Saturday, January 24, 2015

Now that I've reposted some book reviews, here's another rant about nannyism...

The other day, I read an article by Lenore Skenazy about a woman who left her ten year old and one year old daughters alone in a car for ten minutes.  The woman's toddler was sleeping and she didn't want to wake her.  The ten year old was very familiar with looking after her sister, having looked after her three siblings.  Mom was in the store for a very short time.  No one got hurt.

Unfortunately, a clerk called the police on mom and law enforcement came out.  The cop who dealt with this woman was in no mood for excuses.  He said she had "neglected" her child.  When mom tried to explain, the cop said "a murderer that has never murdered anyone in the past doesn’t make them any less of a murderer."

Somehow, this mom didn't know she was going to be charged with a crime until she started getting letters from lawyers, looking for her business.  She ended up being charged with a misdemeanor and got six months probation.

I posted about this on Facebook with the comment that my parents totally would have been in trouble with the law had they raised me today the way they raised me in the 70s and 80s.  One of my friends, a mother of two, commented that the mother had broken the law.  I responded that the law is stupid because it retards children's ability to evolve into adulthood.  My friend said that she thinks many laws are stupid, but still obeys them.  At that point, I lost patience and said, "Good for you."

Personally, I probably wouldn't have left kids in the car.  But it wouldn't be because I feared for their safety.  It would be because of busybodies like the store clerk who involve law enforcement at the drop of a hat.  I've been reading way too many stories like this one lately.

Last week, I read about the couple in Silver Spring, Maryland who wanted to let their kids walk home from the park.  These parents are educated and caring.  Their kids knew their way to and from the park, which was located near their home.  Mom and Dad felt the risk wasn't too great to let them exercise some independence.  But apparently, their neighbors felt differently and called the cops.  Now Mom and Dad are in trouble with the law.

I also read about an Arkansas family with seven minor children (two more are grown) who got CPS called on them because neighbors saw their kids running barefoot in the snow.  The cops showed up, along with a CPS worker, who ended up taking the children because the children's father was using a supplement called MMS to purify their garden water.

Naturally, when something like this is in the news, there's lots of controversy.  I just read an op-ed by columnist John Kelly, who empathizes with cops and CPS because they "can't win".  For the record, I agree that child protective services is a tough field.  There are a lot of kids who truly are being abused and neglected.  In fact, I just read about one such case the other day...  Two nine year old brothers were left home alone for 120 days while their parents were in Nigeria.  Somehow, they managed to survive, even without adult supervision.  Make no mistake about it, to me, this is a true case of child neglect.  And yet, these two boys managed to get themselves out of bed, feed themselves, get themselves to school, and basically handled every problem that came along without arousing any suspicion until one of the brothers showed up at school underdressed one day.  Incidentally, the boys' parents are now back from Nigeria and the family is together again.  I guess CPS is okay with the the 120 day absence?

When I was a kid, I was regularly left home alone.  I had three older sisters, but they didn't necessarily babysit me all the time.  I walked to and from the store by myself, rode my bike several miles to and from the barn where I kept my horse, cleaned stalls from the age of 12 in order to help pay for my horse, and basically ran free, where I'd occasionally run into problems with other neighborhood kids.  We worked it out amongst ourselves.

Thanks to all the news we get about kids who are abducted or egregious situations where children are abused or neglected, American society has become obsessed with child safety.  I have nothing against trying to keep kids safe from unnecessary risk.  I just think it's gone overboard.  There's no reason in the world why CPS needs to get heavily involved with a mom who leaves her child unattended for a few minutes while she picks up items at the store.  There's no reason why seven healthy kids need to be taken from their parents because their father uses a supplement for his own health and to purify his water.  And why do we need to get the police involved when two kids who know their way around their neighborhood are allowed to walk home by themselves?  Their parents are competent, educated, and caring individuals.  Why is it that we need to call the cops because someone makes a parenting decision we don't agree with?

Yet another article was posted today about a Missouri doctor and his wife getting a nastygram from a substitute teacher because their daughter reportedly brought an "unhealthy" lunch to school.  As it turned out, the cafeteria worker who told on the girl got their facts wrong.  The substitute teacher who wrote the chastising note also got their facts wrong.  Granted, what the doctor said the daughter had for lunch didn't sound like the healthiest lunch it could be, but really, why is it anyone's damn business?  At least in this case, the parents got an apology and CPS was not involved.

I really think the government is getting way too involved with how people parent their children.  With all the interference that's going on these days, is it any wonder that so many people choose to homeschool their kids so they might not be harassed for raising their kids the way they see fit?  We can't have a one size fits all solution for all parents.  Not all kids are created equal.  Some ten year olds are very independent and capable while some fifteen year olds need supervision.  Parents are the best people to decide what their kids need... unless, of course, there is some proven reason why they aren't.

It's probably a good thing I don't have kids.

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