Last week’s tragic news that an eight year old boy, Leiby Kletzky, was abducted and murdered in Brooklyn has many parents debating the merits of allowing children to walk unsupervised through city streets. It was the first day the boy was allowed to walk the seven blocks home alone. He got lost and stopped to ask a stranger for directions. This particular stranger was one of the extremely rare dangerous ones.
It's heartbreaking that so many have chosen to throw blame at his grieving parents. “What were the parents thinking?” seems to be a common response.
Well, I think I know what they were thinking. They were thinking that a child has a better chance of being struck by lightning than of being abducted. They wanted their child to feel independent, and get to know his neighborhood. They knew that if he got lost, chances are that he’d ask a kind helpful person who would get him safely home. What happened was inconceivable for them, but it will remain in the consciousness of every parent who has heard this news story.
The incident made me remember my own terror as a child, getting separated from my mom at a county fair, and crying for what seemed like hours, but was surely less than 10 minutes, in the first aid tent, surrounded by caring strangers. It made me remember losing my children in department stores, and enlisting the help of other women pushing strollers around who immediately understood my panic. I remembered all the helpful people in the Sheep Meadow when I lost my kids in Central Park two summers ago.