Saturday, July 16, 2011

parenting as a spectator sport

I don't think the suggestion of taking fat kids out of their homes and putting them in foster care is what Hillary Clinton had in mind when she declared that "it takes a village to raise a child."
It seems, judging from the recent news stories I have come across and their accompanying comments that the parents are simply doing the best they can and "the village" is a mob of critics standing around screaming "Unfit! Incompetent! Should be made sterile!" every time the parents does something not deemed perfect.

Take the horrific story of the 8 year old Hasidic Jewish boy who walked home last week and was kidnapped and found dismembered. "See, you should never let your child out of your sight until they are 43," the critics scream. Who knows what they would think of me for letting my 3 oldest children ride their bikes to piano lessons, a whole 4 miles away.  

Also last week up here in Maine a mom of 2 was arrested for leaving her kids in the car when she ran inside the grocery store. Instead of standing by the car and patiently waiting for the obviously frazzled mom to arrive, keeping an eye on the kids, some busy-body decided to call the police pronto. Now that 30 year old mom could have her kids taken away, will be hounded by the social service Nazis for the rest of her life, and has to admit on every job application that she was arrested. She will never be able to care for a foster child, never be able to adopt, and likely never be able to teach in a public school. But the 200+ comments following the article rant on and on about how it is so dangerous to leave a child in a car because the brakes might spontaneously fail or the engine might explode, in addition to all the premonitions of death due to heat and child molesters prowling the parking lots in small towns in coastal Maine. Today when I left 4 of my kids in the car while I ran into the gas station minimart to go potty, I was almost expecting when I emerged from the building to see a cruiser with flashing lights parked behind my van. This is the way I felt when we lived in Washington, DC, with cameras on every stoplight, a lawyer with a cellphone in every car, and police on almost every corner.

Another local incident this past week was a 911 call after a 2 year old fell down a shallow open well. The dad quickly rescued the child and followed directions from the dispatcher over the phone to revive her. But the commentors on the Bangor Daily News website started pointing fingers as soon as the story was posted, "No fit parent should let their child fall down a well, why were they not watching her..." Do these folks not eat, shower, read, look at the internet, cook, take care of another child, or even sleep until their offspring is 18? Obviously the adults were watching as they quickly hauled her out.  

Whatever did happen to the genteel habits of minding your own business and saving judgement until you know all the facts? It is as if real life is some form of reality TV where viewers have 20/20 hindsight and criticise, slander, or call the police as a fun game of gotcha. When was the last time any of these people offered to help a struggling mom and actually followed through? My bet is never, because actually watching a child for an hour so an overwhelmed mom could grocery shop alone doesn't give them the same jollies as seeing their name in print condemning another human being.   


K said...

I went and read the comments. Some people are just crazy.
One woman commented that no children should be left in the car until they were old enough to drive. ??!!
How can she be serious?
No wonder we have a society full of young people who have no sense of responsibility as they have been babied for their entire lives. Why do for yourself or others when momma has always done everything for you and practically wrapped you in bubble wrap to protect you. A child can't achieve if they don't try and they can't try if you don't let them go.

She would be aghast that you let your children bike to their piano lesson and assuredly she'd be equally horrified with the things I let my children do on their own, situations that require a lot more maturity than sitting in a car in a parking lot.

Milehimama @ Mama Says said...

Well, I don't know. In TX, it is actually against the law to leave a child under the age of 7 in the car for more than 5 minutes unless there is someone older than 14 also in the car. It's a safety issue.

It's a hard call to make- how unsafe is this? Should I get authorities involved? I admit I've struggled with it too- one of my friends doesn't use car seats. My kids aren't allowed to ride with her in her vehicle, but sometimes I waffle on whether I should call the police or not. On the one hand, none of my business and she's not abusive or a bad mother otherwise. On the other hand- what if? What culpability will I have if there is an accident and one of her kids are hurt?