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Family Matters

December 27, 2000

Jody Kussin

Heaven knows there are serious things about which to worry and obsess

-- global warming, racial tensions, teen violence, poverty and substance

abuse. Nonetheless, some days I get caught up worrying instead about the

nonserious.

In my mind, I refer to these concerns under the category of "urban

urgencies." While I know they may seem small and petty in light of larger

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issues, on a daily basis, they can take me from a semirational state of

mind to a crazed, wild-eyed woman.

One issue that drives me to absolute insanity is the "gated community

dwellers." For whatever reason, all of my three children befriended

children who live in gated communities. I remember when they were little,

and I was trying to get them to select geographically convenient friends.

I took out their class roster, searching street addresses to see if any

kids in their respective classes live on our street. I used a highlight

pen and told them things like, "Try to become friends with Alan, because

he is around the block from us." Or "I'm sure this year she'll be nicer

than last -- just try, she lives in easy walking distance!"

My error, however, was that I didn't exclude kids with parents who

decided to live behind guard gates, coded fences, and/or huge walls.

In the kindergarten curriculum, students learn about community. They

learn that communities have shared resources, such as libraries, police

and fire stations, schools, etc. How then, to explain what it means to

live in a gated community, where the only shared services tend to be the

plethora of security guards?

Last week, I was getting ready to drive across town to pick up my

8-year-old, who was visiting with his good friend Ben. I called Ben's mom

to let her know I was on my way over, and that I had dinner in the oven

so I couldn't stay to visit. I let her know my ETA was 20 minutes.

When I arrived, I punched her code in to the box at the security gate.

Her voice message said, "We're either on the phone or away from the

phone, so please leave a message." I knew this meant her 16-year-old was

on the phone.

There was no way to get through to their house. I waited, patiently at

first, and kept re-entering the code. No good.

Five minutes went by. Ten minutes. I tried creative problem-solving.

"Maybe I can climb this huge rod iron fence with the spiky tips," I

mused to myself.

I kept calling.

"Maybe I should call the police and have them come break the fence

down," I pondered, as a full 15 minutes elapsed.

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