I’m published in the Christian Science Monitor today!

When you start writing in a blog, you never know where you’ll end up. My first big national publication!

* * *

I received the following response via email from someone of an older generation. I thought you might find it as thought-provoking as I did:

Here are my unsolicited thoughts on “Fortress America.” I was the age of your boys in the late 1950s and early 1960s growing up in Steilacoom. Both my parents worked, so during the summer we were on our own roaming the streets of Steilacoom. On warm days, while wearing swimming suits and flip flops (no helmets), we rode our bikes to American Lake to go swimming. We built rafts out of driftwood and floated out into Puget Sound paddling back with makeshift paddles. We rode our bikes up to Chambers Creek and used the rope swing to drop into the freezing cold water (sometimes naked).

One time I rode my bike to Lacey and stayed the night with a friend at a cabin owned by his grandparents (no adult supervision). We lived in a world of risk and there were occasionally some consequences. One of my friends (R. M. age 10) was hit by a car while riding his bike on Nisqually Street and died on the spot. Perhaps you have met his mother.

Did we have sex predators in the 1950s? No one talked about sex predators or sex for that matter, but they were out there. I encountered a couple of them. What kept us safe most of the time is that we roamed the streets in packs or at least with a buddy or brother. We also became “street smart” and knew who the weird people were in town and to keep our distance.

I guess the point is that we learned to live in a world of risk, and we developed a base of knowledge about these things that we would use during our life. I remember my childhood as being very carefree, but I know now it was not risk free. We did learn how to weigh risk versus opportunity. I’m not sure kids learn these things now, but maybe they don’t need to learn these lessons. Anything they want to know they can find on Google.

I’m also putting this comment (from the blog) here because I think it offers a great counter-balance to my article (no “flaming” from me . . . I think this is a complex issue and I agree with this commenter on many points):

I loved the article too, but I am compelled to ask, “Why not?” There were sex offenders in the 60s and 70s too, and in fact, crime rates were higher then. It’s actually SAFER out there today. I don’t want to minimize the horror of a sex offender on your street, and I’m not saying let your little ones out unsupervised, but aren’t your twins old enough to understand and stay away? The sex offender is a known risk that teenagers should certainly be able to comprehend and avoid.

Remember too, kids are most likely to be molested by someone they know and trust. Sad to say that stranger abduction is one of the things LEAST likely to happen to our kids, but we’ve been trained by the media to worry about it to a ridiculous degree.

If we agree that kids benefit from some independence, then let’s give them some. Isn’t there something to be said for teaching the skills they need for independence (street smarts, not going with strangers, etc) and letting them start using them, slowly but surely? I suspect we are protecting our kids to the detriment of their own safety skills. Remember the little boy scout who got lost in the woods last summer or the summer before, and he hid from the searchers because he was afraid they’d abduct him? He could have died because he didn’t have a good understanding of how to get help when he was alone and needed it!

I adore my kids and don’t want anything bad to happen to them, ever. I feel that part of my job is to teach them the skills they will need to stay safe and let them practice those skills as they get older. If I could walk to school at eight years old in the 1970s, my kids can today, as long they know how to be safe and I can ignore the Culture Of Fear that the 24 hour news organizations have polluted our culture with.

Zipping up my flame suit now.

Thanks, everyone, for your congratulatory comments and for your thoughtful responses. (I’m having issues with Gmail right now, so may not respond personally to all my comments as I normally do.)

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I’m published in the Christian Science Monitor today!

33 thoughts on “I’m published in the Christian Science Monitor today!

  1. Mel,

    I got interviewed today for an associated press piece on how to make salsa. Maybe some of my quotes will make it. 🙂

    OK, well, not exactly big-time, but it’s funny where this blogging stuff leads.

    Like

  2. Congratulations! Great article! I often mourn for the world we no longer enjoy. I also wish my kids could ride their bikes as far as they could go, and run around the neighborhood all day. I have a big backyard, but it’s not the same. 😦

    Like

  3. Congrats and a great article!
    I do try to let the kids have a tiny bit of freedom, but you are right, they really don’t have it – I let me 7 year old ride her bike down the street but only with other kids and if I am outside (where I can see it all).
    But, I will say this … I never had a carefree childhood either. I lived with grandparents. My borders were their yard and that was it. I don’t feel that cheated so I can only hope that my kids won’t feel that way either and that I do take them outside enough to just run around and play, even if I am within eyesight most of the time!

    Like

  4. Congratulations, Mel!! And it’s such a good piece…I consider this one of the saddest things about modern parenthood. I cannot even begin to imagine letting my baby wander around like I did–my sister and cousins and I spent summers taking 5 mile bike rides, and paddling a canoe (in a lake…with deep water!) hours away from home stopping to swim whenever we felt like it.

    Now, every parent hovers over their kid on our sad little subdivision playground like cheerleading spotters.

    It is really pathetic and sad.

    But most importantly…congratulations again!

    Like

  5. There are some communities still in existence where children can come and go as you describe. I grew up in one of them in rural ND, a town of about 1000 or so (much smaller now though). Daily trips to the swimming pool, walks downtown to spend our allowance on penny candy, kickball games in vacant lots, playing under the railroad bridge, visiting the cave down by the river, riding our bikes out to the cemetary. I could go on and on….but….the town where we raised our children in MT had a population of around 5000. They had some of the freedoms we had as children, the freedom to ride their bikes to school, over to the swimming pool, down to the parks, and over to their friends’ places.
    Now that we live close to a major metro area, I see that the children here don’t have those freedoms and I feel sorry for them. They are missing out on wonderful childhoods. I mourn that loss along with you.

    Like

  6. I hope this posts since I seem to be having a problem getting my comments in. Congratulations!!! Great article!! I could have written about the very same childhood and the very same feelings now. There’s no way I’d let my children do the things I did as a child, it’s just too dangerous now. Sad the world has come to this.

    Like

  7. Excellent (although sad) article. I’m sad that, when I have kids, they won’t just be able to go playing wherever and whenever they want. Hopefully, though, they’ll have plenty of free time still, even if it is supervised. Congrats on being published by CSM!

    Like

  8. Terrific article, Mel. Well said, we think the same way here. My daughter (12) wants to ride her bike down desolate, rural back roads to a friend’s house 4 miles away… she is distraught that I tell her she can only ride as far away as I can still see her. *sigh* I too remember gallivanting around the neighborhood, riding or waking up to the drug store for candy or a gallon of milk (two fit nicely…one on each handle bar!) for Mom, falling into the creek when dared to jump it, drawing your initials into the fresh cement in the new sub….on and on. I am always saddened when I think of how my children won’t have any of those experiences.

    Like

  9. Jenn says:

    I am so proud of you!! It was a great article, sad but true. When my kids are in the backyard I sit out there with them and it is fenced and locked. Oh well.

    Like

  10. Mel, I am thrilled beyond words for you…congratulations! There’s nothing like seeing something you wrote and your name in print, is there? And then getting paid for it too…wow!!! Hey, I have a poem I’d love to submit to them but every thing I tried just sent me back to “Contributors Guidelines” and wouldn’t take me to “Home Forum” or the Forum’s editor’s email. How on earth did you submit to them?? I sent in something to “Guideposts” a while back when someone suggested I should but I haven’t heard from them yet. There’s always hope, tho! I bet you’re on Cloud Nine! Way to go, girl! (((HUG)))

    Like

  11. I miss the safer world of my childhood in some ways.

    California has an excellent Megan’s Law online site. I look at it once in a while. It shows many offenders living within a mile of us; some right down the street.

    I try for a middle ground. I don’t confine my girls now that they’re 11 and 12, but I try to make sure they’re either together or with a group.

    Never alone if I can prevent it.

    Truthfully though, from personal experience I worry far more about the offenders who haven’t been caught yet and the perverts one would least suspect.

    Like

  12. QuietPlease says:

    I loved the article too, but I am compelled to ask, “Why not?” There were sex offenders in the 60s and 70s too, and in fact, crime rates were higher then. It’s actually SAFER out there today. I don’t want to minimize the horror of a sex offender on your street, and I’m not saying let your little ones out unsupervised, but aren’t your twins old enough to understand and stay away? The sex offender is a known risk that teenagers should certainly be able to comprehend and avoid.

    Remember too, kids are most likely to be molested by someone they know and trust. Sad to say that stranger abduction is one of the things LEAST likely to happen to our kids, but we’ve been trained by the media to worry about it to a ridiculous degree.

    If we agree that kids benefit from some independence, then let’s give them some. Isn’t there something to be said for teaching the skills they need for independence (street smarts, not going with strangers, etc) and letting them start using them, slowly but surely? I suspect we are protecting our kids to the detriment of their own safety skills. Remember the little boy scout who got lost in the woods last summer or the summer before, and he hid from the searchers because he was afraid they’d abduct him? He could have died because he didn’t have a good understanding of how to get help when he was alone and needed it!

    I adore my kids and don’t want anything bad to happen to them, ever. I feel that part of my job is to teach them the skills they will need to stay safe and let them practice those skills as they get older. If I could walk to school at eight years old in the 1970s, my kids can today, as long they know how to be safe and I can ignore the Culture Of Fear that the 24 hour news organizations have polluted our culture with.

    Zipping up my flame suit now.

    Like

  13. Hi Mel, congratulations on having your article published. Your article made me sad because I long to live somewhere safe for my boys to roam as I did, as my husband did…as they NEED to. I was just telling my husband last night (after our 4 yr old showed interest in a video game) that I don’t want our boys to grow up sitting around inside playing video games. We’ll have to create ways around that until we live somewhere safer…or a much much bigger fenced in yard. 😉

    Like

  14. Marianne says:

    Good Job, Mel! Great article. I too sit outside in the backyard and watch my children, either that or I am peaking out the door every 5-10 min to make sure they are okay.

    Like

  15. Well done Mel, I’m really glad you’re getting the attention and credit you deserve.

    As natural as it is for parents to be so protective, I believe we owe it to our children to encourage a lifestyle where they are not so protected as to rob them of childhood. I think we have surrendered their freedom, and not at a fair price.

    Like

  16. Wow, congratulations! I like your article and also the comments that you cited above.

    It does seem to be a vicious cycle: even though there have always been sex offenders and danger, the fact that so many parents are so safety-conscious means that it can be more dangerous for kids out playing–because there aren’t other kids around to watch out for them. So since it isn’t as safe, fewer parents let their kids out…all the while, many of us are bemoaning the change from our own relatively unfettered childhood play, even as we keep our kids well in sight.

    I don’t know what to do about it, either.

    Like

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