There is a fine line between being cautious and paranoia.
Danielle and Alexander Meitiv are being investigated for possible child neglect charges by the Child Protective Services in Maryland.
What did they allegedly do?
Starve their kids half to death? Lock them in the basement? Beat them? Molest them? Chain them to their beds? Keep them out of school? Verbally belittle them constantly? Make them sleep on the floor? Fail to get them medical attention?
No, it was much more hideous than that. They allowed them to go to the park by themselves in broad daylight. And not just once did they commit this travesty but twice. The latest incident came to light when Silver Springs police saw the two kids — one is 6 years old and the other 10 years old — walking home alone from the park on Sunday. Officers contend they saw a homeless man “eyeing” the children as they walked. So instead of asking the homeless man what he was “eyeing” they picked the kids up and took them to Child Protective Services.
This comes several months after the same two children were walking home by themselves from another park when a concerned citizen — alarmed apparently that the kids didn’t have armed escorts — called police.
One must assume Silver Springs is either a dangerous place or we’re losing it as a society.
There are hundreds if not thousands of kids that age and younger walking either in pairs — an older sibling with a younger one — or by themselves to and from school every day in the valley. Is that child neglect as well?
Is leaving a 10-year at home in charge of 6-year-old child neglect as well while a parent works or runs errands?
In the most recent comprehensive research, the Department of Justice indicated in 2002 there were 797,500 children reported missing. There were 203,900 abducted by family members and 58,200 abducted by non-relatives. There were 115 stranger abductions. The balance — almost 540,000 — was found typically within hours. More often than not it was simply a case of a kid going to another kid’s house and not telling anyone. Roughly 1 in 10,000 children aren’t found in a short time. In 2002, that was about 260..
Abductions and other such crime statistics involving kids haven’t spiked over the years. They’ve dropped. In fact, stranger abductions per se, have essentially been flat-lined for decades with just a tad over a hundred year in and year out in the United States.
I look back now and wonder why my mother, who had to work six to seven days a week after my father died to raise four kids, was never on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List. My brothers were allowed to go down to the creek by themselves when they were 10 and 12. I walked just over 4 miles round trip to and from school when I was 9 and that included crossing a major highway without traffic lights or crossing guards as well as the main Northern California Southern Pacific Railroad line. I walked over a mile to the public swimming pool by myself when I was 7, again crossing a different highway that had heavy logging and gravel truck traffic. I even was left in charge of my sister for as much as nine hours at a time during the summer and on weekends when she was 5 and I was 11.
And as a young teen at 13 my mom let me bicycle all over the place by myself — without a helmet I might add — including into the Lincoln foothills on rides as long as 14 miles.
If that happened today, the SWAT team would have been deployed to bring my mother to justice.
So what horrible things happened to me because my mom employed what wags today are calling “free range parenting”?
I learned responsibility. I didn’t grow up in fear of the world.
I skinned my knees and I skinned my heart. But at the same time I was able to learn how to be stronger when it comes to physical and emotional adversity.
I developed a strong sense of direction both in going to and from destinations as well as with life.
I also learned the importance of not just looking out for others — my sister — but also how to put the needs of someone more vulnerable ahead of yourself.
Please don’t march out the lame excuse, “but it was a different time back then.”
Of course it was a different time. But guess what? The basic behavior we need to understand, embrace and use in our daily lives doesn’t change.
A century ago they may have used wall phones you had to crank, 50 years ago phones that you finger dialed, and 30 years ago push button phones instead of touch screen phones not tethered to physical wires. But what the person did 100 years ago and they do today with a phone is still the same. They talk.
Modes change. Basic character needed to succeed in life doesn’t.
So why are we more paranoid?
The answer is simple. Information overload comes at us 24/7, non-stop. If someone shot a man on a street in upper New York State while stealing their car in 1970, we perhaps read about it the next day in the paper. Today the Internet would be crawling with postings and might even include video that will go viral if it’s sensational enough. It could make its way to a half dozen cable programs where commentators hammer it over and over into your conscience. It might event get Tweeted.
That is how even with a drop off in actual abductions and no noticeable increase in deaths from such abductions it seems as if the world has gone crazy.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.