04 March 2020

VERY unlikely your child will be kidnapped by a stranger

While I was in the Marines I lived in base housing. My 4 year old daughter was very social, and would say, "I'm going to my friend's house," and she'd leave. I had no idea where her friends lived. But I knew they were children of Marines, so I had no reason to not trust them.
This mindset remained after we came home from the military. She had 1/2 day kindergarten when she was 5, turning 6, and her normal friends were put on the other shift. So one afternoon she was bored and said, "I'm going to go find a friend," and off she tottled to all the neighbor houses, knocking on doors and asking, "Do you have any kids?" And home she came with some neighbor girl, "This is my new friend."
"Oh yeah? What's her name?"
She looked at the girl for a second or two, then back at me, "Friend," and to her room they went to play with dolls.
She has grown up to be a strong, independent, outgoing young woman with two kids of her own, so far.
I have twin 2yo toddlers now, in my 3rd marriage, and I hope they have the same wonderful experiences with making friends.
In the age of media and constant connection, many people balk at the idea of our children being out of sight, or disconnected. We fear they will be taken, strangers are a constant danger. Child trafficking rings are sitting in white, windowless vans on every street corner just waiting for us to turn our backs.
But in fact, kidnappings by a non-family member are so astronomically low, this is not something we should be worrying about. (https://bit.ly/2Iiolxw) 205 out of 1400+ kids that were taken were by strangers. Out of 330 MILLION people in this country, your child has a higher chance of choking on random things they put in their mouth (https://dontchoke.ubc.ca/saving-lives/recent-statistics/).
The media tells us this so as to scare us. They tell us the world is dangerous to keep us untrusting. We must trust them for the truth, don't believe anyone else, don't listen to the lies from the other guy, we will keep you safe.
Just as they tell us that we will die from climate change (https://bit.ly/38khMoE), or gun violence (https://pewrsr.ch/2Tj5Pvh), neither of which is the case. In fact, looking at the statistics, while suicide is unfortunately high, especially in transgender kids and girls, murder is much lower than when my 5yo daughter was running around by herself in the early 90s. And the only places where this is higher are in cities that have the most strict gun laws, like New York and Chicago.
This mindset divides us. It keeps us from trusting people. My teenage step-daughter came to bother me in the garage and tell me that there was someone at the front door, instead of answering it herself. She's 16, practically an adult. But she had been told since she was little to never answer the door when she was alone. I suppose that's understandable when an 8 year old is alone and her single mom is working, but at 16 she should have no reason to fear a neighbor or salesperson.
Strangers aren't someone waiting to nab your kids. They are friends you haven't met yet. Get to know your neighbors. Invite them over for bbqs. Take them cookies and fudge at holidays. The only way to get past this social anxiety is to be involved in our communities, to stop giving in to the fear mongering, and to let our kids be free.

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