Anyway, despite my fondness for her anecdotes, and despite how much her descriptions of hysterical, stranger-danger-addled do-gooders sound suspiciously like my mother-in-law, I have always thought that the aforementioned addled ones were outliers, or at least confined to my parent's generation.
Not so. I was at a party on Saturday, where one of the guests was discussing having driven past his old house, and how shocked he was to see a three-year-old child walk out the front door, grab a ball and head toward his back yard.
"Would YOU let your little kid walk out the front door without standing there watching him???"
I mentioned that it sounded like the child wasn't in any danger: the street was not heavily traveled, the front yard was sufficiently large that there was probably not imminent danger he'd wander into the street. He had grabbed a ball and headed for the back yard. I thought that, for a few minutes, it was probably OK.
One of the other guests piped up: "But someone could have snatched him! Kids get snatched all the time now! Perverts are everywhere!"
I casually mentioned that the incidence of child abductions by strangers was at its lowest level in 50 years. My husband, the History and Urban Studies scholar, concurred. "Besides," I said, "if you've ever had a three-year-old, you sure as hell don't want to take on someone else's !!"
OK, Mom! I'll have fun!
OK, Mom! I'll have fun!
"Yeah," said my husband, "we've been leaving K parked out front with the keys in her ignition for almost five years, and nobody's ever taken HER."
This, predictably, had the effect of making everyone in the room scoot their chairs about six inches away from us both.
In any event, having been regarded like I was insane, I actually started to wonder if I might be. But I don't think so. I think of all the hours that K hung out in our front yard, playing in the leaves and picking flowers, kicking her ball and riding her tricycle up and down the driveway, while I was shuttling back and forth inside and outside, keeping half an eye on her, but not sharp-eyed on her every move.
I think that our children will end up victims, most likely, because we raise them to be victims. Because we don't ever trust them to do the right thing. Because we hover and watch and make them afraid. Because we don't let them take risks and get dirty.
I just hope they treat our grandchildren with more respect.