When I heard that, after being taken into custody for
kidnapping and raping three girls in Ohio, Ariel Castro was not able to raise
$8 million dollars in bail, my first reaction was, “He should be facing a lynch
mob, not a bail possibility.” Admittedly, lynch mobs have their problems and my
reaction isn’t reasoned and weighty, but the thought of the destruction he
sowed in the lives of these girls and their families and friends is sickening.
My visceral reaction is highly human. The horror of this
story and the stomach-churning terror it breeds in parents who, in response,
want to clutch their children tightly and never let them out of sight, is one
of the reasons that Lenore Skenazy is one of my heroes. Lenore is the author of
Free Range Kids and blogs on a
website of the same name. She encourages parents to, “raise safe, self-reliant
children (without going nuts with worry).” If memory serves me right, “monster”
and “crazy” were some of the kinder words directed her way when she wrote an
article describing how she let her nine-year-old son ride the subway alone in
NYC. Her blog highlights examples of helicopter parenting, over-zealous
neighbors and police, and examples of over-the-top policies intended to, “keep
children safe.” As she constantly points out, the level of vigilance and
involvement that is common in children’s lives today comes with a high price
tag, often producing incompetent, insecure and unhappy children (and adults).
The Ohio revelations, like the horrific murder of Leiby
Kletzky in Brooklyn in July 2011 or the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart in 2002,
could make Lenore disable her website and cringe. Instead, she reacts
with the same horror as any other mother, but without letting volatile feelings
overrule logic and poison her perspective.
That mixture of emotion and insight is sorely lacking today. We are
urged to run our lives by our heartstrings, leaving us easily manipulated and incapable
For media personalities looking for attention, companies
looking to make money or politicians jockeying for power, parents are an easy
target. Love makes us vulnerable to false promises that if we only listen to
this expert, buy this product or vote for this person or policy, our children
will be safe. Not only are those promises faulty, but believing them sometimes leads
us to unwittingly harm and endanger our children rather than protecting them. When
evil thrusts itself into our face, being a wise parent becomes even more
2 thoughts on “Parents and Predators”
Thank you for this post. I followed the link and ended up downloading the “Free-range Kids” book on audible. I have since completed the book (and will likely return to it since for me it takes several turns in audio to retain a single reading) and I’m now actively engaged in pushing my husband and myself to relax the tethers and give the children more autonomy and responsibility.
I have long believed that my job/duty as a parent is to raise trustworthy, independent, G-d fearing adults but without knowing it I had become swept into the culture of overprotecting and had drifted off course. Thanks for the introduction to the book and the encouragement to get back on course.
Becoming a parent is a lifelong headache of worry and responsibility for those we love. Kids cannot see this in advance. One day when I was five years old, I was bitten by the wandering bug and went on walkabout. I hiked some three miles across meadow and field, up and downhill, to the edge of town. Fortunately I was accosted by a kind stranger with a car, who shuttled me back home, otherwise I would have continued walking. My poor mother was quite distressed.
My own misdeeds returned to me later when my daughter at age seven wandered home with a classmate, and cockily decided to find her way home. She made wrong turns, got hopelessly lost and wept in despair, until a car of kind teenagers brought her home. Next day I asked her to accompany me on a walk, and we retraced her steps. She melted down in tears the whole journey, thinking this to be a cruel exercise in punishment. But I tried to calm her and to focus her on seeking neighborhood landmarks. Paying attention to one’s surroundings is prudent and can save your life.
Today my daughter teaches to her own children what she learned from us: stay alert but embrace life. Neither run from life in fear nor live life in fear. Trust in the Lord.
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