This article is the scariest thing I’ve read in a long time. A zombie apocalypse has nothing on “good” Samaritans hell-bent on protecting children from the reasoned decisions of their parents.
Really, you should head over and read it, but if you are a parent who enjoys making informed parenting decisions based on your particular circumstances at that moment, it will ruin your day.
As a mother, I spend the majority of my time assessing situations. All day long . . . I decide if giving my kids a snack now will ruin their dinner. If letting them decide not to bring a coat will be a good lesson in natural consequences, or a genuine inconvenience or risk. If leaving them in the car for a few minutes is actually safer than having them walk across the parking lot with me.
And that last one, as it turns out, is the game changer. Because that article is the story of three women who determined that, in their particular circumstance, their children could be safely left in the car for a few moments, but ended up facing serious and lasting legal repercussions because of it.
The stories are horrifying. And the experiences of these women is actually worse than my worst fears. I always figured, hey, someone might call the police on me someday. I would explain why my children were not in danger and that I had actually made an informed parenting decision based on my particular circumstances. I would make a point of being polite and respectful even though I was mad, and the policeman would be reasonable. Or, worse, the prosecutor would be reasonable. Or at the very least, worst case scenario, I’d have to go to court and the judge would be reasonable. It seems like that did not happen in any of these cases.
I’m still not going to make what I believe are bad parenting decisions because of bad laws and bad samaritans. I won’t be bullied. But it is deeply, deeply scary. And it could absolutely happen to me.
We live in this bizarro world of perfect connectedness and complete anonymity where some people would happily call the police before asking a question or offering to help. A world where expectant mothers can choose to kill their unborn babies, but are vilified for having a glass of wine or a ham sandwich.
We live in a world where people are so disconnected from the facts that they honestly believe that a nine year old child walking to the park will probably get kidnapped by a stranger and that a two year old asleep in a car will immediately die if his mother walks more than five feet away. Maybe it’s ten feet. But he will die. For sure.
I understand that these laws and policies have been made in response to very real tragedies. But arresting reasonable parents who have made reasonable parenting decisions appropriate to their particular circumstances isn’t going to save all children from accidental death.
My child could be killed because I left him home. Or he could be killed because I brought him with me in the car. My child could be killed because I left him inside the car. Or he could be killed walking across the parking lot at my side. There is not a law that can guarantee that my child will be safe. It is unsettling, but true. And no one is better suited to make decisions for the safety of a child in a particular situation than his parent.
These laws and the people who enforce them are deeply misguided, and the way they undermine a parent’s ability to make decisions for her own child should concern everyone.
I am going to continue to be a person who makes decisions based on real life and not on one-size-fits-all laws. I am going to continue to hope that someone who worried about the safety of my children would take a moment to really assess the situation, or stand by my car to keep an eye on my kids until I got back, then leave with a smile, or come search me out and gently express concern (although this one would certainly be my least favorite in practice, I would take it).
I am going to continue to hope that my fellow citizens and those in positions of civil authority would make reasonable decisions based on the facts of a particular case.
And I’m going to figure that if I get arrested, you guys will have my back, and maybe bring my family some meals.
You might enjoy these other times I have poked the internet with a stick: