There were many times in my career as a journalist where I’d read a column or a feature story someone had written and been like “Man, I wish I’d written that! Because it’s exactly what I’ve been thinking and feeling.”
It’s interesting having that same sensation through the lens of being a parent, because I’ve read lots of things that I’ve agreed with and wanted to also write about, but someone has already done it better.
Not sure I’ve ever felt that way more than when I read this sensational piece, “Motherhood in the Age of Fear” that ran in the New York Times last weekend by Kim Brooks, a Chicago-based writer and Mom.
In the piece, which I cannot recommend strongly enough, Brooks speaks about the awful trend of Mom-shaming. This is when complete strangers observe behavior that they think is negligent and then admonish the parent, or in some cases actually call the police on the parent.
Ninety-nine times out of 100, the behavior isn’t negligent at all, it’s busybody alleged “caretakers” looking out for children sticking their nose in other people’s business, and it can have serious, serious consequences. Most of the time this behavior involves allowing a child to be alone for as little as a few minutes, which in this day and age of helicopter parenting is considered criminal.
We as a society have so over-managed and overscheduled and coddled our children, we are so afraid to have them be alone for even five minutes, that some think it’s a crime to let them have the tiniest bit of freedom and independence.
From the piece:
We now live in a country where it is seen as abnormal, or even criminal, to allow children to be away from direct adult supervision, even for a second.
We read, in the news or on social media, about children who have been kidnapped, raped and killed, about children forgotten for hours in broiling cars. We do not think about the statistical probabilities or compare the likelihood of such events with far more present dangers, like increasing rates of childhood diabetes or depression. Statistically speaking, according to the writer Warwick Cairns, you would have to leave a child alone in a public place for 750,000 years before he would be snatched by a stranger. Statistically speaking, a child is far more likely to be killed in a car on the way to a store than waiting in one that is parked. But we have decided such reasoning is beside the point. We have decided to do whatever we have to do to feel safe from such horrors, no matter how rare they might be.
And so now children do not walk to school or play in a park on their own. They do not wait in cars. They do not take long walks through the woods or ride bikes along paths or build secret forts while we are inside working or cooking or leading our lives.
There are stories in the piece about a woman in n 2014 named Debra Harrell, who let her 9-year-old daughter play in a park while she went to work at a nearby McDonald’s. It was a safe neighborhood on a summer day with lots of kids.
None of this mattered when another parent contacted the police. Ms. Harrell was charged with unlawful neglect of a child and her daughter was put in foster care for about two weeks.
That same year, an Arizona woman named Shanesha Taylor was charged with two counts of felony child abuse and sentenced to 18 years of supervised probation, all because she had no child care and had to leave her two younger children in the car while she went on a job interview.
Also from the piece: In a country that provides no subsidized child care and no mandatory family leave, no assurance of flexibility in the workplace for parents, no universal preschool and minimal safety nets for vulnerable families, making it a crime to offer children independence in effect makes it a crime to be poor.
It is unconscionable that this goes on in America. As a father I’m constantly worried about being judged by other parents, when my almost 4-year-old wanders a different aisle in the supermarket than I’m in (I can hear him the whole time), or when I have, once or twice, allowed him to (gasp) sit in the car for 2 minutes by myself at a gas station with the windows open while I ran in to pay the attendant.
We are so, so quick to judge other parents, and criminalize their behavior.
Read this essay. Parent-shaming needs to stop.
**Next up today, I have said many times on this blog how much I love Canada, and Canadians. Not just because they love hockey, but because every Canadian I’ve met has been a decent, fun human being, and every time I’ve visited Canada I’ve loved it.
But I don’t speak Canadian, so Will Arnett, a native of Toronto, is here to educate. Some of these are hilarious, like the “2-4” and the “suitcase” but I think “Goal suck” is my new favorite. Or “beaking.”
God bless Canada.
**Finally today, I’ve had a few bad dates in my life, including the time I accidentally left the restaurant with a woman and had forgotten to pay the check (shockingly, the relationship didn’t work out.)
But I have to say, a Memphis woman named Faith Pugh may have had just about the worst first date ever. She went out with a man named Kelton Griffin, an old acquaintance from high school. Kelton was dropped off for the date, and at a gas station asked Pugh to go inside and get him a cigar.
At that point Kelton stole Pugh’s car. And took a friend of Pugh’s on a date. In the stolen car.
Shockingly, this dream of a man was arrested for his crime, when Pugh’s friend helped locate the car using the GPS on her phone.
Can’t believe he was still single and not snatched up yet.