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?