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Helicopter Nanny: Safeguarding Kids Means Suspecting All Strangers

caregiving, new york city metro

Is a subway full of strangers putting travelling children at risk?

In the past couple of years, the media has been pretty relentless toward helicopter parents, those over-protective moms and dads who see childhood danger in every toy box, around every corner. These helicopter moms and dads constantly circle the preschool, land frequently and unannounced during the K-12 years. They even hover at college and baby’s first job interview.

The stories are always extreme, but they’ve made the rest of us pledge never to be that way.

But the helicopter parent paranoia has apparently spun out of control and reached non-mom caregivers. There’s a new pilot in town and she’s the helicopter nanny.

Over at Mommyish, a nanny confesses how scared she is to take children on the New York City subway. “It’s not the platform that frightens me when I’m shuttling children or the open tracks; it’s sharing close quarters with people I don’t know or trust,” she writes in the latest installment of Confessions of a Governess.

Here’s what worries her when she’s riding the subway with her charges:

I admit, one of the reasons I harbor so much anxiety about riding the train with kids is that it makes me feel so powerless. When I’m watching kids, I take on the responsibility knowing that anything can happen but with solid preparation. I like to know where the nearest hospital is, memorize the names of neighbors, always bring my phone charger, and get the full run down of allergies prior to helping the parents out the door. The unthinkable may occur, but my being prepared could ultimately keep the little ones safe.

But riding the train with kids forces me to acknowledge that so much of that ride is out of my control. There is no way for me to know the history of the individuals getting on or off, nor do I know if they’re merely pressing up against us because it’s crowded. And as a young woman transporting children on my own, these are factors that induce nothing but worry.

This subway paranoia kind of brings the helicopter parenting/caregiving issue full circle. Several years ago, Lenore Skenazy let her 9-year-old son ride home alone on the subway and was skewered for being so irresponsible. Her blog, Free-Range Kids, chronicles the ridiculousness of trying to protect our kids from every possible — and yet terribly, terribly unlikely — risk they face just by leaving the front door.

Look, what mom wouldn’t want a nanny who cares enough about her kids to want to ensure their safety? Still, the subway is a safe way to get around the city.

Are you scared to take your kids on public transportation?

Photo: pagedooley via flickr

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