A Tighter Hug by Robin Gorman Newman


I wasn’t sure what I planned to blog about this week, and sadly, I’ve decided.

I wish this topic wasn’t a viable option.

Like so many, I am horrified and sickened to the core by the senseless killing of a young boy.  An innocent child going to day camp, as does my son.  Leiby Kletzky in Brooklyn, NY, got lost walking home for the first time from his camp, and when he stopped a man to ask for directions, that man went on to ultimately make headlines as his killer.

Leiby didn’t see it coming.  He just wanted to get home. Home where I imagine he felt safe and loved and probably never thought twice about his welfare. He was taken care of to the best of his parents ability. 

I can’t imagine for even a second what it must feel like to walk in his parents shoes now.  In hindsight, are they questioning their decision to allow him to walk home himself? But, it was broad daylight, and he’s 8.  Is that too young?

There are times when my son wants to ride his bike inthe neighborhood, and I’m in the middle of something, so I tell him to ride no further than a few houses down the block and come back.  Am I allowing him to potentially get in harms way?  Until now, I didn’t look at it that way, but now I do.

Does this mean that we can never let our children out of our sight?  And, if so, at what age does walking home from camp alone become okay? 

My son saw it on the news, and we had a talk.  I told him, as I have before, never go with a stranger or ask them for help, unless it’s a policeman, fireman or some other “official” figure, so to speak..I’ve said these things before, but this time felt different. 

Leiby could have been anyone’s boy.  The killing was so random.  And, particularly, given the community, he lived in, perhaps somehow it felt secure.  But, you never really know your neighbors, I suppose, as awful a thought as that is.

We choose where we live…the town….the home we buy or rent.  But, we can’t control who moves in next door or nearby.  Most of the people in my community I don’t know.  Some of the faces are familiar, especially when I see them in summer at the pool, and we say hi in passing, but that’s it.  I don’t know what happens behind closed doors.  We want to give people the benefit and believe in goodness, but evil does lurk around in unexpected places.

That said, I certainly don’t want to become paranoid or alarm my son.

I shared words of wisdom (in my head, warning) that I hope will resonate with him.   I believe they will.  And, after we finished our chat, I gave him an even tighter hug than usual.  I was grateful to be able to put my arms around him.  It also felt a bit like a hug for Leiby in heaven.  He deserved to experience many more hugs in his lifetime.  Now I send a hug to his parents, whose lives are changed forever.

  1. 2 Responses to “A Tighter Hug by Robin Gorman Newman”

  2. I, too, feel devastated for this young boy's parents. And if you remember back a few months ago, a High School girl, walking home in our community, was approached by a man in a pick-up truck. She didn't know him, so she ran back to the school. However every household in this district was called and put on alert. It can be scary in our own backyard.

    I have two suggestions to add to yours: We told our son that if a stranger approaches him, and even tells him that his Mommy or Daddy was in the hospital and this person was asked to bring our son there, run away screaming and look for someone in a uniform. If he could not find someone in a uniform, run to a Mother who had children with her. My son wandered away from me when my son was 5. He ran to a Mother with children for help. We were elated that he remembered.

    Secondly, even at age 5, my son had memorized my husband's cell phone number and gave it to this Mom to call. We started having our son memorize the phone number at age 4. We set up a whole musical dance routine so that the melody would help him to remember. Again, we were proud that even under duress, he recalled the correct number.

    In today's world, it is so scary to parent even a high schooler. Our children need autonomy, but where is the line drawn? My prayers go out to that young boy and his family also. It is heartbreaking.

    By Cara Meyers on Jul 15, 2011

  3. Good ideas Cara…thanks for sharing.

    By Robin Gorman Newman on Jul 15, 2011