This is a rambling sort of post that I feel like needs a disclaimer of some kind. I've seen many articles on this subject and this isn't a criticism of the very real objections people have to the subject I'm writing about. It's just sort of stream of consciousness about all the thoughts I had when reading those articles that aren't really appropriate for comboxes but that I just haven't been able to get out of my head.
It's odd to read the articles from my particular vantage point. In a way it's fascinating because I cannot even begin to wrap my head around the idea of being able to let our kids who are in the same age range do the particular things named in those articles and so seeing what the vast majority of my friends feel is appropriate for a typically developing four or six or eight year old is amazing and odd to me.
I have no point of reference. Reading the articles and comments sometimes feels like visiting a strange land where anything is possible. I almost feel like I've stepped through the wardrobe into some magical land where animals talk and anything is possible,
Yesterday both girls were in therapy sessions (Sadie at OT and Mae at ABA) and I had an hour to burn and a wiggly little two year old. After walking around the hospital we returned to the waiting room and Patch raced around pausing briefly at the various toys in the room.
One of his favorite things to do was to run up and put his little toes against the line where the carpet changed from hallway to waiting room so that he could look out down the hallway. He would then turn around to look at me and giggle because he knew that he wasn't supposed to leave the waiting room, but he was so, so close to doing it and he thought that that was hysterically funny.
Last month we had a scare. We'd gotten home from a walk. Sadie was feeling sick and I was trying to think of any possible wheat cross contamination so I told her to go upstairs to the bathroom.
I did what I always do. I walked the kids into the house. I told Sadie I'd be right back. And I walked outside and locked the door and grabbed the stroller and ran to our garage. I took James with me this time because he was asleep and I didn't want him screaming in his little bed from me waking him up and then leaving him for a couple minutes.
Our garage is around the side of the house. Putting the stroller away takes me approximately 90 seconds. And it terrifies me.
I constantly debate exactly what I should do with the stroller when we get back from a walk. Since we have lived here there has been a bullet in our front yard. Paul's bike was stolen from our garage. Someone set our leave bags on fire last month and this week I found (look away if you're squeamish) two condoms and an empty pack of cigarettes (not in their packages) on the grass as I was getting out of our car to walk to our front door.
As a one car family that stroller is my ticket to getting out and not sitting around our house all day. It takes us to therapy sessions and doctor's appointments and the store and the park and museums and anyplace else that my feet can carry us. I really, really would rather it not disappear to go where ever Paul's bike went.
So I ran to the garage and pulled James out of his seat quickly and then I heard screaming. I paused for a split second, praying that it wasn't what I thought it was, that I'd imagined the sound, that it was just the ringing in my ears from eating too much salt.
Screaming is kind of like ringing, right?
But then I heard it again, more clearly this time. I took off running, clutching James against my chest.
I only half saw the flash of pink fly past me as I shot out my hand and caught her by the arm.
If she was standing here with me it meant that the door was open. She'd undone the lock. The door had to be open. Where was Patch?
I took off running, with Maggie crying as she stumbled along behind me, still holding James. I could still hear Sadie screaming from the doorway that her sister was gone.
I came around the corner and Sadie said "Mommy, Maggie's gone! I stopped Patch but Maggie's gone!" as she clung to her little brother's hand in the doorway, panic written across her face.
"I got her!" I said and then tearfully thanked her about a hundred times for letting me know that she needed my help and that her sister had gotten out, that Maggie had finally figured out how to operate the hard to open lock on our front door.
I spent the last several weeks thinking about that moment and how things could have gone differently. We live between two busy streets. I think of the different paths she could have taken. She took the only one that didn't lead onto a street within a few steps. Her guardian angel must be working over time (although I guess we already knew that).
I guess the point of relaying that story was that the idea of doing any of the things parents are getting in trouble for is so foreign to me that it's hard to wrap my head around. Not that I'm saying they're wrong (because that's not what I'm getting at at all).
At the same time as we spend ample parts of our day outside now that the weather is warming, I find myself thinking, more and more that this particular problem is one that doesn't affect all zip codes equally.
Little tiny kids walk past me unaccompanied every day. They get off the bus and walk home. They skip down the sidewalk by themselves and in groups. One small boy stood and watched our kids playing in the backyard, and waved back when I waved at him before slowly trudging on down the street kicking up piles of leaves with each step from the sidewalk as he went.
Then there was the time during the great ice storm of two winters ago a tiny boy, accompanied by a boy only slighter bigger, threw glass bottles at cars on an icy road as we drove past, laughing as the glass exploded across the ice packed pavement.
The police are busy here dealing with crime, with too many calls and too few officers. Sometimes I hear that a child has been shot. I have never heard anyone complain that they were so much as warned that their child shouldn't be out and about town by themselves.
Our neighborhood does have a neighborhood watch. Someone called 911 when our front yard had been set alight. Another neighbor told us that our street used to be a place where ladies of the night waited to be picked up, but that they'd called the police over and over again and that it had gotten better.
I do worry about the small figures I see walking by though, because we don't live in an area where there are many mother's watching out their windows to make sure that everything is fine and some of those kids are awfully tiny. If I check the sex offender data base(which I don't do often because it makes me feel panicky and not want to unlock our door to step outside) it will tell me that there are over 60 offenders within a mile of my address.
Even if our kids were entirely typical I can't imagine sending them out there alone until they're much, much older.
Perhaps that's why, whenever I see these articles I feel a small ache in my chest that is twofold, firstly because it shows me how vastly different some of our "differences" (delays) really are and secondly because I'd really rather live someplace where those are the sort of problems that our neighbors are worried about, instead of worrying about whether that guy who's walking slowly by our house for the fiftieth time today carrying a brown paper bag, about to get into the nice car of a nervous looking college student I've never seen around before is a drug dealer.
I agree that these articles point to a great overreach, a breakdown in community when people would rather call the police than say something to a neighbor.
At the same time though each time I read them I almost want to point out what a blessing it is to live in an area where this is the particular brand of problem that people are highly concerned about.
I guess that deep down I'm hoping that before too terribly long we're living someplace where I have to worry more about what the neighbors think than about the criminals that came to my door repeatedly last spring trying to convince me that they were from our alarm company (and that they were later selling books) and that I should let them in.