Tammy Cooper is just like me; she lives on a quiet cul-de-sac and she lets her children ride their scooters along the neighborhood street. The only difference between this Mom and me is she was arrested for allowing her kids, ages six and nine, to play outside watching from “only a few feet away.”
All it took was the judgment of one neighbor and a phone call to the police that has turned Tammy’s life upside down. She was publicly humiliated and arrested by La Porte police, spending 18 hours in jail for the simple act of allowing her children to play unsupervised.
I grew up in a small community, and as kids we had the freedom to play on our quiet neighborhood streets and race our bikes throughout the curving roads. In the fall of 1989, all of that changed when an arsonist and murderer Allen Legere escaped from the Federal prison, terrorizing my small community for over a year.
It was that year as children we learned what fear was and how it crippled our freedom. Many of us remember that brief time as the year when Halloween was cancelled, we were no longer free to play alone, and our parents lived in terror of the boogey man. This boogey man was a threat that was already serving time for murder of an elderly couple; in the year of his escape, he murdered four people within our community including our parish priest.
As an adult looking back, I know my parents took the precautions necessary for my safety, but I also know that one boogey man is no longer lurking around that dark corner. I give my children the tools of stranger danger and allow them the freedom to play with their friends in our quiet cul-de-sac. They bike, they scooter, and play tag with their friends in our neighborhood. It's not like I send them off to Central Park to play alone.
I want my children to have the care free existence that I once had before times changed and there was a horrible man who did terrible things to innocent people. I suspect it is the same for Tammy Cooper who was only allowing her children the freedom to scoot around neighborhood cul-de-sac and enjoy their manufactured free time.
The freedom to play without the watchful eye of parents enables children the ability to develop critical thinking skills and learn how to cooperate with friends. It is this unsupervised playtime which teaches kids resilience and prepares them with the coping skills necessary as adults.
As parents have we become so accosted with fear that the unknown boogey man is lurking in every bush. The local news perpetuates that myth when 61 percent of all stories include crime, fires, and disasters. The more news we watch, the more apt we are to believe someone is lurking in every dark corner.
It is in this day and age media has perpetuated the myth of violence, and as parents we are no longer free to allow our kids to play outside alone. But what message does that send to our children? It teaches them a lesson that they too should live in fear.
I remember this lesson in fear and I believe my kids deserve more in their childhood. They deserve the freedom to play unsupervised without the constant reminder of danger lurking around dark corners. I also know, like my parents, when the real danger lurks I will take the necessary precautions to protect my children.
Photo Credit: criminalintent.
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