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keep kids safe

Readers – -This just in. Two masked men grabbed a 4 year old from a playground and threw him in a van. Surprise! It was to make a video about “kidnapping awareness.” Why is this insane?

A – The “perps” could have been shot.

B – It is based on the crazy idea that WITHOUT a video of masked men snatching a child off a playground, no one would be aware that masked men shouldn’t be doing this.

C- It is also based on the crazy idea that this is happening so much, no one should consider the playground a safe place.

D – All of the above and THEN some.

P.S. You KNOW the answer.

Hey Readers — This piece on the Huffington Post  is by a mom, Rebecca Cuneo Keenan, who is rarin’ to let her 8-year-old son Free-Range…but can’t:

I’ve been reading about helicopter versus free range parenting for years now. I’ve been hearing about how our kids are being raised on back-lit screens and shuttled from one scheduled activity to another. They don’t get the time or space to explore their neighbourhoods by themselves and learn independence in the process. They aren’t active enough and, quite frankly, all this tab keeping is exhausting for everyone. If there was ever a question about which side I’d take, helicopter or free-range, I’d already long decided to be free-range.

But it’s not that easy.

She adds:

My generation of parents really is just shy of bubble-wrapping our kids and sending them out into the world with a GPS embedded in their bodies. We keep our kids in five-point-car-seat-harnesses for as long as possible, micromanage every detail of their locally-sourced, organic diet and get them cell phones as soon as they’re likely to be away from us all in the name of health and safety. It goes against every fibre of our collective consciousness to send them out to the woods with pointed sticks and sling shots.

And finally she says there are the added problems of worrying about being blamed if her child gets hurt, as well as convincing her son, 8, that it might actually be fun to walk to the park (at least part way to the park) by himself. So, here are some suggestions I’ve got, and I’d love you, readers, to add on:

*Have him walk with a friend! That way he has someone to play with, too.

*Talk to other parents about your interest in Free-Ranging. When you find someone like-minded (and you will!), agree to give your kids unsupervised time outside together.

*To remember how the world isn’t a cesspool of danger, try a day without preparing. Leave the house without Kleenex, Band-Aids, extra water, wipes or even — as we recently discussed — snacks. Or cash!  You’ll see you can survive, which may remind you that your son can, too.

*Speaking of friends, talk to one who’s from another country about what they let kids do there. Often, the things we’re terrified of are simply routine elsewhere. Instant perspective!

*Have your son actually HELP you by doing something on his own. Have him get an ingredient for dinner, or walk the dog, or go to the post office. Anything that really WOULD make your day a little easier. Kids love to be more than just our precious babies. They long for purpose, especially in the adult world.

*Read “Free to Learn,” by Peter Gray. His subtitle says it all: “Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.” (And he forgot to add, “Possibly Slimmer, too!”)

And here’s one suggestion lifted straight from my own book:

* Think of one activity you [or your husband] did as a kid that you are unwilling to let your own sweetheart do at the same age (baby-sitting, biking to a friend’s), and make a list of 20 things that could conceivably go wrong. If there are any worries that strike you as realistic, help your child prepare for them. Teach your would-be babysitter first aid. Teach your would-be biker how to signal his turns. You’ll feel better because you’ve helped them and they’ve demonstrated that they’re ready.

Add your ideas here! – L

Mom wonders: "How do I throw this stuff away?"

Mom wonders: “How do I throw this stuff away?”

Readers — Here’s an alarming idea with no basis in fact, as far as I can fathom. The idea:

Have a picture of little Bobby in his football gear and a “My Son is an Honor Student at Kelley Middle School” bumper sticker?

Congratulations, you just told the world and anyone who may want to harm your child, where they can find him.

sticker

Because otherwise, no predator could ever find a school football player at…a school? Possibly playing football? This smug reporter is  suggesting that:

1) Someone is out there who wants to harm your child specifically, for some reason, but

2) Simply could not figure out how to find him. Ah, but by reading the hieroglyphics on your bumper, he is set! I especially love the fact that a stick figure dog tells him that he need not worry, because it’s a “non guard dog” — a fact one can easily ascertain, thanks to the incredibly accuracy of stick figures.

“Congratulations” — author. You have just succumbed to Worst-First Thinking: Thinking up the very worst thing that could happen thanks to some dumb little stickers, and are now spreading this bizarre fear around. And what of all those predators who only pounce on honor students of the month? – L

From my piece on Time.com today. (Time writes the headlines, not me):

How Kitty Genovese Destroyed Childhood

We once may have been too slow to call the cops. Now we’ll dial 911 if we see a couple kids walking alone to get pizza.

by Lenore Skenazy

Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death 50 years ago today. She was 28. A tragedy. The press reported 38 onlookers heard her screams and decided not to intervene. That account has since come under fire, but it nonetheless created a perception of ourselves (and certainly New Yorkers) as unconscionably reluctant to get involved.

We’ve been making up for it ever since — and that’s too bad.

We may once have been too slow to call the cops (though that’s still disputed), but today we are definitely too fast. Oh, I don’t mean we shouldn’t dial 911 if we see someone being murdered, or threatened, or hurt. Of course we should! In fact, the simple 911 number to call for emergencies was developed partly in response to the Genovese murder: Now everyone could have a quick, easy way to summon the cops anytime, anyplace. A great leap forward.

The leap sideways, or perhaps downward, came as the general public gradually became convinced that it not only had an obligation to help anyone in danger, it had the obligation to call the cops anytime it noticed people who could be in danger, especially kids, even if they were fine and dandy at the time. This has given rise to a near mania for calling the cops when people spot a child on his or her own anywhere in public.

Read the rest here.

Reports of uninvolved bystanders led to hyper-involvement today.

Reports of uninvolved bystanders led to hyper-involvement today.

 

How should the tragic news of a 10-year-old Hailey Owens’ abduction and murder change us?

For me, it will mean feeling sickeningly sad for her and her family.  And beyond that, it will mean a call for…

Nothing.

Not more laws protecting kids — there are already laws against murder. Not more police on the street — I don’t want a cop on every cul de sac. Not more stringent laws against those on the Sex Offender Registry — added strictures have not been shown to make kids any safer.

So how about more oversight of kids? How about advising parents never to let their kids do anything on their own?

That is not something we need either. 

Looking backward, we all wish Hailey had not been walking in her neighborhood on Tuesday. Looking backward on any tragedy — a car crash, a pedestrian death, a tree branch falling on a child — we all wish that, on that particular day, at that particular hour, the victim had been doing anything besides getting driven to soccer, or crossing the street to school, or playing hopscotch on the sidewalk. That doesn’t mean that no one should ever get into a car, or walk to school, or play under a tree again.

The really hard thing to recall when a terrible thing happens to some child somewhere,  is that it does not mean all children are now in danger at all times everywhere. 

This is particularly hard to recall in a society has taken to reflexively using the very worst, saddest story — a murdered child — as a sort of touchstone for parenting. A rare and tragic death is something we’re now expected to think about all the time, when making any decisions for our kids. To be able to swallow the idea that there is risk in everything in everyday life — not a lot, but a little — has gone from being considered normal to being considered negligent.

It is not negligent. 

I will think about Hailey’s death from time to time, with a heart that feels leaden. But I cannot make it my touchstone. It is a terrified and warped society that would regard a walk  home as a dangerous activity for a child,  despite the fact that on one sad day, in one town, for one child, it was. – L

Fearing the front lawn.

Fearing  the front lawn.

If this isn’t a 2014 Valentine, I don’t know what is. (See below.) This is a real email a reader got from her kid’s school and it hits every button, from lockdowns, to valentine-and-candy policy, to police involvement, to absolutely confounding instructions. (I have highlighted the sentence I don’t understand AT ALL in green). It’s also so heartwarming to know that if you, the parent, are a little slow to get to the classroom, you will NOT be recognized as Ava’s mom, but left to die. xxoo!  - L 

Happy Valentine 2014!

Love and Lockdowns.

Let’s be always be prepared.

Rally at 1:00

Parties at 2:00

Lockdowns

Parents:

Did you know that a practice lockdown could happen at any time even during a rally or party?

 You need to know what to do!

Go to the nearest open room to you when an announcement is made!

If a teacher has already locked her door, he/she will not let you in. They don’t know who it is and can’t take your verbal answer. They will try to clear halls and grab students and parents with tags.

Rooms should lock, lights go out, blinds close, and members of room hide in silence. There are green and blue cards that teachers put under doors. Green- we are good, blue- we need help. Your safety is more important than cards so if there is not a teacher in the room and you don’t see them, it is okay.

We will give an all call to resume activities when we get a go ahead from the McKinney Police.

Best to be proactive and once again, we appreciate you!

Love

Remember that valentines are for all members of the class. Candy that comes in valentines is to be taken home and not eaten at school. (Nut free items please! )Also- any deliveries for students are kept in office until end of day. Students will be notified they have a delivery. <3

 Thank you  See you as you sign in the office tomorrow.

 
Roses are red, blood is, too. Schools aren't safe and neither are you! (Photo:

Roses are red, blood is, too. Schools aren’t safe and neither are you! (Poem by Lenore. Photo by D Sharon Pruitt)

 

Readers, as you might recall, I gave a Free-Range talk last week in Alexandria, VA, at St. Stephens & St. Agnes School. It was a (funny) look at how we became so scared for our kids, and how to fight the fear that seeps into almost every aspect of childrearing.

Two days later a man knocked on the door of a local Alexandria pre-k music teacher. She opened the door, he shot her dead. He also injured another woman in the home. The suspect is still at large, and there’s conjecture that he may have been involved in a similar, seemingly random murder last year, and maybe even before that.

And so, understandably, some of the parents who were at my talk have written to ask: What now? Here’s a part of one letter:

Dear Lenore: 

…More than 10 schools in the area (including ours) were put on lock down for several hours that day by the police while they looked for the perpetrator (policy helicopters, dogs, the whole nine yards).  Unfortunately, they did not catch anyone yet, nor is there any theory about whether there was a motive for the killing (or, if so, what it was).  Many of us took classes with our children from Ruthanne over the years. We are all so saddened by this senseless violence—and many of us wish that your talk had been scheduled for this week so you could help us put this in perspective.

While very unsettled by the entire incident and situation (and the fact that the perpetrator remains at large), my husband  and I (and others in the community) are working hard to not let fear get the best of us.  While it was not without some hesitation, I did still let my 12-year-old get dropped off for lunch and window shopping in Del Ray (the local “Main Street”) Saturday afternoon. 

 Still embracing Free-Range principles—and grateful for your voice of sense amidst the many factors that make us all so scared and crazy!

Thank you again for your great work-

To which I replied:

Yes, I heard about that tragedy. It is so bizarre as to be almost unheard of, except I know that there were, over the years, two other incidents it seems to echo. My bet is that they catch the guy, even though they didn’t the other times.

Meantime, I congratulate you on letting your daughter go window shopping. The thing about random violence, especially RARE violence, is that you can’t organize your life around it because IT isn’t organized. It’s like organizing your life around chandeliers falling, or cars careening into storefronts. It just doesn’t happen often or predictably enough for you to plan any way to make you or your loved ones any safer.

The hard thing for any of us to realize is that when we DO say, “Well, that’s it. I’m going to make sure my family is safe! My kids will NEVER walk to school” (for instance), it doesn’t make them safer from kidnapping, because they are already safe from kidnapping just by living in 2014 America, rather than 2014 Sudan, or some place where violence IS rampant. But because a mom who drives her kids to school sees that they ARE safe and she FEELS safe, she can make the false correlation, “I drove them, so they didn’t get kidnapped.”

It’s really hard to prove a negative — as in, “No, that’s not why they’re safe. They’d have been safe if they walked, too!”

So in a way, I’m glad I spoke at your school BEFORE this incident. It’s hard to speak rationally — or be heard — when fear is high. That’s just evolution: self-preservation trumps all other brain work, including calm thought.                                                                                                          

My first wish is for the killer to be caught. My second is for this tragedy not to irrevocably change childhood for the kids in your neighborhood. Please keep me posted. – L.

Police sketch of the Alexandria, VA killer.

Police sketch of the Alexandria, VA killer.