By Jill Simeone
Leiby Kletzy, an 8 year old boy, walks home from camp, gets lost, asks a stranger for help, and disappears.
As I typed my blog earlier this week, just blocks away this horrifying story was unfolding. Parts of the boy’s body were discovered in a dumpster just a few streets away from our home.
This is an unthinkable tragedy for the Kletzy family, and I humbly acknowledge that I have no meaningful advice on how to pick up the pieces and keep living after the loss of a child.
But the entire city is grieving this event, both for the loss of a child, and for the loss of childhood. We can’t help but personalize it. “What does this mean about any family’s safety?” we ask.
For several years now, the debates have been raging in the blogosphere: helicopter parents trading spars with advocates of raising “free range” kids.
And everyone is right. We need to keep our kids safe because scary stuff happens. On the other hand, if we don’t give them some freedom, they won’t develop the judgment to someday keep themselves safe.
So what do we do? I have asked this question over and over this week, and the best answer I’ve heard so far came from the dentist’s office. A dental assistant who grew up in the city told my husband (as he lay prone during a root canal) that he remembered pushing his dad for independence as a kid, begging to walk to the store, walk to school alone, etc. He says his dad finally relented, but for a while, he knows his dad followed him, a half block behind. This allowed the child to practice independence with a net.
Please share your thoughts, too.
My heartfelt condolences, as a neighbor and mother, to Leiby’s family.