Jaycee Dugard’s Take on Overprotective Parents

Hi Folks! I am inspired by what a reader named Allison sent me on Facebook. You may be, too. — L

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’m reading Jaycee Dugard’s book “A Stolen Life.” and in it, she says:

It still scares me, the fact that I can’t protect my daughters from everything. What mother wouldn’t want to protect their child from the dangers of the world? But I have to choose to believe they will both be okay and realize that sometimes when we shelter our children too much, we are really protecting ourselves.

I don’t think anyone would ever question Jaycee for being overprotective of her children, given what she went through for 18 years, so this paragraph just really states so eloquently what many of us feel every day. — Allison

I am also struck by the fact that she frames it as a choice: She could appease her own fear by seriously constricting her daughters’ childhood, or she can live with that uneasy feeling  for the sake of letting those girls enjoy what she never got to. Kudos to a brave and generous mom.  — L.

Jaycee’s Story and the Yale Bride Who Was Murdered

Hi Readers — After the terrible story of Jaycee Dugard’s abduction and 18-year imprisonment came to light a few weeks ago, the media was on fire with reminders that our children are NEVER safe on the streets and anything like this could happen at any time on any unchaperoned trip to school. You’ll recall one bit of advice I questioned was an article that said we should never — that’s right, NEVER — let our children go “anywhere alone.”

Last week, Annie Le, a graduate student, was murdered at Yale.  Shouldn’t the talk show hosts and fearmongers be wringing their hands and tearfully reminding us parents, “Never — NEVER — let your children go to Yale”?

 Why aren’t they?  — Lenore

Are There Really Lessons to Learn From The Jaycee Abduction?

First off, my heart goes out to Jaycee Dugard, her daughters, her parents, step-parents — everyone in her circle. She was kidnapped 18 years ago and kept imprisoned since then, bearing her rapist/captor two daughters who were also imprisoned until a few days ago, when Jaycee walked into a police station.

This is, of course, every parent’s — every human’s — worst nightmare and her story will  be seared into our memory  forever, along, alas, with the inevitable “advice” we’re now getting on how to avoid this same fate. Advice that makes it seem like abduction/rape/enslavement  is something we just have to be ever-prepared for, like the possibility of an overcharge on our credit card bill. Like it’s a fate we can avoid with some simple tips.

But as Trevor Butterworth at the organization STATS.org has pointed out: Preparing for very unlikely events is impossible — it’s like preparing for the possiblity of being hit by a frozen turkey through the car window while you’re driving on the expressway. Yes, that is something that really happened, at least once. But should you live your life always watching out for flying turkeys? That would be inconvenient, if not insane, because what could you do? Never drive on the expressway again? Get your car window replaced with lead? Sure, you couldn’t see through it. But at least you’d be protected from frozen airborne Butterballs!

Here’s one post-Dugard advice article that suggests that, from now on, we simply “never go anywhere alone.” That’s not asking too much, is it?

This is just the kind of ridiculous suggestion that leads to ridiculous situations, like parents hauled in for “negligence” for letting their kid walk solo to soccer (or wait in a car!). It leads to folks trumping any Free-Range notion with, “Look what happened to Jaycee Dugard!”

“Your child could be abducted just like Jaycee Dugard. Learning from the Jaycee Dugard situation and protecting your kids from predators like Craig Garrido and Nancy Garrido is vital to the health and well-being of your child.”

No, what’s really vital to the well-being of your child is him or her not growing up convinced that stepping  out the  front door  is the equivalent of stepping into a viper-filled pit. What’s vital to the health of your children is their learning to make their own playdates, organize a game of four-square, talk to people instead of being terrified of them. Please do teach your kids to run from anyone trying to lure them away, should that rare thing happen. But teach them to talk to the rest. That’s how they learn stuff, and make friends. That’s how they become human.

“It’s sad our children have to grow up in a world where they have to worry about people like Craig Garrido and Nancy Garrido. All we can do is learn from this tragedy.”

No, I’m afraid, we cannot. Law enforcement officials may be able to learn a thing or two.  They may learn to follow up better on missed parole visits. They may learn to pare down the list of sex offenders from the 674,000 in California to the ones that truly pose a risk,  so theycan concentrate their resources on rapists, instead of guys who peed in public, or had sex at 19 with a girlfriend a few years underage.

But there is no lesson to be learned from Jaycee’s ordeal except that sometimes, terrible things happen to innocent people, randomly. In our blame-, lawsuit- and silly advice-obsessed country, it’s a lesson we find hard to accept.

 — Lenore