I’ve been doing a lot of radio interviews and I turn into a self-righteous bore when the host inevitably asks, “How could you let your son take the subway alone?”Truly, this is one of my favorite new blogs. Like many folks my age ("forever young"....Ahem.), I grew up having the run of wherever I lived at the time. When I was 3, we lived in Kansas City and I was allowed free roam on our side of the street (i.e. no crossing the street). When I was 5, we lived in the country and our neighbors were literally, over a MILE away. It was a tad shorter to go through the pasture to their house. May I note that we live in Kansas which is rife with rattlesnakes and copperheads? Then, when I was 7ish, we moved into town (pop. 1,000) and I had the run of the complete town on my bike (sans helmet!) When my sister was 3, she was allowed complete freedom outside as long as she did not cross the street. I would happily cross the street as she sobbed at the corner begging me to come back. Ah, the memories! When I was 9, we moved back to the country. My playmates lived several miles from me via a shortcut - through the woods. I could go on about my freedoms as a kid, but you get the drift.
I quote crime stats that show a child is 40 times more likely to die in a car accident than by being abducted. I appeal to common sense. I remind people that a couple of generations back, a 9-year-old probably would have had a part-time job. And then I ask the interviewer, “Didn’t you get to run around and do things by yourself when you were a kid?”
“Sure!” comes the answer, but “times have changed.” Once they get that out of the way, they go in for the kill: “How would you have felt if something DID happen to your son?”
So much for my years of media training.
What I really want to say is: “Terrible! Earth-shaken! I’d be cursing God — and especially the radio hosts who asked Him to zap my son just to teach me a lesson! But, Mr. Fulminator, sir, don’t you see there’s something sick about immediately and endlessly envisioning the very worst? Isn’t that the very definition of paranoia? And isn’t it wrong to teach kids that they are incapable of taking care of themselves, that they can’t trust their community, and that it is better for them to live a virtual life inside, where life is programmed, than a real life, outside, where they can glory in the wonders of the world? Are you ever going to let your kid GROW UP?”
That’s what I’d like to be able to get out, but it sounds a little hysterial and it’s not exactly pithy. So if you have any amazing zingers that really seem to open people’s eyes (or shut their mouths), we are all eager to hear them.
And even more eager to start using them.
Arun is well over 2 now and is allowed out in our backyard by himself. The back of our house is full of windows, so we can see him quite easily. In general, he is not allowed out front by himself, but I do see him being allowed out there in the next year or so. When we are out and about at parks and the zoo, etc. I do let Arun to get far enough away from me that he is out of my arms' reach. This never fails to drive folks Crazy With Judgment. I resent this because realistically, some random stranger is not going to scoop my kid up right in front of me and run for the zoo exit. Hello!
Truthfully, I am far, far more afraid of some nosy stranger or neighbor calling DCFS on our "negligent" asses than I am of some random stranger plucking our kid off of our sidewalk. I would be lying if I did not admit that I am absolutely terrified of DCFS (sadly, LagLiv would probably agree my fears are not unfounded.) However, I want to raise my children to be cautious, but not to be afraid to explore their world.
In this vein, I am getting ready to read Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and I suspect I will be touching on this topic again.