A Tighter Hug by Robin Gorman Newman
I wish this topic wasn't a viable option.
Like so many, I am horrified and sickened to the core by the senseless killing of a young boy. An innocent child going to day camp, as does my son. Leiby Kletzky in Brooklyn, NY, got lost walking home for the first time from his camp, and when he stopped a man to ask for directions, that man went on to ultimately make headlines as his killer.
Leiby didn't see it coming. He just wanted to get home. Home where I imagine he felt safe and loved and probably never thought twice about his welfare. He was taken care of to the best of his parents ability.
I can't imagine for even a second what it must feel like to walk in his parents shoes now. In hindsight, are they questioning their decision to allow him to walk home himself? But, it was broad daylight, and he's 8. Is that too young?
There are times when my son wants to ride his bike inthe neighborhood, and I'm in the middle of something, so I tell him to ride no further than a few houses down the block and come back. Am I allowing him to potentially get in harms way? Until now, I didn't look at it that way, but now I do.
Does this mean that we can never let our children out of our sight? And, if so, at what age does walking home from camp alone become okay?
My son saw it on the news, and we had a talk. I told him, as I have before, never go with a stranger or ask them for help, unless it's a policeman, fireman or some other "official" figure, so to speak..I've said these things before, but this time felt different.
Leiby could have been anyone's boy. The killing was so random. And, particularly, given the community, he lived in, perhaps somehow it felt secure. But, you never really know your neighbors, I suppose, as awful a thought as that is.
We choose where we live...the town....the home we buy or rent. But, we can't control who moves in next door or nearby. Most of the people in my community I don't know. Some of the faces are familiar, especially when I see them in summer at the pool, and we say hi in passing, but that's it. I don't know what happens behind closed doors. We want to give people the benefit and believe in goodness, but evil does lurk around in unexpected places.
That said, I certainly don't want to become paranoid or alarm my son.
I shared words of wisdom (in my head, warning) that I hope will resonate with him. I believe they will. And, after we finished our chat, I gave him an even tighter hug than usual. I was grateful to be able to put my arms around him. It also felt a bit like a hug for Leiby in heaven. He deserved to experience many more hugs in his lifetime. Now I send a hug to his parents, whose lives are changed forever.