Sunday, October 04, 2009

cultural perspectives

this afternoon, we put the child, age 8, on the train by herself, to go into copenhagen to see a movie. her big sister was meeting her halfway, but for half of the journey, she was all by herself on the S-train. it felt momentous both to her and to us. she was giddy with excitement and pride. when she's proud of herself and you praise her, she does the cutest little exhale through her nose, not quite a snort, but quick, heavy breath. it's one of my favorite things. she met her sister as planned, saw the movie and came home again on the train, the last half of the journey by herself. in all, a wholly successful journey. she was proud and we were proud that our little girl was so grown up.

after she left for the movie, i was thinking about how such a thing wouldn't be possible if she were growing up in the US. we'd surely have been turned in to social services for trusting our 8-year-old child to make a journey by herself on public transportation. and for a moment, i was really glad she's growing up here, where kids are trusted and so are the other people in the society around you. because in addition to us being confident that she could make the journey, we also knew that no harm would come to her on the train, especially not on a sunday afternoon.

i guess i have the US on the brain because of the IOC meeting last week in copenhagen.  as you may be aware, the IOC met in copenhagen last week to decide where the 2016 olympics will be held. with top officials, royalty, sports stars and VIPs from spain, japan, brazil and the US fronting up to campaign for their respective cities (Madrid, Tokyo, Rio and Chicago), it was a big news week for the danish t.v. stations. since oprah and michelle obama were speaking on behalf of chicago, the news was fixated on them for several days. they were only eclipsed by president obama himself coming into copenhagen for five hours on friday.

after chicago was out in the first round of voting, much to the shock of everyone, who had thought it was a dead heat between rio and chicago, oprah apparently sneaked quietly out of town, as we didn't hear anything more about her. sadly for president obama and michelle, their departure was a bit more public, as cameras were obsessively trained on air force one from the moment it landed 'til well after it was but a shining dot in the sky. however, at the time they left, the results weren't yet known.

the coverage was non-stop and it was DR's (the state-owned television station), turn to pretend they were CNN. and pretend they did. speculating like mad about who was in an unmarked white plane parked on the runway near air force one. speculating like mad about which city would win the olympics. asking danish rock stars their opinions as to who would win (as if they knew). commenting live on a big event held for the IOC members and the cities' celebrities at the copenhagen opera (without knowing more than a handful of the names of those arriving, which ended up rather embarrassing and far more comical than they meant it to). and then there was the bringing in of danes with loose connections to the obamas and oprah to the studio to comment on all of the hype. one connection was so thin that all a danish model living in the US had to offer was that her african american husband reminded her a lot of obama. i laughed quite a long time at that one. poor DR, they were totally unaccustomed to being on air nonstop and clearly struggling with the task.

i hope they learned a lot of lessons because the next big international event on the horizon is the COP15 climate meeting here in copenhagen in december and i hope at least they get a list of names of the attendees at that one, so they can at least say who people are. copenhagen will be filled with strangers then, so i don't think we'll be putting the child on the train alone.


MissBuckle said...

What a milestone for Sabin! And so good that all went well.

kristina said...

yay for Sabin :-) I remember such moments from when I was a kid - scary and exciting!

Molly said...

yup, totally could not do that here! but so glad to know that one still can in parts of the world.
sabin is one cool kid, love the description of her 'victory snort' - no one knows you quite like your parents!

Char said...

I was reading an article about this woman that has been labeled the "worst mother" and how she advocates "free range children". I was very much a free range child - I rode my bicycle all over the city. She said we are raising a generation of dependent children because children are not taught how to play safely on their own...etc.

Yay for you.

PS - the article also said crime rates are lower now than they were in the 60's...but I wonder if that is just cherry picking facts or a circular argument because of course crimes against children are lower because we watch our children closer.

christina said...

as soon as i began reading this post, my heart began to sink. i was all- she's 8, oh no! then as i continued to read your words, i was comforted, that your sweet girl was in the country she was in. i respect the country i live... but i live where i can't do this. i once watched my 14 year old son, ride down the street on his bike and began tearing up. these kids face so much. i trust him... we have a lot of work to do here, work so our children are safe. i thank you for this sweet, sweet eye opening post. i am proud of S., i am proud of you, my friend.

MLG said...

As I read your post, I was catapulted back to my own childhood. I started flying by myself at age 8. I remembered how excited I was to be doing this. Granted it was the 1970's and a one-way, non-stop flight, so I guess it was 'safer' back then.

I have shared with my children how I used to fly by myself, and they simply do not believe me. So, I shared your post with them tonight, and I think for the first time they did believe that it was possible for a child to fly alone at one point in the United States.

I am glad to know there are other parts of the world where it is still somewhat safe to allow these childhood experiences to occur.

So glad S had a wonderful experience, and so grateful you shared it with all of us.

Bee said...

The comments for this post are very thought-provoking, too. Although my daughter is 15, I know that it shocks/scares many of my American friends that she is allowed to take the train all sorts of places. Of course, in England, it is the norm.

America likes to think of itself as a "free" place, but all of those guns that citizens arm themselves with have eroded freedom -- in reality, if not in concept.

spudballoo said...

Oh the little kind of snort but isn't description is so touching. Yay for Sabin for being such a grown up lady xx

Goose said...

I'm 28 and my parents shipped me off on a plane by myself to visit my grandmother in the summers. A four hour plane ride although non stop. The flight attendants always took good care of me and my patents were always able to walk me all the way to the gate. My grandma would always be there waiting for me when I got off the plane. It's too bad things will not be that easy when I want to ship my kids off to grandmas house in the summers.