After the tiny town school, Alex moved on to the tri-town middle school. We both did.
The thing about a small town is that even when you’re not trying, you become connected to the community. You learn addresses not by roadways and street signs, but rather by who lives in a particular neighborhood.
For the good and bad of it, you also learn which kids and families receive the parental thumbs up -and down.
I was never a particular fan of the system. It seemed overly judgmental to label a kid as persona non grata based on a kindergarten infraction. I was equally suspect of the kids and families others were clamoring to get near; I didn’t necessarily see their appeal.
On the other hand, it was easy to learn which parents turned a blind eye toward bad behavior; which houses were vacant at peak kid hours, and which parents said yes more often than no.
Middle school parents, however, were the unknown entity. They were from those other towns. It
was like starting all over again and required effort.
Upon her first invitation to go to the home of a new friend, Alex and her easy assent to the invite was temporarily thwarted by her intruding parent: me. The truth is that my kids learned early on that I’d be
asking a whole lot of questions, making calls, climbing doorsteps. If they minded it terribly, they didn’t let on. Perhaps they took to heart my oft stated quip that one of my parental perks was embarrassing my offspring and were reluctant to test its boundaries.
So in this instance, Alex didn’t mind the call –didn’t stay in the room for the conversation.
Didn’t hear when I asked if there were firearms in the home.
The woman was surprised by the question, but liked it.
I’ve never thought to ask that, she said.
She put it on her evolving to-do list when sending her own daughter off on a new-people play date.
When the Journal News published the names and addresses of gun owners in three New York counties,
there was an immediate and very vocal backlash. No surprise. Claiming a right to publish under the Freedom of Information Act, the newspaper not only stood by its decision, but is now broadening the scope –ready to out more gun owners in additional counties. Get ready for an avalanche of hate tweets and I-threats.
While part of me lauded the notion of such easy—albeit lazily obtained—access to the gun info, the ethicist in me cringed at the publication of names and addresses of citizens who had committed no crime nor been embroiled in any story involving them as individuals. The journalist in me, likewise, remembered long ago common sense rules of how to properly handle stories—and more importantly—the subjects of them. The ideal of simple fairness came to mind.
Although I am no longer sending my own children off on play dates, I nonetheless still consider knowledge about guns in homes as need-to-know information for parents. We have a right to know a little something about the other adults to whom we’re entrusting our kids, what may be in their cupboards and how securely their contents are set.
The trouble with the Journal’s unveiling is that it did more to inflame than aid. When rage boils over in the aftermath of horrific events, many of us grab to anger as if it’s a life ring instead of a weight. When we are most threatened, we’re also most passionate. And while this passion can yield action, it doesn’t do much good when met by similarly passionate opponents.
The answer, then, isn’t to take sides, but rather to take the side of our kids. Thousands of children are killed each year in the U.S. from gunshots. Thousands.
There is a middle ground. For the sake of our kids, it’s time we find it. Before it’s too late.