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