A couple of weeks ago, the Toronto Star printed an article about a father in Vancouver, who allowed four of his children, ages seven to 11, to take public transit to school. The father, Adrian Crook, told the paper that he spent two years “training” his children to take the 45-minute public transit trip, from the stop right outside his condo to the stop right outside their school. His kids, he said, always travel with a cell phone that he can track.
But then—cue the judgment—the story blew up. Not only did Crook receive a call from the Children’s Ministry, who told him that a “tip had been received about the kids taking transit alone and that an investigation would follow.” And one did.
“It was pretty shocking,” Crook admitted. “I just kind of hoped that they would see the bigger picture.”
The bigger picture, he says, is that he wants his kids to take the bus because it’s “safer” and “more sustainable” than driving and “crucially, it teaches them independence.”
The bigger controversy, in the parenting world, was this question: at what age can you leave your children unsupervised, especially when it comes to travelling alone? The problem is, all provinces have different rules, and none will come out and say EXACTLY at what age you can leave your child on their own. I think most parents know their children’s strengths and weaknesses and I don’t think anyone should judge another person’s decision on what they will or will not allow them to do.
I really felt for this Dad. He seems like a stand-up guy and a good father, who simply doesn’t want his kids to rely on him for everything as they grow older.
But I had to ask myself: does that make me a bad mother because I send my children off in an Uber?
Twice in the last week, I sent my almost 14-year-old daughter in an Uber, along with my friend’s son, who is a year older than her. Both my mother friend and I, who shipped our kids off to a trampoline park via Uber, did discuss if we felt comfortable doing this or not. We both agreed that as long as our kids were being sent to a contained place, and texted us when they got there, we were just fine with it.
Welcome to the modern world of carpooling, where parents are now sending their kids to and from hockey practices, concerts, and parties in Ubers.
We’re definitely not the first mothers to ship our kids off in an Uber. Just check out this Washington Post report on parents shuttling their kids to and from after-school activities if you don’t believe me. You might think we’re too lazy to do both drop-off and pick-up, but sometimes it’s plain impossible to drive two kids to two different places when they have activities at the same time.
In fact, another mother friend sends her 14-year-old daughter off to dance class in an Uber every Wednesday.
I recently sent my daughter to a party in an Uber with another one of her friends. If I feel confident with this modern and (I think) super convenient way to get my teenager to and from somewhere, does that make me a bad parent? Many of you probably would think so. I don’t. When my daughter travels alone in an Uber, I’m usually on the phone talking to her, or texting her non-stop.
Yes, it may seem like a more scary world out there than when we were kids—but isn’t sending my daughter in an Uber with a vetted driver actually safer than her using public transit? I think so.
My daughter is about to turn fourteen. I was riding the subway, bus, and streetcar when I was 12. And that was before the time of iPhones or any other way of getting in touch with my parents barring a pay phone. Did they worry? I’m not sure. Because as long as I made it home in time for dinner or curfew, they didn’t seem to care how I got to back.
Mariana Brussoni, a population and public health professor at the University of British Columbia, also said in the article that the case of the Vancouver father highlights how social expectations for parents have changed drastically.
“You wouldn’t in a million years dream of, 20 years ago, this sort of story happening…Nobody raised an eyebrow when kids were walking to school or taking the bus or getting themselves around.”
Like Crook, I’ve also ‘trained’ my daughter in how to take public transportation, as well as how to take an Uber and use the app. My daughter knows how to get to the hairdressers by herself by bus, to school by bus, to Yorkdale mall by subway. It’s great for my daughter’s confidence, plus, it makes her feel independent.
I’m with the Vancouver father on this one. If he’s comfortable with sending his children off on their own, why not let him raise his kids without judgement? Whoever the tipster was, which lead to an investigation of his parenting, should have given these kids (and the Dad) the benefit of the doubt.
Along with Uber Eats, there should be UberKids. In reality, this is how many modern kids are getting around these days. But that doesn’t mean I’m throwing caution to the wind. I make sure to give my daughter’s Uber driver a look that says, “I can pick your face out of a line-up if I have to.” I also take a photo of Uber Driver’s licence plate (as does my daughter on her return journey). Plus, I won’t be sending her anywhere in a cab. With Uber, you can track exactly where your child is, how far away from their destination they are, and how long it will take them to get back to your home.
All kids should be ‘trained’ in getting around on their own, especially on public transit. Otherwise, we’re going to have a generation of parents who still drive their kids around to their jobs after University.
Clearly, I’m not a helicopter parent. But I am an Uber parent.