Sad Memories, Overprotective Impulses, and Keeping Things in Perspective

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.

Killer Kids: Blame the Parents?

Hi Readers — This note came in response to my ParentDish column, “New Study: Parents Stink.” Sometimes I am just, well, blown away by the logical leaps people take:

“I am a mother of a 26 year old man and a 13 year old boy. I give my 13 year old as much freedom as I think he needs but I always know where he’s at and who he’s with. This may be hovering but it’s better then him showing up at school one day and blowing everyone away and I had no idea he had been planning this.”

I agree: Most things are better than having one’s kid wake up and kill everyone at his school. Especially when it’s a big surprise. (I hate surprises!) And of course, if he does indeed do this, it’s all the parent’s fault.

That belief — that everything my kid does, good and bad, stems directly from MY parenting skills — is the kind of belief that drives us nuts to begin with. I wish she’d read my book, or at least Chapter 11:  “Relax! Not Every Little Thing You Do Has THAT Much Impact on Your Child’s Development.”

Meantime, whatever this woman thinks of “Free-Range Kids” (and me), I actually don’t condemn parents who want to know where their 13-year-old is and who he’s with.  I just think it’s pretty wacky to believe that if a parent is a little less informed, that kid will wake up, go to school and kill all his classmates. — Lenore