Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lost Childhood in 2015

Yesterday, I watched an interview on the Today Show with a mother and her two children.  They discussed a scary incident that the children had experienced while walking home from a park in their Maryland community. The police stopped the kids and asked them where they were going, where they'd been, and where their parents were.  The kids were fine. They knew the way home.  But the police insisted that they get into their patrol car and the police drove them home.

What followed next astounded me. The police confronted the kids' father about neglecting them, possibly endangering them by allowing them to walk home alone after playing in a park without adult supervision.  They called Family Services.  The social worker told the father that if he didn't sign the papers she presented to him, she would remove the children from the home immediately.  I don't recall what the papers were about. The father quite reasonably had wanted to consult his lawyer before signing anything, but they pressured him into signing under threat of taking the children away.

Now, let's back up.  This incident began because these parents trusted their kids to walk home alone from the park.  How is that neglect?  How is that endangering the kids?  According to the two children, the police scared them, the Family Services social worker scared them, and it upset them that these people were threatening their father.  The police and Family Services wanted to protect the kids, of course.  However, it could be argued that in the process they were the ones who'd hurt the kids.

Are American communities no longer safe places for our children?  This story took me back to my childhood.  My parents insisted that we go outdoors and play.  We ranged all over our part of town, including a large park.  We played touch football in a vacant lot.  We played hide and seek in the evenings in the neighborhood with all the kids.  I walked to school with my brother until he graduated to middle school, then I walked alone.  We were expected to walk to all of our schools except on exceptionally cold days and the days we had to carry something large and heavy.  The police in my hometown kept an eye on us, but it would never occur to them that our parents were neglecting or endangering us.

What do you think?  What was your childhood experience?


Daughter Number Three said...

Saw these folks on a different news show, and have been reading the Free-Range Kids site off and on for years. I grew up in a more rural area, ranging all over the place.

It is amazing fearful television's scary world portrayal (both news and fiction crime shows) makes people lose all logic. They really are convinced that children can't be without adults for a second or they'll be snatched.

Got into a Facebook discussion about this with some friends of my sister-in-law. They cannot believe that kids are safer now than they've ever been, and that confining them has psychological effects that are riskier than the small possibility of crime against their bodies.

Gina said...

I didn't know there was a Free-Range Kids website. Thanks for mentioning that.

Watching the old TV shows on the KSTP additional channels here has really underscored what a gentle, much safer time the 1950's and 1960's were, even with the social upheavals around the Vietnam War in the late 60's.

Living in a big city now, compared to a much, much smaller city when I was growing up, I'm struck with the differences in the sense of community. I feel community in my neighborhood, and kids tend to run around here a lot, than I do when I go through various areas on my way downtown. I think kids are much smarter now than they were 40 or 50 years ago.

Thanks for the comment!