Saturday, February 07, 2009

Catcher in the Rye

I have composed a half a million blog posts in my mind. On my way to work. Laying awake in bed. While watching Casey play Legos Indiana Jones on the Wii. But it just hasn't been convenient to post. When I've been on the computer, it's pretty much been for work. And when I'm not on the computer, dragging it out and turning it on just isn't something I've felt like doing. But not for lack of things to write about.

Casey is now a year older. At 6, he seems so grown up. Last week when I was tucking him in to bed, he asked if he could have a friend sleep over. Already. I don't know why, but in my mind these things didn't really happen until age 8. Sigh. At least he didn't ask to sleep away from home. I like kissing him before I go to bed at night. And snuggling up with him in the mornings to help him wake up. I like having him around. But I certainly wouldn't want to hold him back. So next Friday night we'll have a house-guest. Not a cousin. Not a sibling. No extra adults. Just another friend. It'll be interesting to see how well his friend does (his friend is a triplet!) away from home for the first time. I'm fully prepared for tears. And a phone call home. And maybe even a midnight return of a child across town. But I'm also hopeful it won't come to that. Gosh, they grow up so fast.

Speaking of growing up, our world is such a crazy place. Sometimes it makes me so sad. In the past few months, we've been getting pretty regular reports from our school principal (who sends out a voicemail and e-mail twice a week to keep parents informed) of some safety issues. The first one was about a girl walking home by herself a couple hours after school who was approached by a stranger trying to entice her into his car for a ride home. Then a few weeks later came a notice that a stranger had been sighted on the playground fields; an investigation turned up nothing. Next, another child was approached walking home from school. Then another. Then an eleven year old girl was actually taken and released thirty minutes later outside a different, nearby elementary school. After that, the principal called a parents' meeting. In the two weeks that followed, leading up to the parents' meeting, there was a note scrawled on the middle school bathroom wall "predicting" a school shooting. The elementary (and pre) school are next door and share some fields. They all went into lock-down. Police determined the threat was not real. And finally, on the day of the safety meeting, another snatching attempt was made at a different elementary school a few hours after school was over. The child screamed and frightened away the would-be attacker.

This all left me wondering-- are these abnormally high "stranger danger" statistics? Or is our school district unusually communicative? Why aren't we patrolling the local neighborhoods a couple hours after school each day, since that's when these incidents seem to occur? Why are 10-11 year old girls always the targets? So I sent Jason off to the parent meeting with these questions.

It turns out these were all truthful and legitimate events. That there are two detectives' children and an FBI agent's child attending the same elementary school as Casey. And there's nothing they can do to stop the approach of strangers. It's not the same person. The timing is too inconsistent. The solution? Talk to your child.

Well, duh. But what do we say? Turns out it's not just that our kids shouldn't go with anyone they don't know, even if the stranger says we sent them, but we also need to take it further-- teach them to scream. To fight. To kick. To struggle. To shout: "YOU ARE NOT MY MOMMY! YOU ARE NOT MY DADDY! CALL 9-1-1!" Those sorts of things. People in the area will be much more alert-- and if the child is just throwing a tantrum and saying those things to their parents (this was my fear-- the cry wolf factor--), well, isn't that better than a crime scene?

Sigh. I suppose.

But to teach Casey these things means to also teach them to Marcie. We can't avoid the one while talking to the other. It's just not how our lives work, how our family functions.

And it makes me a little sad. Should six year olds really be worrying about being snatched? Should three year olds? I want to keep my kids safe, and healthy. I want them to enjoy this big, bad world with innocent eyes. They have plenty of time for disillusionment, but I don't want them to grow up afraid. I know some of this is in how we present the information. But some of it is just a fact of the world we live in. It makes me think of Holden Caulfield-- the catcher in the rye-- catching all those kids as they jump off the cliff into adulthood-- wanting to protect them from the, for lack of a better word, yuck of growing up. I'd like our kids to have years and years and years of happy memories before they have to face the ugliness of our world. I know I can't stop their coming of age-- and I'm exaggerating a bit here. But it still makes me sad.

I guess the best I can do is hold their hands through it all and hope for a soft landing . . .

1 comment:

Johnny said...


Of course, they've caught men staring through the fence of the daycare playground.

Sigh, also.