Stop putting safety first

Not on the list of warning signs of child abuse and neglect: using a crosswalk, riding a bus, talking to a neighbor, wading in a brook, buying milk at the corner store

BRATTLEBORO — My sixth-grader just felt the blow of his first “Yo Mama” insult. This happened not on a playground or in a locker room but on public transit - courtesy of the bus driver.

“I don't know what's wrong with their mother,” the driver said loudly to another passenger as my three kids dropped their tokens in the coin box.

He then refused to let them off at the crosswalk when they pressed the buzzer, instead stopping directly across the street from our home and asking another passenger to stop traffic so my kids could cross.

The next day I found out why when the same driver randomly shouted at me, “You know a pedophile lives three doors up from you?!” (None of his business - but also not true.)

Sadly, this isn't my first run-in with an officious “backseat parent.”

The state police once showed up at my door because someone had seen my daughter playing in the front yard. More than one grandmotherly type has asked me if I needed help with my kids because they were running ahead of me on a sidewalk.

No, thank you. I don't need that kind of “help.”

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“We become so bent out of shape over something as simple as letting your children out of sight on the playground that it starts seeming on par with letting them play on the railroad tracks at night,” writes Lenore Skenazy in a now-infamous column about letting her 9-year-old ride the subway alone.

“The problem with this everything-is-dangerous outlook is that over-protectiveness is a danger in and of itself,” she writes. “A child who thinks he can't do anything on his own eventually can't.”

If you want to look Skenazy up but forget how to spell her name, no problem. Just Google “America's worst mother.” I'm not kidding.

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My husband and I, along with their teachers and many other adults in their lives, have engaged with our kids since they were born, helping them develop confidence, independence, and good decision-making skills - safely, age-appropriately, and at their own pace.

Common signs of child abuse and neglect include lack of personal hygiene, engaging in high-risk behaviors like drug and alcohol use, and inconsistent attendance at school, according to the Joyful Heart Foundation.

These things are not on the list: using a crosswalk, riding a bus, talking to a neighbor, wading in a brook, buying milk at the corner store.

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Yesterday, my son expressed concern about riding the bus home alone. Was he anxious about crossing the street? Worried that a neighbor would sexually assault him in broad daylight 100 feet from his own front door?

No, he said. “I just don't want to have to deal with comments like that.”

I don't want that either, son.

But let's talk about how you might cope with it if it happens again.

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