“But, Mama, when you were my age, you were FLYING across the country by yourself.”
“It’s true, Emily. But, times are different now.”
“That’s always your answer. Times are different.”
“But it’s true. When I was a kid, we rode in cars without car seats. I mean, baby, we rode in cars without seatbelts.”
“I know, I know. And you never wore a bike helmet and rode around theÂ neighborhoodÂ alone and didn’t have to come home until dark.”
I am absolutely gutted. The death of 8-year-oldÂ Leiby Kletzky has hit me so incredibly hard. It has shocked me to my core.
He was walking home alone from camp and made the mistake of taking a wrong turn and then asking someone for directions; asking a monster. Because while Leiby’s mother was waiting in their agreed-upon meeting spot, this monster was keeping Leiby Kletzky inside of his home and then later dismembering him and Â hiding his parts in aÂ refrigeratorÂ and inside a suitcase in a Â nearby trash bin.
SurveillanceÂ video pointed authorities to Levi Aron, 35, who allowed the police into his home and pointed them towards the kitchen, where they founds parts of the boy’s body. In Aron’s written confession, he claimed that he panicked when he noticed all the fliers up around his Brooklyn neighborhood, so he killed and dismembered the boy. People in their close-knit Orthodox Jewish community know Levi Aron and described him as shy and a little odd.
He was almost nine years old; he wanted to feel like a big boy and not a little kid. He begged his parents. This was the first time they let him come home alone.
A parent’s worst nightmare.
Horrible things can happen any time and any place and they are out of my control.
I know this.
Just last weekend we watched a man open his car door and mistakenly knock a girl right off of her bike. She seemed okay, although I was concerned that she was clutching her un-helmeted head. We hear of car accidents resulting in kindergarteners’ deaths. We hear of babies drowning in pools. We hear of children choking on whole grapes, resulting in brain deaths. We hear of children dying before their second birthdays. We hear of 8-year-old boys getting abducted and dismembered by someone he possibly knows.
Tragic. All of them. Gut-wrenching and tragic.
So, while my Mama Bear urges tell me to grab my three small children and hold on to them for dear life and never let them out of my sight, I realize that this helicoptering is doing them an incredible disservice. As a parent, I know it’s myÂ responsibilityÂ to provide my childrenÂ withÂ the tools to become independent, happy, healthy, functioning members of society.
But I struggle with the independence part.
How do I give my children the freedoms they require and so desperately want, but continue to guard them and keep them safe?
I read something recently about there being two kinds of parents. The first set of parents see that their child is about to trip and fall. They race to their child’s side and swoop her up quickly before she has the chance to hurt herself, keeping her safe and smiley. The second set of parents, too, see that their child is about to trip and fall. They allow their child to fall and then when the child cries, they swoop in quickly, wipe of her knees and assure them that even though the scrape hurt a bit, she is 100% okay and the parents are there to help.
Interesting, isn’t it?
The first set of parents avoid the hurt altogether, but there’s no room there to teach the lesson that “Yes, you *can* get hurt in this life, but we are here to support you and to help take away the pain.”Â
I stood on the front porch and watched my 10-year-old look both ways and then cross the street. I watched her walk to our mailbox, slide the key in, and grab the stack of bills and fliers. I watched her look both ways again and then cross the street again. I watched her skip up the sidewalk and onto our front porch.
“Gosh, Mama, you don’t have to watch me.”
“Yes I do, baby. Yes I do.”
“I’m not a little kid.”
She is my little kid.
As are her brother and her sister.
Maybe I’ll hold their hands just a wee bit longer.