My response to Leiby Kletzy’s murder

This post first appeared today on Mamamia – check it out here, there are lots of comments!


Headlines in newspapers online are written to make you click on them. When I saw the picture of Leiby Kletzy with the words “Lost boy killed after asking for help” I knew what was to come.

Not the story so much, which is horrifying and heartbreaking. I too, have only one son and have three daughters to the Kletzy family’s four. The death of a child is a tragedy and reading of this little boy’s death made my chest constrict and heart ache. It would for anyone, parent or non-parent alike. However, it wasn’t reading the story that I was dreading; it is the change in society over the next few days.

For the next week I can expect several people to say directly to my daughter, in my presence, not to trust anybody, to never talk to strangers.  They’ll tell me, in front of my daughter, how sad it is that you just never know where the next psycho lives and what a shame we live in a society where I can never, ever, let my child out of my sight.

People who know I believe in the ‘free range’ philosophy of raising children will make a point to contact me or send me the link. See, do you see? This is what happens when a child walks home alone.

Because even though it isn’t true, it seems like it sometimes. The SMH headline contains two messages : every child is in danger and never ask for help from strangers. Newspapers don’t run on being objective and calm, newspapers run on papers sold and clicks online. A child’s death is news, even if you have to get it from the other side of the globe. Very few papers will point out that you are more likely to die from a lightning strike or choking on a BBQ sausage that have your child abducted by a stranger then murdered. There is very little in society more life threatening than putting your child in a car and driving them around, yet we ignore it. We don’t weigh risk objectively.

It really took me by surprise the first time someone gave my daughter stranger danger advice. By now, though, my default response is to immediately squat down next to my five year old daughter and say “Don’t listen to this person. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, talk to the nearest adult. If you are lost, talk to the nearest adult. You can trust them.”

As horrible as Leiby Kletxy’s death is, he was found because the community went all out to help search for the missing boy. The good people in this story outweigh the bad person by thousands to one. We do live in a community. Almost everyone is good. Tragedy happens, yes, but it is thankfully rare. When my daughter leaves the house to walk to a friend’s house, I don’t tell her to watch out for strangers, I tell her to watch out for cars and wave to everyone – to build her own community.

Because communities keep us safe.

10 thoughts on “My response to Leiby Kletzy’s murder

  1. well said, and hey! I agree with you 100 percent, when does THAT happen? I was also annoyed at the typical response by Zealots regarding this- I do not believe its because he is Jewish, yet the the FB page is full of people who claim to be of the Jewish faith saying that its because their people have always been picked on and destroyed. Violence is Violence it should bring everyone closer together, not turn into a religious debate. Another awesome well written blog my friend! Cheers!

    1. I hadn’t see any branching of this into a religious debate, but since you practically live next to New York and your partner is Jewish, I’d guess you have a deeper insight there!

      It seems like an odd claim, isn’t the murderer also Jewish? Anyhoot, I’ll leave that one alone and just discuss the parenting ramifications.

  2. Yay for you Chris. It’s often OUR anxiety and the way we let that project to our kids – that is more the danger. My ex grew up being told that the world is not a safe place to be in. I didn’t have that experience. It must be confusing that as a cute toddler he was able to approach anyone and encouraged to say hello, be polite, trust…then as he’s older he’s at times reproached for same. I was very very free range and my community wonderful. Now my child has to navigate between two world views. Hopefully with some balance between them. I want my child to understand, in practice(not just theory), the goodness in humanity – and have that as his over-riding foundation of his knowledge of the community he grows into. The main strangers I tell him to avoid ‘listening’ to? Mainstream media people and their scare-mongering.

  3. This is a valid viewpoint but if the same thing happened to you, it would be hard to stomach it and believe in that as well. Our viewpoints are just the results of what actions that happen in our life. It’s a dog eat dog world. Just cross your fingers and hope the next tragedy doesn’t happen to you,whether it’s your kid getting chopped into pieces, or your husband falling 20 feet off a baseball stand to his death… Shit happens, let’s not get too cocky and assume we know the correct principles to live by in life. If anything, the best belief is: shit happens, cross your fingers and hope for the best.

    1. Don’t give me the ‘if it happened to you’ argument.

      I am not denying that it isn’t a horrible tragety and wouldn’t completely colour my view of the world, but I doubt anyone who tells my daughter (and it does happen when these type of stories break) has had any like experience.

      You don’t take one rare and unpreventable (yes, unpreventable) incident and use it take apart community. How many children died in car accidents the same day? Or by accidental gun deaths?

      A dog eat dog world? What bullshit! In a business, sure, in a community? No.

      And the guys falling from baseball stands? What’s that got to do with the price of tea in China?

      1. Community? Gimme a break. Noone cares about you if you don’t contribute to their orgasm, or wealth. Yeah.. devote energy to community and we’ll see where that leads you,… bitterness when you find out ppl could care less and don’t reciprocate. Worry about your little dumb value called “community”.

  4. I am forced to agree with Chris ( evil grin) I have had traumatic things happen to me but I am not going to horrify or scare my kids needlessly about what could happen. This was, unpreventable and that is the beauty and the horror of real life.Its how you handle bad things that make or break you.I do not wnat my kids to grow up thinking there is something terrible just waiting to grab them around corner. I teach my kids to be smart, be full of questions but if you are not open to the world, you miss so many beautiful and random things.

  5. I know that when I was seven or eight I used to walk home from school with my brother (who is two years younger). And I know the wisdom in it. Unless you give children the opportunity to do things on their own they will never learn the skills of self reliant. And yet, when it comes to my own kids I think this is something I will really struggle with.

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