TV Ripped My Son From Reality

When Art Imitates Life, Forward Columnist Feels Used

Ripped From My Life? A new ‘Law & Order’ episode hits a little too close for comfort for columnist Lenore Skenazy.
nate lavey
Ripped From My Life? A new ‘Law & Order’ episode hits a little too close for comfort for columnist Lenore Skenazy.

By Lenore Skenazy

Published December 22, 2011, issue of December 30, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

But in a way it was too unreal, too — too much the very scariest, worst case scenario that I don’t want dominating my brain when I try to make my parenting decisions.

As a Jewish mom, I am, by definition, a stereotype, and by my own personal DNA, a worrier. But I spend a lot of time trying to remind myself (and anyone who’ll listen) that while it’s easy to go to some very dark places when we think about our little ones in the big, wide world, that anxiety is OUR problem — not our kids’. We can keep our kids right next to us to reassure ourselves they’re fine. Or we can teach them basic safety, pray for the best and then let them go — as we deal with our fears.

I let them go.

That is harder to do the more scary images we are exposed to. And we are exposed to more than our own parents ever were, thanks to a media obsessed with abductions.

Yes, terrible things sometimes really do happen. The heartbreaking case of Leiby Kletzky, murdered on his first walk home from camp in Brooklyn last summer, reminds us of that. But in real life, those tragedies are, thank God, rare. On TV, they are as common as car commercials, and they end up changing our perception of children’s safety.

Gallup polls keep showing that most people think crime is going up when, in fact, the crime rate has been plummeting since the mid-’90s. It is lower now than when most parents were playing outside as kids, and no one thought that was crazy. And yet, while the majority of children walked to school when I was growing up, now it’s about one in 10. Drive around some neighborhoods, and it’s as if the kids have evaporated.

Crime shows are obviously going to be about crime, but when they “rip” their stories from the headlines and then add cigarette burns, they warp our idea of what it’s like out there. A Mayo Clinic study a few years back compared the crimes on two seasons of “CSI: Miami” with two seasons of actual homicides. One of the biggest discrepancies it found was that in the real world the vast majority of crimes are committed by people who know each other. On TV, the perp is far more often a stranger. It starts to feel as if our children are in danger every time they leave the house.

On this particular episode of “Law & Order” — spoiler alert! — the murderers turn out to belong to that other group of people parents are being told to fear more than ever: bullies — two beautiful high-school girls who just happen to burn and strangle the boy because that’s what bullies do, or hadn’t you heard?

This is why my own story of a boy who took a subway on his own and NOTHING HAPPENED became such big news. It was shocking because everything else we see on TV tells us the very opposite: No child can survive without a parent by his side.

Among all the angry notes I got, one man wrote: “How DARE you let your son ride the subway alone? Don’t you watch ‘Law & Order’?”

Mostly, I do not. Because when I do, I get too scared to give my kids a childhood. And that’s a crime I don’t want to commit.

Lenore Skenazy is the author of the book “Free-Range Kids” (Wiley, 2010) and the founder of a blog of the same name.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.