The first story that really stuck with me, that stays with me still, was the one about the mom who left her son in the car for five minutes while she ran into a store to buy him headphones for the flight home. An anonymous bystander recorded the scene on her phone and forwarded the video, anonymously, to local police. The child was fine; the mother was prosecuted, and her essay about the experience, its after effects and our convoluted sense of community morality is worth the 30 minutes it will take to read it. Do not, however, read the comments after the article. Do not.
I did this same thing Kim Brooks did, at least once when my children were little. You might, too, if you think about it:
A – Leave the content three year old strapped in a five-point safety harness car seat with the window cracked and the car locked and alarmed and fully in line of sight on a 50 degree day while you walk into the Exxon Tiger Mart to pay for gas.
B – Unstrap (now fussy) child, walk into the filthy store trying desperately to hold the hand of said child who is trying to pull away and hope to make it through standing in line, completing payment, and signing the receipt without child running off to play hide and seek in the chip aisle where the pedophiles might be hiding.
Plug all those variables into your risk-reward calculator and, if nothing else, recognize that the choice is more complicated than it would appear from 10 cars over. And just for the record, if my mother were still here she’d be quick to tell you that choosing option B is how we ended up in the pediatrician’s office when I (yes, yours truly) was three because my resistance to leaving the car was so strong that I decided to sit down in the parking lot, hand still connected to my mother’s, thereby dislocating my shoulder.
It’s ironic, don’t you think, that the more informed we become about both public health and child brain development (see Zero to Three: Early Brain Development or Teenage Brains: Think Different? which was nicely summarized in this article on Science Daily), the less adept we seem at parenting? The Disneyland measles thing is just the tip of a behemoth iceberg, an enormous jumbled mess of health, safety, morality, statistics and experience, all of which tilts according to opinions about freedoms and parental boundary lines.
We know that a parent is a child’s first and most important teacher. We know children need to learn to make decisions in order to become functioning adults. We know independence is important. But we’re really, really uncertain when it comes to separating parental discretion from greater public good.
You can see the slipperyness of the slope, right, that the dividing line is smudgy and full of gaps? As a mother am I free to let my child bring back whooping cough but not walk alone to the park? Am I free to give him the haircut of shame but not to refuse him McDonalds? Or perhaps it’s this: I’m free to mother as I see fit, provided you, my Keeper, don’t catch me doing it.
So, Keeper, here’s what I wonder: What if that anonymous smartphone videographer had walked up to Kim Brooks and asked if she could help – offered to go into the store for her or just expressed her concerns directly?
I know, I know. Who in their right mind would give money to a stranger offering to make the trip to the store? Who in their right mind would confront a parent face-to-face in a parking lot, not knowing how the parent might respond?
I know, I know. Harder in reality than in a side-by-side Fox News video debate or comment-fueled Facebook rant. And nothing I’m going to solve today.
Tomorrow is another day; I’ll do the best I can.
Food – A Week in Review
Yes, I did say last week that the weekly menu thing was over – at least for now. Yes, I did start a new blog called Dinner Prompt, daily inspiration to keep you cooking. But because we’ve been together so long and because a few of you have emailed to say WHAT?!, here’s a little transitional bonus, a weekly summary of the Dinner Prompt recipe links (which will also be summarized on Sundays in a weekly recap).
- Fried Egg Salad – smitten kitchen (Sunshine)
- Roast Provençal Chicken – Bon Appetit (Lavender)
- Poached Salmon fit for the French Court – Salon (Paris)
- Chipotle Pork Tacos – Cooking Light (Smoked)
- Creamy Dijon Leeks – Food Network (Cozy)