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Oh, the Good Old Days in a Small Town

Growing up in the 70s and 80s in small town Nebraska, I felt safe.  We left the car doors unlocked, we left the house unlocked and I don’t think I saw a house with a dead bolt.  We could leave the windows open all day and all night and the last thing that crossed our minds was someone trying to break in.  I was only 10 minutes away from "the big city" and I still felt safe.  The last thing anyone in my hometown would have expected to hear about was a child being sexually molested, killed by their parents, or murdered by their sibling.  I think the worst thing that happened in my childhood was a classmate who committed suicide. 

As I became a young adult, I moved into "the big city."  Mind you, the "big city" in Nebraska would fit squarely inside many other cities across America, but even with that I became just a bit more paranoid.  I always locked my car doors - after all, I heard about carjackings.  I always locked the door to my home because there had been some home invasions.  There was always murder or arson or gang violence on television or in the newspaper.  But even with these periodic news-makers, I always felt relatively safe.

Then I became a parent and the world has changed.  I have a compelling need to protect my children, be involved in their schooling, their interactions with friends, their televison shows, their video games.  My doors are always locked and my husband has safely stowed a small arsenal in order to protect ourselves and our property.  Oh, and we have a dead-bolt.

What has our world come to?  I’m starting to see the world through my childrens’ eyes with my adult mind and it is rather scary.  No playing out in the front yard unless a parent is there, no running down to the park without Mom or Dad.  No walking to or from school, we take the car.  When I was in grade school, I played with Barbies, watched Looney Tunes and my biggest worry was whether my friend Jenny was mad at me.  My children are faced with Stranger Danger, Bad Touch/Good Touch, DARE to keep kids off of drugs, an increasing number of kids who don’t have more than one parent in their lives, limitation of what they may learn in school because it may be "religious" in nature, softer approaches to grades in school and purple ink versus red ink so kids can feel "good" about themselves.  I feel that our future world is spiraling out of control as a segment of society responds to the likes of the ACLU, other "advocate" groups, or even some parents of children who attend school with my kids.  And these responses seem to become the doctrine by which society acts. 

How do we relate to our children their world as it exists today?  How can I explain to my son or daughter that Brendan Gonzales was killed by his own father because he thought he was satan?  How can I explain why Jessica Lundsford was killed?  Or why Dylan and Shasta are still missing?  Or why Osama Bin Laden hates America?  I remain strong for my kids, and assure them they are safe, of course.  But inside, my mind and my heart are heavy with my concerns. 

I look at the news, and it seems like we are seeing a rash of issues impacting our children.

Brenda Groene, 40; her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, 37; and her 13-year-old son, Slade Groene, were found bound and beaten to death in their home on May 16. Groene’s two other children, Dylan, 9, and Shasta, 8, had vanished.

There are no suspects and no motives and little Dylan and Shasta are still among the lost after a search of 800 tons of trash in a landfill didn’t turn up any new clues to their disappearance.  I pray that they are okay.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - A 7-year-old boy beat his baby half-sister to death with his fists, feet and a two-by-four because he was jealous of the attention the girl was receiving and because she would not stop crying, police said Wednesday.

The State Attorney’s Office is deciding whether to file charges against the boy in an attack that rattled even veteran homicide detectives.

"The veteran detectives who worked on this case have never seen a case with someone as young as a 7-year-old show so much violence and so little remorse," Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.

His sister, seven-month-old Jayza Laney Simms, was pronounced dead when she was taken to the hospital.  Seven months old, and murdered by her seven year old brother.  The State Attorney’s Office hasn’t yet determined how to proceed, or whether they will press charges.

Hillsborough County State Attorney’s spokeswoman Pam Bondi said prosecutors were just beginning to review the case and the complex legal issues involved with bringing charges against such a young child. Among the elements prosecutors will have to consider is whether a child so young is competent to stand trial for a crime, Bondi said.

"There are a lot of issues," Bondi said. "This is the first time we have dealt with a 7-year-old accused of such a violent crime."

How do you NOT do something about this?  I’m not for sending this seven year old to death row, but if he is capable of this much violence at the age of seven, what kind of man will he grow up to be?  I’m shocked that a child my son’s age would have so much rage.  What happened to him?

And where were the adults in charge with regard to this situation?

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Two students were charged Wednesday with sexually assaulting a mentally disabled girl in a high school auditorium. The former principal was charged with failing to notify police.

The case generated criticism because school officials did not immediately report the allegations to police and said they feared negative media attention if they did.

The 16-year-old girl told a teacher at Mifflin High School that she had been dragged into the auditorium March 9 and forced to perform oral sex on at least two boys as other students watched and one boy videotaped, according to investigators.

Two boys, Brandyn Hobbs, 15, and Timothy C. Armistead, 16, were charged with juvenile counts of rape, sexual battery and kidnapping.

Regina Crenshaw, who was removed as principal because of the incident, was charged with failing to call police. If convicted, she could get anything from probation to 30 days in jail.

Crenshaw said Wednesday she did not break the law because the girl’s father called police and the school district’s policy on when to call authorities is contradictory.

What about common sense and knowing right from wrong, Ms. Crenshaw?  Aren’t you responsible for the well-being of the students at your school?

"I did not expect any criminal charges to be put on me. This came as a total surprise, total shock," she said.

Of course it did, lady, of course it did - it’s called being accountable, but perhaps you haven’t heard of this concept?

Authorities said an assistant principal at the school warned the girl’s father not to call 911 because he did not want to alert the news media. The girl’s father ignored the request.

An employee perhaps provided with that directive by Ms. Crenshaw?

The district has moved to fire Crenshaw and a hearing before an independent mediator is set for Thursday. Three assistant principals at the school were suspended and reassigned.

Superintendent Gene Harris said the district will continue to train staff on proper procedures, but said attention should be paid to what students did - not just what adults didn’t do.

I would agree that attention should be paid to the crimes the students committed, but do not want to take away from the fact that it happened on SCHOOL PROPERTY and was not reported by SCHOOL OFFICIALS for fear of getting bad publicity.  Let’s not forget about THAT, Gene.

How to best approach the challenges my children will face as they grow up?  I personally will continue to hug my kids, provide a level of structure and discipline in their lives to ensure that they can see the difference between right and wrong (as well as consequences), protect them from strangers, drugs, bullies, and whatever else could possibly happen to them, and provide a stable, two parent family environment where they can learn how to treat each other, their friends, their family, their teachers and other adults. 

I’m also going to tickle them until their sides hurt, take them to amusement parks, take them to the zoo and to movies.  I’ll take them boating and to Wal-mart (because they love that place!).  I’ll do what I can to help them laugh every day, and create the memories of a good childhood that they deserve.  Oh, and did I mention I was going to hug my kids?

Cotillion linked with The Cotillion Continues With The Tango
An American Housewife linked with Cotillion Ball - Dance Two, The Tango
Laffin At The Left linked with Merri Musings: Oh, the Good Old Days in a Small T
NIF linked with We are all Kosh