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Tightening the apron strings

By Richie Ann Ashcraft

I stood in front of the television this weekend watching in horror as police declared that the incomplete body they had found in a Denver-area park was indeed that of missing 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway.

Jonas came in and asked "Can I ride my bike to the end of the cul-de-sac.?" What weird timing.

Usually, I would have said yes. Our dead-end street is pretty safe and as more and more children move in, the neighbors seem to drive slower and slower. It's three blocks roughly to the end of our street. Just about as far as Jessica needed to walk to meet her friends but never appeared.

"Nope," I told Jonas, "but, I'll ride around the neighborhood with you."

I've written before about my personal struggle with knowing when to give the boys more freedom. I had been loosening the apron strings just a very little by allowing them to ride their bikes down the street. The other day, they joined a few of the neighbor kids for a ride.

But something like this happens, so close to home, that I immediately draw the lines back in on the kids. Call it a knee-jerk reaction, but I can't help but feel how vulnerable my kids are. Right now, those three blocks to the end of our street just got a whole lot longer and scarier.

I know a lot of Colorado parents are feeling the same way I am. It's an awful feeling to be scared of your neighbors, and it makes the decision about giving my children some freedom even harder to make.

I cannot imagine what it must be like for Jessica's family. My heart sincerely goes out to them and I hope they find justice.


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We tend to err on the side of caution. Margaret can learn independence when she’s old enough to get a concealed-carry permit.

In the 80s, our neighbor’s 9-year-old granddaughter was kidnapped when she went to the corner store with her friend. Her family still has no idea what happened to her. There is no getting over such a thing.

Thanks to the 80s, Gen Xers such as ourselves have had child abduction fears since we were little. Those fears are strong in all of us, and an event such as this brings them to the surface. We talked pretty openly about what happened to Jessica to the boys, and have said over and over in recent weeks what to do in this situation. It’s about all you can do.

It’s true, we have to educate our kids and just hope something like that never happens to them. But along with the stories like Jessica, we also have to tell our kids stories like the one about the local girl who was abducted. That little girl bit her abductor on the nose and was able to get away.

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