Subway Separation Anxiety

We use the subway almost daily, and I feel like we’ve got the basics down.  Roan knows to duck under the turnstile (WHAT?!  Look, I don’t really know at what point I’m going to feel like I should pay for him but likely that epiphany will happen when a Transit Cop or helpful Burgundy-Vested worker takes me to jail or gives me the stink-eye.  Until then, you know – don’t see something, don’t say something!)  Roan also knows the F track line better than most people, and I’d wager that if you pointed him to the F line from any point in the city, he could find his way home.


But would he?


Lately I’ve wondered what would happen if we did not stand clear of the closing doors in the same place.  More specifically, if I was on one side and he were on the other.  I wonder this because it happened to my sister and her daughter when they first moved here.  My niece was around eight years old when it happened.  An alert stranger who noticed the doors separate mother and child came to the rescue, and they were reunited shortly thereafter with the police’s help.  I’m careful about keeping my boy near me but there have been times where Roan runs ahead, or otherwise escapes my grip.  I know, shocking behavior for a five-year-old. 


I feel it would be irresponsible of me not to talk to Roan about this – to give him some guidance about what to do if we get separated, but I’m not sure what to tell him.  Any ideas?


40 responses to “Subway Separation Anxiety

  1. My suggestion is thatyou purchase one a prepaid cell phone and program your # in.Just give it to him to carry in his pocket when you leave your home.Imagine how cool he will think it is that he has his own phone when you leave the house. It will give you peace of mine

  2. Joe the tour guide

    Jodi, Here is the plan my parents worked out. We never had to use it but it is based on the child remaining stationary. A) if you leave your child behind on the plattform they are to go directly to the token booth, inform the personal and wait Your job: get back to the station. B) If your child is whisked away by thr train leaving you on the station, they are to get off at the very next stop and find the token booth and wait there for you to come to them. In either case if there is no token booth they are to wait on the outside side of the turnstyles. C) try not to feel too guilty about the deep and lasting abandonment issue you’ve now created in your child.Joe

  3. At last I have a comment! I don’t have any unique or original ideas, but this article about a mom who let her son ride the subway alone might be helpful. just because we’re on the topic of kids and subways, you should check out this nytimes blog entry.

  4. Hahahahaha… I asked my oldest, when he was four, ‘what would you do if someone tried to take you?’ His response, ‘stab him in the neck.’ Freaky, right? So I reminded him he wasn’t tall enough… ‘Stab him in the knee.’ Reminded him he didnt have a knife, ‘find a knife, and…’ YOU AREN’T GOING TO FIND A KNIFE! ‘Oh, I dunno?!’Bottom line is you just have to clue him in that there are some people in this world that just suck. You have to point them in the right direction so, God forbid it happens, they know what to do.Lost? Find a policeman or a clerk at a store, etc. Someone trying to take you away? Scream and kick like a banshee, draw as much attention to yourself as you can, no matter what they tell you!Question: Isn’t it sad we’ve got to have this conversation?

  5. Talk him through it. Then act it out. i.e. pretend that you got off and he was all by himself and you follow him close behind and let him play it out.My experience is that I would trust Roan totally asmy guide on the F train. Amazing child!

  6. Tattoo! or sharpie every day! or really strong magnets! xoxooxxoxo don’t get the chip, though.

  7. I was on a subway platform when I saw a tourist family accidentally leave their child on the train. Watching the horror on their faces as they realized what happened was one of the scariest things ever. The dad realized it just as the doors were closing and he was just screaming, hitting the train as it pulled out. The attendant called the next station and they stopped the train there til that clerk could retrieve the kid and keep him there for the parents. Make sure your kid always has an ID with your name and phone numbers, I guess.

  8. Make sure your kids know your cell number and know how to dial it on their own. I always tell my son to find a mom with a baby and let them know you need help before going to a “guard” or officer. It is also important to have a general plan ( for the train, wait for me at the next station or stay put and I’ll come back) that you remind your children of every time you are in a place where they can potentially be separated from you.

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