Readers — Here is great news! Do you remember the two lacrosse players who were found guilty last year of carrying dangerous weapons because they had in their gym bags two small knives and a lighter — items they used to repair their lacrosse gear? Well, unbelievably, their case has been reversed!! This, says the Washington Post, despite the fact the officials were STILL saying:
Dear Readers — Couldn’t help but post about this story, as it reminds us of the folly, no, the insanity of Worst-First Thinking. It’s a short letter, posted on Reddit, by a guy who saved a boy from drowning. When he got the kid to shore, the mom came screaming to leave her son alone!
Imagine if he’d done as she suggested. – L.
Hi Readers: Not to sound too cynical, but today’s New York Post carried a big story about the Etan Patz case — a blonde boy who disappeared 33 years ago, whose case was recently re-opened in the hopes of finally nailing the perp. (Alas, that didn’t happen.) Eleven tabloid pages later, there’s a much smaller story about a 7-year-old boy whose alleged killer is on trial right now.
The 7-year-old boy has an Oscar-winning aunt. He also has an uncle and grandma who were shot dead, most likely by the same killer. But despite three deaths, a famous relative, and a current trial, this story does not rise to the level of the Patz case, at least in The Post. Why not? I believe there are three reasons.
1 – To be fair, the 7-year-old, Julian King, was in Chicago, and Patz was a New Yorker. So for the NY Post, Patz is a local story. But then there are two other facts.
2 – The 7-year-old was not blonde, he was African-American.
3 – He was not abducted by a stranger. He was (again, allegedly) shot by his mom’s ex-boyfriend.
To be really REALLY cynical (and realistic), I have to add that I don’t think there’s any way the story of the murdered 7-year-old would have made it into the papers beyond Chicago, had it not been for the fact that his aunt is actress Jennifer Hudson.
When the media decide which stories are “big,” they go for the tried-and-true narrative they know the best — the shocker that sells the most papers: A middle-class child, usually white, abducted by a stranger. Those are the stories that go national, even international That’s what the dramas on TV show, too.
And we wonder why “stranger-danger” is uppermost in parents’ minds. (Or, actually, we don’t.) – L.
Hi Readers — Just got this letter from “Steph in Minneapolis.” Loved it. You will, too. – L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: On Saturday afternoon, the neighbor kids rang the bell and off ran our almost 8-year-old daughter to wander the block, chalking sidewalks and digging worms. Then we stood in the kitchen and talked about Etan Patz. The unthinkable happened, for that family lightening did strike and as parents we can’t imagine their pain.
For us though, the solution is not tying our daughter to our apron strings. It is teaching her to listen to her gut and giving her permission to take any course of action that makes her feel safe. She asked me once, what if an adult makes me feel uncomfortable and I kick them and run away but it wasn’t the right thing? I said, taking care of a problem like that is a mom job. You just do what you think is right at the time. Being confident and empowered is not a guarantee that she will be safe, but on some level you have to count on lightening not striking or you’d never leave your house.
We live on a busy city street with lots of car traffic in a working class urban neighborhood. There is a lot to look out for, and it means that our daughter’s range is smaller than ours was at her age, but she does spend most of her weekend out of our sight and I am glad for that. It’s called having a childhood.
After our talk in the kitchen on Saturday, I admit it, I peeked outside to see where DD was, and I called her to come home immediately. Why?
The kids were riding bikes without helmets and I made her come home for hers. The risk of a head injury from biking, while still tiny, is much larger than the risk of being abducted off the street.
Of course, she rolled her eyes at me and declared that I am “overprotective.” :-). Then she went out to ride some more, and I let her. — Steff
Hi Readers — By now I’m sure you’ve heard of new leads in the Etan Patz case, the missing child case that may have marked the beginning of our obsession with stranger-danger. Now comes this “follow up” in Psychology Today, of all places, reminding parents to be worried all the time about abduction.
As if this fear had slipped most parents’ minds. As if it’s helpful for anyone to focus on the idea of their children being murdered. As if stranger-danger is even a valid concept, considering that the vast majority of crimes against children are committed by people they know.
It is SO EASY to send parents into a tailspin of terror by mentioning the Patz case. I’m one of them. That’s why I try not to think about it too much. Not out of any “denial.” Just out of emotional self-preservation, which in turn allows me to preserve my children’s freedom.
At some point I’ll address the latest iteration of this stranger-danger obsession of ours: A recent magazine show featuring a creepy ice cream man trying to lure children into his clutches. The idea that there are any non-psychopathic ice cream men in America is becoming increasingly hard to grasp.
But that’s for another post. Right now, let’s just take one quick glimpse at the Psychology Today piece, by a woman named Susan Newman, who writes:
“Yes, childhood is supposed to be a period of innocence, but as long as people who prey on children exist, parents must be watchful…. Reopening the public to the Etan Patz case hopefully will caution parents to dangers sadly still present.
Leave it to others to parse why a crime that happened 33 years ago is a good way to remind parents of dangers “still present,” I’m going to go get some ice cream. (If I don’t ever post again, alert the police. And Psychology Today.) — L.