I am still saddened by the story of Leiby Kletzky, the eight-year old boy kidnapped, drugged, suffocated, and dismembered by a member of his community in NY. That could have been any kid, in any city because there are sick people everywhere. I understand absolutely how a mother could give in to a child who is begging for some independence, a chance to act like a “big kid” by walking home alone. If you know and trust your child, and you feel secure in your neighborhood, why not? Mae is seven, so close in age to the murdered boy, and I have a niece who is eight. I can’t help but think it could have been one of them lost and asking a grown-up for help.
I told Mae and Jay a brief version of the story last weekend — that a little boy the same age as their cousin Nya asked his parents to let him walk home from camp by himself, he kept asking until they gave in, he got lost on his first walk alone, and a stranger took him to his house and killed him. Their first response was to ask with wide eyes, at the same time, “Why did he kill him?” I answered, “Because he is mean and evil and sick.”
I wondered beforehand if it was a good idea to tell Mae and Jay the story. I didn’t want to freak them out or make them afraid of every person on the street. I decided to tell them because I wanted them to know a real story that they might relate to and remember. It’s easy to say “Don’t talk to strangers.” However, the tragic events that ended Kletzky’s life and all of his parents dreams for him made me think that a generic warning may not be enough anymore. I wanted also for Mae and Jay to understand that when parents say no, sometimes it’s because we are trying to keep our children safe. And, there are good and bad strangers in the world, and it’s not always possible to tell which ones are good.
I wish peace for Leiby Kletzky’s family and all the people most deeply affected by his death, and most especially for his mother. I suspect she has questioned her own judgement in attempting to let her son spread his wings that day, and I cannot imagine the intensity and depth of her suffering right now. I wish an end to her suffering, and I pray that she has or finds a path to peace.