A 5-year-old girl is shot; don’t blame the par­ent­ing

If you try to teach your kids self-suf­fi­ciency, peo­ple will say you’re putting them at risk

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE -

5-year-old girl was shot in the city on Nov. 19. Car­ry­ing a doll in her small hands, she was walk­ing to the cor­ner store for juice when a bul­let, meant for some­one else, struck her.

There are so many things to be out­raged about in those two sen­tences. Per­son­ally, I get stuck at “a 5-year-old girl was shot.”

But when the sto­ries started trick­ling out about this un­fath­omable tragedy, I was amazed at how many peo­ple found some­thing else other than that to be an­gry about. In so­cial me­dia com­ments, some won­dered why the girl was walk­ing to the store alone.

A“This is tragic,” some­one wrote on the Sun’s Face­book page un­der an ar­ti­cle that pic­tured the girl’s crum­pled doll sur­rounded by bul­let cas­ings. “But I have to ask what the par­ents are do­ing to put their chil­dren in harms [sic] way like this?”

Per­haps the read­ers missed the part about how her 7-year-old sis­ter was in the back seat of a car, su­per­vised, when she was shot and killed last sum­mer.

It seems that, for ev­ery per­son lament­ing the gun vi­o­lence in our city and the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons in our so­ci­ety, there are two more judg­ing the par­ent­ing that they say led to a child’s be­ing ran­domly shot on her way to a cor­ner store to get juice, with a baby doll in her hands.

The na­tional pas­time/ blood sport of judg­ing par­ents didn’t start with this news story, but it caught my at­ten­tion be­cause my hus­band and I have been think­ing a lot lately about the cod­dling of to­day’s chil­dren, our own es­pe­cially.

Our ul­ti­mate goal for our chil­dren can be summed en­tirely in one word: self-suf­fi­ciency.

I read an ar­ti­cle in The At­lantic re­cently that cited a statis­tic that al­most made me choke: “About 60 per­cent of adults un­der age 35 now live with­out a spouse or a part­ner. One in three adults in this age range live with their par­ents, mak­ing that the most com­mon liv­ing ar­range­ment for the co­hort.”

Say what now? Un­der 35? Surely the writer meant un­der 25?

We want to raise our sons and our daugh­ter to learn to ex­pertly care for them­selves fi­nan­cially, emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally — well be­fore they reach age 35. And yet, un­til just re­cently, they weren’t al­lowed even to use the toaster.

So we’ve been re­think­ing our pro­tec­tive­ness and giv­ing them more free­dom, inch by inch. Yes, use the mi­crowave. Yes, make a pan of Jiffy corn­bread (with our as­sis­tance with the oven). Yes, you can try to iron your own clothes. Yes, even walk around the cor­ner to the neigh­bor’s to play.

It isn’t easy to over­come our own fears — or so­ci­ety’s judg­ment.

Over the sum­mer, the boys were in a com­mu­nity play at a church on the cor­ner of our long street, six-tenths of a mile away. Once, when I needed to cook meals for the week dur­ing a re­hearsal, I told them they could walk home, just the two of them, when it ended. We’d prac­ticed a cou­ple times, with them walk­ing and me driv­ing slooooowly in the car be­side them. But this would be the real thing, and the boys were ec­static.

Alas, it was not to be. A very kind church mem­ber in­sisted on walk­ing with them to our house.

“I told them there was no way your mom said you could walk home alone,” she told me, as she proudly de­liv­ered the crest­fallen 8-year-olds to our front door.

True, we rarely see so much as a wa­ter gun in our neigh­bor­hood, much less open-air gun bat­tles, so we don’t have the same fears as those who live in the kinds of ar­eas where two sis­ters are shot in the span of months.

But if some­thing were to hap­pen to one of our boys while walk­ing less than a mile home from “Char­lie and the Cho­co­late Fac­tory” re­hearsal, what would the In­ter­net say about my hus­band and me?

Here’s what I would hope to hear:

Save the wrath for those who would shoot guns in a neigh­bor­hood where a 5-year-old girl is walk­ing to the cor­ner store to get juice, with a baby doll in her hands.

COLIN CAMP­BELL/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

The side­walk where 5-year-old Amy Hayes was wounded by a stray bul­let Nov. 19 is now marked as a “no shoot zone.”

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