Thursday, February 9, 2012

Something Could Happen

I was going to post a sunny little tutorial about my latest home improvement project, but at the moment, I'm feeling nothing like sunny. Oh sure, I have a bright red glow to my cheeks, and a gleam to my eyes, but that's not sunshine. Neither is it shame, despite the efforts of others. It is anger.

My Chloe has always been a climber. When she was born, we lived in a two story apartment. I'm the oldest of 7, so I was somewhat familiar with the ways and means of children, and knew that despite my best efforts to keep her from the stairs, chances were that there would come a time when she would find her way to the stairs and possibly hurt herself. Rather than wait for the inevitable, I taught her how to climb both up and down the stairs. By the time she was 8 months old, she could easily scamper both ways, and never got hurt on the stairs.

She also loved to climb on the playground. I loved to watch her thought process. She would start with the easiest way to get onto the equipment--usually the stairs--and climb on up. Once she had that mastered, she would try the next hardest thing--maybe a ladder, then a chain ladder. I guarantee she was the smallest child climbing up the rock climbing wall, but she did it. I initially would stand close to the play structure, hovering in case she fell or misjudged her abilities. I'll admit, my heart nearly stopped one time when I saw her long, skinny leg extend out from a high opening. But then she checked herself, pulled the leg back in, and decided to come down a different way. She learned to trust herself, and I learned to trust her. There were two times when she got hurt on the playground, and both times were when someone else intervened because they thought she couldn't do it herself.

Today when dropping Addie off at preschool, I left Maggie and Rosie in the car, as I often, not always, do. As usual, my car was never out of my sight, and I was less than 30 feet away the whole time. The weather was mild--there was no danger of them overheating. I intended to say goodbye to Addie, hug her before she walked inside and then go back to my car. This routine takes less than a minute. But today, her teacher pulled me aside to tell me several of the other parents had voiced their concerns that I was leaving my children in the car. If I didn't stop doing it, they were threatening to call the police, and potentially Child Protective Services. The teacher was kind, apologetic, and offered to help me bring the other girls with me when I brought Addie in. But that really wasn't the point.

I am more than capable (most days) of bringing my children with me when I drop Addie off. I just don't see why I should have to. I'm not going to quote statistics. Here's a link with plenty for you. Or check out Free Range Kids. There's plenty of information there about how safe the world actually is. Yes, I realize that something could happen to my girls while I am away. But it probably won't. The other side of the coin is that something could happen to them while they are with me. In making the decision to leave my children in the car, I weighed my options. And I picked what for me felt like the best choice.

Sometimes kids will get hurt. Sometimes bad things will happen to them. We cannot keep our children safe from everything. Nor should we. I'm not advocating risky or abusive behavior, but I choose to believe that the world is basically a safe, good place. That people generally are good, and most parents have the best intentions for their children. In posting my frustration about this situation on facebook, several of my friends commented that they know I am a good mom and they wouldn't worry about my kids. Isn't that true for most parents? Aren't most of the mothers you know doing the best they can? And why can't the best choice for them be different from the best choice for you? It's not hard to understand why there is such a problem with bullying in our schools when you consider the tactics some parents use to exert their influence over others. How many of you out there have changed the way you do something as a parent, even though your original choice felt right to you, because you felt pressure from other parents?

I'll admit, I've ended my subscriptions to certain parenting magazines because I didn't want to buy into the idea I was never going to be a good enough mother if I wasn't constantly following my children around, policing their every movement, not daring to even fall asleep lest they somehow endanger themselves while my eyes were closed. More importantly, I just don't think that's an effective way to parent. We're here to protect our children, sure, but we also have a responsibility to teach them and guide them and let them have their own experiences so they can grow into capable, functioning adults. I don't want to have four adult children still living with me, wanting me to cook for them, and clean for them, and fix all their problems for them because they never learned how. I don't want my children to be afraid of every little thing because our culture of fearmongering has taught them that they should be.

I can't help but think of this exchange from Finding Nemo (which I did let my children watch, but not too often, because I don't want to damage their little brains with excessive screen time).
Dory: There, there. It's all right. It'll be OK.
Marlin: No. No, it won't.
Dory: Sure, it will. You'll see.
Marlin: No. I promised him I'd never let anything happen to him.
Dory: Huh. That's a funny thing to promise.
Marlin: What?
Dory: Well, you can't never let anything happen to him. Then, nothing would ever happen to him. (Marlin stares at her.) Not much fun for little Harpo.

Not much fun for any kid. Obviously I had a lot more to rant about than just whether or not I choose to leave my kids in the car. As far as that situation goes, I'm not sure what to do. I looked up the law, and it states.

It is illegal to leave a child six years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle when:

  • There are conditions that present a significant risk to the child's health or safety. Example: Leaving a child in a closed car on a very hot day.
  • The vehicle's engine is running, the keys are in the ignition, or both. Children can start or move the car causing injuries and/or deaths to themselves or others. An opportunist may (and many have) seize the moment to jump in and drive your car away, child still strapped in.

Well, I wasn't in violation of either of those rules, though part of me does want to see how long it would take "an opportunist" to hop in my car and drive away with it. I went ahead and called the police station to find out just what they would do if they were called on my behalf. The officer I spoke to was very noncommittal. He said they might have to charge me with negligence because Something Could Happen! This despite the fact that the law itself says it is only illegal if there are conditions that pose a significant risk to the child's health or safety.

I want to stand up for my beliefs, and do my part to end the atmosphere of fear our children are growing up in, but I have to admit, I am afraid. When even the police officers are hesitant to enforce the actual law, possibly because of pressure from parental bullies, I get scared. I don't want to, God forbid, lose my children over standing up for my principles. I'm more scared over what will happen to them when other people step in that I am over what could happen to them if I leave them in the car.

What would you do?


Suzanne said...

1. Keep a copy of whatever law you are supposedly breaking and carry it in your purse.
2. Get a permit to carry a weapon.
3. Buy a weapon and keep it in your purse.
4. If anyone questions your actions, show them the law.
5. If they persist, inform them that you feel they are threatening your children's safety and to desist.
6. If that does not work, show them the gun.
7. I'm sure you see where this is going, but no matter what you do or do not do, the police are obligated to respond to every call. If you are arrested or your children are taken from you unlawfully you can pursue legal action, but it probably won't be worth your time. Stick to #'s 1 and 4.

FrancesMarie said...

Because Ruth, "it takes a village" to raise a child. Don't you know that those women were just looking out for your children because obviously you need help as a parent. (insert eye roll here) Seriously though, I am sorry that this happened to you. You do a wonderful job as a Mom and don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Katie said...

It's hard to say what I would do. First, I absolutely agree with you that it's fine, and for all the reason's you already went into. But you don't want to feel bullied by the other moms or worrying every morning about one of them calling the cops. Cops are people too and exercise their judgment which differs from person to person. One cop might not do anything, where as another might make a big deal out of it.
I'm so sorry your in this awful situation. I live in an apartment building with the doors outside and the parking is directly in front of the building. My apartment is on the ground floor and there is no way to get two kids and all my stuff (groceries, bags or whatever) into the house in one trip (especially if one of them in sleeping) Anyway, I usually leave one of the kids in the car, lock the car door, go to unlock my house door and get one of the boys inside, then go back to get said sleeping child or whatever and bring them back into the apartment. I'm so paranoid that someone will see this and call the cops or something. Even though I don't think I'm doing anything wrong, I'm afraid that someone else will think I am. It's so hard.
Good Luck!

Missy said...

mI'm with Katie. I really don't like the idea of you having to be paranoid over what these other mothers deem to be proper legal behavior (and seriously, why is it ANY of their business?)
As your friend, I vow to toss them dirty looks and possibly dirty diapers (loosely closed, of course.)
Silly freaking bossames.

Joy Carey said...

Documentation of any given law, procedure, or protocol is a good idea to have on hand in any situation. I definetly think it would be a police officer's judgement call though to proceed with their decision and use the law to justify it in any way at that given time. One would hate to feel and experience this fear due to other parents deciding what is deemed as appropiate or inappropiate parenting skills. Parents should help one another, but not all of them do this and to top it off some are not even parents.
I know from experience being a parent of child with autism. I have been blamed for my son's behaviors at times and accused of abuse when my child would head-butt himself into a door or wall during a meltdown. I have had child-protective services knock at my door and invade my home privacy and question my parenting skills. I would never wish that upon any parent and their family. I advocate daily for my child and family because of my child's disability. I choose to pick my battles and yes I am very passionate in what I believe in, but remember that the entire world is changing and has changed for quite some time. I believe there are still good people in the world, but there are fewer of them. You are right you can not live in a bubble nor should you, but be careful because other people's intentions are not the same as ours at times.
People should care/help one another, but not dictate or try to control their life. Too bad someone could not have said, I would be happy to watch for you or help bring in the kids for you.
I know it should not be like this, but I would just bring them in with you to avoid a bad situation that could REALLY harm your family more than you can imagine.Ask for help with the kids when you go and do drop-off.
I have read your blog for 2 years and from what I have read, you are a loving, beautiful, caring and wonderful mother. I know it seems as if your giving in to these others, but the outcome could be much worse. It's the principle if anything being expressed.
I pray God keeps you well, safe, and gives you wisdom like many of us need when we need to know what to do. God bless you dear!!

Sandy said...

So - if you brought all the kids with out and someone hit them with their car in the parking lot, would that also be negligence, because you didn't leave them in the safety of the car? :) I already told you my feelings about this on facebook, just didn't see this post - I hope things have resolved somewhat...