Sunday, February 12, 2012

Child Not Abducted---Film at 11

A story about a 7-year-old girl in Georgia named Brittney was on the Free Range Kids (FRK) site. Here is the link:  Brittney was with her mother at Wal-Mart. While her mother was a few aisles over, Brittney was in the toy section by herself. A man came up to her and tried to carry her off. Brittney kicked, screamed, and ended up running away from her would-be abductor. The kidnapping attempt was captured on security cameras and the man was arrested within the hour.

My initial reaction to reading the post on FRK was that someone did a great job teaching Brittney what to do if someone tried to grab her or ask her to go away with him. Brittney's mother felt that her daughter was capable of being by herself in the toy aisle. Young Brittney was obviously well-prepared for what to do in the very rare situation of a stranger trying to abduct her and she did a beautiful job executing what she was taught. No harm came to Brittney because she did all the right things.

I have read many comments on various sites about this situation. Most people said that Brittney's mother was negligent for leaving her alone in the toy aisle. They use this incident as a lesson in why a mother should never take her eyes off of her child for even one second. Their logic is that there are predators and abductors lurking everywhere. One of them can snatch your child in the blink of an eye.  Just look at what happened to Brittney, whose mother was not glued to her side.

By the way, abductions by a stranger are very rare. Most children who are kidnapped are taken by people that the child knows. Only about 100 kids a year are abducted by strangers in the States. These abductions are considered newsworthy because they're so rare. I'm sure that there are many other kids who thwarted kidnapping attempts by screaming or running away. But they happened out of view of security cameras, so they weren't reported on the evening news.

Other people have commented that this incident is a good reason why parents should never let their kids talk to strangers. "Stranger danger" is taught to kids without teaching the difference between a good stranger and a bad one.  Young children may easily get the impression that a "stranger" is a man who looks and talks like Snideley Whiplash. But a stranger is really anyone that a child doesn't know. Instead of a blanket, "Don't talk to strangers," kids should be taught that they can talk to a stranger like a salesperson at a store, a policeman, or a cashier at the movies. But they should learn never to go off with someone that they don't know personally. Again, Brittney incorporated the lesson of not going off with a stranger. She made a big fuss and ran away.

Instead of vilifying Brittney's mother as a negligent parent, we should be praising her for teaching her child what to do if someone tried to grab her. Brittney's mother knew her daughter would not be "vulnerable" if she was a few aisles away in the store. She decided not to hover her daughter. Instead, she gave Brittney the skills to be on her own in a store or other public place.

I have a feeling that stores will soon start passing age restrictions for kids being unattended because of this incident (Brittney's Law of course). Instead of letting parents be the judge of when a child can be a few aisles away in a store, there will be legislation requiring kids under 13, 15, or 18 to be with an adult at all times in a store. This will only serve to infantilize kids and render them even more unprepared to handle life when it's time to leave home.

Friday, February 10, 2012


To those who read my old Yahoo 360 blog, this is very similar to a post that I wrote on Yahoo 360 about being a "fitness program reject."

It's that time of year again. I'm not referring to it being ski season or time to bring out the ice spikes. Every February the Healthy Lifestyle Challenge takes place on base. But, alas, I won't be participating in it. The reason I'll be on the sidelines while others on base are collecting points and accolades for their participation in the program is because I'm a fitness program reject. Why am I a fitness program reject? I'm too fit.

The Healthy Lifestyle Challenge was not the first fitness program that turned me down. The US government has a civilian fitness program for its employees. If you're accepted into it, you can take off from work one hour early three days a week. At the time I applied to participate in the Hohenfels civilian fitness program (1997-98 time frame),  one of my major goals was to run a 10K race in under 50 minutes. I had come tantalizingly close several times, but never seemed to be able to crack the 50-minute barrier. I finally did it in 2004, but that's another story. I heard about the civilian fitness program at the gym, got an application, and filled it out. There were several goals listed on the application: lose weight, quit smoking, quit drinking alcohol, lower blood pressure, improve aerobic fitness, improve diet, and other. I checked the "other" block, wrote, "Improve my 10K and marathon times," and gave it to my supervisor to sign. My supervisor signed it because he knew that I could get my work done even if I took off three hours a week to train. But his supervisor rejected my application and said that improving my 10K and marathon times was not printed on the form. Therefore, they were not valid reasons for participating in the program. He also said that this program is a short-term program for people who are unfit to get them started on what will hopefully become a permanent fitness routine. Being a long distance runner made me too fit for the program. If I was an obese alcoholic with high blood pressure who smoked, then I would have been readily accepted.

When I got the rejection from my supervisor's boss, I tried the "glory through sports" angle. Hey, it worked for the Soviet Union and the former East Bloc countries. It's a real unit pride thing in the military, and among civilian organizations working for the military, to do well in on-base and inter-base sporting events. Softball and volleyball tournaments as well as running races are great ways for units to get accolades. I told the big boss that improving my race times and placing high in on-base and local races would bring glory, or at least good publicity, to our division. But he didn't budge from his position. If it wasn't printed on the form, it was a no-go. He knew that I didn't smoke, didn't drink much, and didn't need to lose weight. My blood pressure was good, as was my aerobic fitness. I could have checked the block about improving my diet. But ice cream and chocolate really should be their own food groups. Fitness Program Rejection Number One.

During my first winter in Garmisch, I saw fliers at the gym for the Healthy Lifestyle Challenge. It sounded interesting, so I thought that I'd try to do it. When I talked to one of the gym employees about it, he told me, "You're not the kind of person we want for this program. You're too fit." He explained that the program, like the year-round civilian fitness program, was designed to help the unfit learn more about exercise and diet and to (hopefully) permanently incorporate what they learned. Fitness Program Rejection Number Two.

I think it's great that the government is encouraging unfit people to get into the gym and take those first steps toward a healthier lifestyle. But  I think that those who are already fit should also be encouraged to participate in its programs. Even those of us who are physically fit still have goals like being able to lift more weight, becoming more flexible, or running faster. It would be nice if the existing fitness programs had goals that accomodate both fit and unfit people. But until that day comes, I will live with the honor of being a two-time fitness program reject.