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As my kids have gotten older, and as I have learned to be less and less the over-protective parent and let them experience life, I have had to learn to let go, slowly, yes, but let go all the same. But I’m not an ostrich, I’m a concerned parent in the modern world facing the realities of safety.

I’m facing the facts that I have a teen who now wants to start riding the bus system so she can get around and meet her friends at the mall without having to worry about whether or not Mom can drive her there. Great. I like that idea. Heck, there’s even a bus that runs from just down the street to the very doors of the mall.

Then the parent in me has a heart attack. I gasp at the idea of sending my 13 year old onto a bus alone. I know I’ve taught her how to navigate public transit and she’s only going between home and the mall, and it’s during daylight hours, and … and … and …

I shudder to think that by her age, I was navigating the bus from our little rural community, into town, meeting my friends there then continuing on public transit to the beaches and not getting home till after dark. It was a different time. It wasn’t a different place. This is the same city, the same area I was in. In fact, my daughter will be going to the same mall where I would meet my friends to transfer to the next bus.

I have thought long and hard about this. I know she’s ready for this. She’s a responsible and smart kid. She knows how to stay within the limits I set for her and she’s going to be fine. Heck, at 13, she’s only a few short years away from driving. Oh yipe. So, all that is left for me to do, is get her a bus pass and a cell phone and let her go. Right?

Yeah, right. So I thought at the beginning of summer. I also thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get her a brief course on how not to be a victim. The NRA offers such courses, and they’re not about carrying a gun. And let’s see, I thought, what else? Oh yeah. A really loud whistle and maybe a thing of pepper spray.

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Now, I think every person on earth has a right to defend themselves from criminal activity, especially against personal assault of any kind. I don’t care if the person in question wants to play dumb and hide, pretending they will never be a victim, or if they prefer to legally carry a firearm. That’s their right and their choice.

Now, I figured pepper spray would be an ideal thing for a reasonably mature and responsible teen to have. But first, I wanted to know the law. After slogging my way through an unbelievably complex, messy and ridiculously difficult pile of information on my state’s Web site, and finally actually having to call an attorney to find out the whole truth, I discovered some disconcerting facts.

It is not legal for a kid under 18 to carry pepper spray. Period. I don’t mean Mace, I mean Pepper Spray.

So, let me get this straight. This state will allow my teen to work as young as age 14, she can drive at 16, and be working some pretty late night hours during the summer, but she cannot carry even a small can of pepper spray?

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Nope. After all was said and done, I found it was a misdemeanor for her to even be in possession of it and could be considered a felony should she actually use it, even if it was in defense of her life.

So much for that terrific idea. I’m not suggesting kids be allowed to carry spray into schools, or anything like that, but good grief, it seems you can’t turn on the news or read a paper anymore without hearing about some kid being abducted, and worse.

So, for now, the bus riding idea has been shelved. I’m just not ready for that. But I’m wondering what I’m going to do as time goes on, and she starts spending more time away from home, working, driving, etc? I can take her to all the classes available, I can make sure she has a cell phone, I can cross my fingers and pray, knowing that she’s sensible kid – but I cannot give my baby any thing else.