Today’s tragic news in Brooklyn is too much for most mothers to handle. Just two days ago, an eight-year-old boy, Leiby Kletzky, was reported missing from his Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. Just days before, he begged his family to allow him to walk home alone from his day camp, seven blocks away. The family agreed to let him walk half way and his mother would meet him in the middle. So just three and a half blocks he was to walk on Monday, the first day he was allowed to do so.
When he never showed up to meet his mother, a frantic search began in the close-knit community. This morning the boy’s body was discovered dismembered in a dumpster and also in the refrigerator of 35-year-old suspect Levi Aron.
When I saw that the boy was missing, I started praying that he met a friend, or was at the park, or something, anything, that would explain his absence but as the hours passed, I knew the odds were not good. I kept thinking of his poor mother and father all throughout the night wondering where their little boy was, and it made me sick. Some stories hit you harder than others.
My son is also 8 years old. I don’t let him go outside alone, other than on our block. He can’t go to a friend’s house unless he is accompanied by an older teen or adult. The closest friend or store is a few blocks away and we live in a very busy traffic area so my first concern is traffic, but I’m also not ready to let him out on his own just yet.
Free range mom herself, Lenore Skenazy says although this crime was utterly gruesome and horrifying, we can’t let it scare us into becoming overprotective, scared parents. I wish I had her courage and outlook, but I don’t.
This was a neighborhood that police commissioner Ray Kelly said was “extremely safe.” It was a neighborhood that has heavy police protection and neighborhood watches. Most of the people know each other there and the family bonds are strong. For all intents and purposes, something like this would never happen there. There is no place that is always safe, but kids do have to learn how to be out on their own eventually and take care of themselves, find their way around their neighborhoods, and travel alone. But at what age?
I firmly believe there is no one perfect age. Every child is different with different coping skills, and street smarts and thought-processing mechanisms. Every parent has to ultimately decide when they will let their child out alone.
We all do our best, take our own circumstances into consideration and parent as well as we can. This story is the worst nightmare a parent can imagine and my heart goes out to little Leiby and his family. I am sitting here looking at my own boy and can’t even begin to imagine what they are going through.
Some things in life are just beyond words…this is certainly one of them.