Pardon my French, but there are a lot of sick bastards out there. People who routinely, and perhaps obsessively, sit at their keyboards and Google the bejesus out of lewd keywords and phrases, hoping, I assume, to find whatever twisted bit of prose they seek. A sordid “fix” so to speak. I need only peruse my WordPress Site Stats to view the pathetic snippets of speech (taken entirely out of context, mind you) which apparently lead people to my digital home. Every. Single. Hour. Of. Every. Single. Day.
Needless to say, it makes me ill.
But it’s nothing new. Sexual predators have existed since the beginning of time, lurking all too near, littering this otherwise lovely place with their depravity. Like the disquieting woman at the playground who looks like she doesn’t belong, or the pervy guy in the parking lot who lingers two cars down, making the hair on the back of your neck bristle and the pace at which you shepherd your children, hasten. Call it motherly instinct. Label it fear. Wrap it with a therapist’s bow and call it paranoia if you must. But it’s real, and it causes great multitudes of parents to hoist those little red flags in a quiet panic.
Indeed, on any given day the media machine fuels our collective anxiety by spewing forth a disturbing volume of society’s heinous acts, riddled, of course, with horrific detail…so that we might be jarred into attending more closely. Lord knows we need jarring. As a culture we’ve been desensitized to the pervasive climate of horribleness within which we live. The scourge of terrorism. A vacationing jet-skiier murdered by a Mexican drug cartel. An investigator’s severed head showing up in a suitcase days later. The brutal and senseless Tillman killing. The countless suicides prompted by an unsettling wave of bullying. The Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard nightmarish abductions. The barbaric rape and thwarted murder attempt of Jennifer Schuett. The savage and incomprehensible Petit family home invasion.
Over and over the unspeakably gruesome sound bites play in our minds, filling us with grief for the victims and their families, consuming us with a palpable sense of unease and leading us to invite the notion that monsters do, in fact, exist.
Maybe this explains why I sometimes smother my children. Texting my oldest to excess, to ensure she’s perfectly fine…trying desperately to remember that she’s nearly as old as I was when I became her mother. Holding my youngest children’s hands in the street, although it makes them inordinately cross. Preaching about the importance of letting me know where they are every minute of every day (or perhaps more frequently). Stuffing wads of Kleenexes and Band-Aids in their pockets in the unlikely event that the school suffers some sort of shortage. Denying their ceaseless petitioning for going it alone at the bus stop. Listening to their restorative breaths in the dead of night and checking to be sure that their smallish bodies are safe from harm.
Damning the aforementioned sick bastards…the world over.
Quite frankly, as a parent I’m tired of feeling angry and imprisoned by fear. Without question, the impressionable youths in my charge sense this, spoiling their fun and squelching their desire to explore. That said, kids shouldn’t be tethered to their parents like balloons. Especially once an age-appropriate level of responsibility has been demonstrated. At that point, they ought to earn a modicum of independence…so they might be inclined to climb trees, to dig in the dirt and to roam the Earth (sans mom and dad) in search of new friends and adventures. As a child I distinctly recall being permitted to gallivant hither and yon from sunup till sundown for much of June, July and August. Read: I hiked a considerable distance from home for hours at a time in the thick of forests, the depths of ravines and across streets and vast expanses of our neighborhood without (Gasp!) a cell phone, bug spray or sunscreen. Nor did I have a GPS device surgically implanted within my skin or permanently affixed to my stupid canteen so that my parents could obsessively track my whereabouts.
It’s clear I need to get back in touch with being a sensible parent…the kind I was a decade ago, inspired, perhaps, by the kind of kid I was. In light of that, I should probably read Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids.
Planet Mom: It’s where I live (searching for the courage to raise free-range kids in a world that is more than a little frightening at times).
Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel