The current New York Times opinion piece making the rounds is entitled Motherhood in the Age of Fear and is written by Kim Brooks. Ms. Brooks is the writer of an upcoming collection of essays on the subject of parenting in the age of fear (her words, not mine).
This piece is about Ms. Brooks' experience leaving her son (age 4) in the car, briefly, while visiting her family in Virginia. An onlooker reported the incident to police, who later called her and charged her with contributing to the delinquency of a minor (her son).
She writes about her feelings as she processed the charges and prepared, legally and emotionally, to cope with the fallout. Is it truly 'wrong' and harmful to leave a child in the car while we run in to get another child from school? I knew a mother in California who left a child in the car while she went to the door of her son's preschool. She didn't go inside. She could see her son in the car the entire time. The car was, at best, a few yards from where she stood. Another parent reported her, and her family was investigated by CPS.
And what if it isn't to grab a carton of milk or pick up another child? What if a parent leaves a child unattended for something like meeting a lover or buying wine? Is it fair to judge the parent differently in these cases? And what about fathers? How does society judge fathers who leave children unattended vs. mothers?
Brooks tackles all of these issues in this opinion piece.
She is also addressing the idea that kids no longer have freedom to be kids, to roam around a little, get into a little trouble even. Are we, in an attempt to keep our children safe, limiting their ability to grow and develop?
Do we make rash judgements, enforce crazy rules/laws and punish mothers who can't afford (literally) to obey those laws, thereby waging a war against the working poor rather than the truly neglectful?
Or is judgement necessary, even if it's out of context at times, to keep our kids safe and send a message (to our kids as much as anyone else) that we're watching, we're keeping vigil, we're on guard? Is it acceptable to sometimes over-extend our caution when it comes to the most vulnerable members of our society?
I could write for hours on this subject, taking each one of Brooks' points and giving them my own once-over, but the point isn't so much to voice my personal opinion as much as it is to simply think a little on a subject that seems relevant to all of us - parents or not - as members of a larger community.
Would you report a mother who leaves a child unattended?
It's a cloudy Sunday here. I've had migraines daily for at least a week. I'm about out of my medication, and we've got a storm brewing. I had forgotten about the blustery summers of the southern east coast. It's muggy, cloudy, and stormy much of the time.
I'm missing Arizona.