“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove . . . but the world may be different . . . because I was important in the life of a child.”

~ Forest E. Whitcraft

Thursday, May 5, 2011

W is for Worry and Woe

We were heading off to bed last night when we heard on the news the body of Jolène Riendeau had been found. Missing for some twelve years, the police had finally located and positively identified the remains of the little girl. She was just shy of 11 when she was lost to her family.

Police are treating the death as a homicide, and say they have strong leads they hope will result in the arrest of whoever robbed this child of her life. They are being very tight-lipped at the moment, taking no chances the suspect might slip away before they can act.

I can remember when my oldest was about ten years old, walking into the local dollar store and stopping to look at the poster of Jolène in the shop window. The little girl lived only a short distance from here, in a community not so different from our own. She had come home from school, helped her Dad prepare the family supper, and gone off to the dépanneur with a few dollars to buy herself a treat. She was supposed to be back to eat an hour later, but she never returned.

In this neck of the woods many parents walk their kids to school until they graduate elementary school. They are afraid to send them out to the park unsupervised and dread the first day of high school, when their offspring will have to navigate the public transit system on their own. Parks intended for younger children overflow with teenagers, because parents don't have the time to spend at the playground watching over the younger ones.

Only the really little ones really get much outdoor playtime. Even the parents who do want to send their kids out alone to play or to run errands, sometimes won't. They fear being seen as negligent, and there is no longer the safety of going out in a big group like they did when they were young. Too many are too filled with worry. Our kids are kept inside behind closed doors, playing video games and watching TV because society sends an overwhelming message this is where they are safe.

I am filled with woe at what we have come to. That the parent of a responsible ten-year-old has to ask around the neighbourhood to see if anyone else will send their kids out to play, because the playground is empty. That parents prefer their kids to play in a dusty back alley or on the street in traffic, because at least they'll be close to home and they can be seen from the window. Because the biggest perceived danger to our kids is being snatched by a stranger.

Jolène's murder proves that it happens - sometimes. But there is a whole laundry list of other hazards our kids face every day, and many are related to us locking them up just to keep them safe. Childhood obesity. Type II diabetes and cardiac disease in kids who haven't even hit puberty. Kids who have never learned to swim, to ride a bike, to climb a tree. How sad!

We never really were able to overcome the atmosphere of fear here in the city, no matter how hard we tried. We managed to teach our girls to navigate their neighbourhood alone, to run to the grocery store or the dépanneur on their own, to use the transit system to get to places they frequently go. They learned to be cautious, they took self-defence training. But we could never really escape the isolation they feel in this populous city.

We have done what we can, but now we are working at moving on. There are greener pastures away from this metropolis, and perhaps it was never for us to change the state of things here. I look towards the future with hopeful expectation. But when I think of the past, I believe there will always be a measure of woe.

I'm blogging my way from Z to A in May!
You can find my "X" post at School Days.

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KBalbify said...

This post hit home. My daughter in middle and high school was afraid to walk to school because of a "white van/possible pedophile" siting - 3 times in our area. I couldn't make her go outside and so resigned, I allowed her to stay in. I felt like I was doing her a disservice but I felt equally guilty possibly putting her in harms way. I think part of the problem is that we hear about the 1% chances - the situations that make the news. We never hear about the 99% when all is fine. Part of our jobs as parents is to shut off the news and remind kids that most of life is worthwhile and safe. Thanks for a great post.

Anonymous said...

It can be so hard to find the balance between sensible caution and limiting fear. Kids need to be confident and secure in their perception of the world for them to really blossom, yet as the adults responsible for their safety, we do have to teach them to listen to and heed their inner alarm (and not overreact to ours). It's not easy feat.

I’m blogging my way back from Z to A and my “W” post is right here.

L.L. Woodard said...

I wish I could remember what expert I was listening to the other day who said we have done our kids a disservice by making them afraid of strangers. So many crimes against children--and adults--are done by people they know.

Joyce Lansky said...

This is such a sad sign of the times. When I was a child, I played outside from the time school let out until dark. I kept scabs on my knees and wandered far from home without any worries.

Today's children have been robbed of the fun of being an independent child. They cry when they fall and don't know how to entertain themselves. I don't blame parents, but rather the immoral perpetrators who have ruined more lives than just those of that little girl and her family.