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Diamonds In Your Stroller

Diamonds In Your Stroller

God is always watching His children. Are you?


The news that a four-year-old girl was recently kidnapped from in front of her home in Boro Park, where she had been left alone to play, should serve as a warning to parents everywhere, but is it heeded in our own community? Does such an incident serve as a catalyst for more vigilant adult supervision? Would a parent reconsider leaving a young child to play alone in the yard or in the care of an older but still very young sibling?

The story of four-year-old Madeline McCann, kidnapped from her hotel room at a vacation resort while her parents dined at a restaurant, should also serve as a warning. But has it influenced parents to change their behavior? Would parents perhaps now think twice before leaving their children alone in a hotel room while going downstairs to enjoy a Friday-night meal on a Shabbaton? I know of people who would not think to leave their jewelry within sight of their newly hired cleaning lady, but would not think twice about leaving their child with that same cleaning lady.

In the highly publicized abduction and murder cases of seven-year-old Megan Kanka and five-year-old Samantha Runnion, the children had been playing outside in daylight hours -- without the supervision of a trusted adult. In Samantha's case, she was playing with a friend in front of her southern California condominium when a man grabbed her and forced her into his car. Her friend immediately ran to tell her grandmother, but it was too late. In the case of New Jersey resident Megan Kanka, the seven-year-old was riding her bike when she accepted the invitation of a neighbor to see his new puppy. Once again, the child left to play without adult supervision was abducted, assaulted, and murdered just yards from her front door. Could the most horrific of crimes perpetrated against these innocent children have been prevented if they had not been left to play unattended? Only God knows, but as a parent it definitely makes me put forth maximum effort to ensure that my children are as safe as they can be within the parameters over which I do have control... even if it sometimes makes life less than convenient.

When we examine the concept of Divine intervention, it reinforces the fact that God is the Creator, Sustainer, and Supervisor of the entire universe. Does this fact mean that we do not have free will? Of course not, because God wants us to use the free will He has given us to make the right choices. And He gives us children as a responsibility to give us opportunities to do this. He actually doesn't give them to us; He loans them to us. And He expects us not to take that fact for granted. So because He runs the world, does that mean that we do not need to supervise our children because God is doing so? Or rather does it mean that because He is running the world, He entrusts us with His children, for us to supervise and protect and educate -- and that this is why He entrusted those precious souls to us in the first place?

Do our actions reflect the gratitude we have for the gift of our children?

Different states have different legislation pertaining to issues of child safety. New York and New Jersey have no clear-cut laws as to the age at which a child can be left unattended at home or at play, or entrusted with the responsibility to supervise other children. Other states are very clear and have consequences for violations. But regardless, as Jews, all of our actions are supposed to serve as an example for the rest of humanity. It is incumbent upon us to be introspective and be honest with ourselves. Do our actions reflect the gratitude we have for the gift of our children? How does it look to an outsider for a Jewish mother to go shopping and leave her baby alone in a stroller outside the store or in a car? If you gave someone a diamond bracelet and she left it outside on the street while she went into a store, would you feel that the gift was valued and appreciated, or easily replaceable?

For women who must work outside the home, the challenges are great in many areas, and less-than-ideal choices are often made solely by virtue of necessity. But for those who are fortunate enough not to be in the aforementioned position, is it worth risking the safety of your children because it is inconvenient to supervise your children at play or do yet another car pool? Is it reasonable to have a six-year-old supervising younger siblings outdoors while their mother cooks for Rosh Hashana? Is it also reasonable to have that same six-year-old walk home from school without adult supervision? Or is it just more convenient... for us?

No sane person would put his child in the middle of the street and feel confident that God would make sure nothing happened to him while he ran inside "just for a second." God expects us to use our free will to keep our children safe to the best of our ability, not always according to what is most convenient.

God is always watching. That is true. He's watching to see how much we value the gifts He has given us. He's watching to see if we are taking care of His children. He is always watching His children. Are you?

This article originally appeared in the 5 Towns Jewish Times

August 25, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 25

(25) pearl, January 28, 2008 9:29 PM

yes, but...

Yes, our children need constant supervision, but as we all know only Hashem is capable of providing that. We must do our part and a great part of that challenge is raising children who are emotionally healty and not paranoid by any unfamiliar or even very familiar adult. In our family we have a rule about nt sleeping over at friends homes, but we maintain an open house and usually have a couple extra kids on any given weekend. My ten year old has been walking home from school by himself for over two years, my eight year old is not even allowed to cross the street ,never mind walk the mile and a quarter unattended. Different strokes for differnt folks translates to different rules for differnt kids. Yoi gotta know your kids, your neighborhood, and most of all you got pray for divine intervention when raising children today, a millenium ago or ever!!

(24) Anonymous, September 6, 2007 7:05 PM

Shopping cart warning

I used to work as a researcher for an insurance investigator. I had to look through technical reports to find data on accidents. When someone would sue a grocery store because their child fell out of a cart, I would find similar cases for the investigator. Parents, please do not let your children stand up in shopping carts. They are not made to have someone who is usually a new or non walker stand in the cart or even worse, the seat. I cringe when I see little ones doing this. Believe me, this has terrible consequences. I have read the data. Because of the lawsuits, most carts have safety belts. Please use them...and pass it on to your friends and family...

(23) Aviva Miriam Notowitz, September 4, 2007 9:12 PM

Pnina Jacobs' article Diamonds in Your Stroller

Thank you so much for the article Diamonds in Your Stroller. My sentiments exactly. A few days ago I received a forwarded email that made me ill. I think the comments on the email had been on the Jay Leno show. Maybe you've read it too: the one about how kids who were raised between the 1930's and the 1970's grew up without all the safety measures that kids of later generations had imposed on them. I think the email said something like, "...we all played unattended outside from sunup till sundown, as long as we were back home for dinner time, but we all turned out fine." Right. Hmm...I suspect that people who are up watching Jay Leno must have seen some other TV shows too. Or is it possible they missed all the TV news stories about kids being abducted while playing unattended? Maybe they changed the channel during all those downer news stories.
I can't believe how careful I have to be now about who my daughter visits for playdates! Most moms in our community will go out and run errands while other children are at their homes for playdates, and leave both her kids and the other mom's kids with a housekeeper--yes, without bothering to ask the other kids' parents first. It is annoying to have to clarify the obvious with these parents, but unfortunately, there seem to be many different versions of common sense running around out there. Keep speaking up for good parenting sense.

(22) Esther, September 4, 2007 11:46 AM

Very important article

I really appreciate this article. We had a near-kidnapping in our midwest middle-class suburb - a 5-year-old's father had been in the yard and just walked around the side of the house for a minute, and a car pulled over toward the girl. Luckily the father was right there and ran back immediately. It can happen anywhere, and the author's point is, just be more concerned! Regarding the comments below, it is clear that the author is talking about unsupervised children. To use the diamond analogy from the article - you would certainly be comfortable leaving your diamonds supervised by your best friend, or by a trusted bank in a safe deposit box. You would not ask a total stranger to watch them for a minute while you ran an errand, or leave them with a storage company that you hadn't checked to make sure they were reputable.

(21) sjhepner, September 3, 2007 8:51 PM

no child should be unattended...

When I was 3, standing alone in the doorway of my apartment block in Sydney on a beautiful sunny morning,
a strangwer in a car, a male, stopped to offer me a ride in his car...
I refused, amd ran to Mum...who didnt seem concerned that day, and went on cooking the soup..

Looking back today, I wish she would have always givem me clear warnings, about Human Predators, and not loiter alone and unattended..

but she was only very young herself...and had probably not thought through these matters, or was possibly just relieved I was all right...

Looking back on this situation, it always amazes me, and I am very greatful for the inner good sense I felt that day...Parents please warn your dhildren about predators...

and read them Hansel and Gretel..

also commend them for their good sense daily...

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