Free-Range Kids: Keeping The Maddy Middleton Tragedy In Perspective

Lenore Skenazy, author, Free Range Kids

Trying To Keep Parenting Perspective After the Maddy Middleton Tragedy

Here are some thoughts from readers on how to keep a rare but horrific danger in perspective, especially when tragedies like the murder of Maddy Middleton become part of the weave of everyday life (and Facebook posts), no matter how removed we may be from the town or time when they occurred:

I thought it was strangely poetic somehow that this article was imbedded as a link midway through the murder story:

Sometimes, things just… happen. And no one saw it coming. And no one had any warning.

And so there’s no lesson to be learned, in terms of “If only we had done x, then y wouldn’t have happened.”

But there is a lesson: that we can’t always know what’s coming, so we just have to live with certain random events that defy logic or understanding.

And this, from a while back:

Airline disasters are like strangers abducting children. They are events that get a lot of air time on the news when they happen because they are so rare. Just like we can name kids who have been abducted and killed by strangers (Adam Walsh, Etan Patz, Polly Klaas), we can also name flights which ended in disaster (Pan Am flight 103 that exploded over Lockerbie, TWA flight 800 from New York that exploded over the Atlantic Ocean).  Because these events are so rare, we end up mentioning aviation disasters and kidnappings that happened many years ago.

What never gets mentioned on the news are all of the millions of people who fly every day who make it to their destinations. The millions of kids who walk to school, take a public bus, or ride their bikes different places are also never mentioned.

True. Here’s author and theologian G.K. Chesterton on how the news inevitably points us in the wrong direction — and this was 100 years ago! (Boldface mine):

“It is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions.
We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding…. Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, “Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe,” or “Mr. Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet.” They cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all.
They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not judiciously dissolved. Hence the complex picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious; they can only represent what is unusual. However democratic they may be, they are only concerned with the minority.”
Parents who take the Maddy tragedy as proof that they can never let their kids venture outside unsupervised will simply insist that their job is to prevent their child’s abduction and murder.
And since there’s no way to prove that keeping a child under constant supervision is NOT what’s preventing their murder, these parents will feel like they are in control. And THAT is the most pervasive misperception in these modern times: That if you exercise enough control, nothing can go wrong. And that if something DOES go wrong, it just proves you weren’t controlling enough.
That smug belief blames the grieving, and gives unearned conceit to those who are not. – L.
Worlds Worst Mom_Lenore SkenazyLenore Skenazy is the host of the family reality show, ”World’s Worst Mom” Wednesday mornings on the Discovery Life Channel. She is also a public speaker and founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids
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