Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 29, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

FEAR, FEAR, FEAR....In the LA Times today, L.J. Williamson writes about one of my all-time pet peeves: the insane fear that modern suburban parents have of sexual predators:

At a PTA meeting, during a discussion of traffic problems around the school campus, I asked what we could do to encourage families to walk or bike to school. Other parents looked at me as if I'd suggested we stuff the children into barrels and roll them into the nearest active volcano. One teacher looked at me in shock. "I wouldn't let my children walk to school alone ... would you?"

"Haven't you heard about all of the predators in this area?" asked a father.

"No, I haven't," I said. "I think this is a pretty safe neighborhood."

"You'd be surprised," he replied, lowering his eyebrows. "You should read the Megan's Law website." He continued: "You know how to solve the traffic problem around this school? Get rid of all the predators. Then you won't have any more traffic."

Huh?

"Huh" indeed. As Williamson says, child abduction by strangers is very, very rare. About as likely as being hit by lightning. "But it's not fear of lightning strikes that parents cite as the reason for keeping children indoors watching television instead of out on the sidewalk skipping rope."

Even at that, though, I don't understand the bit about her son's school having a rule that K-4 kids aren't allowed to ride bicycles to school. What's up with that?

UPDATE: For what it's worth, my mother the ex-schoolteacher writes in about the bicycle thing:

I think this is standard procedure among school distsricts. Legally the school district is responsible for children until they get home after school, and I suspect, though I never asked because I never cared, that they feel the chance of a younger child getting hurt bicycling on the streets to and from school is greater than with older children and they don't want to risk a lawsuit.

UPDATE 2: I also agree with Atrios' comment. Obviously this is all intertwined, but it's the fact that this fear has become practically a cultural norm that's the real problem. Don't give in to it and people think you're a bad parent. That's nuts.

Kevin Drum 12:01 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (242)

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Comments

You can probably blame trial lawyers.

Damn straight!! I've heard that John Edwards and his evil trial lawyer compadres sued several school districts, country road maintenance divisions and Schwinn bicycles because ONE kid fell off his bike and into a briar patch.

Posted by: JM on March 29, 2007 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

At my daughter's school, which is so close to our house that we can walk it in four minutes, all K-4 students who are not bussed must be accompanied to school property by an adult. This is in a very safe community where we have only one registered sex offender ( a dirty old man who like to sit in his car and expose himself to young female passersby.) I know it's ridiculous - but I, too, would never think of allowing my first-grader to walk alone, even though I can see the crossing guard from my front steps and he can watch her walk into the school building. I know it's asinine. I know it's robbing our kids of the childhood pleasure of exploring the neighborhood without adults constantly breathing down their necks. Yet, I would never leave her alone at this age because of the slim possibility that something might happen. I say this even though I was allowed to roam with my friends when I was her age - in fact, my parents insisted on it.

Posted by: JerseyTomato on March 29, 2007 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

The "No Bicycle Rule"? Why, haven't you heard, child predators especially like preying on children riding bicycles. The McGaw-Stiley study done at the University of California-San Luis Obispo states clearly that Schwinn two wheelers cause erections lasting more than 3 hours. EVERY parent of school age children knows that!

Posted by: steve duncan on March 29, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

JerseyTomato: But why? Seriously, I'm curious. You sound like you know this is nuts, but is the fear really so all-encompassing that you can't do anything about it? Where does it come from?

Posted by: Kevin Drum on March 29, 2007 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

The no-bikes rule is probably about tort liability, not fear of sexual predation.

Posted by: dj moonbat on March 29, 2007 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

JM: I just did a search on John Edwards and Schwinn and there was nothing. If you want to lob accusations, try to have your facts in order an a link.

Posted by: lilybart on March 29, 2007 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Even at that, though, I don't understand the bit about her son's school having a rule that K-4 kids aren't allowed to ride bicycles to school. What's up with that? —Kevin Drum

Kevin, I take it you don't have kids.

It goes beyond predation.

Our five year old, typical of his cohort, would get lost two blocks from home. Otherwise, it's a simple matter of traffic safety and common sense. Most communities in the U.S. are auto oriented. Lots of new subdivisions are built, purposely, without sidewalks. Lots of suburban streets don't have sidewalks. Very few have dedicated bike lines, and even if they did, kids are, well, kids.

I would venture to guess that nearly as many children are driven to school today as walk or take the bus.

In contrast, I am amazed at the number of grade school children in Japan riding trains and subways to school.

Posted by: JeffII on March 29, 2007 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

You can probably blame trial lawyers.

Or you can probably provide a statistic to validate that. Which you won't, because you just pulled it completely out of your rectum.

P.S. Political affiliation that opposes hemlet and safety laws? Hint: it's not liberals, you dipshit.

Posted by: August J. Pollak on March 29, 2007 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

lilybart, sounds to me like JM was snarking against the idea that trial lawyers are to blame for everything.

Posted by: John Lott on March 29, 2007 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

I walk my kid to school sometimes, and when she's older, she'll go on her own, or with her sister. My fear isn't boogie men, it's traffic - mostly from the other parents driving their kids 3 blocks to school.

So when the heiress seems mature enough to not run out in front of a car because a cute squirrel went by, she'll walk on her own.

More liberal values, I guess.

Posted by: craigie on March 29, 2007 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking as an attorney who has practiced for almost 30 years on both the plaintiff and defense side of tort litigation--are you people nuts? Of course, there is no tort liability on the part of the school for children falling off their bicycles, absent some highly unusual circumstance in which common sense would tell you that liability is appropriate--like the child getting run over by a negligently driven school bus.

Posted by: rea on March 29, 2007 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

I also think that the fear is way overblown, despite having 2 daughters under the age of 5 years. However, the megan's law website does nothing to help the problem. I don't get it really. We live in a great neighborhood in Pasadena, but if you look at the site, it is as though we are surrounded by sex offenders. Kevin, go look at your own address and see how it looks. I could be wrong, but it might surprise you. That said, I don't fully get the fear, except that as with so many middle class parental neuroses, people just feel like they are better off not taking the chance.

Posted by: chris brandow on March 29, 2007 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

I agree it's unlikely that someone will "snatch" my children, but as a responsible parent, it only makes sense to be alert.

I live in Indianapolis, where in the past week we've had news reports of three girls, ages 11-15, raped at knifepoint while waiting for the school bus or walking home. Granted, all of these girls were apparently alone at the time, and at least two of the attacks occurred in early-morning or late-evening darkness. But as a parent, it's tough *not* to be concerned.

As for playing outside, it depends on the neighborhood. When my children are outside, I can see them from the window or porch, and I check on them frequently. Enough other kids and parents are around that I don't feel overly concerned. But in many neighborhoods, that is not the case. If I lived in an area with gangs, or lots of traffic, it would be different.

As for walking to school, where are these suburbs? Many communities today don't even have sidewalks. My kids could walk to the public elementary school a half-mile from our house...if I would let them trot along with 20-pound backpacks on a two-lane road with no sidewalks and huge SUVs driving 50 mph. In the dark.

No thanks!


Posted by: Karen Merk on March 29, 2007 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Agreed with the above - its traffic/weather, not predators....

Posted by: melandell on March 29, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Towns (do they even exist anymore?) Ok, suburbs just are not designed for foot traffic. To bad, so sad. So we do that so we can justify having these hyperexpress lane so we can get back and forth to our McMansions.

Posted by: Karmakin on March 29, 2007 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

sadly the parents of the one in a million kid that did get kidnaped would be flogged by the tv news networks. just like that woman who was because she had a career even though her husband had a high paying job. sorry i have to be so vague but i don't remember the details. just that something terrible happened to a kid then it's mother was riddiculed for months and blamed because she "didn't need to work."

Posted by: joe on March 29, 2007 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

If parents genuinely feared for their children's safety, they would keep them out of cars, the most dangerous place any kid goes by far.

Posted by: Dalton on March 29, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know what the rationale is for the no-biking rule either. But it's not new. I remember that in grade school when I was growing up there was an age limit too. I think you had to be a 4th grader or above to bike to school. This was in the 1970s.

Posted by: Kent on March 29, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

lilybart,

Your snark clue is "briar patch"!


:o)

Posted by: Doodle Bean on March 29, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Never let kids play outside or ride their bikes when they could be inside playing video games or watching the idiot box instead. That way you needn't worry that they'll be killed by a predator. It'll be heart disease and obesity that does them in by their 40th birthday.

And social skills? Who the hell needs social skills when your skills at killing imaginary characters on your X-Box are first rate?

Posted by: PDQ on March 29, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

The timing of Williamson's article today is interesting, since conservative John Stossel wrote a similar article yesterday. You don't suppose...

Posted by: ex-liberal on March 29, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, there is no tort liability on the part of the school for children falling off their bicycles

Since when did that ever stop anyone from filing a lawsuit?

I agree it's overcautious, but there's a common "make it impossible for anyone to sue us" mentality.

Posted by: Anderson on March 29, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Newsweek is running a similar plaint this week.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17770831/site/newsweek/

Posted by: monocle on March 29, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

In my day we walked to school. K through 12. In the rain, through the snow, past the predators. And uphill. Both ways.

Some parents need to take some toughen-up pills and stop watching so much television. And quit spending so much time on the Web, which will just turn anyone's brain to mush after a while. Some calisthenics would be a good idea too, to set a good example for the kids -- otherwise they'll all be obese and get cancer and who knows what.

Posted by: Zathras on March 29, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

The sexual predators on her terrifying website are drunks peeing in the street. In our modern police state, cops just love threatening to put people on that list.

Predator hysteria is typically the gateway obsession for a broader authoritarian terror phobia.

Posted by: John Hale on March 29, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Bowling for Columbine" has some of the best commentary about the cultural Climate of Fear that exists in this country.

Regarding the K-4 kids not being able to ride bicycles to school: Small children really aren't capable of navigating bicycles to school on their own. Maybe by 3rd or 4th grade they're ok, but 5 year olds certainly can't. However, I think perhaps the funny part of it is that there has to be a rule to prohibit it. In the "olden days," rightly or wrongly, one assumed that parents were able to figure out for themselves whether their kid was capable of doing something safely.

Posted by: G.Jones on March 29, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin - it comes partially from the fact that, while I live in the burbs, it's not quite so suburban as my hometown is. The population density is much higher where I currently live, so the street she'd have to cross is busier, drivers are more impatient, etc. It's partially from the fact that I'm a working mother. My mom worked, too, but not full-time until we were slightly older, so we always had an adult at home to run to in case of emergency. Now my daughter goes to after-school care at the local Y until I pick her up at six. When I was a kid, we came home from school at 3, changed our clothes, and got booted out of the house until dinner at 6. Part of it is because I'm a single mother, so I don't have any on-site backup in the form of a husband if something goes wrong - I guess there's a little guilt because my daughter's upbringing is not as Ozzie and Harriet-like as mine was. Part of it is I used to work in TV news and know that when things go wrong, they can go really wrong. Yes, I know it's nuts, but she'll have to be older before I loosen the vice grip.

Posted by: Jersey Tomato on March 29, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, I'll bite.

1) It's not just suburban parents. Many of us urban parents worry about this too.

2) If your child is going to be hit by lightning, the fact that you're standing next to them at the time won't stop the lightning. Not the case for abduction risk.

3) I know it's supposed to be uncommon, but personally I know 2 people who were victims/almost victims of abductions (both interrupted in progress), and those were both in "safe" communities. So while the odds may be low it is not unheard of.

4) Worrying about totally irrational stuff is part of being a parent. The abduction fear in particular is stoked by the news and entertainment media on a regular basis.

Having said all that, at some point I'll bite the bullet and let my kids make their way to school on their own. But I can sympathize with parents who can't bring themselves to that point.

Posted by: Dan in DC on March 29, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

I was inclined at first to say: "No wonder why the PNAC/Bush neocon bullshit about 'we can't let the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud' worked so well. The insane fixation on a very rare crime is turning us into a nation of bedwetters who freak at the sight of our own shadows."

Then I started to wonder: Is this just an outward manifestation of our mounting anxiety about the future, and the fact that life for most of us isn't as good as it was for our parents?

Consider this: Real wages peaked around 1973 and have been dropping for the most part ever since; they bottomed out in 1996, then started to rise as Clinton's 1993 undoing of the Reagan/Bush tax cuts giveaways started making itself felt -- but then immediately started to drop again once Bush Junior's 2003 tax cuts for the rich went into effect. (http://data.bls.gov/PDQ/graphics/CES0500000049_72206_1165592227709.gif
)

This decades-long overall drop was masked by the rise, thanks to feminism, of two-income families, but during the Bush years the drop has been steady as the gap between the very rich and the rest of us grows bigger and bigger. Yet the media and BushCo tell us that the economy is FINE! (Well it is, if you're rich.) There's a mental tension created in the average folks by the difference between what The Wise Media People tell them is the case and what they actually are experiencing themselves. This tension manifests itself in fear -- and if they don't want to openly admit that their economic situation is screwed, the fear transfers to something else: WMD, child predators, the black family moving in down the street.

Posted by: Phoenix Woman on March 29, 2007 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Well, John Edwards did successfully sue ob/gyns under the false premise that some children he represented with cerebal palsy were afflicted with that often terrible condition due to malpractice by the ob/gyns. True enough, he also successfully sued people and companies which actually did engage in negligence. One doen't have to oppose tort law to recognize that it sometimes carries with it undesirable or unjust outcomes. Playgrounds look much different in many municipalities today due to liability risks (and often times are improved), so it's not completely crazy to think that there may be places where riding bicycles to school is discouraged due to liability fears.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 29, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Is this a new phenomenon? My parents were paranoid about this stuff when I was in elementary school 20 years ago. They let me walk to school starting in 3rd or 4th grade but were very adamant about the route I was allowed to take--I had to walk along the street rather than through the park/athletic fields nearby.

Posted by: Dave in NYC on March 29, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

How can a school ask that kids be accompanied by an adult to school? Since when do they own the public roads. I guess that they could ask that an adult hand over the kid at the gate. Solution: go to the gate, wait for the kid to show up, and hand him/her over. It would be funny to be chatting nonchalantly with them while the kid trudged up.

You have to stick it to them. Otherwise, they win.

Posted by: Bob M on March 29, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

OK, we're talking about the 1960s, but in first and second grade on I either walked to school (a half mile) and then from third to sixth at least one way daily, with a younger sister, took public buses 12 miles to go to school in another city.

I never once had a problem.

Posted by: hopeless pedant on March 29, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

On a related note, why the hell must we abide by lower speed limits for school zones during class hours??

Posted by: bubba on March 29, 2007 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

I've always wanted to see one state in the Union set aside where kids were illegal. Imagine, no schools, no laws having anything to do with minors. No more whining some sort of conduct had to be shielded from the eyes or ears of children. No lil' curtain climbers disrupting restaurants or movie theaters. No crying babies anywhere. If you live in the state you can drink, smoke, gamble, have sex, buy and view porn, anything and everything adults can do and more. No more 20MPH speed traps supposedly set up to keep us from running over kids on bicycles. Mmmmmmm, kids on bicycles! I do like them kids on bicycles! Gotta improve my aim a bit though. Keep on missing them.......

Posted by: steve duncan on March 29, 2007 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Let a five year old walk themselves to school. Are you joking - they're so easily distracted (ooohhh a pillbug ooohh a tree etc.) by just about anything by the time they remember they were going to school it would be lunchtime.

Posted by: nancy on March 29, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

New neighborhoods in southern California are built facing in, with big walls along the back. So it's not like walking through friendly neighborhoods to get to that school.

But the real reason, I think, is the reporting on sexual predators. When I was growing up, our local newspaper didn't report rapes. I don't think the local news did either. It wasn't nice.

So people didn't really know it was happening near them. We are better informed.

However, as with airline safety, people don't have a sense of proportion.

But it's hard to argue that kids should start walking alone to school because they only have a .01% chance of getting raped. I remember insisting on the dead vaccine instead of the live one, for lesser odds. Because why risk it? Especially when you don't mind the cost in time and your kids don't mind the company?

Posted by: catherineD on March 29, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

I live in suburban/exurban Central Texas and I can actually understand why they don't expect bikes or even pedestrians at my daughter's elementary even though I walked blocks to school from K onward growing up.

Unfortunately my daughter's school is located along a fairly busy highway with no shoulders or sidewalks. Along the front of the school every morning the line of cars dropping off kids runs right along the edge of the highway which drops off to a steep drainage ditch. A kid riding a bike would have to weave through traffic, all the moms gabbing on cell phones or inching along while turned backwards in the car trying to distribute backpacks and jackets etc. Even a child pedestrian would have no way to walk to the school without walking in the ditch then walking across 4 lines of traffic without a crosswalk or stoplight. Basically it is just incredibly poorly planned for anything other than auto access.

Some kids living nearby do walk or ride bikes as the school doesn't actually have a RULE against it. But frankly it seems rather risky to me for kids to be fighting all that traffic without sidewalks, especially now with early daylight savings when it is still pretty dark in the mornings.

That said, I do agree entirely with the notion that we have become incredibly overprotective. I push my kids out the door and let them play in the neighborhood all the time. It's a gated upscale subdivision with lots of wooded undeveloped lots so perfect for kids to explore. Yet I still get calls from neighbors from time to time asking if I know where my kids are. They are somehow unnerved at the sight of kids playing normally without an adult in sight.

Posted by: Kent on March 29, 2007 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

In my day we walked to school. K through 12. In the rain, through the snow, past the predators. And uphill. Both ways.

Yep. My mom didn't even *have* a car. Get a grip people.

Posted by: eric on March 29, 2007 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

People are nortoriously bad at assessing risk, but the analogy with being struck by lightening is somewhat inapt. One can assess when the risk of a lightening strike is greatly heightened, and modify one's children's behavior accordingly; it isn't irrational to keep the kids indoors when there is a thunderstorm in the area, as opposed to having them go out to the playground next to the basketball post. In contrast, if one sees that there are 3 registered sex offenders within a five mile radius, and one isn't sure of what the offense was, one can't really assess the risk very well, or when it may be heightened.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 29, 2007 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

catherineD, what about the possibility of your children dying in a car accident? Surely the possibility for that increases once you start driving the kids to school, no?

For the record, actually, I was driven to grammar school, which was 1 mile away. After school, however, it was typically "open season" as far as walking and biking through town. I wonder how many kids aren't even allowed to do that anymore.

Posted by: Constantine on March 29, 2007 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

So Kevin,

What I'm taking from this and "Vote Fraud" below is...

...we're obviously not doing enough to protect against lightning strikes.

Posted by: BrianInAtlanta on March 29, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

John Edwards did successfully sue ob/gyns under the false premise that some children he represented with cerebal palsy were afflicted with that often terrible condition due to malpractice by the ob/gyns

Yeah, wasn't it particularly clever of Edwards to get that past summary judgment, directed verdict, the jury, and the appellate courts? All on a false premise?

Sounds like the crying of defense lawyers who did a bad job ...

Posted by: Anderson on March 29, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Those "predators" have always been there, people. The fact that you have labeled them and put them on a website seems to have made them even scarier to you people.

Posted by: eric on March 29, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Part of it is I used to work in TV news and know that when things go wrong, they can go really wrong. Yes, I know it's nuts, but she'll have to be older before I loosen the vice grip.

Posted by: Jersey Tomato on March 29, 2007 at 12:42 PM

Sorry, Tomato -- in some ways, you're part (or, more accurately, your former profession is part) of the problem. The overemphasis on crime in local TV news beginning in the '70s ("if it bleeds, it leads") led many in my parents' generation to become paranoid about urban living out of all reasonable proportion. Now, that mentality has affected another generation. To be sure, the changes to car-oriented exurban living, where many schools aren't within walking distance for children, hasn't helped, but I think most parents have to be more rational and less sheltering toward their offspring, if they want them to develop into people with brains of their own. (Then again, perhaps some parents don't want that to happen.)

Posted by: Vincent on March 29, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

I am a devout liberal/progressive or whatever you want to call it, and I don't have any kids nor do I plan to. Yet I find it hard to understand the hostility and belittling on the part of liberals towards parents who worry about their children being abducted by sexual predators.

Of course, such a thing is rare. Those parents know that. But since when do we only take precautions against dangers that are likely? If you go to the store to buy aspirin and there's a bottle of it that's clearly been opened, do you buy it just because it's probably not poisoned? Do you go hiking in the Rocky Mountain back country without supplies because you probably won't run into trouble? Do you smoke cigarettes because you probably won't get lung cancer? (Maybe you do, but do you think people are being silly when they quit?)

Lightning is a terrible analogy. For one thing, the chances of getting hit by lightning aren't static. You can send your kid out on a clear day when no rain is forecast and be almost certain that he won't get hit by lightning. Whereas it might not be irrational to tell your kid not to go out and play during an electrical storm.

Plus, getting hit by lightning is in many ways a lesser misfortune to suffer. A lot of people get hit by lightning and live. Some die, but there is a qualitative difference between having your child killed by lightning, and having him abducted, raped, tortured, and then killed. The latter is much, much worse than the other.

Child abduction isn't just yet another way your child might meet with an untimely demise. It's an absolute horror that will destroy his or her life, and that of the parent as well.

I say all this fully realizing that the chances are exceedingly low that any given child will be a victim of this. But given the uniquely horrific quality of the danger, I don't think it's appropriate to ridicule parents who take fairly modest measures, like walking their kid to school, to prevent it.

Posted by: Jason on March 29, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Why are you all assuming that the child has to walk or bike alone? The author of the column rode with her child to school. If a parent can drive their child to school, why can't he or she walk or bike with their child to school--and then pick them up? People in Europe do it ALL THE TIME.

It just kills me. Parents would rather see their children (and themselves) get fat sitting inside--and also contribute to global warming by driving everywhere.

No, I don't have children, but I would agree wiht the comment above--quit watching so much television and get a reality check. Did you know that a person can be on that sex offender list for some very minor violations--such as peeing in public?

Posted by: mothra on March 29, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

"As Williamson says, child abduction by strangers is very, very rare. About as likely as being hit by lightning."

So, you let your kids go out and play in a thunderstorm?

Posted by: Minion on March 29, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, there is no tort liability on the part of the school for children falling off their bicycles

Since when did that ever stop anyone from filing a lawsuit?

Now this I do find irritating. Lawyers don't run around filing frivolous lawsuits with no regard for the law, much less against school districts which tend to have built-in legal protections that make suits more difficult.

The few lawyers that do crap like that tend to get run out of the profession at an early age.

Posted by: Trickster on March 29, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

We live in a smallish town where there are sidewalks everywhere and it's very easy to walk to the nearby elementary school. And I insist on walking there, because it's a damn sight faster than driving. The lines of gigantic SUVs waiting to get into the driveway in front of the school is annoying, dangerous, and unnecessary. Nearly everyone lives within a mile of the school (if they don't, they go to a different school).

What always amazes me (and it shouldn't) is how once the SUV driver has dropped off their kid, they speed away from the school. Well, I guess *their* kid is safe. To hell with all the other ones. And that's the reason I wouldn't let my kids walk to school on their own - not because they don't know the way (they do), not because they aren't responsible and taking precautions (they do), but because those f'ing drivers are in such a hurry to get to their next red light they're not paying any attention.

Posted by: Diane Patterson on March 29, 2007 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

So, you let your kids go out and play in a thunderstorm?

Playing in the rain is now forbidden? Cripes, I feel sorry for kids, these days.

Of course, we never had any gaming machines more sophisticated than an Atari 2600.

Are we to assume that the risk of abduction is high AT ALL TIMES?

I have to continue on in my strongly held belief that having children does not make people stupid. I have to assume merely that when stupid people have children, they merely have a very public outlet for their poor judgment and reasoning abilities.

Posted by: Constantine on March 29, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Stunning. I walked 1.5 miles to school in 1st and 2nd. With other kids, granted, but I had no trouble knowing where to go and when to be there by. Rain and snow be dammed. From 3rd grade on...bicycle every day. Not surprisingly, today I'm not obese (instead, a triathlete) and rarely watch TV and never video games.

My parents never worried a whit, at least none they've ever admitted to. Crazy fear indeed.

Posted by: ralph on March 29, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

I walked five blocks to school starting in Kindergarten in Berkeley, California. So that would have been 1967 when I started. I'm not convinced that Berkeley in 1967 was that much safer than the 'burbs in 2007, though we did have sidewalks in Berkeley. We had neighbors aghast when we let my son ride his bike around the block (on the sidewalk) when he was 7. Feeding people's paranoia is effective.

Don't even get me started about "internet safety."

Posted by: me2i81 on March 29, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Since this is one of your pet peeves (so you might not mind doing this), could you please find a source for your liklihood comparison between abduction by strangers and lightning strikes?

Posted by: A-ro on March 29, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Now this I do find irritating. Lawyers don't run around filing frivolous lawsuits with no regard for the law, much less against school districts which tend to have built-in legal protections that make suits more difficult.

You're kidding, right? I mean, sure, depending on how you define "frivolous," but barring a 4-square precedent to the contrary, it's a sorry lawyer who can't dress up the allegations to find some hook or other on which to hang the school district -- enough to put the district to the trouble of defending the case.

Anyway, as Drum's update shows, some states may actually allow such a suit. Which means you can always file a suit arguing that your state should, um, follow suit ...

Posted by: Anderson on March 29, 2007 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

As Matthew Yglesias notes, driving kids to school in cars is much, much more dangerous than letting them walk...

Posted by: Gregory on March 29, 2007 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

No, the rule against K-4 cycling to school probably doesn't have anything to do with supposed legal liability, but has to do with a desire to keep the kids safe. They think that K-4 don't have great judgment and aren't necessarily experience cyclists, so that letting them bike to school will wind up having large numbers of possibly immature cyclists on the road, with a possibility that a few of them will get hurt. The school doesn't want that, because children getting hurt is a BAD THING, never mind legal liability.

Posted by: John Lott on March 29, 2007 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with posters who complain about lack of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in suburban communities. To get to school by bike, a lot of kids would have to ride in the street with cars going past them at 45 mph. The architecture of modern suburban communities pretty much forces people to drive rather than walk or bike.

Posted by: postxian on March 29, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Or, Anderson, Edwards did an extraordinarily good job, and was thus able to overcome the empirical deficiencies in his clients' claims of damage due to physician malpractice. The blanket assumption that a successful tort was a good oucome is no better than the blanket assumption that a successful tort was a bad outcome. I happen to think that the infamous McDonald's coffee lawsuit was likely a fairly reasonable outcome, but I can also recognize that very unreasonable outcomes also are part of the landscape, and the more complex the science is, the more likely it can occur.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 29, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

The writer makes a great point about the real dangers facing kids (especially think it's "safe" having the kids watching TV in the living room instead of playing outside):

Which scenario should provoke more panic: the possibility that your child may become one of the approximately 100 children who are kidnapped by strangers each year, or one of the country's 58 million overweight adults?

Posted by: JJF on March 29, 2007 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Sex crimes are quite similar to incidents of gun violence, in that the perpetrator and victim are more often than not fairly well-acquainted with each other.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on March 29, 2007 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK
I don't know what the rationale is for the no-biking rule either. But it's not new. I remember that in grade school when I was growing up there was an age limit too. I think you had to be a 4th grader or above to bike to school. This was in the 1970s. Posted by: Kent on March 29, 2007 at 12:36 PM


Huh??!!! As someone who grew up in the 'burbs during the 70s I have no idea what your talking about.

I, and my brother and sisters, all walked (and rode our bikes) to grade school, junior high, and high school unless it was pouring down rain or sub-zero (Fahrenheit, that is) temperatures.

Our parents almost never checked up on us when we played and I don't recall a single kid getting kidnapped or hurt (anything serious that is).

Parents these days are just strangely paranoid.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on March 29, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

"In contrast, if one sees that there are 3 registered sex offenders within a five mile radius, and one isn't sure of what the offense was, one can't really assess the risk very well, or when it may be heightened."

Of course you can. If you've checked the site you've got the name and I guarantee your state courts has an online docket search available. Take a few minutes out of your life to find out whether or not you're protecting your child from some poor sap who got busted for pissing outdoors.

Posted by: GoatBoy on March 29, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

3) I know it's supposed to be uncommon, but personally I know 2 people who were victims/almost victims of abductions (both interrupted in progress), and those were both in "safe" communities. So while the odds may be low it is not unheard of. Posted by: Dan in DC

While it is statistically low, I believe there is something akin to the "1% rule" at work, though slightly off topic and completely non-falsifiable.

In most communities (not merely neighborhoods), there are a certain percentage of what we will call "anti-social" individuals - drunks (perhaps functioning), drug addicts (ditto), the clinically mentally ill (which would include sexual predators), folks prone to violence and/or obsessed with team sports, political conservatives, etc. The higher the income level of the community, the lower the concentration you are likely to find certain of categories of these "anti-social" folks. If you need proof of this, see how many registered sex offenders are to be found in the wealthiest section of your community compared to the middle or lower "class" areas?

This is not necessarily an indicator that lower economic classes produce more people like this (though statistics show that they do, and their presence in a community is often because they are lodging with family after release from prison). But this concentration of sex offenders also reflects the power well-healed communities to prevent them from finding housing even in the “lower rent” areas surrounding them. Again, go to the web site for your community or state policing organization(s), and they probably have a map to show where sex offenders are supposed to be living. (Too bad they can’t do the same for drug dealers, lawyers, used car dealers, etc.)

The other part of this non-falsifiable treatise is simpler to grasp. Because there is always a certain percentage of the population anywhere that is "anti-social" (probably varying no more than a percentage points – higher, of course in SoCal), as the population increases, “these people” may seem more common and prominent simply because numerically there are more of them, though they probably remain a statistical constant.

Posted by: JeffII on March 29, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Someone up thread said "liberals are for helmet laws". No we're not. Helmet "laws" are bullplop. Bullplop! As our seat belt rules.

If you want to wear a helmet, wear one, don't give me some nanny-state bull plop "save the children" reason why it should be a law.

Posted by: pacified on March 29, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

For what it's worth, the principal at the K-5 school my kids go to told me that they don't allow biking to school because it's just a mess, with kids trying to lock their bikes, or not locking their bikes and thus losing them, or losing their keys and not being able to unlock their bikes... makes sense to me, actually. These are little children.

Posted by: Yagur on March 29, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

You sound like you know this is nuts, but is the fear really so all-encompassing that you can't do anything about it? Where does it come from?

It comes from TV, mainly. Fear sells. Fear sells product. It sells racism and isolationism and pepper spray and new locks. And it sells authoritarianism.

I mean, every time my wife watches another episode of Special Victims Unit i just know that Her leather catsuit and stillettos will get buried even deeper in the closet....

Posted by: corydalus on March 29, 2007 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

We had two "attempted child abduction" arrests last week in this Republican area, according to the newspaper. One person talking from a car to a little girl walking down the street turned out to be genuinely concerned about the backbreaking backpack the kid was wearing, this after the entire school district was put on predator alert. Another person who was much too interested in a 2-year-old's legs in a supermarket, according to her grandmother, turned out to be genuinely concerned that the red indentations, caused by a child car seat, were burn marks that the grandmother either didn't know about or caused.

Of course, everybody is now warned not to pay any attention to the well-being of children in the community, lest one wind up in really big trouble.

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on March 29, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I started school in Omaha, and had to take the public bus home from kindergarden. I remember a bus driver asking a little girl to not chew on the hanky her bus fare was tied in because he could not undo the knot.

I also remember a neighbor girl rode the bus one time and the Rolling Stones were on it.

Posted by: Brojo on March 29, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Goat boy, the difference between a guy taking a leak outdoors, and a guy who gets off by exposing himself is not always do easily detemined by a court docket. Yeah, some people do get wrongly forced to register as sex offenders, but it isn't always as easy to determine that as you seem to think.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 29, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

American Hawk: "You can probably blame trial lawyers."

Why not instead affix blame on those people who hire attorneys for the purpose of obfuscating, evading or deflecting their personal responsibility? Or the insurance companies that pander to such nonsense?

Oh, that's right -- the former is most likely to vote for Republicans, while the latter is most likely to fund their party's campaign coffers.

Never mind.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on March 29, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

The predator/lightning comparison isn't valid, because while both are terrible, the horror of knowing your child was being held down and sexually assaulted against his/her will while pleading for mercy or mommy and then getting strangled and tossed in a garbage bag, having lived their last conscious moments in an utter hell, far outweighs the horror of getting zapped by a lightning bolt. It's not just probabilities. It is the probability and the cost of the event that gives us risk.

Posted by: Red State Mike on March 29, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

I grew up in San Francisco in the 70's/80's and either walked to school or took public transit starting in 3rd grade. The summer before I started 3rd grade my mother forced me to take the bus by myself a few times to get over my fear, which I quickly did. Ever since then, I've been a very independent person.

Reading this thread makes me think that the bigger issue is not child predators, it's traffic and the fact that the streets are not safe due to the lack of sidewalks and distracted drivers.

Given that most people, by definition, live close to the public school that their child attends, I would like to see a school ban parents from picking up their kids in cars and make parents either walk/bike to/from school with their kids, or have kids take the school bus.

It sounds like the biggest concern is bad drivers, not sexual predators.

Posted by: mfw13 on March 29, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Most of the things people are saying on this thread are pretty dumb, but I gotta respect the guy who said he would rather be raped than hit by lightning. That is a really impressively weird thing to say.

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 29, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

I was walking myself to school midway through first grade (1962-63) in an urban neighborhood. By 7th grade, I was riding the transit bus by myself. Sure, every now and then something scary happened -- big dogs, big kids, maybe a strange adult once or twice -- but I dealt with it. How are these kids ever going to grow up? Sheesh.

Posted by: sj on March 29, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand the bit about her son's school having a rule that K-4 kids aren't allowed to ride bicycles to school.

Being 40 now, I still remember being frustrated because I was not allowed to ride my bike to schook until 3rd grade. It was a district policy, if I remember right and this was back in what '74?

Part of it may have been liability, but more practically, it was because they only had 1 or 2 bicycle racks and didn't want kids chaining up bikes all over the school yard.

Posted by: Simp on March 29, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

The sexual predators on her terrifying website are drunks peeing in the street.

Here in IL the sexual predators list is likewise abused. Legislators like to pad it up with all sorts of crimes. Until a few years ago, public urination was sure to get you on the list. (It may still get you on the list now, depending on what you are charged with.) Recently any physical assault of a minor by an adult got added to the list. If you are an 18 year old who killed a 17 year old over a drug deal gone bad, and you were let out of prison yesterday after serving 20 years for murder, today you will find that you are now serving sentence on the "sexual predator" list. Among other things, it sounds like obvious ex-post facto to me, but SCOTUS disagrees. Not surprisingly, it is harder for a listed sexual predator to get a job than it is for an ex-con murderer. I believe that there is also some talk of adding arsonists to the list.

Posted by: Disputo on March 29, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Generation of wimps.

Parents who never let their children be alone in public are creating a child who has an exaggerated sense of fear. This level of fear is crippling the nation.

When I was a kid, I would walk fifteen minutes to the town pool, by myself, from the age of six. And use the diving board!

American parents are raising a generation of wimps.

Posted by: RickD on March 29, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

In our suburban neighborhood, not only do people drive their kids to school to keep their children safe from the huge traffic jams around schools caused by people driving their kids to school, but every school bus stop I pass on my way to work has a half-dozen SUVs and minivans parked around it belonging to parents driving their kids the 1/2 block from their homes to the bus stop.

Posted by: Qwerty on March 29, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Homonyn bust: 'well-healed'

Try: 'well-heeled' (think of the opposite - down-at-heels)

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 29, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

What really frosts me is seeing mommies drive their kids down to the end of their driveways - which, by the way, are more often than not in full view of their front door or living room window - and sitting with them in their monster SUVs, engines running, until the school bus comes.

My little sprog or sproglette, forced to walk 100 feet and then be exposed to the weather, where he/she will surely be condemned to melt, freeze or blow away? No way! Not MY precious child!

Posted by: Sharoney on March 29, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Btw, the rule should be that a parent can accompany a child to school if they wish, but only on foot or by bicycle. If they want the kid to go by car to school, the kid has to go alone.

Posted by: Disputo on March 29, 2007 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

I saw Joanna Spillbor of Findlaw.com on MSNBC about the sexual predator notification laws and she's no right wing conservative but she said she though parents should always think that EVERYONE is a sexual predator. IOW, be as proactive about protecting your child as you possibly can be.

I agree with Joanna and thats how I was about my daughter and her friends. My parents never thought about the possibility of harm coming to us and it was their policy that if we wanted to stay after school, we had to walk home, almost 2 miles. Its frightening to think of how vulnerable we were. Megan Kanka's parents shouldn't have allowed her to play unsupervised. Etan Patz shouldn't have been standing alone at a bus stop in Manhattan at age 7.

Posted by: Karen on March 29, 2007 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

There is little that is more narcissistically useless and reactionary than parents in the last twenty years. For the most part they've only served to guarantee that their offspring will be as stupid and pointlessly spoiled as they wanted to be. Walking anywhere? Not my kid. Their fear of many things, whether it is homosexuals, sexual predators, bad drivers, evil municipal transportation drivers or tort lawyers is unreasoned. But it's not unusual. Fear is the only thing that drives these parents. It's what they've grown up with and it's their prime motivator (aside from a nice, healthy portion of greed).

Please. These are the best sheep...errr...parents the American system could produce. We should all be proud.

Posted by: ice weasel on March 29, 2007 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Yesterday on my morning walk I saw a kid come out of his house, get picked up by an SUV, and driven up the street that was right in front of his house to school. It was maybe 100 feet. Do you mean to tell me that the parent can't get dressed and walk with the kid that 100 feet to school? Or that there isn't an older kid (the school is K-7) who can be the "sitter"?

I can't get out of my street in the morning between 7:40 and 8 AM because of the line of SUVs lined up driving kids to HIGH SCHOOL. Yes, it's a regional high school and there are kids from the next town who need to be driven, but where the hell are the school buses? And I've seen plenty of people pull out of driveways in my neighborhood and drive their kids to HIGH SCHOOL.

I have friends who have kids who have never been allowed to even play in their own backyards unless mom is out there with them. I have friends with kids in their early teens who are not allowed to be latchkey kids.

We are teaching kids fear, fear, and more fear. No wonder there are so many young Republicans.

Posted by: Jill on March 29, 2007 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Another variable at work is that people now-a-days simply have fewer kids, which plays into this dynamic in two ways.

First, when you have a gaggle of kids, the older ones look out for the younger ones, so less parental supervision is required (or possible). Second, when you have a gaggle of kids, it is not as big of a loss when one of them dies, as it is when you only have one or two kids.

Posted by: Disputo on March 29, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Second, when you have a gaggle of kids, it is not as big of a loss when one of them dies, as it is when you only have one or two kids.

I only have two kids, but I couldn't disagree with this statement more.

Posted by: Gregory on March 29, 2007 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

It bothers me to hear such disparaging comments about parents dubbed "overprotective."

I live in Pittsburgh, in a city neighborhood, and I would simply never allow my kids (8 and 6) to roam around unattended. Why is it viewed as over protective to know where your kids are? I live in one of the safer, nicer city neighborhoods, and yet a man mowing his lawn was shot and killed a few years ago. This year, there is a gang of kids beating the hell out of folks walking through the neighborhood. These are kids, beating and robbing adults. There is no way in the world I am letting my children roam around there.

You folks who let your kids roam the neighborhood to get "socialized?" Well, I am the one who is "socializing" them because they are at my house; sometimes for 4-5 hours at a stretch. I feed your kids, I give them snacks, I put their band-aids on, I make sure they actually wear their bicycle helmet, as opposed to having it decorate the handle bars. Did you ever wonder how you kid can go for five hours without using the bathroom? They don't. They are tramping the mud into my house. When I finally send them home, I watch them until they actually get to your house, because I don't want to have it on my back when your five-year-old wanders off.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I got a phone call from a fellow parent asking me the question: "Have you see my kid today?" It shocks the hell out of me every single time. This isn't socialization, it is child dumping.

Posted by: claire on March 29, 2007 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Walked the .5 mile to school when I was 5 - kindergarten. Rode a bike all through elementary school too. The neighborhood was just like the burbs of today, cept with smaller houses. This was the early 80's, suburb of Houston. The only danger was kids beating each other up.

It's the TV. (also a self-reinforcing effect whereby kids don't walk to school because they would be the only ones walking now - there needs to be a critical mass of kids doing it).

The weather, your kitchen sponge, child predators, undercooked chicken, and terrorists are all trying to kill you!!!!! According to the tv news, that is.

Posted by: luci on March 29, 2007 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Being driven to school? Even riding a bike to school? Luxury. In my day we crawled on our hands and knees over shards of broken glass and rusty nails to get to school, and we were glad to do it.

Posted by: Stefan on March 29, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, aren't there any parents posting here? Sure the risk of your kid getting abducted/molested may be statistically low, but somebody has to be the one on the losing side of that equation, and I certainly can't blame parents for doing everything they can to make sure it isn't them. Most people love their children and want to keep them safe, even from things that are statistically unlikely, especially when the alternative is that maybe you kid might turn out fat or the vague assertion that your kid is a wimp form the "when I was your age" crowd.

For what it's worth, I live in an inner city, mostly low-income, mostly Hispanic neighborhood and I see kids walking to and from school all the time. So everyone who's worried about the future generation being fat and fearful can rest assured that the poor kids will be just fine.

Posted by: sophronia on March 29, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

I walked to school every day of my school life (inner-ring suburbia in an old city in the '80s). Even as an 8 year old, I knew that the most dangerous thing I faced was bullies and Ford Explorers.

Parents of high school kids, however should fear "sexual predators," but the reality is that he wears a letter jacket and sits next to your daughter on the bus.

Posted by: daniel on March 29, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

I really feel sorry for all those lower class Americans who can't afford to drive their kids to and from school every day, much less afford a SUV to do it in.

I suppose that's where the vastly higher incidence of sexual assault-on-the-way-to-school comes in for poor, innercity communities.

Oh, wait, that's bullshit. I guess it's only spoiled white kids with soccer moms who are at risk of sexual assault, then? That's the impression I get from Nancy Grace, at least.

Posted by: bubba on March 29, 2007 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a solution: Walking school buses. A group of neighborhood kids walks to school accompanied by adult(s). Saves gas. Saves CO2. Saves lives. Saves us from eventual diabetes. And the kids actually enjoy it. Beats listening to their dad listening to Imus interview his wife.
Buck up, America!

Posted by: jd on March 29, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

And I still think 15mph for school zones when the little bastards should be in class is absurd!

Posted by: bubba on March 29, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Not to be a pest, but the reason lightning strikes are rare is that people get out of the storm and into a safe place when there is lightning in the area. In facts, there are statistics for the number of lightning strikes in the world annually and there are many of them. They just don't hit people much because of safety precautions.

Posted by: DBK on March 29, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

I should add that my parents used to encourage me to play in lightning storms, but I caught on to them pretty quick.

In all seriousness, I do agree that we live in a new sort of culture where fear is normal.

Posted by: DBK on March 29, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Being driven to school? Even riding a bike to school? Luxury. In my day we crawled on our hands and knees over shards of broken glass and rusty nails to get to school, and we were glad to do it. Posted by: Stefan

Damn straight! And if you don't stop whining about it, we're sending you straight back to KarlMarxstadt!

Posted by: JeffII on March 29, 2007 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

"It comes from TV, mainly. Fear sells. Fear sells product. It sells racism and isolationism and pepper spray and new locks. And it sells authoritarianism."
Posted by: corydalus on March 29, 2007 at 1:29 PM

EXACTLY. After 9/11 especially. The Weather Channel is even downright lurid nowadays!

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on March 29, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Disputo, I'm sure the loss John and Elizabeth Edwards felt at the death of their son was mitigated by the birth of two more kids, or it would have been less painful if the two younger kids had already been born. Sheesh.

Look, parents can go overboard, but this nostalgic look back at the halcyon days of parenting is pretty dumb as well. It was stupid to have kids wrestling in the back seat, unencumbered by seat belts, to say nothing of car seats, and yes, that went on for years after seat belts were standard. There is some wisdom to wearing a helmet when riding a bike. It is doubtful that parents are any more irrational now than they have ever been.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 29, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I'm not a parent yet myself, but I find it pretty hard to sympathize with these all those obsessive parents out there. Am I more afraid of my child being raped or growing up to be a fat, stupid, lazy American? Frankly I'm terrified of the latter. Because its virtually guaranteed if you don't experience a healthy, stimulating lifestyle from an early age. On the other hand, reasonable precautions like sending young children to school with older children, can bring the likelihood of the former to damn near zero.

Posted by: mpowell on March 29, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

On the bike riding thing, I remember the elementary school I went to for third and fourth grade had a rule about bike riding to school that limited it to the fourth graders only. That was...oh, about 45 years ago. So restrictions on K to 4 graders riding bikes is nothing new. I had just moved from a place where there was no bike riding allowed, so waiting till I got to 4th grade didn't seem much of a deal to me.

Posted by: majun on March 29, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Most sexual abuse occurs at home as incest, and most of America remains in huge denial.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on March 29, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

We are irrationally afraid of many things, not just sexual predators.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on March 29, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

And who would have guessed that "American Hawk" was your mother.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on March 29, 2007 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

I live in a pretty typical east Portland (OR) neighborhood. The buses don't serve the elementary school unless you live more than a mile away. Except in the rainiest winter weather, I'd say close to half of the kids get to school by walking with a parent or a group, and close to half get driven by parents. Some of the older kids walk by themselves. A few of the kids ride bikes with their parents riding too (their own bikes, I mean).

As a parent of a first grader, my impression is that it's not predators that are our concern, it's traffic. The cars aren't out of control -- the kids generally need to cross one or two fairly busy streets, but the traffic is 30 mph or less and it's only one lane each way, and there are usually older children as crossing guards. Still, drivers on all the streets are often oblivious and the kids, especially if there are a few together, bear some watching. I think auto/pedestrian accidents for kids under 12 are worth rationally worrying about.

And that's also why the school discourages kids riding, especially by themselves -- because of auto/bike accidents, especially right near the school where the drivers are coming and going a lot.

It's hard for me to see parents and kids walking together as a bad thing. I guess I think of it as companionable more than protective. Same with riding.

These kids are missing the network of other kids and kid-aware parents that I had when I was a kid, so we make some adaptations. I used to play with kids on my block; now, on our block of 15 houses, there are no other elementary school kids. Many of the kids who live nearby are not home during the afternoons and summers because their parents aren't home either.

So those of us who want our kids to just goof around together (and who have the time to do that) manage that by hanging around on the school playground and nearby field after school. They play in mud or dig with sticks or make structures or save worms or play ball or whatever. Yeah, they're in sight of their parents, but they're generally out of hearing and seem to forget we're there.

BTW, I'm one who firmly believes in the "no one wants your kids" thing, and yet I was a little freaked out when a guy kept hanging around near the edge of the field where the kids played, even when parents asked him what he was doing (never a sensible answer) and when the cops told him a few times in a row to move along. He would sit there watching the kids and taking notes. What the hell? It shook my faith in the no-worries approach!

Posted by: Julie on March 29, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Whatever happened to the Land of the Brave?

Posted by: Jörgen in Germany on March 29, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

EXACTLY. After 9/11 especially. The Weather Channel is even downright lurid nowadays! Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station

Hear! Hear!

They advertise all the time for these shows that are the meteorological equivalent of the "When Animals Attack!" programs shown far too frequently on the Animal Planet channel.

Posted by: JeffII on March 29, 2007 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

In our day (the 60s) my sister and I walked, biked, or took the bus to school, the library, etc., even when we lived in a city full of mobsters in a country with an armed insurgency, shortly before that country went under martial law. When we came to the US in 1972, we resumed our way of life, until we moved to a house from which we could not go anywhere without crossing a freeway interchange, and there was no school bus thanks to cheap SOBs. Then our mother had to drive us everywhere until I was 16, which was tedious for all concerned. The only person who ever tried to harm us was our very own uncle, as is the case over 90% of the time. Fortunately, our father was home and made short work of him. Later, another uncle took out a hit on our mother, which failed because he hired idiots. MORAL: Uncles should be illegal.

Posted by: Sisi on March 29, 2007 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

UPDATE 2: I also agree with Atrios' comment. Obviously this is all intertwined, but it's the fact that this fear has become practically a cultural norm that's the real problem. Don't give in to it and people think you're a bad parent. That's nuts.
—Kevin Drum

Again, Kevin, you don't have children, do you?

Posted by: JeffII on March 29, 2007 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

I wrote:

Second, when you have a gaggle of kids, it is not as big of a loss when one of them dies, as it is when you only have one or two kids.

Gregory wrote:

I only have two kids, but I couldn't disagree with this statement more.

Will wrote:

Yeah, Disputo, I'm sure the loss John and Elizabeth Edwards felt at the death of their son was mitigated by the birth of two more kids, or it would have been less painful if the two younger kids had already been born. Sheesh.

See, this is a symptom of the problem here -- folks, such as Gregory and Will, can't even grasp what it is that I am talking about. By "not as big of a loss" I am talking about the loss to the family unit. If a single child couple loses their child, do you really think that their family is equally effected as when a couple with 8 kids loses a child? In many situations like that, the single child couple will split up over the grief, whereas the 8 child family will certainly move on.

If that doesn't help explain it, think about a family farming 1000 acres, and the differential effects on the lose to a single and 8 child couple.

Or think about the reasons people in less developed countries have so many kids as opposed to those of us in the West.

Or just think about the biological drive to reproduce our genes, and what premium that drive places on the value of the life of a child from a single child couple.

Posted by: Disputo on March 29, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Homonyn bust: 'well-healed' Posted by: MsNThrope

No way, dude! I was waxing metamorphically, as in psychologically well put together. You know, like intellectually stacked. You know, well, ah . . . Ah. . . Doh!

As column writers often respond, "Thanks for reading!"

Posted by: JeffII on March 29, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, parents like Karen above are the reason that I and pretty much everyone in their 20s I know would never, ever, ever take a job working with children. Frankly, I wouldn't even interact with a strange child under any circumstances, except maybe to dial 911 if they were bleeding to death in the street.

When I was growing up, it was a common thing for my mother to ask an alone crying child in a store if they were lost and help them find someone to page their mother. Me, I'm walking the other way.

Posted by: william on March 29, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

I walked eight blocks to school from first grade on in the 1960s, as did my younger sister. When she was six and walking to school alone, she was abducted by a stranger and molested, an event that affected her entire life. As some other parents have pointed out, it's easy to scoff at overprotective parents, but given the severity of the risk, I don't see any reason to criticize parents who choose to walk their children to school rather than accept even that small risk. Allowing a kid to do risky stunts at the playground and risk breaking an arm is one thing; letting them walk along busy streets, among adults who might not all be "good guys" is another thing entirely.

Posted by: trulyvery on March 29, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo, the America where children were substantially, if not primarily, an economic asset is gone, thankfully. I have no idea whether a family of eight today can better emotionally withstand the loss of child, on average, than a family of four. Defining "loss", outside of economic terms, is extremely difficult and likely it has not been a question which has been pursued energetically.

Given the rates at which childlessness are rising, it brings into question how strong the human biological drive to reproduce one's genes is. There is much to be learned.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 29, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Normally, Kevin, I'd agree with you. The media usually plays up any hysteria.
But recently a girl was walking home from the school where my daughter attends, in a typical middle-class, safe neighborhood. A block away from her home, a man stopped his car, asked her a few "small talk" questions, and then invited her into the car. The girl got freaked out and ran home, with the car tailing her (probably not knowing she lived only a few houses away). When she ran into her home the car drove off.
When the police were notified, it turned out that someone matching the same description had done the same thing a few days earlier, to a different girl from the same school. Now of course all the parents and kids know about it.
My point being, obviously, that regardless of how infrequent this is, that makes no difference if it's your own child who is vulnerable. Yes it can produce hysteria, but there are real sick people out there, and the danger is real. I wish it weren't so. But parents have reason to be afraid.

Posted by: the concern is legitimate on March 29, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

I second william's sentiment, except to note that it is even worse when you're in your 30s.

Posted by: Disputo on March 29, 2007 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

I think the lack of un-scheduled time also prevents children from just playing outside. When I grew up, the neighborhood was full of kids who were all kicked outside to play until dinner time. We were told, quite literally, not to return to the house until the town's 6:00 whistle blew. Now kids go from after-school care to karate, ballet, violin, whatever. Since both parents work all week, family chores are done on weekends, and it's all hands on deck when you're doing yardwork or cleaning the garage. Kids just have less free time, so it's not as easy to develop a protective gang of kids to roam around with.

Posted by: Jersey Tomato on March 29, 2007 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

To be clear, disputo, the urge to get laid is as strong as ever, but I don't know if that really carries over to the urge to have at least one your progeny on planet earth. Technology has outstripped evolution, or deconstructed it, or something like that.

Posted by: Will Alen on March 29, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

I have a 5 1/2-year-old daughter in kindergarten, and we drive her to school, which is a little more than a mile away. It would be too far for her to walk in any case, and the streets aren't conducive to having little kids walking around. Our street has a walk/bike lane, but there's no physical separation, just a painted line. And there are no crosswalks between our house and the school. The school she'll attend starting in third grade (she's in a pre-K-through-2nd magnet program now) is a similar distance away, via similarly dangerous roads. The middle school is closer, but there are some really tough hills and narrow roads, so I doubt we'd have her bike unless she was really into it. All the same will go for her brother, three years younger.

As for my own childhood experience (I'll be 37 in a couple of months), when I started school we lived in the suburbs, and I think I walked the long block to the bus stop by myself. When I was in second grade we moved into New York City, but to Roosevelt Island, which is something of a suburban enclave just off Manhattan. So I walked to school alone. Starting in seventh grade, I went to a school on the Upper East Side and took the tramway and a city bus by myself; we moved into Manhattan proper during seventh grade, and then it was just the city bus (or sometimes I would walk through or next to Central Park, if the weather was nice, I wasn't late, etc.).

Would I do all the same with my kids if we lived in the city now? I'm not really sure. I have no irrational fear of abductions, but it can't hurt to accompany your kids when convenient. You get to chat and so on. Anyway, until more suburbs like mine are more pedestrian-friendly, it's a moot point for a lot of us.

Posted by: John on March 29, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, "concern is legitimate" - do you live in Central Jersey? The exact same thing happened in our town a few weeks ago - the sachool sent home a flyer saying the cops had notified them about two attempted "lurings."

Posted by: Jersey Tomato on March 29, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

To be clear, disputo, the urge to get laid is as strong as ever

*Whew* Thanks for clearing that up -- you had me scared there for a second. :)

Posted by: Disputo on March 29, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Did you know that a person can be on that sex offender list for some very minor violations--such as peeing in public?
I'd echo that observation. A friend got arrested for peeing on a bush in an empty lot as he walked home inebriated at 2 a.m. the officer charged him with "exposing his member." Fortunately he got the charge thrown out and the record sealed because he would have gone on a sexual predator's list otherwise. for peeing on a bush in an empty lot at 2 a.m.
I do think the way suburbia is laid out has a lot to do with why kids are driven to school. Jogging around my sister's suburban neighborhood is a pretty risky venture and I'm an adult. Not a sidewalk in sight.
That said, someone else told me the story of how her son, even though he lived only a few blocks from school, refused to walk and insisted on driving. it "wasn't cool" to walk or ride a bike.

Posted by: lou on March 29, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

it "wasn't cool" to walk or ride a bike.

Awesome! Obesity is now cool, just like during the Rubinesque period. About f-ing time!


Posted by: Disputo on March 29, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

re the bike thing:

my elem. school was a big wide 'U' shaped building, and the grades got older as you wrapped around the building

the bike rack was all the way over by the 5th grade entrance, and I think only 4th & 5th graders were supposed to ride to school

(this was about 25 years ago)

Posted by: lutton on March 29, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Its frightening to think of how vulnerable we were."

Karen, no offense, but it's frightening to think how paranoid and paralyzed by fear you must be to think this way. Really? Treat EVERYONE as a pedophile? The 85 year-old lady? The married couple with 3 kids of their own? This is just insane.

Posted by: ralph on March 29, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think it's so much about being overprotective as it is about a certain type of culture where it only makes sense to fear the stranger. After a short internship at the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit in a large northeastern city, I can tell you that most cases of predating on children occurred by someone the family knew quite well. But as illustrated by shows like Catch a Predator, all the fear and focus is directed to that unknown boogeyman. THEY are strange and dangerous, my group/clique/community is not. People should wake the hell up and realize that they have more to worry about from friends and relatives than some random dude on the internet. Then again I'm not a parent. And I imagine that if I were a parent and I knew that a stranger statistically poses a small threat to my child, that wouldn't be enough to keep me from worrying.

Posted by: Christina on March 29, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

My son is a junior in high school. He's 5'11" and 190 pounds. His grandmother doesn't want him to have to wait half an hour to be picked up after school because she's afraid somebody will abduct him off the street. My excuse for her is that she's 87 and paranoid about everything.

That said, it is true that in California, elementary school kids are the responsibility of the school from house door to house door, unless the parent drops them off or picks them up, so I can see a fear of litigation if a kid gets hit by a car, but the chances of a predator abduction are pretty damned slim.

Posted by: anandine on March 29, 2007 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Finally, a problem I know how to solve!

Forbid parents to drive their children to school.

Geez, that was easy.

Posted by: mark on March 29, 2007 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

To all those who begin their comments saying something like this. "Well, I'm not a parent yet myself, but..."

Please shut up. Please. Just shut up.

You don't know. You can't know. You have absolutely no way of knowing what a mother or father thinks or goes through. It doesn't matter who you are or what your life has been like, if you don't have a child of your own, you should just shut up and stay out of conversations like this one.

You don't know enough to have any opinion that's relevant to an actual parent. There are some things you don't know. To act as if it's overprotective or hysterical to prevent your child from being abducted only shows your immaturity and ignorance.

Please shut up. Let the grown ups with children discuss this matter. You have nothing to offer. Your opinions mean nothing. You don't have kids, so you don't know what this is all about. Stop pontificating, stop criticizing, and just shut up.

One day, if you should have kids of your own, you will understand. Until then, be quiet.

Posted by: please shut up... on March 29, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

but the chances of a predator abduction are pretty damned slim. Posted by: anandine

As other posters have pointed out, the chances of being hit by lightening, dying in an earthquake or having the plane you are flying in fall out of the sky are all slim as well. The difference being is that you have very little or no control over the other calamities.

Again, like Kevin, I suspect most of the posters belittling the issue by citing "statistics" don't have children of their own.

Posted by: JeffII on March 29, 2007 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

The extremely transient nature of American society today may make it easier for the sexual predator of strangers to operate, while the predator of family members or those they have charge of are at greater risk of being turned in. Thus, the nature of the risk of being a sexual predator may be changing, and thus changing their preferred methods. The Catholic priest, or the weird uncle, has a better chance of getting turned in, but the creep who looks for strange kids has more targets than in decades past. Before Robert Moses destroyed the South Bronx, a stranger rolling into the neighborhood to grab a kid would have had a bigger chance of being observed by numerous adults, and having suspicions raised about his behavior, but the predator priest could operate with a lot more freedom than what now is the case.

Posted by: Will Alen on March 29, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Why are you all assuming that the child has to walk or bike alone? The author of the column rode with her child to school. If a parent can drive their child to school, why can't he or she walk or bike with their child to school--and then pick them up? People in Europe do it ALL THE TIME.

Well said.

Posted by: fiat lux on March 29, 2007 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Jersey Tomato,
No, this was in Ohio.

Posted by: the concern is legitimate on March 29, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have children, but my close friends, who I have known since high school (we are in our mid-forties) do. They now live in Baton Rouge, LA in a nice, quiet upper middle-class neighborhood with no through streets (he is a professor at LSU, she works in admin there). One of their daughters is now in 6th grade. I couldn't believe that when I stayed with them during Katrina that they were actually debating whether they were going to let her walk the 1/4 mile or so to the entrance or so of their subdivision where she would catch the bus for middle school. When we grew up we walked or rode our bikes to school (two miles uphill both ways through waist deep snow) from kindergarten on, never with a parent. The only time I got a ride to school was when it was raining cats and dogs. And we grew up in similar neighborhoods with like levels of traffic.

I don't freaking get it. What is wrong with these people.

I live in New Orleans now, in a nice subdivision on the west bank. I am so glad that the kids in my neighborhood are constantly out in the street playing. I don't mind in the least when they run across and play in my yard.

Posted by: Freder Frederson on March 29, 2007 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

If anyone has ever done any reading of any kind, you will find that sickos have been preying on children for centuries. I just finished reading the old classic "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn," a memoir set in the early part of the 1900s, and was surprised to read about the creepy candy store man who felt up little girls' dresses, or the weird piano teacher who got off on his young female students' bare feet. This shit has been around forever, people. It's the media that's trying to make folks scared.

Posted by: Litz on March 29, 2007 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

One day, if you should have kids of your own, you will understand. Until then, be quiet.

Come off it. Are you saying my parents, and the millions of others, who let--no made--their children walk to school all by themselves for years until apparently quite recently were all horrible people who were putting their children's lives in dire jeopardy?

I walked to school, by myself or with friends, never with a parent except on the first day of school, from the time I was in Kindergarten. The closest I ever lived to school was just under 1/2 a mile, and that was high school.

Posted by: Freder Frederson on March 29, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

By the way -- this fear of predation thing goes much farther than the issue at hand. A few years ago when I was running a shoe store, the SOP was that you NEVER touched any child that was in the store. At all. Even if said kid was running straight for the stockroom or trashing a display case -- you had to ask the parent to do something about it. Anything else was just too risky.

Posted by: fiat lux on March 29, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Would I do all the same with my kids if we lived in the city now? I'm not sure

New York City is considerably safer now than it was when you were a child there.

Posted by: Constantine on March 29, 2007 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

So parents today apparently have a greater risk aversion to sexual predators than 20 or 30 years ago.

Similarly, much fewer people hitchhike today than they did 30 years ago, although it is statistically improbable that they will be picked up and murdered by a psychopath.

For all you whining about how overprotective parents are, why doesn't anyone whine that Americans today are too wimpy to hitchhike anymore?

Posted by: blah on March 29, 2007 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

"You don't know enough to have any opinion that's relevant to an actual parent"

Nice. I also probably shouldn't offer my opinion on the space program, since I haven't been to outer space, I will shut my trap about global warmning, since I haven't visited the South Pole yet and taken core samples, and will make sure not to opine on the character of George Bush, since I haven't met the man in person.

I'll expect you to do the exact same, unless you're a astronaut, geologist, or WH aide. Thanks.


Posted by: ralph on March 29, 2007 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

See, this is a symptom of the problem here -- folks, such as Gregory and Will, can't even grasp what it is that I am talking about.

With all due respect, Disputo -- if I can get past the shock and somewhat slimy feeling of being on the same side as Will Allen in a discussion -- I suggest that if there's a failure to grasp what you're talking about, it's your fault, not mine. You said:

when you have a gaggle of kids, it is not as big of a loss when one of them dies, as it is when you only have one or two kids.

Now, I can appreciate that you didn't mean "loss to the family unit in terms of genetic potential and potential earning power" -- although that prospect itself is debatable -- but you didn't say that; you said loss, period, full stop. And with all due respect, I still suggest that you don't know what you're talking about.

Posted by: Gregory on March 29, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

I've always wanted to see one state in the Union set aside where kids were illegal.

I miss Las Vegas too.

Posted by: Eric Scharf on March 29, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

After all Kevin, it's the age of Jihad!!

Man, you are stupid.

Posted by: Mooser on March 29, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

After all Kevin, it's the age of Jihad!!

Man, you are stupid.

Posted by: Mooser on March 29, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

My wife and I argue about this sort of thing all the time. She's nervous because my buddy and I plan to take our kids to my buddy's cabin for a weekend. There's a lake, there's a highway, there are snakes and ticks and birds of prey and maybe even bears, and we'll probably even build a big bonfire one night. To my lovely bride, who grew up in the 'burbs, these are all big, scary PROBLEMS!!! - but to me, who grew up in rural Idaho, this is simply the real world. The (very real) risk of drowning or being hit by a car or whatever is cause for concern - and some serious talk about The Rules - but the alternative is a life scarcely worth living.

And yes, she checks the local sexual predator website religiously. Sigh.

That said, I agree that the real problem is traffic, not sexual predators. And the solution is parents walking or cycling to school with their parents, where that is possible. I live about two blocks from an elementary school, and when I walk my dog every morning I see literally dozens of parents walking their kids to school, even in our famous Seattle rains. I understand that work schedules and such make this difficult or impossible for some parents, but I'm gratified to see how many parents make it work for them. Unfortunately, for reasons too complicated to describe here, my kid won't be attending the neighborhood school; he'll be going to a different school a couple miles away. And I'll have to drive him there.

Posted by: rod on March 29, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Get rid of all the predators. Then you won't have any more traffic."

Maybe he meant trafficKING? Like human trafficking or something?

Posted by: Jay on March 29, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Freder,
No, I'm not saying anything about you or your parents. I'm simply saying that you can't understand what a parent actually feels. That includes your own parents, Freder. You don't know. Unless you have kids of your own, you don't understand what any parents feel, including your own. I'm not saying that parents who do as yours did are "horrible people" or any such thing. I'm saying that having children of your own changes things in a way that you can't comprehend. You say you have friends with kids, so ask them. Ask them if it's possible for you to have even the slightest understanding of what parenthood is really like. Because they're your friends, they will probably be nice to you. But the answer, dear Freder, is "no." Again, whatever comments you make mean absolutely nothing. You don't have kids. So you don't understand a parent's emotions, fears, or anxieties, or the tremendous love that words can't describe. You think you do. But you don't.
And my point in this comment, and the previous one, is to try to get adolescents like you (even if you are grown up) to stop offering opinions about parents who are supposedly overprotective of their children. It's easy to have an opinion, but you haven't paid a price for it yet.
After you've spent a few nights awake with your children who are scared, or throwing up all over you, after you've gone through the agony of asking whether you should take your sick child to a doctor or not, after you've watched your child grow and change day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, after you've discovered hundreds of nuances and facets to your child's personality... Then you've earned the right to make snide comments about parents who are overprotective. Until then, shut up. You just don't have anything to say that's worth hearing.
And again, when you have kids, then you'll know. And you'll think, "I sure was a smug and stupid jerk, to think I knew what parents really go through."

Posted by: please shut up... on March 29, 2007 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Ralph,
You are exactly the kind of adolescent I'm talking to. Your comment proves that you don't get it. People can have all sorts of opinions about politics, the space program, etc. That doesn't hit home the way the fear of your own child's abduction does. You don't have kids. That means there are some things you don't understand. The topic of this post is one of them. You will read this, but it won't penetrate. You will only understand what I'm saying when you have kids, and thus grow up. But keep believing what you want to, since you know so much about how parents should feel towards their kids, even though you have no kids of your own.

Posted by: please shut up.. on March 29, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

My kids bike to school every day as a group with neighbors' kids. Unless the child molesters have some way of abducting 4 kids at once, I don't see what the risk is. They get some exercise, get to hang out with friends, and enjoy the outdoors.

Posted by: Bernard on March 29, 2007 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

"please shut up", we're pointing out precisely that what some of these paranoid parents "feel" is irrational.

Just because something originates from "feelings," no matter how strong, doesn't mean that it is rational to act on them. No one is denying that the parent who refuses to let her 11 year old out of her sight does so out of "feelings" that I couldn't possibly have experienced first hand. That does not change the fact that the responses to these "feelings" are way out of bounds.

Posted by: Constantine on March 29, 2007 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

This topic has been on my mind lately. I recently attended a presentation on Bike to School Day (which is coming up in early May, I believe, and may be why this subject is appearing all over the place).

We live in a fully suburban town - sidewalks, marked crossing lanes, major intersections have crossing lights. 90% of the kids are designated as "walkers" - if you live within 1 mile of an elementary school, 1.5 miles of a middle school, and 2 miles of the high school, you are a walker. However, at the elementary schools, the vast majority of those kids who are supposed to be walkers end up getting driven to school.

I would like to encourage my daughter to walk to school, but the tough part is in convincing other parents that their kids should walk to school to - safety in numbers, and all that. One of the things that parents who would like their kids to walk can do is organize a walking school bus - a group of kids who walk with the supervision of one parent.

Aside from contributing to environmental damage, limiting the physical activity of our children, and teaching them to live in fear, I can't help but wonder if we are ingraining a sort of learned helplessness into our children - if they can't do anything without parental supervision, do they ever develop some sort of sense of what it feels like to have some freedom?

Posted by: maurinsky on March 29, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Constantine,
Do you have kids?
If not, then please shut up. I'm not just talking about "feelings." I'm talking about a perspective that only comes from being a parent. It brings with it not just feelings, but selfless maturity.

Posted by: shut up on March 29, 2007 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Stated more tactfully, "please shut up"'s point is that parents aren't going to take parenting advice from non-parents, especially ones who sound like smug assholes. The second point is that it is that non-parents don't have any real basis for saying how they would treat their children, since they don't have any.

Posted by: blah on March 29, 2007 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you, blah. Precisely.

Posted by: shut up on March 29, 2007 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Can the person calling themself "please shut up", please shut up? Seriously, it's always a good idea to drip condescension amongst the platitudes to gain an "edge" in an argument.

All you're saying is that the act of shoving a child through your vagina gave you some sort of magical insight into the world around you. And, you know what? It doesn't. Other people, even the horrible icky people who HAVEN'T participated in child-shoving have good, insightful opinions that are worth listening to.

Strange but true.

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'm talking about a perspective that only comes from being a parent.

That perspective apparently imparts are certain degree of irrationality on the part of some parents.

As I said above, I suspect that it is not because parenthood makes people irrational and stupid. Rather, I think it's because people who are bad at assessing risks and are already naturally fearful now have a rather vulnerable human being on which to focus those feelings on.

It is indisputable that the perspective of these overprotective parents is skewed. Because I am not a parent, I don't experience that skewed perspective first-hand. However, that does not make the perspective any more valid... it's simply one that I am not personally victimized by.

Posted by: Constantine on March 29, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

[i]Stated more tactfully, "please shut up"'s point is that parents aren't going to take parenting advice from non-parents, especially ones who sound like smug assholes. The second point is that it is that non-parents don't have any real basis for saying how they would treat their children, since they don't have any. [/i]

The fact that someone "won't listen" does not mean that the discussion should be abandoned.

And many people are capable in participating in hypothetical arguments, believe it or not. For instance, I haven't ever owned a ferret, but I can reasonably speculate on how I would treat the thing if I ever did.

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

No, Erin, you're wrong. For one thing, you obviously don't know what 9 months of labor is like. More importantly, you don't know what it's like to be a mother or father whose love grows for your child every day of your life. That kind of love is something you can't comprehend. And the fears and anxieties that come with it are things you shouldn't criticize, since you are ignorant of them. And contrary to you and other commenters, those fears and anxieties are VERY rational. You just don't understand them yet, because you don't have kids. Hence, you can talk with a self-assumed authority, but every parent can see right through you.
That doesn't mean all parents would agree with my perspective, but they would most likely agree that people without kids should be careful how they lecture about the irrational fears of parenting. You don't know a thing about it. So shut up. But you won't, because you know so much about human life.

Posted by: shut up, Erin on March 29, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

I respect your perspective as a parent, please shut up...; I'm a parent myself (as I mentioned before). However, at the risk of offending you and/or being judged as a bad parent myself, I will just say that I can understand how someone might think that the line between what you call "selfless maturity" and what others might call "delusional irrationality" can look awfully fine. My perspective changed in many ways when my own dear spawn was whelped, but objective reality changed not one bit. The sun still rises and sets, water still flows downhill, and most children are still at far greater risk of death and/or serious injury in their own homes than they are walking to school. It's okay for you to recognize and honor your own feelings, but it's also okay for someone to question whether those feelings are grounded in reality - regardless of whether the questioner has or has not bred.

Posted by: rod on March 29, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, the more likely explanation is that being a caring parent changes your set of risk preferences and adversions, not your ability to assess risk probability. As a group, I wouldn't think parents are any better or worse at assessing risks than non-parents. It's simply that having a child changes your risk profile, which is what all of the condescending non-parents on this thread are missing.

Posted by: blah on March 29, 2007 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

And Erin, you compared a parent's love and concern for a child with "I could own a ferret." Proof positive of what I'm saying. Shut up. You don't know enough to have an opinion.

Posted by: shut up, Erin on March 29, 2007 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Well, la di da, the troll thinks that by adding my name to hers, I'll somehow be scared.

I really love your arrogant assumption that a non-parent is incapable of understanding unconditional love. I love your histrionics as you wax and weep about how "THAT kind of love is something you can't comprehend". I expect soon we'll hear that all forms of love, love for spouse, love for parent, love even for adopted children is nothing compared to the holy love of the vagina-creature. Grow up, seriously.

I reject your arrogant assumption that you have more insight into the world than someone who isn't a brood cow.

Now go return to watching Dr. Phil.

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

And many people are capable in participating in hypothetical arguments, believe it or not. For instance, I haven't ever owned a ferret, but I can reasonably speculate on how I would treat the thing if I ever did.

Sure, and if you start condescendingly telling all the ferret-owners how to raise their ferrets, some of them will tell you to shut up.

Posted by: blah on March 29, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

No, fucktard, I did NOT compare a child to a ferret, though I knew you'd howl that.

I simply said that hypothetical situations can be discussed. I can also discuss what I'd do if I owned a house, or if I was a science teacher.

Idiot.

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

I should also note that my parents' generation (boomers) could legitimately say that when they were growing up, things were safer than the era in which they had children. Crime rates were quantitatively higher by the time my parents had children. Cities were quantitatively more dangerous places for their children than they were for them.
Such a perspective makes less sense for today's parents-- neighborhoods are safer than they were before. There is less crime than there used to be. The fact that children are considered to need more supervision now than they did when I was their age (when the country was quantitatively more dangerous) doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Posted by: Constantine on March 29, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Rod,
Yes, I agree with you and understand what you're saying. It's the non-parents that presume too much that I think should learn some humility. But thank you for your own perspective.
And I have to go, so now it's my turn to shut up, but for practical reasons, not because I'm ignorant.

Posted by: shut up one last time on March 29, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Nine months of labor, shut up, Erin? Really? Your OB/GYN must be almost as exhausted as you are.

As I said above, I suspect that it is not because parenthood makes people irrational and stupid. Rather, I think it's because people who are bad at assessing risks and are already naturally fearful now have a rather vulnerable human being on which to focus those feelings on.

Thank you, Constantine. Precisely.

Posted by: rod on March 29, 2007 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

I live in Brooklyn and have 2 daughters, 10 & 12. My 10y.o. goes to a public school about 1 mile from my house, and we bike together to school and back. My 12 y.o. takes the public bus by herself and travels home by herself. She is extremely small for her age, but bright and has taken classes in self-defense. Besides, in Brooklyn there are sidwalks and always someone on the streets. Sure, I worry about her sometimes, but she may always be small, and she has to become independent at some time. I have been criticized for my choices though.

Posted by: kayla on March 29, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't think parents are any better or worse at assessing risks than non-parents.

I think you're right. They're probably both equally bad at doing so. The difference is that parents who are bad at assessing risk and paranoid now have a child to focus their fears on, whereas before, they would merely say, "i have a cough! I need lots of antibiotics!" and limit themselves to burdening their doctors for a prescription.

Posted by: Constantine on March 29, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Diane Patterson hit the nail on the head. It's not sexual predators, it's the other parents in the cars. They often have little concern for the kids that are walking. And she's absolutely right, they drop their kids off and go racing out of the school parking lot and speeding down the street ... while still in the school zone. They've dropped of their kids and they have THINGS TO DO!!!

That being said, my elementary school child walks, because she can take a street that is parallel to the school traffic and cross the busy street with a crossing guard.

Posted by: fm on March 29, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

you said loss, period, full stop.

Well, Gregory, I expanded upon that in great detail. I'm sorry if you insist on continuing to take me to task for whatever you imagine my initial curt comment meant.

Posted by: Disputo on March 29, 2007 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

The kind of fear described in the article and in the comments is pretty sad and frustrating. The amount of childhood sexual abuse hasn't changed an awful lot in recent years, and one set of statistics has stayed the same - around 90% of all child molestation occurs either in the home (with close relatives) or with adults or other kids who are known to the family of the child. Only 10% of child predators are strangers. And that statistic is largely unchanged as long as they have been gathering statistics on the topic. So why all the extra fuss now?
(http://www.darkness2light.org/KnowAbout/statistics_2.asp)

Posted by: RBB on March 29, 2007 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

I'm talking about a perspective that only comes from being a parent. It brings with it not just feelings, but selfless maturity.

Externalized narcissism ("I'm a concerned parent!") is about as selfish as you can get, and a reluctance to recognize this is what lets this kind of hysteria flourish unchecked.

And, yes, I'm a parent of a five-year-old, but (shockingly) I don't believe that privileges my perspectives, concerns, or fears over others'.

Posted by: Eric Scharf on March 29, 2007 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Which scenario should provoke more panic: the possibility that your child may become one of the approximately 100 children who are kidnapped by strangers each year, or one of the country's 58 million overweight adults?

How's about this crazy idea: stop wasting time "panicking" about what might happen to your child and spend more @#%@#%#in' time with THEM!

(a message from an inactive member of The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...The Mormons)

Posted by: C.L. on March 29, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, and if you start condescendingly telling all the ferret-owners how to raise their ferrets, some of them will tell you to shut up.
- blah

Blah, the only condescending person I've seen n this thread is "please shut up" and her insistence that the power of her vagina makes her more qualified to hold an opinion than everyone else.

Nearly everyone else has expressed an opinion, more or less politely. You are, instead, defending "please shut up"'s assertion that non-parents don't get to hold opinions. That's ridiculous.

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

As I said above, I suspect that it is not because parenthood makes people irrational and stupid. Rather, I think it's because people who are bad at assessing risks and are already naturally fearful now have a rather vulnerable human being on which to focus those feelings on.

Yes. There is more than a little "Munchhausen by Proxy" going on here.

Everyone is freaking out about the "hit by lightening" comparison. Ok, how about this one -- your kid is more likely to die in an auto accident while being driven to school than to be abducted while walking/biking to school.

Even so, I expect that parents will continue to drive their kids to school until there is a big profile death of a kid that gets national attention, at which point everyone will all of a sudden discover how dangerous driving kids to school is, and it will be banned across the board, even in cases where it does make sense given the basket of risks.

Posted by: Disputo on March 29, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

C.L., I guess you're happy that they made / the children's aid / society, eh?

Posted by: Constantine on March 29, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone else notice that single moms are much more hysterical than married moms? I wonder if that's because they don't have a man around the house to protect the kids. I think that's what's driving the hysteria, is you have so many single moms, especially in the inner city, and not enough fathers to protect the kids.
But of course, the single moms who read this will say I'm sexist, and that they have to work 3 jobs to make ends meet. It's not society's fault that your kids don't have a father! (Of course, I realize that with some moms it's not their fault, because their husbands died. But for a lot of them it's their own mistake.) It's a lot harder for a single mom to keep their eyes on the kids all the time than for a married mom, who can ask the dad for help.

Posted by: woozy on March 29, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Let a five year old walk themselves to school. Are you joking - they're so easily distracted (ooohhh a pillbug ooohh a tree etc.) by just about anything by the time they remember they were going to school it would be lunchtime.

Nope.

I'm living proof that this line of thinking is wrong. It may be true of your kid, but it's by no means universal.

Posted by: spencer on March 29, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Re the question a number of people raised of Why not be extra careful? - I know I shouldn't generalize, but I know of quite a few young adults (18-25) who don't seem to be able to function independently, and my take on it is they had their parents leading them by the hand all through childhood and a great deal into adolescence. If you're afraid to let your child walk 5 blocks to school when she's 10, is it going to be any different when she's going out at night by bus at age 20? Because I have a friend who's still driving her 20-year-old around to work and college. And another friend who still knows where her 21-year-old is at all times even though the kid is going to school 500 miles away. I feel sorry for the kids - I would have hated my parents breathing down my neck like that.

Posted by: Denise on March 29, 2007 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

What I find startling is the occassional comments that if you let your children play without constant supervision that you're somehow a neglectful parent. Has it really come to that? When MY parents were kids, they went whole hours without seeing any adults. It seems like we've done a complete 180.

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Gregory, I expanded upon that in great detail. I'm sorry if you insist on continuing to take me to task for whatever you imagine my initial curt comment meant.

Yes, you did. But what I'm taking you to taks for, Disputo, is your pretending -- as you did again, just there -- that the interpretations of your "initial curt comment" are the fault of your readers, not yours for expressing yourself badly the first time.

Posted by: Gregory on March 29, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Let a five year old walk themselves to school. Are you joking - they're so easily distracted (ooohhh a pillbug ooohh a tree etc.) by just about anything by the time they remember they were going to school it would be lunchtime.

Yes, I can easily imagine that children who are not allowed to play outside and are raised on video games and TV would be easily distracted by a tree. Good pt.

Posted by: Disputo on March 29, 2007 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

A few thoughts...

I'm a parent, a dad with a 16-month-old son. I don't know yet what it's like to have a child who's 5, 10, or 15 years old, but obviously I care about my son and want him to be safe and free from harm. At his age he's too young to leave alone for long. Even if he's in the next room and it gets quiet for more than a few minutes, I pop my head in to see that he's all right.

We have a play area in the local mall that he likes going to. When we're there I like to see run free, play with the other kids, interact with the adults. I think it's important that he grows up with a certain sense of independence, that he doesn't need mommy or daddy there beside him every minute, and also that people are generally friendly and the world is an okay place. He seems to be getting that.

If you're a parent who really fears for your kid's safety, the kid will pick up on that and inevitably grow up to fear others. That's really not very healthy, and it's frankly not a very "safe" way to live either. People who live in fear tend either to shut down and live diminished lives or to cause problems that will justify the fears they have in the first place. (There are political parallels to this, but that's another story.)

When I was growing up (Long Island suburbs of NYC, during the '60s), we felt very safe. We never locked the doors of our cars or our house. (Remember the old Chevys...you didn't even need a key to start them.) I never once used a key to get into my house, even if I was the first one home. We knew most everyone in the neighborhood. All the kids walked or rode bikes everywhere. I can't recall a single incident of anyone being harmed because they were unsupervised. We just did not live in fear.

Times have changed. I now live in an equally safe suburb of L.A. and not too long ago had a knock on the door. It was a security guard with a company that watched one of the houses on our block. He wanted to let me know my garage door was open. He said that wasn't safe and I should close it, or else I'd encourage the criminals. (What criminals, I don't know, but if any of them want my golf clubs, they can take them. Please.) Even with two cars in the driveway in the middle of a sunny afternoon this guy actually thought it was unsafe to leave the garage door open for a while. That, to me, is really unbelievable.

I suppose his business depends on people's fear, and I won't deny that there are some people who do have legitimate fears depending on their circumstances or where they live, but for many many people their fear of bad things happening is irrational, unwarranted, counterproductive, and destructive.


Posted by: JJF on March 29, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

"You don't know. You can't know. You have absolutely no way of knowing what a mother or father thinks or goes through. It doesn't matter who you are or what your life has been like, if you don't have a child of your own, you should just shut up and stay out of conversations like this one."

Um, we don't care, either. Blab and blubber away under your bed. Knock yourself out.

Posted by: Some guy on March 29, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK
Actually, the more likely explanation is that being a caring parent changes your set of risk preferences and adversions, not your ability to assess risk probability. As a group, I wouldn't think parents are any better or worse at assessing risks than non-parents. It's simply that having a child changes your risk profile, which is what all of the condescending non-parents on this thread are missing.

Exactly right. It's not the probability of the occurence it's the severity associated with it.

Erin: should the opinions of men and women on the topic of abortion have equal weight? Do you reject the "arrogant assumption that you [women] have more insight into the world [topic of abortion] than someone [men]?

just wondering.

Posted by: Edo on March 29, 2007 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

One other point: who ever said that having children in today's society was a rational act? Or that love is rational?

Posted by: Edo on March 29, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

"I respect your perspective as a parent, please shut up...;"

I Don't.

Posted by: Some guy on March 29, 2007 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Edo, yes, I do feel like the ***opinions*** of men and women on abortion have equal weight. I DON'T feel like the ***legislation*** of abortion should be dependent on men, however, any more than I feel like legislation on pensis and prostates should be left up to women.

Since this thread is one of opinion, I think parents and non-parents should get equal say. If this was a thread on legislation, I might feel otherwise.

Consider, however, before you try to crow victory, that the choices of these parents DO affect the lives of non-parents. The parent who uses their SUV to drive their kid three feet is making the environment worse for the rest of us, regardless of whether we have children or not. It the same reason that second-hand smoke is being outlawed in restaurants - just as the non-smokers shouldn't have smoke forced on them, neither should the Green non-parents have to put up with overprotective parents who can't be bothered to buy little Johnny a bicycle.

All that to say that I reject your simplistic attempt to try to boil this down to a black-white scenario. Nice attempt, though.

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

Re: 90% of child molesters are close relatives or friends

This always amazes me about the panic around this. Wouldn't a society concerned about child sexual abuse address this instead? It makes me suspect that the focus goes to the mysterious predator to distract from the messy state of a not insignificant number of families.

My own anecdotal experience is of a local mom who wouldn't even let her daughter play in the front yard. Sadly, her daughter was being actively abused. By her father.

And yes, I raised a child and I walked six blocks to school starting in the first grade.

Posted by: Joe in SF on March 29, 2007 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

I can't get out of my street in the morning between 7:40 and 8 AM because of the line of SUVs lined up driving kids to HIGH SCHOOL. Yes, it's a regional high school and there are kids from the next town who need to be driven, but where the hell are the school buses? And I've seen plenty of people pull out of driveways in my neighborhood and drive their kids to HIGH SCHOOL.

/loud raspberry/

I took the public bus to high school, and walked several blocks to the bus stop.

I survived going out in pitch blackness at 6:45 a.m. in the fall before daylight savings kicked in, riding the bus with lower-income people, doubtless illegal immigrants, teenage hoodlums, and the odd sexual predator. Never actually encountered the latter.

I've also lived alone in New York City.

Suburbanites act as if their kids will be eaten by wolves. Furthermore, the moms doing all this chauffeuring around sound like guilt-ridden SAHMs who are making being a mom into a 24-7 job in order to assuage feelings of uselessness. BE useless, for gods sake! Spend six hours a day at Elizabeth Arden and Bloomie's!

Posted by: sara on March 29, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

It has been over ten years since I worked as a coach; I've almost forgotten how narcissistic, self-righteous, and unsuitable for parenting some people are. Thanks for reminding me, blah/shut up.

And yes, the a$$hole gene is genetic. I understand you've already pooped out at least one 'center of the damned universe,' but please do the planet Earth and all of its inhabitants a favor and get your tubes tied before you infect it with more little a$$holes.

Sincerely,
*, and all others who are mature enough to realize their spawn aren't the center of the g0ddamned universe.

Posted by: * on March 29, 2007 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Erin,

All that to say that I reject your simplistic attempt to try to boil this down to a black-white scenario. Nice attempt, though.

I asked you a question. Nice assumptions there about my bias and "attempt to boil it down". Presume much?

Also, I must say that this whole comment section seems to be a shining example of argument by hyperbole. perfect example:

"The parent who uses their SUV to drive their kid three feet..."

wow.

Having said all that, it may surprise you to learn that I too think parents and non-parents have rights to opinions regarding children. And that men have rights to their opinions regarding abortion. And I also agree that when it comes to legislation and/or public policy those opinions shouldn't carry as much weight.

Posted by: Edo on March 29, 2007 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

Edo, you clearly haven't read the comments section at all. One poster already mentioned having seen with his/her own eyes a parent who drives their kid, in an SUV, to the end of their driveway to wait for the schoolbus every day.

May I suggest, next time, that you read a thread before commenting on it?

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Please shut up: Maturity only comes after a child comes out of one's body. So that 16 year-old mother down the street is...mature...but the 38 year-old childless wife down the street is "adolescent"???

Wow are you one arrogant, pompous, conceited individual.

Posted by: ralph on March 29, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

*,

You must be right that the @$$hole trait is genetic, since "shut up" was adamant that adoption of a child just didn't give you the same magical insight that "nine months of labor" would.

Apparently, your kid has to be bioogical before you can truly and selflessly love and cherish them into spoiled rotten miniture @$$holes. ;)

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

My kids are now in college but they had the advantage of small New Jersey suburban town. It was fairly easy to walk to school, either on sidewalks or through neigbors' backyards. Lots of kids did it; others were driven but at least we have sidewalks and crossing guards.
I agree with an earlier note: towns should be built to allow kids to walk or bike-ride. Now my three are adults and perfectly capable of talking with strangers and making they way about. They are careful but not fearful. I think it makes for a better world. (and a reason to be active politically: to have a pedestrian friendly town).

Posted by: LittleSilverDad on March 29, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Ralph,

Oh snap. Good catch on that contradiction. By that logic, Britney Spears is more mature than the majority of the population in Germany. :D

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

The childless on this threat are woefully incapable of understanding children or parenting. They have no idea, none. I fear people like this out there in my community, and making policy, for they will try to limit my rights to protect my children. Look, if you hate children so much STAY OUT OF MY COMMUNITY, and I will stay out of your drug filled, gay immigrant infested "urban" hellhole you think is better than mine.

Posted by: please shut up on March 29, 2007 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, come to think of it, maybe "please shut up" IS Britney Spears.

Who else would be unbalanced enough to think that people who want kids to get exercise and fresh air "hate children" ??

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Erin,

yeah, I read the thread. I remember thinking "what an absurd anecdote"(both to use it to back up the author's apparent opinion and in that the parent is clearly making a very poor choice). I also recall reading it as 100 feet, not 3. Exaggerate much?

Posted by: Edo on March 29, 2007 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Look, if you hate children so much STAY OUT OF MY COMMUNITY, and I will stay out of your drug filled, gay immigrant infested "urban" hellhole you think is better than mine.

Aw, so there it is. I figured there had to be something to explain your irrationality. I will no longer pretend to respect your opinion. You just suck.

Posted by: rod on March 29, 2007 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, finally "please shut up" gets to his/her point: when you become a parent, you turn into a bigoted republican asshole.

Posted by: Disputo on March 29, 2007 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

I've heard precisely the type of argument being advanced by shut-up before. Where was it? Ah, yes, in a discussion about race. In which someone said to me, employing the classic formulation, "It's a black thing. You wouldn't understand."

A position which, if taken to its logical conclusion, completely obviates any capacity to hold a discussion with anyone who is not absolutely identical to oneself.

"You're not me. Therefore, you're wrong. If you were me, you would be right. But you're not. And since you're not me, and you're wrong, this absolves me of bringing any form of logic or evidence to the table."

Hey, shut-up -- when people who are childless look at people like you and see someone who is neurotically overprotective to the point of self-parody, well, that's a childfree thing. You wouldn't understand. You're not capable of doing so. So shut up.

--

Posted by: marquer on March 29, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Edo, I love the fact that the BEST thing you can come up with to refute my post is that I misremembered "100" as "3". Gasp and horror. Would it surprise you to know that most of the people in the world use the metric system and that "feet", whether 100 or 3 is meaningless to me?? The point was well made and you look foolish for nit-picking a number, but hey it's your reputation you're ruining.

Maybe later you can dissect my spelling. You know, anything to avoid discussing my actual *point*.

"Shut up", I'm confused. Do you think our communities are full of gays AND immigrants or gay immigrants? I'd think Republicans like you would LIKE gay immigrants, as they'd be less likely to reproduce and threaten your dominance. Hmmmmm....

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

To all those who won't listen to non-parents because they are not parents:

I am a parent. As a teenager, my kid is out of the likely range now, but I didn't worry about this stuff when he was a little kid. Assuming people who don't have kids can't make a useful contribution to the conversation is like assuming all those who are parents are wise and good. Some are, some ain't. Take what the non-parents have to say on its own merits.

Especially please don't get mean about it, such as by saying things like "Look, if you hate children so much STAY OUT OF MY COMMUNITY, and I will stay out of your drug filled, gay immigrant infested "urban" hellhole you think is better than mine." That's just silly.

Posted by: anandine on March 29, 2007 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Erin,

Would it surprise you to know that most of the people in the world use the metric system and that "feet", whether 100 or 3 is meaningless to me??

Now that's just beautiful.

Anandine, you are spot on.

Posted by: Edo on March 29, 2007 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

See, here's what an overprotective parent thinks to himself. My kid getting attacked by a predator is the worst possible thing that could happen. I realize the chances are statistically low, but it is still the worst possible thing that could happen. Therefore, I don't mind a little inconvenience if it means I make the worst possible thing less likely.

Telling that parent that he is being irrational is not especially persuasive. Nor is it persuasive if non-parents insult the overprotective parent.

And here's another point. Overprotective parents also worry about teachers, coaches, priests, uncles, grandparents, friends' parents, etc. abusing their kids. I have no idea why people on this thread think overprotective parents only worry about strangers.

Posted by: blah on March 29, 2007 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

Please shut up, did you ever consider that "selfless maturity" might include not imprisoning your kids in a labyrinth of fear? I know for a fact that my parents were worried about abduction and big cars and stray dogs, but they taught us about strangers and safety and gave us at least a small amount of freedom--playing outside, walking to and from school, riding our bikes to the park, etc. And it was hard and sometimes scary for them, but they felt it was there job to set aside their fear and raise independent adults. And it wasn't all that long ago; I'm only 22.

One last thing: it's neither selfless nor mature to tell everyone on a discussion board to shut up because their criticism hits a little close to home.

Posted by: please ignore me, I don't have kids on March 29, 2007 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Final point: children of overprotective parents also turn out just fine. My mother was extremely overprotective, and I have had a very rich, rewarding life so far. My siblings have likewise all turned out well.

Posted by: blah on March 29, 2007 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

blah, not necessarily. I had extremely overprotective parents and I still get anxiety attacks at inoppurtune moments. Please don't assume that your mother is the sum of all members of a fairly large group.

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Clarification: Your mother may have been overprotective, but I doubt she was in the way mine were, since you and your siblings turned out fine. "Overprotective" covers a wide range of behavior and to declare that "children of overprotective parents also turn out just fine" is an unfair assumption.

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Erin,

one last point, I'm not bothering to "refute" your points, because, I've only seen you make 2 points: 1) parents and non-parents have rights to their opinions and 2)parents who drive SUVs 3 feet have a negative impact on the environment which impacts non-parents. I have no issue with either of those points.

They both seem pretty self-evident though. Are you proposing some public policy proscription? 'Cause I'd be more than happy to debate that.

Posted by: Edo on March 29, 2007 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

Edo, since you agree with me so swimmingly, feel free to get off my friggin' back about minor errors in my posts. You're not my ex, are you? You seem almost as pedantic, given your apparent need to pick apart the posts of people you supposedly "agree" with.

Not that I believe you, because if you really DID agree with me, you wouldn't have singled me out from among the many who said the same things to "shut up" (which was that parents and non-parents are entitled to their opinions) and then tried to set me up with a tired abortion strawman. I reckon at this point you realize you're beat, especially given that the tide of opinion has turned against our dear racist, homophobic troll, so you're trying to cozy up to me. Whatevs.

Posted by: Erin on March 29, 2007 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

I will stay out of your drug filled, gay immigrant infested "urban" hellhole you think is better than mine.

You know, I don't even have to come up with a reply to this one. It stands on its own.

Blah:

Telling that parent that he is being irrational is not especially persuasive. Nor is it persuasive if non-parents insult the overprotective parent.

I grant you, it's not persuasive. But it is nevertheless true. And what seems like "a little inconvenience" has larger effects. The traffic jam in the school parking lot, increased obesity, and lack of interest in building sidewalks are instructive here.

children of overprotective parents also turn out just fine. My mother was extremely overprotective, and I have had a very rich, rewarding life so far. My siblings have likewise all turned out well.

This is, of course, colored by what you consider "just fine." Perhaps overprotectiveness and overbearing parenting is something you consider "normal" and it doesn't phase you. Or one could point out that just because someone comes out ok from a challenging family situation (or after being the victim of a crime) doesn't mean that it is ok for people to have such difficult family situations or be victimized by crimes.

Posted by: Constantine on March 29, 2007 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

I reckon at this point you realize you're beat...

Beat?! What are you talking about? You state obvious things. I ask a question to clarify something and you state it as a "strawman". You hide behind the metric system, yet exaggerate something two orders of magnitude off. Maybe you did "misremember", however, I doubt it. I think you exaggerated to try to drive home a point that is obvious without such embellishment.

You got a public policy proscription that goes with your opinion on this topic or not? 'Cause I'm pretty sure that would be the basis for some disagreement. And I'm more than willing to disagree and debate. As for agreeing with you "given that the tide of opinion has turned", I'll point you to my comment at 6:02 pm where I clearly state the following:

Having said all that, it may surprise you to learn that I too think parents and non-parents have rights to opinions regarding children. And that men have rights to their opinions regarding abortion. And I also agree that when it comes to legislation and/or public policy those opinions shouldn't carry as much weight.

so, I'll ask it again: do you have a policy proscription to go with your opinions or not?

Posted by: Edo on March 29, 2007 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

I'm 22, and I grew up in a nice town. Here's my opinion, having grown up in this climate of overprotectionism: parents think they're doing their children a service, but in reality, they're robbing them of their childhoods, and they're teaching their kids to fear the world around them. I don't think it's a good thing.

Now, I know that attitudes change when you have kids, but having been one myself recently, I can tell you that I resented the "protection" on many occassions. Constant parental supervision will protect the child from the exceedingly rare abduction, but it has other consequences for the way kids see the world and the people in it.

Posted by: john on March 29, 2007 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

I'm still trying to picture all the gay immigrants please shut up is afraid of.

Posted by: Freder Frederson on March 29, 2007 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

This is news that "overprotective" parents are some kind of social problem! I wish all parents were protective enough not to let their young children make their way to school on their own. How do you know if your child actually got there? Wouldn't you worry?

As for the mother who drives the child up the driveway (in an SUV of course!), you know whats going on there? She hasn't gotten dressed yet! So big deal she wants to stay in the car. Who is she hurting? No one.

Posted by: Michelle on March 29, 2007 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

many people actually do die from lighting and it is a leading cause of acidental death. child abduction is not nearly rare enough, particularly from someone who knows the children. guns are probably much more of a threat (accidental death and otherwise)

Posted by: jim on March 29, 2007 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

Just FYI, I was the one who posted as "just shut up" earlier today. My focus was on the inability of people without children to understand what parents go through in regard to their kids.
At one point I "signed off" and said that I had to go. After that, I did not post again. That post from someone using the same screenname was not me. I did not write anything about gay immigrants, etc. So Freder and anyone else who could not tell that this was a different person, you're barking up the wrong tree. Pay closer attention, and exercise discernment so you are not so easily fooled.

Posted by: just shut up on March 29, 2007 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

Pay closer attention, and exercise discernment so you are not so easily fooled

You might want to pay closer attention and exercise discernment since somebody else was posting as "please shut up", which is who I was making fun of, not you. So maybe you should "just shut up".

Posted by: Freder Frederson on March 29, 2007 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

What's funny about this is the same parents who rant and rant on and on and on will be the clueless folks when their "precious ones" get drunk and take out a bus full of nuns or 2-then and only then do they start campaigns against drunk driving, culture of fear etc. etc

Posted by: Dan on March 30, 2007 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

And to "just shut up" who said "My focus was on the inability of people without children to understand what parents go through in regard to their kids."
Actually, no, I don't think I will just "shut up". My not having children does'nt render me an ignoramous or cold hearted child hating thug. I was a "latch-key" and have a decent grasp on many of the ideas presented here. Child abduction IS a horrible crime, but most of the reaction I see is "get tough" posturing, meanwhile, back at the teen sex/drug fest....
"not MY christian child-only evil spirits"

Posted by: Dan on March 30, 2007 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

"Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch....Proven voter fraud, statistically, happens about as often as death by lightning strike."

"...child abduction by strangers is very, very rare. About as likely as being hit by lightning." Let's see, Sasquatch, predators, two lightening strikes, the probabilities are 2 fatorial... No, no. Let's try this: Sasquatch is a suburbanite. Sexual predators are suburbanites. Therefore Sasquatch must be committing voter fraud in the suburbs whenever lightening strikes.

Posted by: stonevendor on March 30, 2007 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

2 summers ago I was at a barbeque, talking to somebody's sister-in-law, and she told me that when she saw kids playing or going down the street without an adult she "just wanted to abduct them right then and there, to teach the parents a *lesson*!" She very obviously expected kudos for this statement.

I live a quiet, peaceful life and so it was weird having to restrain myself because what I was doing, in my gut, was flying across the table, wrapping my hands around her throat and beating her head against the ground. Which of course I didn't do. I think I blinked for a while. And tried to explain to her that what I valued in a community was a population who kept an eye on everybody's kids to make them safe. So we ended up talking about that for a while, agreeing that it was something worth striving for, that neighborhood with people out in their yards, saying hello, knowing names, but letting kids be - and noticing, always noticing.

But her comment has stuck with me. It felt like the logical conclusion of all the fear-mongering self-righteousness that's snuggled up to us telling us it'll keep our children safe. As a parent, it's difficult to fight it because if we do, people like that woman will punish us for not respecting it. This tells me that ultimately it's a tool of control, not protection. But that's probably a whole other thread.

Posted by: jennabee on March 30, 2007 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

Please shut up:

It has been proven in Altmeyer's "The Authoritarians" that people with kids have more authoritarian attitudes than those without. His research also concludes that authoritarians are pretty horrible at making rational decisions. Therefore, not only does having kids not mke you more able to opine on this subject, it actually reduces your credibility. Having kids really does make people stupid.

The logical fallacy here is that this paraniod and fear induced effort to "protect the children" has no possible negative consequence. That you can shield your children from this unlikely threat without cost, therefore the rationale... "you can't be too careful these days". But that's false. You lose a great deal when you signal to kids (as well as other parents) that they should not trust their neighbors. You lose more than you know, clearly. Once you lose your sense of community, what exactly do you have left? Not much. Spreading suspicions such as this are absolutely poisonous to society. Especially when you consider all the odd people running around who, though they often engage in quite bizarre and even suspect behavior, never actually hurt anyone. Come on, we've all known people like that.

It's not totally different that the rationale for invading Iraq. We were told it would cost us little, and since Saddam was a suspect guy... well, "you can't be too careful these days".

Posted by: John on March 30, 2007 at 2:34 AM | PERMALINK

But her comment has stuck with me. It felt like the logical conclusion of all the fear-mongering self-righteousness that's snuggled up to us telling us it'll keep our children safe. As a parent, it's difficult to fight it because if we do, people like that woman will punish us for not respecting it. This tells me that ultimately it's a tool of control, not protection. But that's probably a whole other thread.

No. It's the same thread. It's all about control. It always has been. Here's a curveball for you: age of consent laws. What were they all about in the first place? Control. Stay with me here.

They were about a father's ability to control his daughter sexually; the most profound type of control and the kind authoritarians most deeply crave. In the authoritarian universe, a female is the property of the father until she marries, usually in her late teens or early 20s. Hence, age of consent laws usually are between 16 and 21. That all got screwed up when the SCOTUS said that laws banning pre-marital sex were unconstitutional. That's when the deep concern about teen-adult sex and the deep need for teen sex abstinence got rolling. Before that, if a 25 year old guy married a 16 year old girl, no one even blinked... SO LONG AS DADDY SIGNED OFF ON IT!!!

No one seriously believes that a 25 year old guy who hooks up with a hot 17 year old girl is a pedophile. They're conditioned to think that, but come on, that's absurd. The prosecution of a guy under those circumstances is almost always about avenging daddy's honor, not getting justice for the girl.

There is a much better way to handle this. In Canada, they have established a rather comprehensive and nuanced law to deal with this admittedly thorny issue. The law is based on the best available research which has been done on teenage sexuality and what is healthy/unhealthy behavior for them. The fundamental difference is that, rather than define people as children up until they turn 18, they created a legal classification for high school age kids which is unique from that of children. Basically it breaks down like this...

1.Persons under 14 are children. They are off limits sexually. Abstinence is strongly encouraged for children. A close-in-age exception can be made (but not always) for persons within 24 months of each others age.

2. Persons 14-17 are young people. They can give consent to sex provided no relationship of trust, authority, or dependency exists. A jury can convict an older person, however, for pretty much anything they deem inappropriate. This may include large age differences or the fact that the relationship originated online. Generally speaking, greater scrutiny is given to cases where the young person is less than 16 and/or was sexually inexperienced at the time.

3. Persons over 18 are adults and are responsible for themselves.

It's a law which is based on science and reason and so authoritarians and paranoid parents hate it, naturally.

Posted by: John on March 30, 2007 at 3:00 AM | PERMALINK

John,
Can you not think of a perfectly logical, rational, REASONABLE reason why a father (and mother) might want to "control" the sexuality of a 15 year old daughter? Like, she's gonna get pregnant if she has sex and they are going to end up responsible for taking care of that baby?

"Persons over 18" and even 14 - 17 is kind of off topic to the original thread topic about kids as young as kindergarten riding bikes to school but does make the point about how parents and non-parents see things differently. A good parent still feels responsible for that child at age 18 and beyond. 18 is college age and if you fill out a FAFSA form you'll find out that the government thinks you're responsible to pay for their college. But if something happens to your "child" at age 40 - if he has a terrible accident, has a stroke, etc., you're still going to feel responsible to take care of him because you do that: you see your child's needs and you can't sit on your hands. Doesn't always work the other way around. My 3 siblings haven't visited our 86 year old mother who has Alzheimers in 5 years.

Posted by: Lisa on March 30, 2007 at 7:38 AM | PERMALINK

Me again (the real "please shut up"). I'll just post this once, and no more. I'll shut up myself after this post.
I apologize to all who were offended by my posts yesterday (and last night). Yes, I was too arrogant, presumptuous, and condescending. Seriously, I'm sorry for that. My apologies.
The reason I reacted that way, and continued posting throughout the day, was because of my own personal experiences. Namely, a family member who was sexually molested by her father (and who became an alcoholic), a friend of the family's whose daughter was molested by a babysitter, and a situation near our daughter's school where a child was almost kidnapped.
Furthermore, my wife (I am male, not female) went through two very difficult pregancies. (Yesterday I meant to say "nine months of pregnancy and labor" rather than just "labor," which was an obvious and silly mistake.) Our first child was almost born sick and premature, but things worked out at the last minute and she was delivered healthily.
I know a woman whose first pregnancy destroyed her uterus, and she will never be able to bear children again. That was devastating to her. I also know a couple who lost their child at the very last minute of child-birth. They gave it a funeral.
My point, and I'll try to be more gracious than I was yesterday, is that these things are very complicated and difficult human experiences. So when I heard childless people, some of them as young as their early 20's, writing about "hysteria" among parents, I overreacted.
Again, I apologize for that. My attitude was too condescending. But my point, that I reiterate here, is that it's easy to pass judgment on things you don't understand. And unless you have been through childbirth yourself (or seen your wife go through it), and have raised children yourself, it's very difficult to understand what a parent feels. And until you know, personally, of one case after another (I didn't name all of the ones I know) of children who were molested, some by family members, some by friends, some by strangers, or children who were almost kidnapped, it's somewhat inappropriate to call this kind of parental reaction "hysterical" or "authoritarian." Yes, that's a potential danger that should be kept in mind. But also, it's more complicated than that. And young people without children should refrain from being too critical of parents who have reason to be afraid of what could happen to their kids. (And yes, I know I should refrain from being too judgmental myself, towards people - with children or not - whose stories I don't really know.)
Thanks for all the comments and criticisms.

Posted by: please shut up on March 30, 2007 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK

I knew as soon as Kevin put this up just what would happen.

Exactly the bilge I've just read and a minimum of 200 posts.

A horde of irrational people seeking to justify their irrational behavior and who do not ordinarily post here screaming invective at one another and insulting the regulars.

The intentional promotion of paranoia as a mass marketing tool could produce nothing else.

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 30, 2007 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

I wanted to put my 2 cents in here as someone whose parents' overprotectiveness have indeed affected her life in a negative way. I am a young adult who has struggled with generalized anxiety disorder. When I was four, my mother had a nervous breakdown and was told by her psychologist to put me in preschool; before that, she could barely let me out of her sight.

Even I was allowed to walk to school with friends in my later years of grade school, but my parents always knew where I was. They volunteered at the schools I went to, and whenever drivers or chaperones were needed for field trips, they were there. I couldn't go to friends' houses unless my parents met the friend's parents first. My sister and I were put in the baby-sitters only a few times a year. My mom, an assistant leader, went with me to Girl Scout camp. When I actually had to go away to 6th Grade Camp without my parents, I had horrible panic attacks - the people at the camp thought I might have asthma.

I love my parents, I'm thankful for a lot of things they taught me and gave me, and remain on good terms with them. I don't blame them for all my problems, but I think the way they raised me played an important role. I've had some very bad times due to anxiety and panic attacks, and I still have problems I'm working on. I wish they'd been a little less protective, that'd I'd been allowed a little more freedom. When I have children, I hope I can reach a happy medium between over- and under-protecting them. I want them to be safe, to be careful, but I don't want them to live in fear, the way I have - and in many ways still do.

Posted by: Beckyverb on March 30, 2007 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Msnthrope,
Are only regulars appreciated in these comments? What's wrong with Kevin posting something that causes lurkers to post their own experiences? It looks to me like this comment board has even been therapeutic for some people.
What JeffII asked Kevin: Do you have kids?

Posted by: huh? on March 30, 2007 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

What JeffII asked Kevin: Do you have kids?
Posted by: huh?

How exactly is that germane? In 25 words or fewer, please.

Do you have a capacity for reason?

The regulars do a pretty good job of insulting one another in any case without assistance from hyperventilating amateurs.

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 30, 2007 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

The 200 comments are because Atrios linked to this thread.

Beckyverb,
I can see where your mother always being around bothered you and I don't understand why she wanted to do that and its a shame that you had such an extreme reaction to her. The other side is that so many people go through life feeling sad about their parents non-involvement when they were children. I think thats more common. At least you know why your mother was like that: she loved you.

Posted by: Lisa on March 30, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Lisa, I'm so happy you said that. I agree, that's really true. While I wouldn't want to experience what Beckyverb and a lot of others on this board have, with stifling and overprotective parents, I wish that my parents had shown some indication that they cared. I love them, and forgive them, but they were absentee parents. It's very hard for a child to raise himself or herself without parental involvement. The damage is permanent. A little overprotection might have made me feel like they cared, rather than they were always in their own worlds and oblivious to what their own kids needed.

Posted by: exactly on March 30, 2007 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Beckyverb, bless your heart. But you sound like you'll be fine. You're tackling it head-on; I think you'll find the passage of time is a big help.

Lisa, I know you mean well, but I don't think it's especially helpful to draw that comparison. Panic attacks are no bloody fun, and the fact that someone else's parents were disinterested doesn't amount to a hill of beans if you're having one.

And Beckyverb made it clear that she doesn't question the fact that her parents love her, so you're really not adding any new information, just guilting her for complaining.

Posted by: hamletta on March 30, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

When I was in first grade (early 80's), I used to fly alone airplanes all the time when I went to visit my grandparents. Do kids still go on planes without their parents? And, like many others on this forum, I too got myself to and from school (by foot or bus until 5th grade, then by bike).

To me the worried parents on this forum sound too much like Dick Cheney and his 1% doctrine.

Regarding the talks of "no sidewalks" (particularly the comment about Indianapolis), I was recently there and was shocked by this. My tire blew out and I got towed to a shop and was amazed by the fact that there were no sidewalks or crosswalks. The only way I could get to the stores across the street from the shop without a car was by darting across an 6 lanes of traffic. It was absolutely shocking to me to see a place designed to making WALKING actually impossible. No wonder so many people are obese.

Posted by: Nylund on March 30, 2007 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

Damn. It never fails. No matter what the issue, today's parents get lampooned for maximum suckage, just because. I can't believe the explanations people have gone to great lengths to give here in the comments in order to clarify to the non-parents that they aren't complete morons.

Fact is, times have changed. Life isn't like it was when we were kids. Things are less safe - I'm not talking about fucking war-on-terrah generated safety crap, either. No - just stuff like a giant increase in community size, and how different living situations tend to be now, and how goddamn fast people drive on neighborhood streets.

That doesn't mean we all have to wear our aluminum-foil headwear 'round the clock, but it does mean we need to make thoughtful choices regarding the rearing of our children if we want them to survive to adulthood *relatively* unscathed.

I wish I could understand just why such a desire, rooted in concern and love, should bring out the nasty in so many people. Why everyone should be so coiled and ready to lunge at today's parents. I, for one, am awfully tired of the conversation.

Posted by: lildb on March 31, 2007 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

The paranoia isn't just about children. It's about being on the street.

I was at a part a few years ago where someone mentioned that he walks his Rottweiler in one of the safest neighborhoods in Washington (Chevy Chase) at 7:30 in the morning. A woman in her sixties (don't blame the young for this) asked: Is it safe to be on the street?

I didn't think of the answer quickly enough: Yes, if the Rottweiler likes you.

Posted by: br on March 31, 2007 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

As parent of a young child I can say that if I know a danger is present, I am going to do what I can to keep my child safe.

There is little I can do do keep a drunk driver from smashing into my car or to keep lightning from striking my child.

So I do what I can. I take the simple precaution of seeing my young child to school. Or requiring her play outside be supervised by an adult. How is this bad?

Times have changed some. We are so inured to sex crimes and other forms of violence. We see it everywhere- at the moveis, on TV, on the news all the time. Are we really that jaded that that we gloss over something as horrific as child abduction? I lived in Sonoma County at the time of the Polly Klaas abdution. I will never forget the horror of it for her family or the community, or for that poor little girl. High profile cases like this one do scare people. But fear is a natural survival instinct.

Is it probable that my child in particular will ever be the victim of an abduction attemp? No. Am I reasonable, intelligent person capable of discerning medai hype from real danger? Yes. Am I going to send my six year old off on her own to explore the neighborhood? Not a chance.

Monsters do exist, and in human form. It is a sad fact. If I can protect my child by taking a few precautionary measures, I will. That does not make me a smothering, hovering parent, just one who wants her child to live to enjoy life.

Posted by: P E on April 2, 2007 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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