Independence v. safety

In the news these past few days is the story of 8-year-old Leiby. For the first time, he was allowed to walk alone the seven blocks from summer camp to a corner store to meet his mother. Even though the neighborhood is safe, the worst fear comes true for his mom: Leiby goes missing, and it turns out he was abducted and brutally murdered.

I mulled the situation over because I tend to lean on the side of being protective. I take a look at my nieces who are eight years old, and no way would I have let them walk alone in the safest of neighborhoods. Other parents though, vouch that kids need independence in order to learn how to fend for themselves and to build independence.

I definitely wouldn’t want LO growing up to be fearful of the world. In fact I don’t think we use the scare tactic on him at all. But we definitely create circumstances in his life to mitigate any potential threats.

If at eight years old, LO had asked me to walk home by himself, I honestly would say no. I’m not sure what age it would be appropriate—13? 16? Not eight though. I would also tell him that if he were to ever get lost anywhere, to seek the help of not just any adult, but preferably someone who looks like a kind mother. And I would tell him never to get inside the car or go somewhere else with anyone, no matter what they tell him, and that his parents will come to him, not the other way around.

I can’t even imagine what’s going through Leiby’s mom’s mind right now. All the “what if’s” she must be thinking. How terrible that a boy can’t even walk in a safe neighborhood without the risk of some cruel person taking advantage of him.

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