Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Nice to see it worked

Kentucky's first use of the Amber Alert, a way to broadcast information regarding a missing child, paid off. The alert was issued around 9am this morning and apparently someone in Louisville spotted the described car and called police around 10am. About 45 minutes later, there was another call which led to the teenager being found and taken to the hospital for observation. The latest details are here.

Also, suspects have been taken into custody in a series of child molestation/indecent exposure cases over four nearby counties--with two of those cases occurring in public libraries. The suspects are a man and wife. The wife is supposed to have accompanied him during the encounters, and the news reports also say the case may turn uglier due to suspected child pornography.

The cases have people really thinking about what's safe. Molestations in libraries, playgrounds, and fairs? Well, yeah, it's not really surprising, given the fact that there are sick people out there, you can't watch a child every minute, and, quite frankly, a lot of people don't bother to watch their children. When I worked at a comic store, parents would just boot the kids out of the van and come back eventually. Ask any public librarian if this happen, and they'll agree. While there's no reason to be paranoid, the fact of the matter is that no place is truly 'safe'. You can't just assume that a school or a camp or library, or for that matter, a neighbour's house is safe. And it's not just sexual abuse. It's 'accidents' like a kid playing with a gun or running a bike up the concrete dividers between a major street and a bus station, or (and I'm guilty of this one) kids who decide 'no swimming' doesn't preclude wading and have no idea that the lake is infested with cottonmouths. I don't know how parents manage not to seal their kids up and stifle them or just go mad thinking of what ifs. And it just gets harder when they get older. A co-worker and I were talking about her daughter's impending start of high school and the attitude that's already going with it. I characterised the teen years as 'that time you want them to separate, to become independent, to become their own person, without getting killed in the process'. She agreed. In a way I was too enmeshed with my mom during my teen years (and the divorce didn't help) to do all that painful, angsty growing. I didn't start until I was away at college, and then I got too enmeshed with the guy I eventually married (yes, I finally got the be-your-own-person-not-them thing, but hey, it took until my late 20s). I was a 'good kid' who didn't rebel. But you know, a lot of kids who do aren't 'bad'. They're just misunderstood teens trying to get through what is probably the worst years of anyone's life. I wish kids could get a 'do over', so you wouldn't have kids that die, or overdose, or are paralysed for life, etc. But we don't get them. If we're lucky, we survive them, and that builds wisdom.

On the other hand, just because a kid sometimes has to burn his hand to realise something's hot doesn't mean you need to throw gas on the fire, either. That's where law enforcement and vigilant parents and for that matter vigilant everybody else come into play, and things like lists of sex offenders or tips for safety or just a 'do you really think that toddler should be perched on top of a mowing machine?' may come into play, one kid at a time. Kids are are future. And even those of us who don't have any should be willing to step in when stupidity is evident--no matter what our private thoughts of 'evolution in action' may be. And let me just give a big hand to all those parents out there who do try to do what's best for their kids. Your kids may not appreciate you now, but someday (maybe when they have kids of their own), they will. Trust me on that. Awhile ago, in the midst of dealing with a teen who was not so easy, my mom thanked me for being a good kid. Well, I'm glad she was a good mom. Maybe she didn't necessarily have all the answers, and I'm sure if she had it to do again, she'd do some things differently. But for where we were, and how we were, and all that--she did pretty well. She still worries about me--that never goes away, I guess, but we're in a position now of adults with a lot of shared experiences, and it's a whole new level, and I have to say I like it. That's what happens after those teen years are behind you, after all. Isn't that great?

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