Today is "Walk to School Day." We spoke with Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids and creator of the free-range parenting movement, after Somer Thompson's murder. Somer is the little girl who was tragically murdered walking home from school last year. Here's what Skenazy had to say.
Lenore Skenazy: After Somer's murder, am I more afraid about my kids walking to school (and riding the train and subway, as they also do, on their own)? No. And it's not that I don't care about their safety and am putting this story out of my mind. It's haunting me and probably every parent in America today.
We all know the world can be a dangerous place, which is why I have worked to train my kids to be safe. All free-range parents do. We know that at some point, some time, even if we don't expect it, our children will be beyond our sight, and we want them to be as prepared as possible.
Ernie Allen, head of the National Center for Missing Children, told me that his organization interviewed children who got away from potential abductions and found they generally shared one characteristic: confidence. The confidence to scream, yell, kick, call attention to themselves, demand help from strangers, and to fight back. He added that that kind of confidence is not something you can just hand your kids. They have to earn it themselves. That's why it's called "self" confidence, and not "parent-assisted" confidence.
Confidence comes from doing something in the world, not having it all done for you. And so, my kids will continue to walk (and bus and subway) to school. I know the odds are with us. I know I've trained them well. And I know that I would never blame the parents of Somer.
Where has our sympathy for the parents gone? We blame the parents of child victims today the way we used to blame rape victims -- as a way to make US feel like "they did something bad. I won't, so it'll never happen to me." Her parents did nothing wrong. Evil, unfortunately, exists. So does fate, even though we act as if we can control absolutely everything. We can't.
We live in an imperfect world. Let the parent who is perfect cast the first stone.
For more from Lenore, check out her blog.