Child Safety– How Far Should We Go?

Yesterday was a day for wanting to pull my children closer and “circle the wagons”. 

 

First, I had the heart-stopping experience of seeing my youngest have a close call with not one, but two cars, while crossing a busy street at a crosswalk while walking to school. The dog and I always walk her to the intersection and watch her cross.  She pushes the button and waits for the green light and the “Walk” symbol to start flashing. The cars turning left have the green light as well, but usually they wait. Yesterday, they didn’t.  She’d gotten halfway across and was entering the second half of the crossing when the first car pulled into the turn and stopped about a foot from her. Startled, she backed up and let it pass, continued walking, and then the second car turned into the intersection and went behind her, again with only about a foot to spare. My mouth was open and almost on the ground, and I wanted to scream every obscenity in the book (I didn’t). Thoughts raced through my head as she walked onward towards school. How could these drivers do that to a child? Are they so intent on making the light that they don’t care? It had never happened before, but as I drove through the intersection later in the day I realized how easy it could be to just not see someone crossing the street.  When you’re turning left at an unprotected green light, you’re focused more on the cars in front of you.  A pedestrian at a crosswalk can go undetected, unfortunately, blending in with all the cars waiting to the side.  And at busy intersections like that one, we drivers aren’t used to seeing a lot of pedestrians, anyway, at least not in this suburb. So, do I stop all walking and biking to school? Do Luke and I walk with her on the crossing, me ready to shake my fist at any cars who dare to approach? Do I get a large orange flag to carry along?  Do I use this as an opportunity to further teach her about safer crossing, since we all have to cross busy streets throughout our lives?  Or should we encourage jaywalking? Emmie once crafted a petition to send to City Hall about getting a bike overpass built at that intersection, but never gathered the signatures.  Maybe it’s time for her to take up the call again…

 

That afternoon, I was interviewing a woman from the Houston area as part of a freelance writing assignment, and she told me about a local organization to which she devotes a lot of time: The Laura Recovery Center, which started 12 years ago after a 12-year-old girl named Laura was abducted from her Friendswood, TX neighborhood.  Her remains were found 17 days later; her killer has never been found. As I looked at the LRC website , my heart hurt for the second time that day.  Laura had told her mother she was going for a quick jog and would only be gone 20 minutes, just like both Emmie and Allison sometimes do. Yes, they’ve been educated on “being aware”—but Laura’s perpetrator, like others we hear about, is suspected of using quick force—grab and go, and I’m not sure any amount of education or carrying a cell phone can prevent that. It’s the constant dilemma of modern parents:  Should I let my children play and “be a kid”? Am I an irresponsible parent if I do? The statistics posted on LRC’s website show that stranger abduction is very rare, even though the media stories would cause us to believe otherwise…but no one wants to be counted among the “rare”…

Later that night while reading the news, I learned that a 7-year old Arlington, TX boy died recently after swimming in a state park river with his family, a river in which my own family has walked.  A nasty amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri got up his nose and invaded his brain and spinal chord, and he died within four days. The disease is extremely rare, said the news story.  Over a nine-year period, from 1998-2007, there were 33 reports in the U.S.  Is that supposed to make me feel better? Just last week I’d added a “Florida river swim with manatees” into our October vacation plans…

Toward the end of that news story, it looked like I was going to get some welcome words: the boy’s dad said that while he’s now more protective of his other child, he refuses to “keep her in a bubble” — and he recommended that other parents do the same. “Let them live life to the fullest,” he said, and then added, “but make sure they’re safe in doing so.”

As I write these last few words, while the “First Wednesday of the Month” City Emergency Siren Test blasts through my neighborhood, I’m seriously wondering what “safe” is.

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