A few weeks back, Beanie asked me: "Mommy, can I take a walk around the block?" As I gathered myself off the couch to go with her, she added: "By myself."
Unhesitating, I told her no. Yet, I also felt a tingle. Not of pride exactly, but a good feeling about her wish to act independently and her confidence and comfort with both who she is and where she is.
B/c, I told her, the driveways along the block can be busy at 4pm, and "around the block" is a much longer distance than you think when you walk it alone, and you are only 7 years old, so I think you are a bit young to be on your own.
"When will I be old enough?"
We will have to see, I said.
I have thinking about this conversation as I have read the news coverage about Leiby Kletzky, which has spun quickly into attempts to draw the lesson of the story. Is it that parents need to keep a closer eye on their children? Or that horrors like this still remain the exception, not the rule?
It is hard not see that a young child is vulnerable in a way that an adult is not. (Also, that not all adults are equally vulnerable or invulnerable.) So far, the reporting seems to suggest that the man who took Leiby Kletzky was not necessarily a "predator" actively seeking children, but someone taking advantage of a situation that had presented itself.
What happened to the boy speaks to every fear I have as a parent, including the fear that I might make a mistake which brings harm to my child. No doubt Leiby Kletzky's parents regret their decision to allow their 8-year-old son to walk home by himself, but I am not convinced that they made a mistake.
I am not sure what lesson there is to learn.