Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures
I just read an article claiming that today’s children are overprotected and deprived of opportunities to work problems out. A reminiscence of the author was that his generation got to ride their bikes all over town during the day and played unsupervised until all hours of the night. I facetiously, and I emphasize facetiously, dare anyone to leave their child unsupervised today.
From 1968 until 1970, my mother used to let my brother and I walk home from religious instructions in the dark (before daylight savings time was implemented). We were only eight and six-years-old respectively! In the summers, my brother and I would walk to a huge park in the next town over (about two miles away) and spend the day doing arts and crafts, riding the carousel, swimming and playing with the playground equipment. Then we would walk home in time for dinner.
One summer day in 1970, my brother decided halfway through the walk to the next town that he wanted to go back home so he could play with his friend across the street. I let him go. At the next corner, a clean-cut man in a truck with all sorts of saws and hatchets, etc. on each side started asking me questions. I was not quite ten years old, but I knew I was not supposed to talk to strangers. I found myself grunting at every question he asked me – what’s your name, where do you live, etc. At his last question, “Do you come this way often?” I told him I did every day and bolted. I passed every residence I could have stopped at for help and found myself at an electrical tower park when I turned and saw the man running after me. I ran further to the fence of the park I was headed to. My brother and one of his friends had dug a hole at the middle of the length of the fence to use as a shortcut to enter the park. I slipped through it and the man was nowhere to be found. The man was later found and arrested because he managed to capture six girls between the ages of six and twelve, rape them and stuffed them in a furnace. He got ten years in prison.
In 1976, my family had moved to California. We lived at the top of a hillside community and I babysat in the summer for a family that lived at the bottom of the hillside. There was a path to the bottom, parallel to the outside road exiting the community. I saw a truck slip in the gate after someone pulled out. I thought that strange and looked forward to see if he was going passed the section of community I had to walk through. I saw nothing, but kept walking. Soon there was a man peering around the community wall at me. He slowly walked forward. I slowed down and ended up following him. He turned down the short street I needed to turn into. The family I babysat for lived in the last house at the end of the cul de sac. I ran past the man to get to my job. For some unknown reason, the father of the kids I babysat was running late. I told him what I experienced. Just then the man opened the tall, solid gate of the property. The father jumped out of his seat and out of his house to greet the man. The man said he had an appointment. The father said he would have an appointment with someone he was not expecting if he did not leave. The man left but returned to the property via the outside wall facing the Pacific Coast Highway after we had let the family dog out. The dog was so well trained that if you told him to sit, he would not budge until told to get up. He knocked the man down, sat on him and licked him all over the face until the police arrived. The police could not press any other charges except trespassing, as he did not touch me. Thank goodness! And thank God for the dog!
In 1980, my college boyfriend walked me out across the street to a vast empty park to accompany me while I charted the stars (an assignment I had from an astronomy class I took as an elective). One night, my boyfriend saw two people come out from behind a shrub at the far end of the park. He nudged me and suggested that we had better go. In deep concentration, I put off the request. He pleaded with me twice before I got the message. These two bodies were halfway across the park, headed our way, and one was brandishing a machete! We ran across the street and into my boyfriend’s apartment. The two would-be attackers abandoned their mission.
In 1985, I was doing laundry in our basement. The way into our laundry room and the way out were the same. I got used to doing my laundry at night, as my now ex-husband did not get home from his store until late. One night, I was folding a load of towels when I heard footsteps coming towards the laundry room. A scuzzy looking character stopped at the door and looked in. I gave him a look as if to say, “You don’t scare me” and he left. Then he retreated back to the doorway and came right towards me. He backed me up to the back wall, pushed my head against it and proceeded to kiss me with his eyes closed. I had a towel in my hand at the time. I covered my hand and pushed his face away from me. He stumbled to the ground and I managed to step over him unharmed. This scuzzy character harassed two others in the basement as well. We all brought charges against him in court and he only got one year in jail after he broke probation.
In 2004, I used to let my then twelve-year-old daughter walk around the corner and down the street to her father’s house. One day, I saw she forgot a binder she wanted to take. No sooner than I exited the door with the binder, she was coming back. She then told me about the man standing at the power line pole she was to pass on her way. I saw him there trying to look busy chiseling at the pole with a spackling tool.
These are just events in my life. Many women as well as men and children can fill in the gaps with their stories. So how is it that keeping tabs on our children is thought to be overprotective? As far as working solutions out, there is plenty of opportunity at home with siblings, at school, at aftercare programs, at extracurricular activities, etc.