Hi Readers. I’m writing this today, because by evening tomorrow, I have a feeling I will be in the crosshairs for something that has happened to some child somewhere in this country, or even another country that has heard about Saturday’s “Take Our Children to the Park & Leave Them There Day.”
After doing nine TV interviews, a couple dozen radio interviews, and being written about in papers that called me everything from “crazy” to “moron” — and one that even ran a political cartoon showing despondent kids abandoned by their drunk parents, who are raising a toast to “unsupervised play” (because no one except drunks would even consider the notion of taking their eyes off their children, ever) — the media has succeeded in doing to me what it does to most Americans on a daily basis: It is making me think in terms of the worst case scenario.
It is making it hard for me to remember that what I am recommending is what children do all over the world — play at the local playground, with each other, without constant parental supervision, once they reach the age of 7 or 8. That is, once they reach the age that most children in other countries start walking, without their parents, to school.
So tomorrow, when, thanks to the odds in a country of about 60 million children, one of them fractures an arm or, God forbid, suffers anything worse, I can see where it could very easily become, “We told you so!” and, “It’s all her fault!” on the part of the media. Media that will not know to whom to point when another child tests positive for diabetes, or learns that he has high blood pressure brought on by a sedentary childhood, or dies in a car crash, as 5 or 6 kids do every day.
No, when it comes to kids venturing outside on their own, the media now has a villain, and it will be very easy for the evening news to ignore the “everyday” tragedies of car accidents and ill health, because, of course, it already does. Sure, those things kill kids. But there’s no drama in them.
Yesterday, on CNN, the anchor quoted some Deptartment of Justice statistics about the lower crime rate today and then said “even if these are true” (even if?), children are still not safe. Then he provided a quote from the father of murdered 12-year-old Polly Klass, who said that letting any children ever play outside, unsupervised, is a “knuckledheaded” idea.
Interestingly, Polly was kidnapped from her bedroom.
Naturally, CNN does not interview the parents of children killed in cars when it does a story on road trip vacations or on a new movie that people will have to drive to the theater to see, because this would not make sense. What could the parent say? “I’m begging you: Never drive your child anywhere! It’s a knuckleheaded idea to put your child in peril that way. Look what happened to mine!”
And of course, 40 times more children are killed in cars each year than are killed, as Polly was, by a stranger.
So all I can say is: I’m bracing for blame and trying to remember that the whole idea of kids getting out of the house, and meeting each other, and playing on their own, even for just 10 minutes, is a worthy thing.
Ms. Skenazy, a columnist of The New York Sun, writes the blog known as Free Range Kids.