Readers: The following is an exchange I had earlier this week with a mom who wrote to this blog. It shows how those of us who trust our own eyes, and guts, and neighborhood, and children can get beaten down…and rise up again.
A WOMAN NAMED LORI WROTE: I went searching for your story after an experience last night. My 10-year-old son wanted the chance to walk from our house to soccer practice behind an elementary school about 1/3 mile from our house. He had walked in our neighborhood a number of times with the family and we have driven the route to practice who knows how many times. It was broad daylight – 5:00 pm. I had to be at the field myself 15 minutes after practice started, so I gave him my cell phone and told him I would be there to check that he made it and sent him off. He got 3 blocks and a police car intercepted him. The police came to my house — after I had left — and spoke with my younger children (who were home with Grandma). They then found me at the soccer field and proceeded to tell me how I could be charged with child endangerment. They said they had gotten “hundreds” of calls to 911 about him walking. Now, I know bad things can happen and I wasn’t flippant about letting him go and not checking up, but come on. I live in a small town in Mississippi. To be perfectly honest, I’m much more concerned about letting him attend a birthday party sleepover next Friday, but I’m guessing the police wouldn’t be at my house if I chose to let him go (which I probably won’t).
I WROTE BACK: Incredible! It’s like the Salem Witch trial era, when people were hallucinating witchcraft. Today we hallucinate horrific danger in the safest of settings. I am so sorry you – and he – went through this!
LORI WROTE: I appreciate you responding. I was more than a little upset yesterday and second-guessing my actions. I tend to actually be more of a hovering parent, so even though I was nervous about my son going on his own yesterday I really didn’t think it was a bad decision. I really resented the police officer trying to lecture me about how the streets aren’t safe. Rather than give in to the hysteria or naively ignore the danger, I think I’m going to go down to the police office and ask to see detailed statistics about what happens on our streets in the afternoon hours. I’d like to base my decision on facts rather than hysteria. ‘Course, I don’t quite know what to do about the “hundreds” of people who called 911 when they saw him on the street. I can’t imagine that many people even saw him in 3 blocks in a mostly residential neighborhood. But, if they were watching out for him, that just makes me feel like he was that much safer.
I WROTE encouraging her to go get those statistics and keep me posted. She did!
LORI WROTE: Guess what. I just got an apology from the Chief of Police. I emailed him this afternoon to ask for stats and explain what happened. He called me almost immediately, assured me that I lived in a safe neighborhood, and apologized for the officer’s conduct. He asked if I really wanted the stats, or if I just wanted to know that I was right. I told him that knowing that I was right was enough for me. I still don’t know what I can do about the people who call 911 because they see my son on the street alone, but at least I don’t feel like a naïve mother anymore. And, I like our chief of police even more J. He promised to handle this himself with the officer.
FREE-RANGE MORAL OF STORY: It takes fortitude to trust your own instincts, especially when well-meaning (but deranged) authorities tell you not to. But in times of mass hysteria, that is what’s required. — Lenore