Ahhhh, the good ol' days. Like every generation before us, mine looks back on our childhood with nostalgia, a little regret, and a heaping helping of amazement that we made it out alive.
Compared to the world in which we are raising our children - a world replete with gizmos, gadgets, and sundry safety features - our childhoods were a landmine of potential hazards.
Raise your hand if you never wore a seatbelt.
OK, put your hands down, some of you need to shave your armpits.
We never wore seatbelts. Like, ever. Ever, ever, everever. We stood up in the back seat, we lay on the floor over the hump on long car trips, we slept in the back of the station wagon. And if we did sit in the front seat, our seatbelt consisted of mom's or dad's hand shooting out like a railroad crossing arm. (News for them - in an actual accident, as the steering wheel would be eating your sternum, our bodies would have been taking your arm with us right through the windshield.)
We played outside. Always. Seriously, most of us can remember being kicked out of the house and forced to play outside by mothers who just couldn't deal with our shit any longer.
We rode our bikes along a busy road to get to the Stop 'n Go for Icees. We went on hikes. We were in and out of each other's houses like a game of Musical Abodes. Easiest way to find us was to look for the clump of bikes on the ground in front of any given home.
My siblings and I played around in the woods behind our house. We took over the homes under construction every night after the workers were done. (Discarded drywall? Awesome sidewalk chalk.) We climbed trees. Played kick-the-can. We said goodbye, walked out the door, and our parents had not a single worry about us eventually showing back up - forced home either by hunger or the glow of the streetlights.
Fast forward to my own children.
They are basically not allowed out of my sight.
Sure, they have had bicycles - ridden under supervision. And yes, they have played at friend's houses - escorted there by me or Rudy. We have gone on many car trips - with them all fastened securely into carseats and seatbelts.
The difference between the freedoms I enjoyed vs the lack of they exist under is stark. But then so is the difference in society.
Seatbelts? Look, that one is a no-brainer and should have been a law all along. But considering doctors used to do cigarette ads, it is not surprising that seatbelts were just some annoying piece of fabric to be shoved out of sight into the crack. Live and learn.
But supervision? I don't like being in the clutch of fear 24/7 any more than any other parent, but if you are a realist, you simply do not turn your back on your child in this day and age. A blink of an eye, a moment's distraction - that's literally all it takes for your child to become an Amber alert and a statistic, and for you to be plunged into a nightmare from which you will never awaken.
It's not that children weren't abducted back in the day - they were. In fact, I still remember a 6 year boy in my neighborhood who was found dead in the woods after having gone missing. But these days, it happens with Metamucil-level regularity.
Every single day, multiple times a day, children - baby to teen - go missing. The latest statistics indicate that EVERY 40 SECONDS a child is reported missing/abducted.
EVERY 40 SECONDS.
Over 2,000 children a day.
If that number isn't sobering, I don't know what is.
And that is why smart parents do not turn their backs. They monitor their childrens' whereabouts, interactions. They take the time to walk them or drive them from Point A to Point B. Yes, I said SMART. Because to make any assumptions about your child's safety these days is not only negligent, it is STUPID.
Which brings us to a news report out of Port St. Lucie, Florida.
This is Nicole Gainey and her 7 year old son, Dominic.
She doesn't look stupid.
But she is stupid. I say that without apology, without hesitation.
Nicole was arrested this past Saturday when concerned citizens (it takes a village sometimes when the idiot is allowed to have children) called police after seeing Dominic out on his own, heading to the park.
Police arrived, spoke with Dominic, who verified his mother knew he was out alone, and then they loaded his ass in the car and took him home where they interacted with Nicole.
Yes, I knew where my son was.
Yes, I let him go a couple times a week.
Yes, he has a cell phone hanging around his neck in case of emergency.
Nicole - you did not know where your son was. You assumed, just as you assumed he would return.
Nicole - you admit you basically play Russian Roulette with your son's life multiple times a week.
And Nicole - that cell phone? It means jack shit when someone abducts your kid. How do you think that scenario goes down? "Pardon me, sir, but might you wait a moment before you shove me in your white, windowless van, rape me, and throw me in a dumpster, so I may call my Mumsy? Thanks ever so much."
Police arrested her on felony child neglect charges. She was released 7 hours later on $3750 bond.
In my opinion she is getting off easy.
When you think of the alternative reason for police coming to her home? The scenario in which she calls 911 frantic that Dominic has not returned home. His around-the-neck cell phone found in the dirt under the swingset?
Yeah, I think a little public humiliation and a few dollars is easy by comparison. (Should she have received a warning? Possibly - and she will probably end up being let off - but given her attitude thus far, my guess is little Dom would be right back out walking the street the next day.)
But of course, there is the "nanny state contingent" crying foul over her arrest. Saying she has every right to let her son wander amok. That the police have no right to tell her what she can and cannot do.
Fine. Then when little Dom comes up missing on one of his many treks to the park, those same police are under zero obligation to look for him. If she has no compunction about her mASSive game of Will He or Won't He Come Home, then authorities should have no compunction about telling her to fuck off when he is late to dinner because he is dead in some alligator canal.
This is not about there being a Nanny State. This is about common sense and the sad fact that many of our fellow citizens have none.
Don't tell me how safe your neighborhood or town is. It's not. Shit happens, and it happens everywhere. My fancy, gated community didn't stop a near abduction three streets from my house.
It's summer. I see children - young ones - every single day, out and about without a parent or caretaker in sight. It is even worse during school when they are walking along busy roads or cutting through the woods by my house to go to and from school. If I were a predator, it is the equivalent of a Las Vegas All-You-Can-Eat buffet. Only your child is on the menu.
None of us like that difference between how we galavanted as kids and how we basically have to lock down our own kids. But those days are not these days. They just aren't.
So, Nicole, while you are lawyering up and bitching to anyone who will listen about how you have been wronged? STFU, look at Dominic, imagine him naked, beaten, and dead in a shallow grave, and then the next time he wants to go the park? Get off your ass and GO WITH HIM.
Because when the day comes that he goes missing because you just assumed he would be ok? The only game you'll be playing is the one where you kick your own can for the rest of your life.