Friday, 8 October 2010

There have been two murders

in the last four weeks. Both have been elderly women living alone. The news media has been making headlines from both. It is understandable but it disturbs me. There have been the usual 'lock your doors' and 'do not answer to strangers' type warnings but they have come amid details that I do not want to know.
Recently there was also an entire double page of books about such things in a book catalogue this household receives. Why, my father asked, would anyone want to read about such things? How, he wanted to know, do such books get published? He threw the catalogue into the bin in disgust.
There are similar books in the local bookshop and at the library. I assume someone reads them. I do not and I do not know anyone who does read about sadistic killers or serial killers or violent sexual abuse. I know those things exist. I know something about the psychology of such people and I do not want to know lurid details provided in racy journalistic language.
But there is something that bothers me even more than that. There are quite a number of children around here. Most of them are not free to roam the local streets. Most of them are not even permitted to play in the front garden, the driveway or the street. A few are not even permitted to play in their back garden. They certainly are not permitted to go to the local playgrounds alone. If they have bicycles they are only permitted to ride up and down their driveways or occasionally "to the end of the street and back". They have no idea how to use public transport and even crossing a road is a problem because they rarely do it on foot. When they do cross a road they cross with an adult.
On the rare occasions they go to a playground they find a highly sanitised "child-safe" place which is supposed to prevent injury - and even then I hear parents saying, "Be careful. No, don't do it like that. You might fall and hurt yourself."
Nobody wants their child hurt. Children do not want to hurt themselves. Even so it seems as if children are becoming less and less able to do some things.
I remember the first time the Whirlwind walked around here alone. She was much too young but she needed help. She knew me. She knew where I lived. She crossed two small, quiet suburban side-roads and banged furiously on our door. Fortunately I was at home. "Mummy won't get up from the floor". We rang for an ambulance and then for her father.
She was not quite four years old. Children can do a lot, especially when they need to.


Rachel Fenton said...

Fear or lack of confidence is as big a danger as anything else.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely - fear can prevent a child from doing all sorts of things and, all too often, it is something you learn from your parents!

Sheep Rustler said...

Poor child. I am so glad she had you to rely on, and the courage to do that. It is a very fine line to tread, teaching your children independence while keeping them safe, and we refer to it as 'letting the lead out slowly'. I was very sheltered as a child and as a consequence am still quite timid in a lot of situations. I hope we are bringing our children up to manage that balance. I know too many children their age (14 and 17) who are only just being allowed to do anything on their own, under the safest of circunstances, and I worry for them. One 17 year old boy was only this year allowed to catch a train alone - during broad daylight, I wouldn't allow either of mine to catch one after dark in Melobourne these days.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

I'd like to think that my children would do something similar if I needed them!

catdownunder said...

I would not let a child travel after dark here either but I do think they should be able to go to and from school alone once they reach secondary school. My cousin's 15yr old daughter is not even allowed to go to the letter box around the corner on her own and I think that is just a little bit too protective. Then there are the two boys around the corner - ages 7 & 9 who go to the playground alone, ride their bikes around the district and often to school as well!

Donna Hosie said...

It is easy to have this point of view when you don't have children. It is the view of common sense.

However, until you have experienced the utter gut-tearing fear a parent experiences when their child is missing, then you don't appreciate how common sense can jump out of a window and disappear into the horizon.

Melinda Szymanik said...

My three children (12, 14 and 17) do all sorts by themselves. All have got themselves to school and back from the age of 11. The older ones go to the movies and in to the city with friends without me. They are better equipped to handle emergencies or problems because they can rely on themselves. They know who to call for help. I would be devastated if anything bad happened to them but I know they are learning the tools for keeping themselves safe. No matter what we do we cannot protect them from everything.

catdownunder said...

Oh I agree Donna - and that is why parents won't do "commonsense" - and why I am often terrified that something will happen to the Whirlwind when I am in loco parentis. But she is allowed to post a letter and walk - or even ride her bike - around to see me. My cousin's daughter would not be allowed out the front gate alone - and I think that is going too far at fifteen. She actually has less idea than the Whirlwind -who is a lot younger.

Merrilee said...

That was a very interesting read, but I could have really done with some line breaks - very dense text!