We tell our children there are no monsters.
They don't come out at night, they don't hide in the dark.
They don't torture and kill little girls.
This trial will prove beyond any doubt that we delude ourselves...
Those were the words that began my opening statement in a horrific murder trial where two 12-year-old girls were sexually assaulted and stabbed in a park. Their broken bodies were later found stuffed in a hidden culvert, a visual image that haunts me to this day. The pictures were as bad as it gets and remain indelibly engraved in my mind.
With the recent spate of horrific child murders that memory comes back all too often. I am forced to ponder the concept of a society where children are not safe to run and play, and parents live in very real fear of monsters who walk the streets and hide in the shadows or sometimes who don't bother to hide at all.
When a child dies, our sense of comfort and security is turned upside down. In an increasingly violent world we are forced to confront an unfortunate truth; there are monsters out there. So how do we take today's realities and redefine what it means to be a parent? How do we keep our children safe while allowing them to experience the world and become independent? How do we balance our fears and and yet still allow our children to play outside, to ride their bikes and to walk to school. How do we protect our children without clipping their wings and cramping their style?
Now they parent a generation of children who only need see the evening news to know that danger lurks outside their very door. They are responsible for keeping their children safe in a world where predators lurk around many corners and sometimes have access to their very homes via gaming technology, the Internet or via bold and sensationalistic crimes. They are tasked with policing their children's every activity while suspecting that every restriction and rule may have a detrimental effect on their children's mental and physical development. Astute parents fear that epidemics like childhood obesity are related to an increasingly restrictive environment where their children's ability to run and play is dependent on parental supervision and the ability of an adult to transport them to limited and well defined locations for safe play. They understand that they are the first line of protection for their children yet fear that such protection is stunting their children's potential and ability to grow and flourish.
Metal detectors can not shut violence out of our children's lives. As parents it is our responsibility to keep them safe. On the other hand it is also our duty to insure that our children don't find themselves unprepared in a world that bears little resemblance to the the restrictive and regulated environment of the family womb. We need to equip our children to flourish on the journey from a protected environment to a world that requires intelligence, insight and the ability to grasp the big picture.