Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Arrested Development

I have really got to stop reading Lenore Skenazy's Free Range Kids blog.  I fear one of these days I'm going to have an aneurysm over the absolute brainlessness that pervades every aspect of today's society.   

(Okay, seriously, you should read her blog.  And her book.  It is my goal to be a Free Range Mom.  Bring back the fun of childhood, I say).

The latest madness?  A mother who was arrested for leaving her kids "unattended" after her four-year-old escaped the house and was collared by a neighbor, who called the police. Understandable, right? Well, not when "unattended" means "in the care of his 13-year-old sibling."


I would now like to conduct a small survey: how many of you were babysitting by the time you were that age?  And not just siblings, but children of friends or neighbors?  What's that? Almost all of you?

The times, they are a changin'.  And not for the better.

Frankly, this story would be silly if it weren't so serious.  When you take a perfectly reasonable situation and turn it into an arrestable offense, you scare legions of practical parents into looking over their shoulder every time they want to impart a new level of responsibility to their children. 

I admit there are many things I don't allow my five-year-old to do, not because I don't think he is capable, but because I am worried that some "good samaritan" will call the police on me.  For example, I think he is perfectly safe sitting in the locked car for two minutes, keeping a watch on his younger siblings (who are strapped into their car seats) while I run three feet into the store (where I can see my car out the window) to pick up the dry cleaning.  But I usually don't because I don't want to be arrested for "child endangerment".

Honestly, what kind of world are we living in that the first impulse of every Tom, Dick, and Nosey is to call the police?  The neighbor who found the escaped four-year-old should have walked the kid back to his house, not called the cops.

Sure, something could have happened to the kid.  But that is true of kids in every single situation, from the moment of birth.  Life is inherently risky.  There is no way to protect your children from every conceivable accident.  And in defense of the teenage babysitter, I am far from being 13-years-old and I have lost each of my children at some point.  My two-year-olds regularly drag chairs from the kitchen to the front door to unlock the deadbolt and attempt to flee into the street.  Most of the time, I catch them, but they occasionally do make it out the door.  What am I supposed to do, never go to the bathroom?

Kids escape.  They get lost.  They get hurt.  But hovering over them in a state of anxious paranoia, refusing to hand them any real responsibility, doesn't help them grow up.

And isn't that what we want our kids to do?


John and Crystal Pinegar Family said...

This is something I have been thinking about lately. I have recently been leaving my 11 year old home to watch my six children (only when my youngest 2 are already asleep in bed) for me to run errands. It has become a necessity for me as other children have things that they are involved in.

I remember when I was 14 I was babysitting for a neighbor. They have a 4 year old that quite an escape artist and I ended up chasing him down the street. I am glad that the neighbors didn't call the cops.

JujuBean said...

Is this a good time to tell you that my almost 12-year old begs regularly to come to your house and babysit your darling kids? I promise she won't light anything on fire or lose anyone! ;)

Bonnie said...

Yes, it's a perfect time! I would love to have her babysit! I actually prefer younger babysitters because they are more fun and pay better attention to the kids - they play games and stuff instead of chatting on the phone with their boyfriends the whole night. (Or typing on the computer all day, like their mom does. ;>)

Suzanne Lucas said...

I started babysitting for the Blackhursts when I was 11. They had at least 5 or 6 kids by that time. By the time we moved away, they had 10 and I was still babysitting them.

This is one of the reasons I love Switzerland. When we had an hour long appointment, we just let the kids play outside on the playground by the office we were at. If they had a problem, they could come in, but otherwise, they were to stay outside and play. Oh, and who recommended that we do that? The pediatrician.

Also, my friend got lectured by her son's kindergarten teacher for walking him to school. "How will he ever learn independence if you don't let him walk by himself?" she said.

I love Switzerland.

Bonnie said...

Um, I think I might have to move to Switzerland.

Suzanne Lucas said...

Also, we have chocolate.

Twinkies said...

This story makes me mad everytime I hear it. My friend almost got called into police when while at walmart all three of her kids threw a melt down at the same time and she camly picked them up and went straight to the car. 2 people wrote down her licence and one followed her home and paced infront of her house. She didn't yell. She didn't spank them. She didn't threaten to wrap them with duct tape like I do. She didn't say a word. So crazy!

Twinkies said...

I mean Target not Walmart. There is a difference.

Megan B ♥ said...

I think you know my stance on this.

And I'd like to mention that Kinley had Crew half potty-trained by the time I got home from the store last week.

Bonnie said...

Oh my word, Mika, that is ridiculous! I would be so angry!

Katie said...

Luckily, but scary for some people who don't have any common sense, there is no age law in Utah of when you can leave a child home alone- so that arrest wouldn't have happened here. It varies by state. There is an age law of how old they can be left alone in a car though. I know what you are saying though- I feel like Savannah at age 9 is definitely old enough and mature enough to leave home alone with her siblings while I run a short errand.