Saturday, December 12, 2009

#202: The End of Childhood

I think that my generation (roughly people born during the eighties) is the last generation where we actually let our kids roam free around the neighborhood. It's really sad when you think about it that we have either become so nervous about child abductions or so regimented in routine and organized sports that we don't let our kids roam free anymore. I would let my son go outside and roam around more often but there are no other kids out. We have a park right outside of our backyard but I rarely see any other kids using it except for young teenagers and kids out with their parents.

I remember when I younger, I would wander all over the neighborhood with my friends exploring what crevices lie in hiding. When I got slightly older, my best friends and I would hang out around a beautiful tree-lined creek. The trees no longer exist but the creek does and it is currently a nature park situated between two massive housing developments. When I moved to Baldwin, the exploring expanded but I still did it until I got my first job at 14. I discovered some really cool stuff while out but about half of them have wound up like the creek, or worse.

Depending on who you listen or talk to, the number of children who go missing hasn't risen as much as the national coverage of missing children has. I tried looking for an actual statistic showing how much child abduction has gone up since the 1960s but I wasn't able to find one. I'm not saying this isn't an important problem that doesn't need to be addressed but the way local news and some cable news programs exaggerate and exploit the missing children is just appalling. Most of the missing/abducted child alerts in my area are children taken by parents for one reason or another and the local news makes it seem like the world is ending. I hardly think a parent is going to harm their own child, I know it can happen but I consider it rare.

My son and I went over to the school playground, which is nearby, to play. It was a beautiful day, slight overcast, about 75 degrees. Not too hot or too cold and just an almost perfect day. We walked over to the playground on this near-perfect day and never saw another kid. We were out for over two hours and still saw no one. Which makes me wonder that when he gets a little older to where I'll let leave the property by himself to go play, will there be anyone to play with? Will he have to join outside opportunities in order to make and keep friends? Generations before his didn't have to, why should they now? I trust my son to make the right decisions and that's what part of this is, a form of trust. Creepy guys in vans luring kids near and drugging them only happen in TV shows. All it really takes is to teach your kids not to go with someone they don't know, tell a trusted adult if there is someone they don't like hanging around and to implant in their brain to always tell you where they are going and who they are going with.

I remember my mom used to bring up letting her know where I was and who I was with so I wouldn't get taken. I would roll my eyes and think "that's not going to happen" but yet, I still did it because she didn't scare me or make it seem like she was prying or making it a chore. I admit that sometimes I didn't do it but most of the time I was able to keep her informed and I am still here, much to the dismay of some people. In actual numbers, there are roughly 76,000,000 children under 18 in this country; roughly 800,000 go missing every year [NISMART Report, Oct. 2002]. That's 0.01% and of those only 100 are murdered. Those are some really small percentages there and the 800,000 also takes into account children who run away and while even one missing child is one too many, the actual percentage is not enough to cause me any alarm.

Maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way. Maybe parents just do more things with their children these days like organized sports and family outings. I like doing that stuff with my son, too but he has just gotten to the age where he starts to appreciate stuff like that more but it won't be a couple more years until he remembers doing stuff like that without having to be reminded to it's pointless to take anywhere all that special. But that's a whole other issue I have.

Until next time, I remain...