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Michelle Potter
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Sorry for so many comments, but one more thought to add for Luanne. The other day I was at the park, and another mom asked me if I was aware that my 6yo son (1st grade) was walking across the parking lot to go to the bathroom. I was, and I could see the bathrooms from where I was, and I assured her it was fine. She let it go. (I later found out that she thought my son was only 3 than he is, so I can totally see why she was concerned!) *That* was neighborly, and kind, and deserving of a thank you. If my son really was 3, or if I just didn't think he was old enough to safely cross the parking lot by himself, then I would really have appreciated the heads-up. As it was, she accepted that I know my son (and she was probably relieved to hear his actual age), and she didn't try to force her opinion of the risk on me, whatever her opinion may have been. IMO, *that's* what it means (or ought to mean) when we say it takes a village to raise a child.
Luanne, yes, there is a risk, but every parent has to evaluate the risk for themselves. For one thing, yes, "it could happen in a second," but so could getting struck by lightning. And you may think that's a nonsense thing to worry about, but it is literally more likely than having your child abducted by a stranger. On average, there are about 123 lightning-strike deaths in the US per year -- and 115 stereotypical kidnappings. Just last year, lightning struck the ground literally inches from where my nephew and his friend were standing -- with the friend's mom standing right there, ushering the boys in out of the rain. But people don't generally freak out about the possibility of lightning strikes. You don't have people writing shaking, terrified blog posts about how they got caught out in the rain and "anything could have happened." Even though it could have. Instead, they recognize lightning as a possible, but unlikely, danger, and take reasonable precautions to avoid it without significantly disrupting their lives. Moreover, we allow people to evaluate the risk themselves and make their own decisions about what precautions are reasonable. Some people like to walk in thunderstorms; some go inside. Some people get out of the pool while the storm clouds are still off in the distance, while even some public pools let swimming continue in the rain until lightning is actually seen or thunder heard. It ought to be (and used to be) the same way with allowing children out of our sight. Everyone knows that there is a real, but remote, possibility of our children encountering violence while away from our protection. Yet we also know that we will eventually have to let them go, and that we have to prepare them for that. None of us wants to be that one-in-a-million statistic, but neither do any of us want to raise crippled, dependent children who can't function without us. So why exactly can't we trust loving parents (which most of us are) to evaluate these risks for ourselves and make our own decisions about what's reasonable? Does the neighbor deserve a thank you? For what? For "caring" about this little boy's safety? Well, does she care more than his own mother, who had decided he was fine where he was? What she did wasn't neighborly, even if she had convinced herself it was. What she did was decide that Kari Anne's evaluation of the risk wasn't good enough, and that she needed to force her own opinion on this family, without being asked, and using all the power of the state to make them comply. No, I would absolutely NOT thank her for that.
PS, I did complain to the Sheriff's Office. The deputy's superior apologized, and agreed that she was out of line, and that we had done nothing wrong. And yet, he says, it's up to the individual deputy to decide how to respond to a child alone. Some of his deputies have brought home kids as old as 12 for no other reason than, "they were outside without an adult."And if they decide to bring a kid home, they're legally obligated to contact CPS. It almost makes me wish there was a law saying what age kids can play outside. As much as I think that ought to be a parental decision and none of the government's business, at least then I would know how old my kids need to be before the cops will leave them alone.
Your story is very similar to mine. My 6yo was playing at the school park with her 9yo brother, and he decided to come home. Some neighbor -- I'll never know who -- called the cops, and a deputy brought her home. In our case, the cop was much ruder. She threatened to shoot our fenced-in dog, and said I was "threatening" her when I said I was going to complain to her superior. The social worker seemed to be on our side. We allowed a few questions, outside, with us standing right there, and she respected our request not to ask the younger ones about anything sexual. (Not that we have anything to hide. Just the opposite, we want to protect them from ever having those bad images in their heads in the first place.) She flat out told us that we hadn't done anything wrong, and that our daughter was probably perfectly safe at the park. But none of that matters. Because the bottom line, according to CPS, is that she "looks" young, and therefore if we let her out the neighbors may keep calling the police. And if they keep calling the police, and the police keep calling CPS, they will be "forced" to pursue charges against us. It doesn't matter if she's plenty old enough to go to the park. It doesn't matter if she's perfectly safe. It doesn't matter if letting her go is well within our rights. We aren't "allowed," because all that matters is what the neighbors think. If the neighbors think we are bad parents, CPS will take our children. It's absolutely infuriating. It's wrong. It's unfair. And I have absolutely no idea what to do about it.
I rather like Wordpress, myself.
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Chrome is really great about saving text in forms when something goes wrong. I was once in the middle of writing a long blog post when I had to leave the house. My kids turned off my laptop and put it away while I was gone. When I turned it back on and opened Chrome and restored the tabs, there was my post just like I'd left it! Great news about the audition, BTW! Break a leg!
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Michelle Potter is now following The Typepad Team
Jan 11, 2012