Infant mortality is down, violent crime against kids is at one of the lowest rates in decades, and there hasn't been a single -- not one! -- documented case of poisoned Halloween candy. Ever. So why are today's parents so crazy about keeping their kids safe?

It's this question that journalist Lenore Skenazy, "America's Worst Mom," attempts to answer in her book, "Free-Range Kids" (Jossey-Bass, 2009). Skenazy earned her nickname -- and media notoriety -- when she let her 9-year-old son take the subway home to Manhattan from Bloomingdale's. When she wrote a newspaper column about the experience, she was inundated with media requests as well as input from parents everywhere, most of whom told her she was neglectful and downright evil for not keeping her brood tied more tightly to her apron strings. Skenazy held her ground and a blog -- and a movement -- were born.

In "Free-Range Kids," Skenazy attempts to debunk many of the myths that 21st century parents take as gospel: That their kids will be abducted if they walk to school. That everyone is out to kidnap them. That the playground -- and childhood in general -- is a dangerous place. And, perhaps most importantly, that we as parents can control our kids' world, allowing them to grow up safe, and pain-free.

Unfortunately, we cannot cushion the world completely for our children. And even if we could, it would do them a disservice, says Skenazy. Knees are there to be skinned, feelings are there to be hurt, and kids are there to grow up -- and away from us. In order for them to become fully-functioning members of society (and someday cross the street by themselves), they need to grow into independence, a little bit at a time. 

"Control," writes Skenazy, "is a figment of our imagination. Seeking it only makes us more anxious. It certainly isn't required for good child rearing. And to the extent that we do manage to solve all our children's problems -- or keep those problems from ever even popping up -- we are doing them a disservice. Not a fatal one that will stunt our children forever. But still, we are steering them away from the real source of confidence and independence, which comes from navigating the world and its surprises. Especially the unpleasant ones."

Wherever you are in your parenting journey, Skenazy's book will provide a great deal of comfort and more than a little common sense. She also offers steps to help you untie the umbilical cord. If you're not quite ready to hand Junior a pocketful of quarters and a subway pass, you can still drop him off a block from school and let him walk the rest of his way on his own. And if even that's too big a step for you, you can follow him -- from a distance.