Friday, March 6, 2009

One of My Many Soapboxes

The other day, I was talking to my lovely, caring, only well-intentioned mother on the phone. I had just told her how Leah had gone over to her friend Addie's house that afternoon, and she asked, "Do you watch her when she walks over there?"

"Usually - although I can't really see her the whole way because of the trees and curve in the road. But we call ahead so the other mom is waiting and expecting."

"Well, I would watch her. There's so many weirdos out there."

And Mom, I'm sorry I lost it a bit at that point. It really ceased to be you I was talking to, but rather a large chunk of the media and society in general that would like everyone to be in a constant state of fear.

You see, Addie lives FIVE HOUSES down the street. If I can't let my very nearly five-year old walk those FIVE HOUSES by herself, I may as well keep her indoors her whole life.

I really don't believe that there are truly THAT many weirdos out there waiting to pounce on our kids. A few, sure. But in broad daylight, in a fairly enclosed neighborhood? And that's not even figuring in that a lot of the perverts out there prey on kids they already know - not the random kid walking by.

At some point we as parents need to take a deep breath, look at statistics and our own common senses, and take the chance to let our kids empower themselves and exercise the skills that we've taught them.

I remind Leah each time she heads out to stay on the sidewalks, just in case she may consider cutting across the road. If there was a vehicle parked on the side of the road, or any adults standing around, you can bet I'd be watching closely. Actually, I usually do anyway. I'm mostly worried that someone will hit an icy patch and go up the curb. (Which, as crazy as it sounds, is probably more likely to happen than anything more sinister.)

Of course, I'm not first to feel this way. One of the most famous is Lenore Skenazy, who wrote the book Free-Range Kids and has a blog by the same name. I haven't read her book, and don't know if I completely agree with everything she has to say, but she has several good points. Our American culture of fear has reached new heights of controlling our lifestyles. Every violent, malicious act is immediately pounced upon by the media and shoved into our faces multiple times, with the effect that it seems that many more evil things are happening. They probably are to some degree, simply because our population is growing.

So there. I'm not sending Leah to the grocery store just yet, but for goodness sake! Is there anywhere CLOSER than her best friend in the entire world's house? It's a small step for this mommy, but a giant leap for my soon-to-be kindergartner.


Kim said...

uh oh! Are you on the road to "worst case scenario mom" as I became? My fears started in the teens and college not the earlier years...."tell me about rock climbing mountains after you're back...why did you ride a motorcycle side saddle?....

Noel said...

A GPS equipped cell phone which allows you to track Leah on your cell phone or the web would fill in the gap for those 1000 feet door-to-door is also a good step towards being a technology-enabled helicopter parent.

In our parenting, we ensure training (I've been informed I won't be teaching parallel parking next year but do teach internet safety), graduated steps to independence (wings, not strings by age 18), and coaching/praise as observed behavior merrits.

Not talking to or getting in cars with strangers as well as walking on the sidewalk to a designated destination fit our model.

Suzi said...

Good point Lyz, I see the same thing happening. Right now, I am I'm more worried about my kids getting hit by cars zooming down the streets, or people going in/out of driveways than strangers. Sometimes you have to let kids be kids.

Aaron said...

Just give Leah a gun to carry. That will keep her safe. I'm sure dad could help you find something suitable.

Dawn said...

"Last Child in the Woods" is a similar book, about nature-deficit disorder, caused partially by over-protective parents and alarmist media. :) Good for you for letting her go.