Friday, July 15, 2011

Hug your children

I know I promised people I'd be blogging our trip, and indeed I will.  Massive Yellowstone post to come, as well as a few more.  Possibly even tonight.  But right now, I am sitting in the driver's seat of our parked car in the shade, while my two littlest nap.  We're going to Glessners tonight for dinner and overnight, and I wanted them rested for the big night.  Steve and Jack are fishing with Carrie and Ashton.

I should  be resting or doing something productive, like cleaning out the car - which has been infiltrated by Road Trip Chaos.  But all my mind can think about is an article I saw in The New York Times yesterday, in the restaurant waiting for my food. I saw the headlines and then stood there reading every word until I was done.  Everything around me went silent, and all I could see were the words of the story. 

An 8-year-old Brooklyn boy was dismembered and put in a freezer, killed by a man whom he asked for directions on the 7 block walk home from a day camp.  He'd begged his parents to let him walk home, they did dry runs of the walk, and they made a map for him.  He missed a turn and got lost, then asked a man for help.  The video of that area shows him getting into the car with the man.

You can Google "Brooklyn boy dismembered" and find more information.  I learned about this yesterday and keep coming back to the thought of it, and finally gave in and hunted for more articles.

It's impossible for me to fathom parents going through the pain that life causes some. 

I was thinking after the article about Protecting the Gift, and how the author said to always have your child ask a woman for help if they're lost.  Statistically speaking, a woman will stay with that child until the parents are found, no question.  But even more, the chances of a  woman being a violent offender are next to none - nearly all violence from women are crimes of passion. 

This story is cascading through my brain, nearly every moment today.  I can't turn it off, just thinking about it, processing it.  Thinking about Jack, who's not much younger, and that situation with him. 

Last I read, the parents don't know the boy was dismembered.  It's just heart-wrenching to think about it on any level.  Staying in ignorance...knowing all the details...I can't judge how any parent moves through a situation like this.  If you ever really move through it.

I keep quizzing my children today: "If you're lost, whom do you ask for help?"  To the point of ad nauseum, but hopefully I'm automating it?  Their tiny little voices answer back: "Find a mom!"  It's this false blanket of security, I guess, because getting lost isn't the only way children are harmed. 

I  never want to scare my children about the world around them.  But these situations bring home each new caution that make me want to create some new awareness, new prevention.  When Susanne's baby fell in the pool, I enrolled my children in private swim lessons.  Reading this yesterday reminded me to give my children tools for when they're lost - whom to ask.  To stay in one place. 

Don't have them ask police officers, Protecting the Gift said.  Children too easily mistake security guard uniforms, and the history on them isn't the same as a police officer.  Turns out, the man who killed the Brooklyn boy used to be a security officer. 

I never want to be (and couldn't be) the mother who never lets her child assume risk.  That's not how we operate in this family - fear isn't our foundation.  Steve and I want to give our children a big world with big experiences.  But it's a sobering pause to read these stories and see that there's a REAL family with REAL broken hearts about something so incomprehensible that it should never be a reality. 

My children ask often why people do things - when the idea of stealing or killing or other things come up. They are fascinated by good and evil, especially Andrew.  And our pat answer is that some people didn't get enough love in their childhood.  But we're filling them with love so those things are never an issue.  So that they go out and spread kindness to others, and not bad things.  

It's hard to read that these things exist out there.  That somewhere, there's a broken man who could do something like this to a family - to a little boy.

Give your children an extra hug today.


Dee said...

I'm a huge fan of the blog Free Range Parenting where I first read this story. I grew up in Brooklyn and walked home from school with my friends, about the same distance. Hearing this news also led me to bring up safety with my younger kiddos (it's been a while since we discussed it) and I told them the same thing: look for woman if you're lost. I don't use fear based parenting either.

Pettitt Family said...
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Pettitt Family said...
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Pettitt Family said...

my comment more coherant :)-
I've always told the kids to look for a mom with kids if they get lost somewhere. From now on I’ll just tell them a woman.

I always keep my eye on possible lost kids to see them find their adult or help them if they don't! I had a woman not stop when she saw my youngest alone (rode bike way too far ahead of us) and I could have rung her neck as she told me she ‘saw him way over there by himself’. Other people did stop near the parking lot and I was sooo thankful! Kid lost his bike for a month and we talked to him about disobeying and that someone bad could have taken him.

It's hard for me with a mom who was abused as a young child. Those events changed my family forever! I'm more 'paranoid' then the average parent, this I know. It's hard for me to let the kids play in the fenced backyard unsupervised, but I do, checking on them often. Staying overnight is only done with kids parents that we know really well. I let them be kids (climb trees, walk in mud, explore the woods, with us or responsible person) but watch at the same time. It's a balance. I let my kids know tid-bits of information that they can handle, hey bad people are out there. Nothing that scares them but makes them aware that people are out there that do bad things, aware not scared. Like when Evan started using the men’s room by himself I told him if anyone shows you their body parts or tries to touch you, scream and run out if you can. Teaching our children is important in this area. How many kids were abused and didn’t know to tell or felt like it was their fault? Fear doesn’t prevail, awareness does.
It's a touchy one.