“Please Tell Me I’m Not Crazy” Says Mom Who Left Child Unattended a Few Moments

Hi Readers — Can you EVER leave your child unattended for a few minutes in a public place? That’s today’s big question. – L.

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Dear Free-Range Kids: Last night I took my 5-year-old son and almost 3-year-old daughter to Taco Bell.  High class, I know.  The restaurant was pretty busy, about five full tables at any one time.  My son needed to use the restroom and upon hearing this my daughter decided she needed to go, too.  My son went to the men’s room, which has no stalls, just a toilet and a locking door.  I took my daughter to the ladies room.  We took a bit of time, more that usual, but my son still wasn’t out by the time my daughter and I were done.  After sitting at our table for a bit I felt the need to check on my son.  Since I was estimating it would only take 10-20 seconds I left my daughter at our table.  Twenty seconds turned into about two minutes as I discovered my son needed help wiping (he still needs a bit of help sometimes if it’s, erm, messy).

When I came back to my table my daughter was still in her highchair and looked content.  The ladies sitting next to me, however, were not.  My daughter told me, “The lady asked me if I was okay and I said yes!”  I turned around and was about to tell her thank you for looking out for my daughter, when she started ripping into me.  She told me, “You daughter was choking on her water.”

I asked my daughter, “Did you choke on your water or just cough?”  In our family there is a distinction between the two.  My daughter answered that she’d coughed.  I turned back to the lady and said, “She’s getting over a cold and still coughs.”  Her answer? “All the more reason you shouldn’t have left her.”  She asked me how I could just leave my kid there and I said I’d needed to check on my son.  She responded, “Then you should have taken her with you.  You are so irresponsible!  Anyone could have walked in here and just taken her!”  I looked her right in the eye and said, “You would have let someone take my kid?”  She was taken aback by that, then raised her voice and said, “I could have called CPS on you!  I SHOULD have called CPS on you!  You don’t deserve to have your kids!”

A bit more was said about how irresponsible I was, and then she left with her friend.  I was so humiliated.  I sat there imagining if the tables had been turned.  If I was at a fast food joint and saw a mother trying to deal with two young kids I would have kept the kid entertained while the mother was with her other child.  I wouldn’t have felt the need to involve government authorities.  I was just blown away by this woman’s vitriol.

In hindsight, yes, I should have taken my daughter with me.  However, I really was not expecting a 20-second check to turn into a two-minute “let me clean you up.”  Nevertheless, I did feel comfortable having my daughter sit by herself.  She is very independent and the restaurant was full of people.  I felt that the community would have pitched it.

I guessed wrong. — Krista

To which I replied:

No, Krista, you were RIGHT. You were not crazy , the other woman was: I’d like her to explain, step by step, the exact scenario by which some kidnapper who just HAPPENED to be in that exact restaurant at that EXACT moment would have sprinted off with your child in front of all those other people. Does she have any idea how RARE stranger kidnappings are? (Rhetorical question. For a reality check, I refer everyone to my “reassuring crime statitics” link on the right side of this blog.) And I LOVE your response to the busybody, “Would YOU have let someone take her?” Why don’t onlookers realize that they are PART of the safety net that looks after our kids and not the shame brigade? And the knee-jerk idea that some government authority should be involved to punish the “imperfect” parent is grating, too. This has become all too common, as if citizens WANT Big Brother bitch-slapping any parent who dares to trust her community, her instincts and her child.

Life is NEVER perfect and if it HAD to be for our species to survive, we’d be on display at The Museum of Natural History as a quaint, extinct (and often rude) species.

What’s crazy about our society is how we assume children are in danger at ALL TIMES, no matter how normal and unthreatening the circumstances. – L.

Think outside the social norms!

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