Leiby Kletzky A"H and the Case for Childhood Freedom

Its been almost a week since I opened Twitter and saw tweets about Leiby Kletzky's disappearance. Almost a week since I learned his name and started getting texts to recite Tehillim for the lost little boy and just days since I learned it was time to add those two letters to the end of his name. Leiby Kletzky A"H.

Now comes the recriminations.

Popping up on the internet and in person are people saying, "An eight year-old boy has no business walking alone."

 Also popping up is an ever increasing number of "Free Rangers" who advocate educating children to take normal safety precautions and then experience some freedom. This camp reminds us that crime in New York City is lower than its been since 1961. Kidnapping is rarer than auto accidents. 

Do we tell women not to be alone with their husbands because Scott Peterson murdered his wife? Do we tell our boys not to ride in the car with their mother because Susan Smith locked her sons in the backseat and pushed the car into a lake?  Do we tell women they aren't allowed to have five children since Andrea Yates suffered from post-partum psychosis?

No.

These cases, just like Leiby Kletzky A"H are tragic, horrific reminders that evil exists in our world. That Mashiach isn't here yet. The answer to this evil isn't locking ourselves and our family away. Instead it is educating our children and family members of reasonable safety precautions they can take. It is following that instinct that something seems off with a situation or someone and steering our children away. It is taking a critical look at our children as they ask to stretch their wings. Are they ready? 

I've been asked if I'd allow my girls to walk home alone in the city. First of all, they are five so no, I wouldn't. Ask me in a couple of years. At the same time I allow them a fairly free reign walking some places. They don't need to hold my hands in the mall and can stretch their legs a bit. They stay near but have a feeling of freedom and responsibility.

Its a beautiful thing to see in your child and something we will only destroy by smothering them.