There is a rising school of thought in this country that decrees that once you have a kids, your life is basically over. I don’t mean “your life is over” in the sense that mine is in that’s it’s difficult to go out more than occasionally and I spend a lot of non-work time attending my kids. I mean “your life is over” in that you must spend every single second watching and guarding your kids; that you can not let them out of your sight for a single moment; that you must be constantly paranoid about anything and everything that could happen; that you can never ever leave them to their own devices.
Lately, this mentality has been trickling into public law. There was the Texas mom who was arrested because her 6- and 9-year old were playing in the street outside her house. And now this helicopter parent mentality is being codified into law:
In an appeals court decision last week, three judges ruled that a mother who left her toddler sleeping in his car seat while she went into a store for five to 10 minutes was indeed guilty of abuse or neglect for taking insufficient care to protect him from harm.
Not that the child came to any harm; he seems to have slept through the whole non-incident.
But when the mom emerged from the store, she was confronted by cops, who’d been summoned by a mall guard when he noticed the sleeping child.
She was arrested and placed on the child-abuse registry — even though a Division of Child Protection and Permanency agent visited her home that day and found the kids well cared for.
If this had been the law back when I was a kid, Rahelen Skenazy — the lady who loves me more than the stars — would be on that registry. And since she had me wait in the car more than once, the state might have even placed me in foster care. That’s the threat that looms over anyone found guilty of neglect.
Look, I don’t want to minimize the danger of children being left in cars. A few years ago, the WaPo ran an award-winning horrific story about parents who forgot their kids were asleep in the back seat and left them there to die in the heat. Every now and then, some mom leaves her kids deliberately in the car and they die. To this day, I always put my laptop bag, groceries or whatever in the back seat just to make sure this doesn’t happen.
But to go to the extreme of saying any parent who leaves a child in car for any length of time is an abuser? On a day when it wasn’t hot? In a safe neighborhood? When crime rates are at their lowest level in 50 years?
This is one of those times I think that CPS and similar authorities have too much time and money on their hands; that there must be too few cases of true horrific abuse if they are going after a woman who left her toddler in the car for five minutes. I understand the concern. I wouldn’t really have a problem if the cops had talked to her and said something like, “look, we can’t be babysitters of the parking lot and make sure that kids are only in there for a few minutes.” But arresting her? Placing her in a child abuse registry (oh, goodie, another registry!)?
Does that sound reasonable?
(H/T: Lenore Skenazy, whose Free Range Kids blog is a must-read.)