Stop Calling 911 About Every Parent You Find Sub-optimal

What a great piece by Michael Brendan Dougherty in The Week (a magazine for which I created and ran the weekly humor contest for three years till they took it in house. But I guess that’s neither here nor there.) Dougherty starts out noting the Salon story, wherein a mom let her son wait in the car for a few minutes on a mild day, an onlooker videotaped the perfectly happy kid, after which the mom was arrested for this “crime.”  He then refers to a couple of similar stories he found right here on this blog,  including the parents arrested for letting their kids take a walk. And then he eloquently says:

It’s an odd way to “help” a child who is unsupervised for five minutes to potentially inflict years of stress, hours of court appearances, and potential legal fees and fines on their parents. Children who experience discreet instances of suboptimal parenting aren’t always aided by threatening their parents with stiff, potentially family-jeopardizing legal penalties. The risk of five or even 10 minutes in a temperate, locked car while mom shops is still a lot better than years in group homes and foster systems.

What’s more:

The sight of healthy kids playing in a park unsupervised, or a child playing with an iPad in the backseat of a car on a cool day, should not ever be the cause of immediate legal peril for parents. People should not be so terrified that something bad can happen to a child that they end up causing a calamity with their good intentions.

The only thing I’d add is that when cops, DAs and judges reinforce the idea that the only safe child is the helicoptered child, then it is not just busybodies confounding the lives of rational, loving, human parents, it is the law itself. – L. 

Hmm. These kids are OUTSIDE, unsupervised, but perhaps do not warrant a call to the COPS.

Hmm. These kids are OUTSIDE, unsupervised, but, as statues, perhaps they do not warrant a call to 911.

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114 Responses to Stop Calling 911 About Every Parent You Find Sub-optimal

  1. fred schueler June 9, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    I wonder if it’s the result of the internet that things that are dead wrong are so widely whooped as desirable or true? How about these “eat this herb and get over diabetes” e-mails? I’ve never opened one, but they’re clearly counterfactual.

  2. Silver Fang June 9, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    I second blaming the Internet.

  3. Andrea June 9, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    What about this ad campaign?

    We were clearly told by the government that we DON’T have to be perfect. …Or maybe we don’t have to be perfect with other people’s kids, just our own.

  4. Jenna K. June 9, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    This is so true. If they were trying to be helpful, why not just stay with the car until the mom comes back? If someone sees kids out by themselves and want to be helpful, why not just ask them if they need help? Don’t these parents remember about tattling?

  5. bmommyx2 June 9, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    I completely agree. I was in the grocery store recently & walked 12 ft from my cart to put something in the trash & a “concerned bystander” advised me that this was not a good idea leaving my child. I wasn’t sure if he was concerned that my child might suddenly stand up & tip over the cart (a bigger & more realistic concern than kidnapping) or that he was going to be snatched. I said really & just looked at him. When I realized he was concerned about my child being kidnapped I asked him how many of these he has witnessed & he said well if it happens once & to my child then it’s not good and I wouldn’t be happy. I did once leave my older child with my younger child at a table in a food court to go & get another fork ( my son kept dropping them) I was in earshot & I could see them. When I returned an older woman let me know that she was concerned & so she kept an eye on them for me & I politely thanked her. I don’t understand how generations of people who raised their kids or were themselves raised in a freerange way have become over paranoid worry warts.

  6. MichaelF June 9, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    But are these people really being “helpful”? I don’t really see where that is the case. Calling the police was never a first instinct, but now it is. Whether it’s -drop-a-dime or post-9/11 it’s a sad fact that people don’t really want to be involved and would just rather “rat it out” to the authorities and feel good that they have done something and go on their way.

    No repercussions, no responsibility, just three-numbers and walk back home snug and smug.

    It’s sad that it’s come to this but it’s hard to fight against societal norms.

  7. Nicole 2 June 9, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    I once called over an 8 year old riding an ATV with his infant sister. Riding an ATV on public roads is illegal here, but had it just been the 8 year old riding it with a helmet I wouldn’t have called. I only called because it seemed probable that the kid was going to end up wiping out (he was showing off) and the infant was going to end up seriously injured.

    I still felt guilty as heck, though. I still do. I don’t understand how people call the police over extremely minor and not feel guilty.

  8. Dara June 9, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

    I got lectured once about a grocery cart too. My infant son was in the grocery cart in his car seat and I was literally a FOOT away grabbing a bag for produce. An elderly woman came up and was YELLING at me about how unsafe it is to turn your back on your child in a public setting. Meanwhile she was letting her grandson jump up and down, climbing in and out of the cart. Afterwards (of course), I thought about how I should have told her that what she was allowing her child to do was far more unsafe than my situation. Children aren’t $100 bills that people are just looking to snatch!

  9. Steve June 9, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    MichaelF said:

    “But are these people really being “helpful”? … No repercussions, no responsibility, just three-numbers and walk back home snug and smug.”

    I agree, and beyond that it’s a totalitarian mindset. If I only talk to the bad parent, she/he will not learn the lesson that MUST be learned… MUST be learned for her/his own good. The so-called caring stranger really wants to FORCE his or her belief down the throat of the bad parent and knows the AUTHORITIES will force compliance.

    So the “concerned” person is far more interested in FORCED COMPLIANCE than being kind and helpful.

  10. Havva June 9, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    I’m pleased by the reaction I have been seeing play out on Facebook to the Salon piece. (I didn’t bring it up).

    The first person I saw post it is a grandma who has written of her benign neglect as a mother (to no protests from her readers). She asked if what the mother did was really so bad. She got some vacillation that it was bad but the mom got in more trouble than she should have. And two absolutist “Yes” and “Too many kids have died” responses… one followed up ad nausium. I told my bit about hauling a protesting, tantruming, 2-year-old out onto an icy parking lot, and nearly being knocked over twice. All because I couldn’t legally leave her in the car while I dropped my wet winter coat at the dry cleaners (with the close parking spot and big glass windows). The person who had been so adamant, cracked. He decided that the supervision provided by being able to see the car should count as supervised (in my case, but not in the Salon case)… which is sort of funny since my back would have been to the windows during the transaction. And the Salon piece indicated that mom was facing the windows at check out.

    My sister posted the story and launched a conversation with her friends/communities about how to get busy bodies to stop helicoptering other people’s kids. She got a lot of agreement that the community busybody on the listserve was the troublemaker; rather that the 10 year olds she complains about walking down the sidewalks “alone.”

    These are the sorts of conversations that need to happen. I don’t think people realized just how far down the rabbit hole we have gone due to legally/mentally conflating benign neglect, brief non-supervision (or indirect supervision), and age appropriate independence, with serious life threatening neglect.

  11. Bose in St. Peter MN June 9, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

    Here’s some context that I encourage onlookers to consider.

    The ugliest child welfare battles have arguably been waged by formerly married co-parents, where two previously close and considerate people devolve to warring against each other for control and/or revenge. One of the most awful tactics in that war is for otherwise competent parents to stalk each other, calling 911 to nitpick that the other has committed unthinkable neglect or kidnapping for being 15 minutes off-schedule for a drop-off.

    The kids are the obvious losers in those situations, taught to distrust and fear one or both of the people who have loved them first and been their foundation.

    The worthwhile question when you’re tempted to call 911 is, Is my action similar to the one that a vengeful co-parent would choose in order to punish the other? As well as, If this parent is already being hounded, scapegoated and stalked, forced under a microscope by a vicious ex, will the situation — especially the kid(s) — be helped more by a one-on-one conversation or an anonymous 911 call and arrest?

    As vital as it is to involve law enforcement to resolve true danger, it’s worth also remembering that some of them are no longer tasked with being the empathetic, friendly faces in our communities. They’re seldom walking a beat, getting to know their neighborhoods. Some are working under quotas, or better trained in armored vehicles running SWAT raids than sitting down with a kid to work out the quickest, least intrusive resolution. It’s OK to both trust our public servants in uniform as well as to act directly (or not act beyond thoughtful observation) when circumstances encourage it.

  12. SOA June 9, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    There has only been one time I almost called 911 on a parent. We stumbled into a toddler alone in a parking lot just standing there holding a cell phone. No one anywhere in sight. Just standing outside. I was about to pick him up and take the phone and call 911 when a mother came out of the store and grabbed him without saying a word to us. The parking lot was right next to a super busy highway where he would have been street pancake in a second easily no doubt.

    I was like WTF was that bitch doing in a store with non automatic doors without a child that small? I don’t even know how the kid got the doors open. I don’t think he looked strong enough to open them on his own. And even then you don’t turn your back on a child that small out in public like that. And it seemed like we waited a minute or two just kinda staring at the toddler in shock wondering what we should do before she came out and who knows how long he was out there before that. It was odd.

    She should have at least spoke to us when she came out to get him. I actually regret not involving the police in that scenario. It was a fish store. what the hell was she doing in there? I don’t understand it.

  13. Donna June 9, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    “But are these people really being “helpful”?”

    I do think that some are, but I also think there is a great amount of lack of acceptance that people are different and a huge need to make people pay for their “crimes.” We do have a know-it-all, highly vindictive branch of our population that seems to revel in telling people what to do and making them pay if they don’t agree. And this is particularly prevalent in the parenting arena.

    Read any article that even mentions kids and you will find people who comment that the children should be removed from the parents for the most mundane disagreements over parenting. The most egregious example that I remember was an article about vets who get emotional when they put pets to sleep. One of the vets interviewed said that she gets emotional when children are present. Several people commented on the article solely to say the vet should call CPS because any parent who takes her children to watch a pet being put to sleep should have her children taken away.

    While this is really not a large portion of the population, all it takes is leaving your kid alone in the car in the vicinity of one of these holier-than-thou people who believe that children should be taken away for any parenting decision that they don’t agree with. Even if the commenters don’t really believe that the children should be removed for this and are just overstating for effect, the idea of kids being taken away is thrown around way too much and has become trivialized such that I don’t think some people really think it through.

  14. lollipoplover June 9, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    This is from the comment section of the original article:

    “But instead, people throw out neighborliness altogether and delegate their actions to the police. It comes off more as punishing the parents than helping the child.
    I think this is less a piece about parenting and more about interacting with others.”

    I so agree with this. Having strong communities where we look out for one another don’t develop over anonymous 911 calls. I think there should be a new term for those who make police calls or file complaints- Bad Samaritans.
    If you truly are worried, GET INVOLVED. This may mean putting the phone down and watching a child safely reach a destination or see the mom/dad/caregiver return to the car. It may take 5 minutes of your time but will save endless hours of time and money for the family your phone call will ruin. That’s what a Good Samaritan would do.

  15. anonymous mom June 9, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    I have called 911 three times in my life: once when I worked at a pool and somebody passed out from heat exhaustion, once when I saw a woman passed out on the sidewalk outside my house, and once when one of my son’s friends (whose mother has some cognitive disabilities) ran to our house to tell us a power line had gone down in the alley behind his house and was sparking. When my husband was robbed at gunpoint, he elected to call the main police line rather than 911 because, since he was uninjured and the incident was over, he didn’t think it rose to the level of an emergency. I think we’ve lost sight, as a society, of the difference between stuff that annoys us (like, as once happened to me, going to KFC and being told they were out of chicken, an incident that did not cause me to call 911 but apparently would have inspired many Americans to), stuff that we disapprove of (like a parent letting their child play outside unattended or wait in a car on a temperate day), and stuff that is a genuine emergency. Perhaps a consequence of living lives of more relatively safety than pretty much anybody in history has led us to not really understand what truly constitutes things like “threat,” “danger,” “emergency,” and “harm.”

    I honestly cannot imagine calling 911 over a parenting decision, even one I felt was very wrong, unless it was necessary to call 911 to save a child’s life.

    People need to think. 911 isn’t a line to magical fairies who will turn people into perfect parents. 911 is for emergencies. And, social services are also not magical fairies who turn people into perfect parents. People should ALWAYS consider, before making those calls, if the documented, known trauma and poor outcomes of things like forced child-parent separation (even temporary) and involvement in the foster care system are truly minor compared to the harm they believe they see being done. I see no circumstances in which a child left in a car for a few minutes, or being allowed to walk home from school, or playing unattended in the park, would truly be more harmful than what would happen to the child if social services got involved in their lives. But, we’ve made it so easy for people to put into motion events that can ruin lives and families, with no consequences for themselves or even any reason to give it a second thought ever again, except to maybe pat themselves on the back for being a hero.

    It’s also surprising how often 911 is people’s first resort, rather than last. Yes, if a person is in imminent, genuine danger that requires police or EMS involvement, call 911 first. In any other case, 911 should be the last resort, when every other reasonable course of action–like talking to the parent–is exhausted and it still appears that the child is in trouble.

  16. pentamom June 9, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    “I was like WTF was that bitch doing in a store with non automatic doors without a child that small?”

    How very neighborly of you. I do agree with your feeling concerned that action might be necessary in that situation, but what’s with the jumping immediately to the negative reflections not only on her behavior in the situation but her general character? You are just as bad in this respect as those you claim to disagree with. You can’t exert yourself for two seconds to think that maybe something you haven’t thought of accounts for the unusual situation. As for the mother not acting exactly as you chose when she came out to get the child — tough. She was probably upset, maybe embarrassed, and maybe quite upset after having sought her child in the store for a couple of minutes before realizing the child had gone outside and could have got herself seriously hurt. The incident wasn’t about you and she owed you, as a bystander, no particular reaction at all.

  17. SOA June 9, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    pentamom: Sorry but she was being a bitch to not stop and at least smile at us or thank us or something for watching out for her child. This was no gray area. There was no reason for a 18 month old to be standing in a parking lot by themselves with no parent anywhere in sight. It was not a big store. Like small so there was no way she did not know the child left the store unless she was not even bothering to parent. My mind went to like she was doing drugs in the back or something because the store was teensy. That was why my husband and I were just standing there in shock for several minutes because it was the weirdest thing we have ever seen.

    She ran with the child back into the tiny store but the windows were darkened so I could not see what was going on inside.

    Either way when someone is CLEARLY in the wrong, they should probably at least speak to the people standing there with your toddler in an empty parking lot next to the busiest road you have ever seen. She was the one not being neighborly.

  18. SOA June 9, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

    Just for the record, most people do not know the non emergency police number off the top of their heads. I certainly don’t. So if I am out somewhere with no way to look up the non emergency number, then my only choice would be to call 911. So sometimes people call that one not because it is a huge emergency or anything, but that is the only number they know to call and 911 can direct your call appropriately.

  19. Mark Roulo June 9, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    “…going to KFC and being told they were out of chicken…”

    Requires a link to this:

  20. anonymous mom June 9, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    SOA: Honestly, the story sounds like the mom realized her kid was missing a few minutes after it happened, ran outside to look, was relieved to find her kid so grabbed them and snatched them up, and then went inside to finish her shopping trip. I’m not sure why or how things like “doing drugs” or “not bothering to parent” came into the picture, especially since you were assessing the situation from outside.

    It’s that kind of jumping-to-the-most-negative-conclusion-possible that’s the problem. If I see an unattended very small child in or near a store, my assumption would be that there was a mom who was either very worried or who would be very worried soon. And, if a mom came out, grabbed the child, and went back inside, that would confirm my assumption, not cause me to think this mother was a horrible person for not being neighborly enough to me. Maybe she was a regular in the store and her child often roamed the store freely, and she assumed he was just doing that. Maybe she was having a truly horrible day and her mind was on 10,000 things and she didn’t realize her child was not with her until a few minutes later. There’s a million benign reasons I can think of why a caring, concerned parent might not have realized their child was outside right away.

    My daughter, right before she turned 4, went missing in Target. I had turned my back for a few seconds. (Literally: the spoiler is that she had crawled inside the very rack of kids’ PJs I was looking at, covered herself up completely, and decided to hide. Then when everybody started looking for her, she got really scared and didn’t want to make any noise or come out. Her big brother found her after about 10 minutes of everybody combing the store.) I didn’t immediately freak out because I figured she was just somewhere in the clothing section, and I’d see her in a minute. Little kids can be hard to spot. It wasn’t until we didn’t see her for a few minutes that we started to worry. If, instead of hiding in a clothing rack, she had wandered outside–which was my big worry, that she’d headed outside into the busy parking lot–I would hope somebody wouldn’t assume that, just because I wasn’t immediately outside, I was probably shooting heroin in the bathroom.

  21. Dan June 9, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    “So sometimes people call that one not because it is a huge emergency or anything, but that is the only number they know to call and 911 can direct your call appropriately.”

    I would suggest that if this is the case and the thought process that some people may go through, you (the general “you”) can wait to get home to look the number up before calling. It’s not an emergency, and 9-1-1 is not the police switchboard. With a few extra minutes of sober second thought, they may not even need to be called at all.

  22. Ramona June 9, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    Totally agree. And one of the things I’m tired of is the militant carseat people. Being such busybodies about such things like not keeping your baby rear-facing until they’re in college. Ugh. Getting so sick of it. Mind your own business already. So what if I put my one year old in a forward facing carseat while she’s still three weeks younger than the law specifies! Makes me just want to ditch my car altogether and throw her into a trailer behind my bicycle. There are lots more children in much more dire situations in the world you could help if you TRULY care that much about the welfare of other people’s children.

  23. anonymous mom June 9, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    @Ramona, that drives me crazy, too. I get that carseats are safe. That is why I keep my kids in them. But it’s the militancy about it and the idea that if you simply follow guidelines rather than exceeding them–keeping a kid rear-facing until 1 rather than 2, moving the child from the car seat to a booster at 4 rather than 5 or 6–you are being neglectful at best and abusive at worst that I can’t stand.

    It particularly galls me because, if you are that worried about car safety, maybe you should just drive less. I move my kids to forward-facing as soon as they are 1 (maybe a week or two before) and into a booster right at 4, but they are also in the car for maybe an hour a week, at most. Some weeks they aren’t in the car at all. So I really don’t want to be lectured at about why following the basic guidelines involving car safety isn’t good enough.

    I think a lot of this is really just about people wanting to feel like they are great parents, by imagining that the world is full of monsters who don’t care at all about their kids. They view the world through that lens and so instead of seeing just differences, anybody with different practices than them must be doing so because they are a lesser parent.

  24. LRH June 9, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    What is wrong with these tattlers? My own moral instincts tell me that the bystander of the Salon story should have been charged for harassment and filing a false report.

    That is the line I most agree with, out of all the lines and comments that are there. For me it may be #1.

    Yes, people who meddle and poke around where they are not wanted, there needs to be a legal response available to stop this. I understand that we don’t want it to be that “good faith” people who intervene in horrible situations are made to feel like they’re risking their own legal situation trying to do a good thing in those situations where calling for help is clearly the right thing to do, but at the same time the situation as it currently is is to me every bit as appalling. It’s an opposite but equal type of thing.

    Parents need to be able to feel comfortable and confident that except in truly evil cases, their authority is going to be upheld, and with a minimum of fuss, and that any attempts to undermine it not only will be unsuccessful, but will also be met with reproof and even punishment in certain cases. Otherwise, how are they supposed to be able to actually BE the parents if they know they can be challenged so readily, and when the stakes are to the point that the very custody of their children can be threatened? Parents should not have to live that way, they should be able to parent however they feel (short of extreme evil) free and clear of any scrutiny.

    When you do things like the woman in this article, you are NOT trying to help, you are trying to insert yourself into a situation where you are not wanted and interfere with legitimate authority that is every bit as wrong as a citizen interfering with a police officer’s investigation or trying to interfere with a police officer who’s performing their duties. If an action of a person has the effect of interfering with a police investigation or a police officer performing their duties, you can be arrested for it. To me, this is no different, and should be treated the same way.

    Frankly, I know we are not to suggest or advocate violence and I am not doing that, but even so, if the parent in the original article had hauled off and socked that busybody in the mouth or popped her on her Pinocchio-sized nose, I’d be clapping “right on” in agreement with her. These busybodies really do deserve such responses, or PREFERABLY litigious ones, if they refuse to mind their own business and butt out.


  25. stacey June 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    “I have come to understand that in a majority of cases, when someone rants and raves about what people should or should not do, “For the children’s sake…” it is merely a convenient way to mask their own fears and prejudices in an attempt to pass themselves off as righteous protectors, rather than the dreadful tyrants that they truly are.”

  26. E June 9, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

    These discussion always make me recall when *I* called 911 because I couldn’t find my toddler. My husband was working late, I was home with a 1 and 4 yo. They had been playing together in our playroom (extra bedroom) and I was in the bathroom not feeling well (enough said). When I went back to the playroom, the 1 yo was missing. We had a small, ranch home. I went thru each room calling his name and looking for him to no avail. The 4 yo didn’t know where the 1yo went. I went back thru the home again. I was pretty sure that he couldn’t have opened a door, but I could not figure out where he was. I even squatted down and looked under his crib, but the side was down, making the side opening pretty darn small. I even enticed him to reveal himself with cookies. No luck.

    I called 911, explained that I felt a little silly, but I couldn’t locate my 1yo in a small 1 story home and wondered if it was appropriate to call them (the bathroom I was in was the farthest point from exterior doors) it was dark outside, etc.

    After calling them and my husband, I took a deep breath and started looking again and lo and behold, I found him under his crib….laying on his stomach, totally against the wall, and smiling ear to ear. I wasn’t sure how he’d even fit in there given the walls and the dresser and the side being down. I couldn’t even see him w/o laying down on my stomach as well.

    I called 911 back, explained my situation and they thanked me for calling and no one ever showed up at our door. I keep wondering if it would be different today.

    (and that mischievousness was just a sign of things to come with that one, lol)

  27. Kathy June 9, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

    The only things that bothers me about Dougherty’s piece is that he seems to be implying that a few minutes of non-supervision is “sub-optimal parenting.” I completely disagree. Not only should parents not be penalized if they make a mistake, but I feel extremely strongly that there is nothing wrong with leaving children in a car for a few minutes or letting them walk by themselves or a million other things. If I run into a store and leave my children for however long it takes and they are comfortable and content, that is nobody’s business and I am not committing a crime. And it is absolutely not sub-optimal parenting.

  28. John Scanlan June 9, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    What’s particularly interesting about all these busybodies is that they don’t limit themselves to imposing their ideas of what’s good for everyone else just on people with kids! No, no! I recently moved back to New York to assist my 93-year-old mother who just can’t do as much as she’d like alone anymore. But with some help from a steady arm – that would be me – she can do pretty much anything she wants. Unfortunately this doesn’t sit well with many other people – I can’t tell you the number or times when these busybodies have interfered with me helping my mother on to an escalator to tell me that a safer option would be to take an elevator that they, helpfully point out, is just over there! My mother is a woman who became a lawyer in 1942 and worked until she was 90. The idea that someone else knows what’s best for her is really offensive to her – believe me she can be a real bitch LOL! But where do these people get the idea that they have to “help” people who don’t need or want their assistance? That’s my rant for the day

  29. Donna June 9, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

    SOA – I don’t see where you actually did anything for which you should be thanked. By your own description, the mother (we assume) ran out as you were “about to” do something but before you actually did anything. I could see thanking a person who had actually grabbed my child. I’m not sure that I would take the time to thank someone who was just standing there doing nothing.

    I can think of a hundred ways that a child could get, what appears to be very briefly, outside of a store alone and none of them involve drugs in the back room.

  30. anonymous mom June 9, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    I agree that leaving a child unattended for a few minutes isn’t “sub-optimal” parenting, but I also think we need to recognize that ALL children are parented sub-optimally. Any parent who believes they are doing the best possible thing in every single situation is either lying or delusional. Of course, children will be living in a sub-optimal world their entire lives, so sub-optimal parenting may prepare them for that better than optimal parenting, if such a thing were even possible. But, since it isn’t, we do need to accept that we will both do things that are less-than-ideal and witness other parents doing things that are less-than-ideal, and that less-than-ideal is not a reason to declare somebody should have their children taken away or to call 911.

    @Donna, I also find the ease with which people talk about other people having their children taken away disturbing. I do think that, even if people don’t necessarily mean it, the fact that it’s thrown around so much–and I rarely see an online discussion about parenting anywhere but here that *doesn’t* involve people saying that some parent or group of parents should have their children taken away–we really have become desensitized to it. We seem to have forgotten how absolutely central to the child’s identity and well-being the parent-child bond is, and that nearly anything a child experiences is going to be less traumatic that a forced separation–especially a long-term one–from their parents. I’m also not sure if people don’t know or don’t care, but it’s not like there is an endless supply of amazing, nurturing, ideal foster families out there. Most of the time kids will simply be moved from one less-than-ideal situation into another (whether it be a relative’s care or a foster home). In some cases that’s certainly warranted, but that’s the exception, and the move to removing the child first and asking questions later–and average people declaring after reading just the headline of a news story or witnessing 2 or 3 minutes of a parent-child interaction that a parent should have their children taken away–is more of a danger to kids than most of the stuff people get worried about.

  31. Joanne June 9, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    The part that bugs me is that if they are calling 911 about these stupid non-issues, that is a 911 operator who is unavailable to answer and assist in an ACTUAL emergency. I know there isn’t just one single 911 operator in each city, but they are limited by the number of staff on hand. I would hate to think someone with an actual emergency could be on hold or worse get a busy signal (or be diverted to a call center in the next town) just so that Susie Nosybody could call 911 on a kid playing in a yard.

  32. Donna June 9, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    anonymous mom – And it bugs me that the carseat nazis can’t imagine that anything could ever possibly be more important in driving than carseat placement. It is as though a child will spontaneously die if turned forward before a year. There is no realization that the absolute safest situation for everyone is for there to be no accident at all.

    My daughter screamed bloody murder every single second she was strapped into her rear-facing carseat. It made driving anywhere pure misery. At about 9-10 months, I tried forward facing for some reason that I can’t remember and it was a miracle – happy baby with absolutely no screaming. She remained forward-facing from that point on.

    It always seemed to me that my chances of not being in an accident greatly increased without the immense distraction of an infant screaming as if being murdered every single second of the drive. Yet, I was raked over the coals for daring to defy the one-year rule. I guess it is okay to get into a completely avoidable deadly accident as long as your carseat is placed correctly.

  33. Havva June 9, 2014 at 5:15 pm #


    Just because the doors were non-automatic, doesn’t mean the mom knew the kid was outside or left her outside. The toddler may have followed another customer out without being noticed.
    You said you couldn’t see inside the store, so for all you know mom and the shopkeeper were frantically looking through the store the whole time you were standing there staring at the kid. After all, with a non-automatic door, why would she suspect the kid was outside.
    As for not thanking you. Did she see you? I mean really see you? I lost track of my kid when she was about 18 months old. I was so laser focused on finding her, and so relieved when I did, that I wasn’t seeing anything else. I wouldn’t have noticed a 7ft tall clown bumping into me with a honk.

  34. ATW June 9, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    When they were babies, I used to leave my twins in the minivan while I ran into the preschool to get my older daughter. I did it because the weather was mild, it was hard to drag two babies out, and I parked close and could see the minivan while I was inside. Then my mother completely freaked out and had my aunt talk to me. She was a social worker and part of her job was removing kids from their homes when it was deemed necessary. My aunt called me and said, “I understand why you leave them in the car, but please stop. All it takes is one stranger to call the police and you could temporarily lose your children while you are investigated. Your life will be turned upside down.” Needless to say, I stopped because it hardly seemed worth it.

  35. Emmy June 9, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    I don’t often share articles, but I shared this one. Community and the safety it provides is being eroded in the name of, ironically, safety. Its supposedly too dangerous to reach out to others and create a web of protection.

  36. Emmy June 9, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

    On car seats… my baby’s doctor said she wasn’t solid on car seat switch time as it’s safer to drive with a happy toddler you aren’t trying to soothe.

  37. Lea June 9, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

    I agree people need to stop involving themselves in other people’s parenting choices. People need to stop and ask themselves
    1. is the child in danger right then, as in being hurt or injured
    2. are they in true immediate danger, as in its clear they they going to become hurt or injured if someone doesn’t interfere right then.
    -if so c
    3. Is this a parenting choice I wouldn’t make but not an emergency.

  38. SOA June 9, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    anonymous mom: if the child in my story was 4 I would have not had the same reaction at all. I would speak to a 4 year old and ask where their mom is or where they are supposed to be? But this was a baby. A 18 month abouts. Not even talking yet. Tiny tiny toddler like probably only been walking a couple months. So there is no comparison to your story about a 4 year old. You can turn your back on a 4 year old in a store. Not a 18 month old. Big big difference. A 4 year old can ask for help and has some idea of things like not running out in front of a car or going off with strangers. An 18 month old does not.

  39. SOA June 9, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    Donna: we were still standing there were we not? we could have been already across the parking lot if we just passed right on by said toddler without stopping and looking around for the mother and asking each other what we should do.

  40. SOA June 9, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

    Hawa: as we were standing like 3 feet from the toddler in case it tried to run into traffic or run away, while we were looking around for anyone or asking each other what we should do, yes I am pretty sure she had to see us. We and the toddler were the only people around.

  41. SOA June 9, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

    And just for the record, I asked my husband while we were standing there staring at the toddler what to do, because while my instincts were to pick the child up and call 911 on the cell phone the toddler was holding, I worried I would be accused of trying to kidnap the kid or molest the kid if the mother appeared out of nowhere a few minutes later which is what happened. And my guess is if I did pick up the child that is probably exactly what would have happened.

  42. SOA June 9, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    See you can’t go too far to the other extreme that the parent is NEVER at fault and that there are NO neglectful bad parents out there. Because there are. Maybe not as many as the system believes or the general public believes, but it is not big foot. They do exist. So the blind defending all parents all the time is going to bite you in the ass eventually when one does turn out to be a bad neglectful abusive one. I evaluate each individual case and then make a judgement. I don’t blindly defend any parent. I also don’t blindly convict any parent either.

  43. Andy June 9, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    @SOA Some non-automatic doors are hard to open for toddler, some are easy. Some non-automatic door close so slowly, that toddler can make his way out in the meantime.

    Some kids start walking late, most at 12 months and some as soon as 10 months old. Some hit the ground running and go fast from the day they start walking. So, there are bound to be many 18 month old able to walk fast.

    That mothers behavior is easiest to explain by her being in huge stress for not knowing when her child is. She was probably fully aware of highway and scared that child is dead just 10 seconds ago. No reason to bring drugs into it.

    And may is also someone who dislikes random encounters with strangers.

    If we leave no margin for error to people and jump into drugs and neglect and “she is bitch” assumption for run away 18 month old, they we are forcing them to helicopter.

  44. Donna June 9, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

    Oh good grief, Dolly, how the heck does a woman who just ran out of a store know how long you’ve been standing there deciding what to do? People are not mind readers. For all she knows, you walked up just as she ran out (which from the sounds of the first version of your story is pretty much what happened although now there are all these other facts being thrown in per usual). You are 3 feet away from the boy so it is not like you are interacting with him in the least when mom comes out. In fact, it sounds like you are talking to your husband. Even with all your new facts, I’m still not seeing any great need to thank you for anything here or to even connect you to the child at all.

  45. Andrea June 9, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

    We can see these people as having a totalitarian mindset or a horribly misguided desire to be helpful, but I’m of the opinion that they don’t actually think much about what they’re doing. They are simply this dumbed down. They’ve let their minds be conditioned for years by the morality tales of network television and what passes for the news, and a never-ending stream of public service announcements and internet sharing has assured the encoding of these simplistic concepts of right and wrong. All these people know is sound bytes and slogans of correctness, so when they SEE SOMETHING “wrong”, they SAY SOMETHING. I think the only intent in most of these situations is to be a “good citizen”, without an real thought as to what that even means. In this way, they aren’t unlike Soviet citizens; it will take a huge upheaval to break them out of their mindless stupors.

  46. DirtyHooker June 9, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    SOA: If I were that mother, I would have completely ignored you for fear that contact would have inspired a discussion of my parenting skills. Especially if you were scowling like I’d just run out of the store with a bong between my lips.

    You judged this mother based on about 4 seconds of quasi-interaction. Isn’t it possible that giving her the benefit of the doubt is a kinder path?

  47. Donna June 9, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

    “I evaluate each individual case and then make a judgement. I don’t blindly defend any parent. I also don’t blindly convict any parent either.”

    Dolly, nobody here is blindly defending anyone. You, however did blindly convict this woman of being a bitch and a drug addict who shoots up in the back room of fish stores with her child. To evaluate a situation and make a judgment, you have to actually know some facts about the situation and see the people involved for more than 10 seconds.

    You don’t know this woman. You did not speak to this woman. You did not interact with her or her child at all. You viewed a situation that you know absolutely nothing whatsoever about for about 10 seconds and declared that you know all and she must be a negligent, drug doing, poor excuse of a mother.

    Unlike most here, I have actually reported parents to CPS for neglect and abuse on a few different occasions. I guarantee you that I knew a whole helluva lot more about the situation than what can be gathered in 10 seconds in a parking lot before I ever even considered picking up a phone and blowing up many lives. The decision was not made remotely lightly or impetuously. In fact, I can name more kids where I wanted to call CPS but could never get enough to justify the call than I can kids where I called.

  48. DirtyHooker June 9, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

    SOA: I wanted to add that it’s entirely possible that the woman you saw was, in fact, a terrible parent. Maybe she lost track of her child because she was having sex with the store manager in the bathroom. The point I and others are trying to make is that you don’t know. You don’t know what led up to the kid getting separated from her, or what she did afterward. What you’ve described here doesn’t seem like enough to determine that this mother was negligent.

  49. Yocheved June 9, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

    Apologies if this has been posted before, but I felt the need to share:

  50. SKL June 9, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    SOA, I don’t understand you at all. You forgot that it’s very common for tots to wander away in the blink of an eye. I’m on a homeschooling forum where there is every kind of mom, including plenty of helicopters. Once someone posted a thread telling of a time her tot wandered away, and practically everyone else on the forum then shared their own story. If your kid has never been momentarily “missing,” you are the exception – congratulations on that – just remember that it’s best to extend grace unless you don’t expect to make (or see your kids make) one single parenting mistake ever.

    I would add that 100% of those many scary “lost my kid” stories ended with the kid being perfectly fine!

    I would assume the mom had something else going on inside the store – maybe she was holding up a long line, maybe she had one or two other small kids inside and had to run back to them. She ran out and grabbed her kid – that’s exactly what she should have done. The failure of good old southern hospitality is not something to call 911 about! Also, maybe she could read the scorn on your face and wasn’t in the mood for it.

  51. Papilio June 9, 2014 at 7:04 pm #

    If *I* would call 112 (the EU equivalent of 911) for a stupid reason or as a prank, I can get a fine or even jailtime, depending on how often I call (read: waste 112 operators’ time), the costs made by the emergency services as a result of my call, etc.
    But the USA doesn’t have a similar law??

  52. SKL June 9, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    Another thing about toddlers, they develop so rapidly, that this might have been the very first time that tot every walked (or ran) away from his mom.

    It’s also quite possible that there was another parent or older sibling there who left the store earlier (perhaps to bring the car around), and the child followed that person out the door without the adults both being aware of it. This is rather common – one parent / caregiver thinks the kid is with the other one, and the kid ends up without either one.

    I think the key is that the time lapse was very short and the mom rushed to retrieve her kid when she realized he was in an unsafe situation. 911 is for people who need the police to speedily rescue them.

    Another thing. Anyone who thought “bitch” or other negative thoughts toward this mom has no business considering herself to be kind. I believe that vicious thoughts harm people. If you ever had a momentary caring thought for that child it was more than canceled by your unkindness toward the mother and every other mother who has been in a similar situation.

  53. DirtyHooker June 9, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

    I know a guy who really did (temporarily) lose custody of his kid after shooting up in a bathroom and passing out. He left her in the park for 5 hours, and someone called the police.

    That’s the thing: He didn’t come rushing back out for her. He was literally in a bathroom doing drugs.

  54. no rest for the weary June 9, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

    @ SOA: Some people are exceptionally sensitive to “energy,” and if you were conferring with your husband about “What kind of parent lets their baby walk out into a PARKING LOT? We should call 911!” and this woman was picking up on your judgement, exasperation, and derision, well, no doubt she got the heck out of there.

  55. SKL June 9, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    And SOA, why would you “almost call 911” when there were so many other reasonable options? Like stand there with the kid for a couple minutes (assuming his parent is likely to come looking for him), take him inside the store and have the store page a parent missing a tot, or if those didn’t help, call the first number on the cell phone history and find out whose kid it was so he could be returned. Why would it be an emergency police matter, unless the child was bleeding to death or covered with horrific burns/bruises?

    Would you want the police to come and get your kid every time he wandered off for a moment? You mentioned that your 7yo gave you some concern because he walked off without permission. Would you like the cops to be the ones deciding when and if you ever got him back?

  56. hineata June 9, 2014 at 7:52 pm #

    @Dolly – what the heck? Why didn’t you pick up the child in the first place? And what is ‘odd’ about a toddler doing a runner?

    Several times I or those I’m with have stopped runaway kids, sometimes on the street, usually because they’ve decided today would be a good day to test the front door while Mum is in the loo or otherwise occupied. You see a wandering infant, common sense dictates you stop the wandering infant and actively look for the parent or caregiver. Really, the only ‘odd’ thing about this incident is your reaction to it, particularly the part where you thought the woman should have thanked you. Why, when you did nothing?

    I have sympathy with men, particularly in the US, who would hesitate to get involved, though my husband fortunately has no such qualms. But as a woman, get comes your way the heck involved! Or at least don’t whine when no gratitude for not intervening in what actually could have become a tragedy…

  57. Kim June 9, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    Why don’t these people who want to be helpful, like, ASK the kid if they need help?

    With the kid in the car the woman could’ve asked him where his mum went and when he thought she would be back, offered to stay with him until then, or checked 10 minutes later to make sure his mum had in fact returned.

    If there’s a kid walking down the street and you’re worried you could ask if they’re ok, if they know where they’re going and how to get home. That’d give you a pretty good idea of if the kid actually needs your help or not.

  58. hineata June 9, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

    Oops, ‘when a toddler comes your way, get the heck involved’.

    And if I sound judgemental, that’s because I am, in this instance, being judgemental. I cannot at all understand the mentality of someone who would see a toddler escapee, do nothing, and then call the mother a ‘bitch’ and allude to her being maybe a junkie for not thanking you for your total non-help. What the heck gives?

    Maybe the woman was in a fish store to, I don’t know, look at fish?

  59. hineata June 9, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

    I have been yelled at once myself by a panicked young man when I was shopping and the two girls were in the trolley. I thanked him because he was alerting me to the fact that Midge had decided to experiment with plastic bags by putting a spare one over her head…..

    No police were called, though it was probably, in this day and age, extremely poor parenting not to notice that an empty plastic bag had ended up in the trolley.

  60. anonymous mom June 9, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    I’m trying to remember if I thanked the staff who had been looking after my daughter was found at Target, and I don’t think she did. For one, I was super, super relieved she was there and okay, and was focused on her. For another, I was exceedingly embarrassed about the whole incident and just wanted to finish my shopping and leave. And, I was all hopped up on adrenaline and wasn’t really thinking through the social niceties of the situation. I don’t think I’m generally a rude or un-neighborly person, and it certainly wasn’t like I didn’t appreciate the help, but my response at that moment was just to want to hold my child and then get the hell out of there.

  61. anonymous mom June 9, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

    And, Dolly, I do want to apologize for misreading your post; I missed the “almost.” I’m glad you didn’t actually call 911 on the mom. Good call.

  62. no rest for the weary June 9, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    I’m rabidly interested in pre-agricultural humans lately. And one thing I’ve learned is that empathy, that quality of being able to see the humanity in someone else, no matter what they are / are not doing, is becoming a lost art.

    In fact, over the last 10,000 years, human beings have been systematically training empathy right out of the consciousness of “civilized” people.

    What we’re seeing today, with this whole “Those people don’t deserve to HAVE kids. Their kids should be taken away” attitude is a direct reflection of the declining presence of empathy. Other warning signs:

    1. Zero-tolerance policies (at schools, anywhere, really)

    2. Burgeoning prison populations of non-violent drug offenders

    3. Suicide rates on the rise

    4. Less sharing generally (“every man for himself”) from government policy on down

    5. More weapon sales, even though violent crime is down

    6. Movies that feature themes of “bad guys getting their comeuppance”

    7. People holding things “closer to the vest” instead of talking about their challenges

    8. “Us and them” ideas about “enemies,” “rogue nations” and “terrorists.”

  63. anonymous mom June 9, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    @no rest for the weary: And the other side of “Take their kids away!” is “They have no right to have kids in the first place!” God forbid you don’t have a sufficient amount of money, education, and/or time, and you will find that about half the internet at least thinks you have no right to reproduce.

    I once witnessed an online conversation where dozens of people were seriously arguing that anybody who needed a baby shower to help provide the things their new baby needed should not be having a child in the first place. I had to wonder how many of them would be there if that rule was in place even a generation ago. I satirically suggested that perhaps before anybody be allowed to reproduce, they submit an application to the internet, which could then vote on whether they were worthy or not. A number of people felt that would, if it were possible, be a fantastic idea.

    It’s just funny how we’ve come to simultaneously feel so much less responsibility for other people’s kids (I can’t tell you how many times I see people with the “Your kids, your problem!” attitude, even about things as simple as maybe lending a hand to a mom struggling with folding a stroller while holding an infant and trying to go through airport security) and so much more entitlement to judge if and how other people should raise their children.

  64. anonymous mom June 9, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    @SKL: I managed to make it almost 10 years into parenting without losing track of a child. My oldest was hyper and easily distractable, but loud enough that I don’t think I could have ever lost track of him (and he hates to be alone, so he wouldn’t really wander far). He was my kid who would race in front of me and then turn around in a panic wondering where I was. He never got very far.

    My daughter, on the other hand, is much calmer and more likely to just walk at a good pace next to me, so I did tend to let my guard down around her a bit. She’s also quieter and enjoys playing by myself. She’s my kid who I sometimes lose track of. Thankfully Target is the only time it’s happened while we were out, but we’ve had a few times at friends’ houses (or even in our own house) where I’ll realize I haven’t heard from her in a while, see she’s not where I last saw her, and then find her playing happily and quietly in a room I would not have expected her to be in. She sneaks around the house like a little ninja sometimes.

  65. no rest for the weary June 9, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

    As an adoptive parent, I went through the process of having a social worker decide whether I was “fit.”

    This involved a house visit (I’m guessing to assess whether we were “crazy cat people” with poop everywhere or “crazy hoarders” with newspapers everywhere, but who knows how great of detail they were really undertaking); a hugely involved questionnaire about how we were raised, how we imagined we would raise our kid, and all kinds of things semi-related to caring for children; and financial statements.

    At one point, the hugely pregnant social worker who came to the house for the site visit kept asking us over and over again, “How much money do you have in your savings account?” At the time, we didn’t have one, but we had an investment portfolio, and a substantial one. We tried to explain, but the SW just said, “Oh, okay, so I’ll just put down zero.”

    No acknowledgement, by the way, on her part, of how ludicrous it was for us to be grilled and judged for fitness as would-be parents while she sat there, ready to pop, having had no one look into her business at all.

  66. DC mom June 9, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

    In my city, the police don’t have a non emergency number. They prefer all calls to go to 911 so they can run an orderly central dispatch. That might be the case in other larger departments. So I can’t blame someone who might also call 911.The question is why the police are called at all.

  67. CrazyCatLady June 9, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

    Car Seat Nazis. Yep, I have them on a FB group. One woman took a photo of a kid, in a removable seat, where the straps were too loose. She also got the license plate. She posted the photo of the kid and asked what she should do. It was amazing the number of people who said she should have confronted the woman. I, and a few others told her to take it down in case she happened to be a member of the (large) group. And, that she shouldn’t be posting photos of kids whom she did not have permission from parents to post. The fact that she might be single and have an ex after her to get custody was mentioned.

    Then there is the car seat with the winter coat. Big no-no, apparently. NEVER EVER do it. Not me. Drive defensively, and hope my car doesn’t break down in the middle of winter, which it was liable to do. With no garage, missing window gaskets, and slow to heat in -18 F, my kid came to the car in her coat, and got in her seat, in her coat, which I then adjusted so that it was REALLY tight.

    Oh, and here is another one on that group. “My kid threw up on the car seat, what is the best way to get it clean?” The answer, throw out the straps and get new, because once you wash those babies, they can give out like nothing, apparently. Despite the fact that all car seats come with an expiration date (I am in favor of this) the straps apparently weaken when washed. By how much? No idea. There is no study that I could find to say. Yep, I washed mine.

  68. Cynthia812 June 9, 2014 at 10:39 pm #

    LRH said “Parents need to be able to feel comfortable and confident that except in truly evil cases, their authority is going to be upheld, and with a minimum of fuss, and that any attempts to undermine it not only will be unsuccessful, but will also be met with reproof and even punishment in certain cases.”

    I totally agree with this. I think a big part of the problem is the balance of power in these situations. You disagree about whether something is dangerous, but for you, the stakes are having your family torn apart, while for them the stakes are… nothing. The worst case I ever heard of this was a woman whose son was taken away because he had bruises. Then he was diagnosed with leukemia, of which the bruises were a symptom. But they wouldn’t give him back (even though there was now no evidence that he had EVER been mistreated) because CPS didn’t think the mother was cooperative enough. I think he died before being returned.

  69. Cynthia812 June 9, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

    I’m glad I’m not the only one irritated with the carseat nazis. Friends that have kids just a couple years younger than mine don’t realize how recently the things they are decrying were standard. And my oldest is only eight.

  70. dmax June 9, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

    @anonymous mom

    Loved your post, “I would hope somebody wouldn’t assume that, just because I wasn’t immediately outside, I was probably shooting heroin in the bathroom.”

    My thoughts exactly. Sometimes you lose your kid for a few minutes and it does not make you a horrible parent. You could be mom of the year and it will happen at least once.

  71. Melanie Jones June 9, 2014 at 11:38 pm #

    I do think there is something to the idea that we are really into information these days. I dread the thought of getting cancer, or my children having allergies, or losing a pregnancy – not simply because those things are awful all on their own, but because people seem to feel moved – out of a sense of helpfulness I think – to tell you about everything they have read on the internet as to why something bad happened to you. Let me tell ya – I think I read on the internets that ain’t what the hokey pokey is all about. Community. Love. Support. In a way I feel it is the same with parenting. There are some parents that are trying to be perfect, to do everything possible to give their children the best shot in this big bad world, and out of love or condemnation for you, you are going to hear everything they know about – car seat safety, microwaving food, food dye, diapers, potty training, training bras, and visiting the dentist- all so you too can have a perfect child. What does this do for the health and wealth of my child? Not nearly as much as the kind strangers that smile at them in the supermarket, or people who encourage us with words that affirm we are okay, and maybe even capable of something good. In all of this, the presumption that if I leave my children in the car I have failed to read some information or see some hyped you tube video on summer heat or that I simply don’t care about my kids, that is what I find most disheartening.

  72. SKL June 9, 2014 at 11:59 pm #

    I’m also an adoptive mom, so I’ve been thoroughly “vetted,” believe me. However, I’ve had people say I have no right to be a parent. Every time I admit to making a decision because of a practical issue, it’s “well you shouldn’t have had kids on your own if you couldn’t take care of them.” Unfortunately, the definition of “taking care of your kids” is open to considerable debate. 😛 Despite all of my parenting shortcomings, my kids are currently breathing, so I must be doing something right.

  73. SOA June 10, 2014 at 12:21 am #

    hineata: read more carefully. where did I say the toddler was running? He was literally just standing there in one spot for several minutes in the middle of the parking lot. There was no one watching him or running after him. He was just hanging out there by himself holding a cell phone. If he was running I would have picked him up for sure. We just stood there right next to him looking at him and him looking at us till his rude mother ran out to where he was STANDING and snatched him up without so much as a word to us.

  74. SOA June 10, 2014 at 12:25 am #

    Hineata: You owe me an apology because you fail to read the comments correctly. I did get involved. My husband and I stopped our walk to stand there for several minutes next to the toddler till his mother came out and snatched him up. That is doing something. We made sure he did not go into the street, get hit by a car in the parking lot, get kidnapped, get further lost by wandering off further. We could have just walked on by the toddler without a second glance and been on our way. What would you have done exactly? Pick up a child standing there and then do what exactly? Get accused of trying to kidnap him most likely. And I regret NOT calling 911. I did not at the time but I really think I should have. My instinct was saying something was off about the whole situation.

  75. SOA June 10, 2014 at 12:28 am #

    SKL I already said it but I will say it again. BIG DIFFERENCE between a toddler and a 7 year old. HUGE. Are you saying there isn’t? I never lost track of twins at that age. Not just one of them, two of them. At that age they never wandered out of my sight like that. No way, no how. They were either being held by me or in a stroller. Never lost an 18 month old.

  76. SKL June 10, 2014 at 1:27 am #

    Dolly, no there really isn’t a big difference between having the police take over the decision of when and whether you are getting your 7yo back vs your 18mo. Both of them would be equally sucky for the child and the parent.

    You saved the child from being kidnapped? How can you say that? For all you know the woman who grabbed the kid and took him back in the store was a kidnapper. LOL. What a ridiculous argument. The parking lot was just teeming with kidnappers I’m sure, just like every other parking lot in the USA. :/

    So in what way do you think this child would be better served by being taken away by the cops, possibly not to be returned before serious damage is done? Or hopefully more likely, the cops would have done what you should have done in the first place – taken the kid inside to find his mom. Big whoop. It isn’t that big of a deal. You don’t need police academy training and a firearm to accomplish it.

    And what makes you so sure that woman only had one kid to watch?

    Just because you never had that particular nightmare yourself does not prove anything except you happened to be lucky in that one respect. I’m sure each of us here could point our fingers at something or other that you have done that isn’t so perfect compared to what we’ve done. I seem to remember you being the target of a smear campaign regarding chocolate pop tarts, LOL. Get over yourself.

    I seriously think you should search your soul and admit (to yourself) that your actions, words, and attitude about this business is the real problem. You are even worse than most “concerned” meddlers, because the child isn’t even in danger and you clearly only desire to harm the family. And since the majority of parents HAVE had a tot wander off at some point, your mean attitude applies equally to all of them.

    Just remember, what goes around comes around. There is no avoiding it. Oh, and the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

  77. SKL June 10, 2014 at 1:36 am #

    I remember in the neighborhood where I grew up, there was this lady who had three tots close in age. She would bathe them all and then they would escape, running down the street, naked and laughing. They were incredibly fast runners, LOL. The mom would chase them with towels and everything would end up fine. I’m sure Dolly would have had 911 ringing off the hook if she lived there.

    And also my kid sister at age 13mo knew how to work all the door locks (including pushing a chair up to reach them), and one morning she took off before the rest of us were awake. The police chief brought her home. Thankfully in those days the cops understood that “stuff happens.”

  78. hineata June 10, 2014 at 1:48 am #

    @Dolly – sorry, no apology here! You just stood beside him? Pick the kid up and take him into the store. Get the clerks to page his parents. Not exactly rocket science.

    Worrying about being accused of kidnapping is, as a woman, worst first thinking, at least provided you took him directly into the store. As I said, I’ve stopped several runners and wanderers, and never been accused of anything. In fact, because I don’t stand around with a judgemental look on my face, I usually get a nice ‘thank you’, though it certainly isn’t required.

    Honestly, Dolly, you are so judgemental of others it makes me cringe. Does SOA stand for Sisters of America, that organisation that came off as so dreadful in ‘The Help’?

    Though that’s Hollywood – hopefully not all ‘Sisters of America’ are rude and judgemental twits.

  79. anonymous mom June 10, 2014 at 1:48 am #

    @Dolly, do you honestly believe that the toddler was at risk of being kidnapped, that kidnappers are just staking out fish stores in the hopes that some toddler might wander away from their mom for a few minutes? Certainly a busy road was a concern, which is probably why the mother grabbed her child and hurried back inside. But thinking there was a potential for a kidnapping in that situation is just the height of worst-first thinking.

    That is great that you never lost track of your toddlers. I managed to make it until my second child was 3-1/2 or so before I had a child wander away from me in a store. However, I’ve certainly lost track of my kids, and I understand how it could happen. Some kids are runners. I have a friend with 5 kids, and her third is her runner. From the time he could walk, he’d take off for the door as soon as nobody was looking. 99.9% of the time, she was prepared and he couldn’t get out. But, there’s always that .1%, and a few times she’s had to do frantic searches of the neighborhood, where he’d usually turn up on the front porch of somebody else on the block. Once he wandered all the way to the next block, where another neighbor saw him. The neighbor went outside to supervise him (because he’s a man, he wasn’t comfortable bringing him inside or even into his yard), called his sister, who lives in the neighborhood and knows lots of moms, they quickly figured out who the child belonged to, and he was brought home. Shockingly, nobody involved the police.

    Is an 18 month old alone near a busy road worrisome? Yes. And, the mom agreed, it seems, since she soon came out and brought the child back inside (which would lead me to conclude the child had gotten out and not that she had decided to just leave the child outside until she was done shopping). So I’m not seeing what the mom did wrong here, other than being human.

  80. anon for once June 10, 2014 at 3:00 am #

    Calling the emergency services for bullshit is why me and another woman waited 10minutes to get onto the police when a woman was being beaten on the motorway in front of us.
    We did get involved, but you can only get so involved when the attacker threatens you with a knife for getting too close. And that was just getting onto the police, took 40minutes for them to respond, wonder if that was because they were out dealing with petty crap?

  81. Andy June 10, 2014 at 3:42 am #

    @SOA You considered kidnapping as a plausible risk in that situation?

    Also, from you account you was not interacting with the kid. You was “wondering what you should do” for “several minutes” originally “minute or two”. You was “about to pick him up and take the phone and call 911”.

    For all the mother knew, you was uninvolved bystander. If the mother would come out ten seconds later, you would have already called cops on her. Which means tons of troubles from whole family.

    You did not stayed there to watch the child, you stayed in paralysis. Several minutes is unusually long, most people take decision much faster (although it might feel long). Minute is long time actually, several of them is too much. Given your original description I guess it was more like 10-20 second which only felt long.

    You was there by random, did nothing to help and was so close to cause problem to the mother. You could potentially save the child if it would go towards highway, but it did not happened. So, the mother should thank you for just breathing air on that street? Are you seriously demanding thank you just for being in position to help in possible situation that did not actually happened?

    And your generation complains that youngsters are entitled.

  82. hineata June 10, 2014 at 4:08 am #

    Also, Dolly, you’ve never lost track of your twins? Big deal…that’s only two kids. I have regularly looked after four under four, and occasionally lost track of one (reins are a Godsend at times). Tell me you’ve never lost track of a kid when you have several to deal with.

    SKL is right, what goes around, comes around. Good luck with maintaining your self-proclaimed ‘perfect parent’ (from other posts) status. Many of us prefer life in the real world, however, where parents make the odd mistakes, lose track of kids, yada, yada, yada. Am just so glad the Dollyverse is situated far away from me…..

    Equating losing track of a child with being a junky – God save us!

  83. Donna June 10, 2014 at 6:37 am #

    Dolly, Standing still – for what started seconds and is now several minutes (it took you minutes to decide what to do about a toddler in a parking lot?) in a parking lot is absolutely not getting involved. Grabbing the child is getting involved. Interacting with the child is getting involved. Standing in the parking lot 3 feet away doing nothing is gawking. Last I checked gawkers don’t get thanked.

  84. Emily June 10, 2014 at 6:45 am #

    Okay, all of this “Dolly versus Everyone Else” arguing aside, why are people calling 911, which is supposed to be for police, fire, or ambulance, over other people’s questionable parenting? That’s a massive waste of resources, even when the parenting in question is legitimately abusive, because there’s already a separate place to call for that–Child Protective Services in the States, the Children’s Aid Society here in Canada, and I forget what it’s called in Australia, but there was definitely something. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that every developed nation in the world has some equivalent of that, and it blows my mind that someone’s “My house is burning down” call might not be getting through, because the 911 phone system is clogged up with “My neighbour’s kids are playing outside unsupervised” calls.

  85. Donna June 10, 2014 at 7:06 am #

    Emily, in my state, you can’t really report anyone to CPS unless you are in the know. The publicly available number is just an answering machine that essentially tells you to call the police to report child abuse. I think that you can leave a message, but that is rarely satisfactory for busy bodies. You really need to know a private number to report abuse directly.

    CPS doesn’t want to be caught up in petty arguments over vet visits and soda drinking any more than we want them to be. I think they figure that people will think more about involving the police and police will put some thought into the referral to CPS. And that is very likely true. As much as I don’t agree with many CPS calls we read about here, I can just imagine what they would be dealing with if everyone could contact CPS easily.

  86. Emily June 10, 2014 at 7:18 am #

    >>I think they figure that people will think more about involving the police and police will put some thought into the referral to CPS. And that is very likely true.<<

    Maybe that's true in some cases, but there are obviously enough people calling the police over junk food, unsupervised play, and kids waiting alone in cars, that it's become a problem. Honestly, I can't entirely fault people for this, if calling CPS gets them a recorded message that says, "Call the police." Some people are astute and self-regulating enough that they'll read between the lines, and figure, "Okay, Johnny and Susie playing in the park without an adult isn't a crime, it's just more permissive parenting than I'd feel comfortable with," but others will take that message at face value, call the police, and encourage others to do the same, when they witness "bad" parenting." Maybe it would help if there was more information out there about what child abuse ISN'T, then people would realize that tattling on every little thing does more harm than good.

  87. SOA June 10, 2014 at 7:42 am #

    SKL: the toddler was not in danger standing alone in a parking lot near a very busy highway? Um bull. It was in danger. The kidnapping part was not what I was really worried about but it was one of many bad things that can happen when a toddler is standing alone completely unsupervised in a parking lot next to a busy highway, but we all know getting run over would be the most likely scenario but according to you, that is not dangerous as you said “there was no danger.”

    It was a shopping center so there were multiple stores. I had no idea which store this toddler came from. If I picked the toddler up and started going into stores we might have been accused of kidnapping or would not have been out there for the mom when she did come out.

    I have no idea the exact amount of time we stood there. It seemed like at least a minute or two which technically means several minutes. If I get a time machine I will be happy to go back in time with a stop watch and time the scenario for you. It was long enough that I felt the mother was severely slacking. You never let a toddler get away from you in public. Stick their butts in a stroller or shopping cart, strap them in and easy peasy, they are not going anywhere. And also for the record this was kinda a sketchy shopping center too. Not the best place to let a toddler wander around.

    If it was a big kid the whole thing would not be an issue because my husband and I would have just walked right by if it was a kid that looked old enough to know to watch out for cars. Or I would have at least asked the kid if it was alright. Speaking to a toddler does zero good as they cannot talk back yet.

    and SOA stands for Sons of Anarchy. An extremely popular show right now about a biker gang that deals drugs. LOL. So yeah you are so way off it is funny.

  88. Donna June 10, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    Emily, I seriously doubt that a single person who has called 911 for stupid kid stuff like kids left in a car took the time to look up CPS’ number, call it, get a recording and then call 911. They just called 911. To them, it was an emergency.

  89. E June 10, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    I’m also reminded of a time we were eating ice cream at a small little stand alone place with only exterior seating. It was located next to a busy road. It was such a popular place, no table/chairs were available and were sitting on the brick steps at the edge of the seating. A family next to us was doing the same. The smallest child (toddler) seemed to be toddling closer and closer to the edge of the grass that was nearest to the road. I kept getting nervous on behalf of the child and the family didn’t seem to notice. At one point I actually got up and moved toward the kid just as they turned away from the road and returned to their family.

    Now, one could view that as distracted parents (with other kids) who didn’t realize that their child was too close to the road (they were) and how they were terrible parents. But I could also reflect and say they really didn’t realize the child was wandering a little bit. Sure, they were distracted and sure they could have kept an eye on the little one (especially given where they were). But the kid never did get TOO close (I would have intervened) and nothing bad happened. I imagine that there have been times that my sight was not on my kid that something “almost” or “could have” happened, but didn’t. It’s literally impossible for me to know if some other set of parents (at a soccer game or at the pool) observed my kid doing something risky and judged or supervised or whatever.

    Did I ever observe my kid putting himself in harm’s way and turn the other way? Of course not.

    No one wants to let their small kid wander off in a store, no one wants their kids to run on a slippery pool deck, no one wants their kid to wander too close to busy traffic.

    I have differing viewpoints among my own siblings as to how much or how little supervision or what kind of rules kids should follow — but none of it is criminal.

  90. lollipoplover June 10, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    On finding an 18 month-old child:

    At both my mom and dad’s funerals, one of our old neighbors, Mrs. P, shared her “How I met your Mother” story.

    Her family had just moved in down the street. The movers were unloading furniture and Mrs. P was unpacking her car with her 4 kids in it when she noticed a toddler sitting in the driveway playing with her children’s toys. She picked her up and noticed she was freshly bathed and happy. She knocked on the house next door but no answer. She went to the next house, and they said, “Oh, that’s one of (my Mom’s). She just got home from the hospital with her 10th baby.”

    Mrs. P brought my sister to our house where my mom was nursing a newborn (me). My mom invited her in for tea and they started a friendship that lasted a lifetime. She joined the bridge club that the moms in the neighborhood had running for 20 years. Her family joined our church and we carpooled to sports with their kids. I am still good friends with their youngest daughter. All over a lost toddler.

    I guess this could have gone in another direction if Mrs. P had an attitude of “I was like WTF was that bitch doing…” but as a fellow mom who loves kids she knew that parenting isn’t about perfection. A runaway toddler in her driveway opened up so many friendships for her because she cared and got involved and didn’t rush to judgement over a momentary lapse in parenting.

  91. Jill June 10, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    Somehow, people have gotten it into their heads that child abductors are lurking everywhere, waiting to snatch any kid who’s left unsupervised for even a few minutes.

    I think it stems back to John Walsh’s son being abducted after he was briefly left by himself in a department store. What happened to him was horrible, but it was very, very unusual, far more unusual than being struck by lightning. Children are much more likely to drown, or be killed in a car accident than they are to become victims of a stranger abduction.

    The vast majority of Amber Alerts involve a child being taken by a non-custodial parent, but the average citizen seems unaware of that fact.

    I recently overheard a mother in Barnes & Noble tell her child to, “Hold onto my hand, or else somebody will take you!” The little girl looked to be about seven, a little old to be clinging to mommy’s hand, especially since the store was almost empty. When I was that age, I would have been allowed to peruse the children’s section by myself while my mom shopped, but this lady apparently thought a child molester might be hiding in the bookshelves, a copy of Nabokov’s “Lolita” in hand, while scanning the store for children to abduct.

    That kind of paranoia is just nuts.

    I also have a theory that some people are just itching for a chance to call the cops. It gives them a sense of importance, plus some people just enjoy getting others in trouble. They could care less about the child, it’s all about ratting somebody out.

  92. pentamom June 10, 2014 at 9:00 am #

    At least Dolly is being consistent here. Since she knows what the mother was thinking and doing without being able to see what was going on inside the store, she correctly concludes that the mother was able to know that two people standing outside the store and talking to one another a few feet from her child were “protecting” her child and deserve her effusive thanks for their herculean efforts. /sarc

    Which raises the question — even if the mother could have somehow divined that Dolly and her husband were watching the child, despite their apparent non-action, what exactly did they do that required thanks? Don’t thanks imply going out of your way and exerting actual effort? I thought that taking a passive interest in a child who might be close to danger was sort of the default, not what you’d call “effort.”

  93. Lola June 10, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    I’m still trying to wrap my mind on the whole concept. WHY? WHY the police??? Shouldn’t they be the last resort, after making sure the child’s in distress? After checking for youself no-one has seen the child’s parents around? After asking in the nearest stores if someone is missing a child?
    Really, I don’t know what twisted worst first thinking is that which assumes any wailing child is an abused child.

  94. Hillary J June 10, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    I hate to distract from the drama, however I noticed we have some adoptive parents in the crowd. I would really like to adopt, but I am concerned about dealing with the adoption process and having a free range philosophy, especially since we would prefer to adopt school age and domestically which basically means dealing with CPS and the foster system. Any tips or reassurances?

  95. Buffy June 10, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    And…….we’re full circle, back to “owing” Dolly apologies. Sorry for the late post, but I was busy doing drugs in the store bathroom while letting my 18-month-old figure out how to maneuver non-automatic doors so he could get into the parking lot.

  96. Nico June 10, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    The “report it all to CPS” mentality is different in Canada than the US. I think we’re hot on the call here, but it’s SO much worse in the US where my parent friends live in near daily fear of a CPS visit for any minor parenting infraction.

    I was in a car with friends up from Detroit, and driving in Windsor. We passed a woman who was pulling her suitcase near the train station, with the car seat and kid balanced maybe a bit precarious looking on top. Not “ideal” but it was getting them to the taxi stand or wherever. It

    My US friend piped up “I’m a mandated reporter! I should call about that! Its a reportable offense!”

    I replied “No, not here, you’re not and no, it isn’t. If it bothers you, go offer to help carry the suitcase.”

    She went “yeah..I guess you’re right.”

    Seriously. Not every last thing is “reportable.” I believe CPS is valuable in real cases of danger, but if we call every time a kid is fed non organic cheerios or has a scraped knee, they’re obligated to investigate, and it takes time and resources away from kids in honest danger.

  97. Donna June 10, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    These car situations always remind me of my cousin. I was visiting her once many years ago when her now post-college age children were 4 and 6. Her stepmother, who worked at a diner, came over for dinner and told a story about a couple who came in and asked for a specific table by the window because their baby was in the car sleeping. The diner, from the description given, was a free standing restaurant with a large parking lot and the car was parked right next to the window by the door. Probably not something I would have done, but not a dangerous situation either. My cousin became absolutely incensed about the horrible parenting and reamed her stepmother for not calling the police.

    My cousin is hands down the worst, non-abusive, parent I’ve ever met. She totally neglects any form of discipline whatsoever; not out of any lax parenting theory, but because she is too lazy to parent. On my first day there (the only time I’ve ever visited my cousin), her children destroyed a toy store. They ran around screaming and throwing things and eventually knocked over a large display that blocked the entrance so that nobody could get in or out … all while she just stood in line and ignored them. And it didn’t improve from there. Her children were such monsters that I left her house several days earlier than planned because I couldn’t take them any more.

  98. Joanne June 10, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    “If *I* would call 112 (the EU equivalent of 911) for a stupid reason or as a prank, I can get a fine or even jailtime, depending on how often I call (read: waste 112 operators’ time), the costs made by the emergency services as a result of my call, etc.
    But the USA doesn’t have a similar law??”

    Yes, but… There are those laws on the books but in talking with the 911 operators where I work (I work for a city government), they are rarely enforced. A lot of the time it is because they don’t want people to hesitate and possibly not call when it is an actual emergency because the caller is trying to figure that out for themselves. Kind of like the ‘better safe than sorry’ thought. They may prosecute in completely egregious incidents (like the lady who calls 911 when KFC runs out of chicken), but even that’s not an always situation.

  99. Havva June 10, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    A question getting a little buried here, but I will try to answer. The why do people keep calling 911 question:

    I think it comes down to the philosophy that if public service announcements have any subtly they will be ignored. (Never mind that the overblown warnings are why my husband nearly ignored the don’t give honey to infants warning). But anyhow you get messages drilled in like…kid-in-car=death-in-5-minutes. And a certain percentage of society (including me for a while) takes that seriously. I got that it was temperature related, but I didn’t know the relationship. So I nearly called 911 on some kids.

    It was a sunny warmish day and in the car next to mine I spotted two kids in car seat/booster seats sleeping in the back of a minivan with tinted windows rolled all the way up. The van was parked at the way back of the lot of a Target. The windows felt sort of warm. I tapped gently on the window and the kids didn’t wake up, didn’t stir. I realized I had no way to tell if they were passed out from heat stroke, short of waking them up to a stranger really banging on their window and then maybe they are scared and don’t know where mom is or when she will be back. So I worried and paced. I thought, “should I be breaking this window to get them out now? How do I know? Then what about the property damage… would I be charge for that? I need help. I need someone who would know…911 will know, they would document that I wasn’t just vandalizing the car/could give me permission of sorts to break the window.”

    Then my husband encouraged me to slow down and re-thing. I thought, maybe they are heavy sleepers? Maybe they haven’t been here long? I thought about their mom. She pulls in with heavy sleeping kids and she maybe just needs one thing (like I did that day). So she would have to disturb them, deal with two tantrums, wrestle them out, take two tantruming kids across a busy parking lot, and it is almost dinner time, the kids might wake hungry. Or she could just run in and out real quick. I realized we would be out in 5 minutes ourselves so I promised I would call 911 if the kids were still there when we got back. I figured even if they were passed out from heat they could survive 5 more minutes that day. When I got back, they were gone. There were no cops, and there was no report of dead or hospitalized kids on the news the next day.

    At the time I felt like the kids had a close call… now I realize the mom had a close call. That call would not have advised me on the safety (or not) of the situation. It would have brought in CPS. And for what? For something I did many times alone at the age of the younger and no doubt hundreds or maybe a thousand times by the age of the older girl. I’m glad I never made that call.

  100. Warren June 10, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

    And people like Dolly are why things are so bad these days.
    Any person in their right mind, had they been concerned would have talked to the kid, maybe taken them into the fish store or just stayed with the kid.
    Not jumped to the conclusion that something deviant, illegal or horrendous was going on.
    And no you Dolly should not have been thanked. Maybe told off, but definetly not thanked.
    As for what she was doing in the fish store? I don’t know, buying fish, looking for her kid…..
    And thank the powers you do not live anywhere near us, because I would never want you to interact or anywhere near kids.

  101. SKL June 10, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    Also. My kids at 18mo knew not to walk into a street. And most 18mos can communicate if you ask a simple question such as, “where’s your mama?” They (and any kid old enough to walk) could point their finger or at least look in the direction, and then you would know where to take him. Otherwise, standing with him for long enough to give the mom a chance to realize the kid left the store would be reasonable.

    Since you noticed the doors were not easy to open, it is reasonable that the mom did not suspect her kid managed to get outside the door, and was looking up and down the aisles or whatever.

    My question has remained unanswered. Given that the mother retrieved the child as soon as she discovered where he was, the mother was not abandoning him. I’m guessing she cared about him. So, in what way would it be helpful for that child to be taken away from his mother by the police? Maybe you should read up on the serious long-term dangers associated with disruptions in the custody of young children.

    And why do you keep calling the child “it”? I find that an odd way to refer to a member of the human species.

    Unfortunately you will not learn what it means to be human until a human parenting mistake happens to you – and until you are big enough to admit it.

  102. ChicagoDad June 10, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    When my son was about 2 we were at the playground and he was climbing a ladder. Another parent said to me “I hope he doesn’t get hurt!” and I said,”I hope he does, because if he gets hurt ‘small’, he’ll learn how not to get hurt ‘big'”

    I think it can be a valuable experience for a kid to wonder off at the store. They get experience in how to get help when they need to and how to handle an unplanned situation. I would never cause it to happen on purpose, of course, But if it happens and we prepare our kids for these things, then it maybe a little scary, but a good learning experience, like when it happened when my daughter was 5 at Target.

    Between ages 3 and 5, kids should start earning their parents’ trust that they will follow instructions and behave properly, even when unsupervised for a few minutes. A 4 year old with an ipad in a car at a safe suburban strip mall on a cool day is an appropriate extension of this for a child who has otherwise demonstrated trustworthiness.

    Free Range parenting is not done accidentally or just for convenience. It is an intentional process of teaching kids how to be independent, responsible and evaluate risks.

    It is easy to fear that your parenting choices could be confused with unintentional, neglectful parenting by busybodies or authorities. If you have this fear, you might consider talking with a sympathetic child pshycologist or family councilor about your choices. You could even ask them to “sign-off” on your “plan” for incremental increases in independence and responsibility; that way if there were ever an issue, you’d have proof that your choices were intentional, thoughtful,(under a doctor’s guidance even!) and not “laziness”.

    I’ve been thinking about this article a lot over the past few days.

  103. lollipoplover June 10, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    Sadly, these criminal charges against non-criminals seem to be happening everywhere. Here’s another one:

    4 minutes. How in the world is that endangering the welfare of a child???

  104. LTMG June 10, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    All parents are, at times, sub-optimal. I say arrest them all and seize their children. Our governments, which are never sub-optimal, are superior at raising children.

  105. Jim McGraw June 11, 2014 at 10:22 am #

    Do not call 911 unless you really need it. The response from the police can be worse then the “emergency”.
    Calling 911 on someone else because you think they are not as perfect as you Or living the way you think they should is a major assault. Let parents, parent their own kids nobody loves them more.

  106. pentamom June 11, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    Rethinking Dolly’s story…let’s look at what actually HAPPENED.

    a child got away from a parent who didn’t immediately notice. Two people noticed the child and kept an eye on her until the mother, a few minutes later, realized where she was and came out and took her back. All was then well — no harm came to the child nor was the child ever in direct danger, or even out of the mother’s sight for more than a couple of minutes.

    This is a happy story, with a happy ending. There is only one unhappy element and it has nothing to do with anything that actually happened, but has to do with the feelings of a person who had not actually involved herself in the situation.

  107. Jen (P.) June 11, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    I think it can be a valuable experience for a kid to wonder off at the store. They get experience in how to get help when they need to and how to handle an unplanned situation.

    ^^^This. When our youngest was about 4 we managed to lose her on a Hilton Head beach due to a miscommunication between my husband and me and our older daughter (I thought she was with him and vice versa). It was probably 30-40 minutes before we were back together and realized she wasn’t with either one of us. As soon as we discovered our mistake, I took off for the last place we’d seen her, which was a shower area at the top of the beach, but before I got there I spotted a lifeguard, accosted him, and said (or more likely screamed in a panicky voice), “I don’t know where my daughter is.” He smiled and said “[her name]? She’s down there with that lifeguard.” Our 4yo had shown them were our stuff was on the beach, so they knew we hadn’t left and were able to work out pretty well what had happened, and our daughter was calmly sitting in the lifeguard’s chair chatting her up. When I later asked if she’d been scared she replied, “Not really. I knew you would find me.” Scary experience, but empowering for her and it gave us a lot of confidence in her ability to deal with an unexpected and less than ideal situation. And the lifeguards handled it perfectly. That’s how to deal with a lost child.

  108. hineata June 11, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    @Jen P – what a fantastic story! :-)

    I must confess, I am not generally a hysterical person (mostly because it achieves nothing, LOL!) but losing a kid at a beach, particularly for that length of time, would put me darn close to it! Thank goodness for sensible kid and sensible lifeguards :-).

    Though hopefully if she’d actually tried to get into the water other swimmers would have kept an eye on her….

  109. JP Merzetti June 11, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    Yes, but unfortunately when those kids become commodified resources to fuel an industry….people tend to lose their heads.
    I’ve always wondered about this: which fuels what?
    Is it that we have become so terrified of our own shadows? -that springs into action the endless lineup of professional child-savers……..or do their particular needs to keep and justify their living wages ramp up the necessary raw resources?

    I agree completely with the author. After rambling through endless case histories…..all too often the raw analysis of the story leaves one with the distinct impression that the best interests of the child were almost the last thing considered.

  110. Jen (P.) June 11, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

    @hineata – I was pretty hysterical (largely for the reason you mention – I was concerned she’d have gone back to the water – not that she didn’t know not to go in alone . . . but she was 4 and was and remains a kid who likes to push the boundaries 😀 ). We found her so quickly after discovering she was missing, however, that I didn’t have much time to think about it. And the beach was CROWDED that day. I was so proud of her for being able to find our stuff in the midst of all those people in a situation where she had to have been pretty nervous. It’s so easy to underestimate what kids are capable of.

  111. Danielle June 11, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

    I’m a single mom of a 4 year old (very curious) boy. He gets in the car by himself in the mornings, when we leave stores (while I go put the car away), etc. When we go shopping, if the store isn’t crowded, I’ll send him down the aisle to get bread, or leave him mulling over snack choices while I examine things at the ends of the aisles. He knows how to find me without panicking in stores because he has practice with it (if he starts wandering off I keep eyes on him but don’t make my presence immediately known. He has to find me the same way I found him. Of course not to the point of him freaking out). He even *gasp* showers by himself. These stories about parents getting in trouble for less dangerous situations than my son probably experiences are crazy! I had one lady tell me I should have been arrested for leaving my son in the car while I helped someone who’s car was on fire!! Forget being a good samaritan these days! It’s better just to let people burn so your child doesn’t spend 10 minutes in a car by his/herself.

  112. JAP June 12, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    These concern trolls are the same ones that come at you when you’re pregnant. Like the crazy lady who tried calling 911 for ‘fetus endangerment’ because a pregnant friend had a case of beer in her grocery cart (being purchased on Superbowl Sunday for a party). Or the one that tried to have the manager kick me out of the restaurant because I tasted my husbands wine (1 sip) while pregnant.

    In Scandinavia, it is considered good parenting to have your baby nap outside – especially in winter. The germs get trapped inside in winter, so the fresh air is considered good for them. Most Americans would lose their sh!t over the idea of leaving a baby in a stroller outside for a nap.

    Too much hyperbole on the internet and especially TV news in the US. Naming winter storms, the ‘polar vortex’ hyperbole, headlines that get their own dramatically dramatic theme music, everything screams at you in ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME… It’s not just parenting, it’s everything.

  113. Dirk June 19, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    How come we never look at this another way? That other adults are indeed concerned about our kids and that this is a good thing? That we indeed live in a village?

  114. Dirk June 19, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    Also, the can you leave you child in a car alone question is incessant. The answer is no. Society says no. It is that simple. Don’t do it. The Slate article is mind melting in that the answer was no. Take the kid out and let him be upset. Society says you can not leave kids in a car alone. The reasons? It doesn’t matter. This is the WELL KNOWN decision of our society! Anyone who leaves their, say 10 week old, kid in the car has to know what the reaction will be by now. If they don;t then I doubt their bona fides to be a parent. Done. Next question.

    You want to have kids play in a park “alone”? Great! Go sit on a bench on the other side of the park and only appear in an emergency. When the kid is old enough to A) avoid bad decisions that will have negative outcomes, B) advocate for themselves among children and adults, and C) be able properly explain themselves to authorities (police and nosy adults) then they can go totally alone with distance and time depending on age and maturity. Done. Next question.

    Can my 9 year old ride the subway? Sure! If they are mature enough to do so. If they can “find their way,” if they can advocate for themselves if lost, or if approached by a police officer then can adequately explain themselves, or if they know how to avoid certain negatives situations then sure! If not then maybe you wait until they can do these things.

    Can my child walk home alone from to X? Sure! As long as it would A) be normal to see an adult walking along the same space (meaning not on highway or other odd place where pedestrians usually do not belong), B) they are old enough to “find their way,” and as long as they can help themselves if lost, and as long as they can make a good decision if a negative situation occurs, and as long as they can explain themselves to an authority figure then yes. A child can go wherever depending on age and distance.

    The problem isn’t that other adults are to nosy (although they certainly over think the risks), and it isn’t that the police and authorities are too nosy and strict (they do what they do because the a) the laws are on the books, B) society at large expects them to, C) they are trying to avoid potential problems that they see proverbially “every day.” While crime rates are indeed low think about how many missing child reports a cop sees, think about all the domestic violence calls a cop gets a year, think about the number of homicides they have to investigate in a year, think about the information they get about legitimate sex offenders in their precincts. While the numbers may be going down overall the flood is still washing over the cops. They feel like they are holding it all at bay). The community and the authorities act they way they do either because A) they parent has put their child in a situation, or allowed their child to enter into a situation, where the child can not navigate their way, advocate for themselves, or explain themselves.

    That is why you don’t leave the kid in the car. A 4 year old strapped to a car seat cannot change their situation if need be. They cannot advocate for themselves. They can not explain themselves while locked in a straight jacket in a giant metal tube. The likely hood of danger is nil. However, the likely hood that a parent who makes that sort of “sub-optimal” decision will, or indeed does, make other just plan bad decisions is pretty high.