (just a few years out of Mommy and Me classes!) ride the subway. She must be chastised! She’s worse than that woman who drowned her kids in the tub!
Until Smartmom, that is.
On this glorious July day, Smartmom was already in Coney Island visiting her friend at a rehabilitation hospital on Surf Avenue when she arranged to meet the girls at the subway station. It all went perfectly well: the girls arrived without incident and, with Smartmom, they walked to the Boardwalk.
The girls wanted to ride the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone and do whatever else girls like to do in Coney Island. And of course, they didn’t want Smartmom around. So Smartmom told them that she’d “disappear” for an hour so that they could be by themselves.
“We’ll meet in front of ‘Shoot the Freak’ at 4:15,” she told them.
Smartmom sat in a Peruvian chicken stand on the Boardwalk, ate an avocado salad and read “Crime and Punishment” while the girls lollygagged around what’s left of Coney Island.
At 4:15, Smartmom met up with them at “Shoot the Freak” and did Skenazy one better. She told them that they could stay in Coney Island until 5:30 and that they were allowed to take the F train home.
All by themselves.
“And remember, don’t talk to strangers — even ones who seem really nice,” she said.
Smartmom went back to Park Slope for her weekly therapy appointment. She kept checking her cell phone to see if there were any texts.
When she came out of therapy, she texted OSFO, “Are you coming home now?”
No text this time, just a call.
“We missed our stop,” OSFO said.
“Where are you?” Smartmom asked with growing panic.
“I don’t know,” OSFO said.
“Well, read a street sign or something,” Smartmom said with agitation in her voice.
“We’re at East Broadway and Rutgers Street,” she said.
“You’re in Chinatown in Manhattan. Get on the train going back to Brooklyn,” Smartmom told them.
“We only have one ride left on the Metrocard.”
“Explain what happened to the person in the token booth!”
Smartmom patted herself on the back for that one — that is, until she heard from them a couple of minutes later.
“Can someone pick us up?” OSFO asked.
Smartmom figured that they were probably too shy to ask the token person for a free ride. The girls were standing outside of the East Broadway F-train station. They didn’t sound scared. There was no crying or fear in their voices.
“I’m really proud of you. You’re handling this situation very well,” she told her girl.
Luvbud called her mom, who drove into the city to pick them up.
Later, Smartmom asked OSFO how they missed their stop.
“We were very distracted,” OSFO told her. “And then we realized that we’d been on the train for a long time and we got off at East Broadway. It’s good we got off there, wasn’t it?”
Smartmom knew that the whole thing was a good experience — a teaching moment as they call them. They experienced one of the many “worst-case scenarios” of the New York subway system and lived to tell the tale. They’d missed their stop and realized it wasn’t the end of the world — if you’ve got a cellphone and a bunch of parents willing to pick you up, that is.
Still, Smartmom was proud. Her daughter and her friend were real troupers. They didn’t panic, they didn’t freak out. They used their cellphones and some common sense. Next time, they’d pay closer attention to the subway stops. And now they were ready to conquer the world. By subway or otherwise.
Smartmom was pleased in the end — pleased at her daughter and pleased that she’d given Skenazy a reason to be a bit jealous of her free-range city kid.