Great Piece: “If I’m Arrested Today” (For Being a Rational Parent in a Hysterical World)


This zyrhkfynfi
about why we need to be able to make rational, caring decisions for our kids without worrying about being second-guessed by passersby or the authorities sums up the issue just perfectly. It’s from the blog Catholic All Year. It begins with the author, Kendra, discussing an article  by Kim Brooks in Salon that detailed the cases of some moms arrested for letting their kids wait briefly in the car. Then she writes:

…I’m still not going to make what I believe are bad parenting decisions because of bad laws and bad samaritans. I won’t be bullied. But it is deeply, deeply scary. And it could absolutely happen to me.

We live in a world where people are so disconnected from the facts that they honestly believe that a nine year old child walking to the park will probably get kidnapped by a stranger and that a two year old asleep in a car will immediately die if his mother walks more than five feet away. Maybe it’s ten feet. But he will die. For sure.

I understand that these laws and policies have been made in response to very real tragedies. But arresting reasonable parents who have made reasonable parenting decisions appropriate to their particular circumstances isn’t going to save all children from accidental death.

My child could be killed because I left him home. Or he could be killed because I brought him with me in the car. My child could be killed because I left him inside the car. Or he could be killed walking across the parking lot at my side. There is not a law that can guarantee that my child will be safe. It is unsettling, but true. And no one is better suited to make decisions for the safety of a child in a particular situation than his parent.

These laws and the people who enforce them are deeply misguided, and the way they undermine a parent’s ability to make decisions for her own child should concern everyone.

Love, rationality and a demand that society not interpret every parental action using worst-first thinking? Music to our ears. – L


Call my lawyer!

Call my lawyer!


36 Responses to Great Piece: “If I’m Arrested Today” (For Being a Rational Parent in a Hysterical World)

  1. Bury Family Life May 20, 2015 at 8:51 am #

    Very well put. It’s awful that I could get arrested for letting my children go to the park, or that they could be scared witless by some ‘trying to help’ and insisting they go home or that the police are called.

  2. SKL May 20, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    I have to admit I’m bullied. And even more so, my kids are. They are afraid of cops taking them away. All because of a 3-minute Fed-Ex dropoff 2 years ago (when they were 6yo).

    The implications of the current state of things are broader than most people realize.

  3. Vicki Bradley May 20, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    What bothers me is that all these parents who are knowingly and consciously leaving their children in the car for a few minutes are being treated like the poor parents who have forgotten that their child was in the car, and inadvertently and tragically left them there all day. It’s apples and oranges. I don’t know what the statistics regarding children who have died in hot cars is but my guess is that the majority of them were the result of a change in the parents’ schedule, whereby the parent who doesn’t usually drop off the child in the morning, for example, has to do it for some reason, and then forgets to. Therefore, this witch hunt of parents who leave their kids for a few minutes, as well as those parents who lose a child in the way I just, described is a waste of time, and only serves to potentially destroy the lives of innocent people.

  4. Vicki Bradley May 20, 2015 at 11:14 am #

    @SKL I don’t know exactly what happened to you, SKL, but I can guess, and I’m sorry for what you had to go through.

  5. Puzzled May 20, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    Is it possible that, the way others overestimate risks, we overestimate this risk? After all, the Meitivs are well-known for a reason, right? Or am I just too optimistic?

  6. John May 20, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

    Quote: “I understand that these laws and policies have been made in response to very real tragedies.”

    Exactly, and I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again, OVER REACTION is the typical American response to any tragedy. More rules and more laws which actually cause more collateral damage than they’re worth. It’s almost as if it’s embedded within our culture.

  7. Josephine May 20, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    I sure did a lot, as a young child, with just my two younger brothers, that now is illegal; and Mom was a really respected teacher.

  8. SKL May 20, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    Puzzled, I don’t know how common it is. I can tell you it happens to a lot of people though. How it compares to stranger kidnapping etc., I don’t know.

    It would be interesting to see some statistics, but I don’t know how they would be gathered.

  9. fred schueler May 20, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    there’s a certain hysterical veneration of rules which seems to have overtaken society, as if enforcement of rules would prevent harm, even if there’s no harm to be prevented. This is similar to the “scriptural literalism” of religious fundamentalism, and the null hypothesis is that both are a consequences of the regimentation of compulsory age-segregated schooling.

  10. SanityAnyone? May 20, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    Ironic. The more entrenched the criminalization of “reasonable risk” parenting becomes, the more everyone suffers. Those who judge and report parents with whom they disagree will eventually see others of their ilk throwing stones at their glass houses as they stand inside weeping in regret at the system they helped build. We are all served well to stop it now.

    The arrests won’t stop at leaving kids alone or letting them explore. It will extend to how you manage your child’s weight, whether you read to them at night, if you swear near them and on and on. No one will be safe from judgement.

  11. lollipoplover May 20, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    I see kids in cars all the time, in parking lots, at schools, and especially around sports complexes where kids just don’t want to sit outside any longer. No one calls the police. It’s still normal here (hopefully it stays that way).

    I am perplexed why judgmental passersby feel the need to call police when concerned. That’s not concern, it’s malicious, you just pulled the trigger on this family. You could have taken 3 minutes out of your day to show true concern and care, but this dialing the police for non-dangerous situations is complete mental illness. It truly is.

    How about this 911 call:

    People are idiots. I truly feel bad for 911 operators. Our world is overly populated with too many Chicken Littles.

  12. Bronte May 20, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

    I have a 3 year old and a 5 month old. Last week I needed something from the Pharmacy. Loading them in and out was inconvenient, especially since I was going from a friends to a sisters which would have meant in and out, in and out, in the space of about 7 minutes.

    I drove past one pharmacy because the parking was inconvenient and it would involve unloading the kids to check the other one in town where there was a park directly outside. I wound down the passenger side windows, told me three-year old what was happening and to tell anyone who asked I was right inside and popped in. The pharmacists assistant who helped me was very commonsensical about it, Thank goodness, and just helped me quickly to get me back out.

    Kiwis – I also found this which is based on

  13. Lois May 20, 2015 at 4:18 pm #

    A lot of the reason that we have paranoid parents is because it “feels” like there are a lot of child abuse and abduction by stranger cases.
    Back when I grew up (in the 1950s and 1960s), few crimes were beyond the local. It took a “Lindbergh baby” type kidnapping to make national news. Now we see that this person has kidnapped a child or that person has left their child in a car all day and they died, and it happens every month or even every week. It does not matter to our sense of what is happening that it happened in California and Alabama when we live in New York or Maine; it “feels” like it is immediate and next door! It takes a deliberate act to realize that this is RARE!
    In my opinion, it would help a great deal if major media outlets would report items like this as “thankfully rare” or something similar.
    I have to say that I really appreciate Lenore and her readers for their commonsense approach to raising children. I also appreciate that there are those who are willing to stand up for themselves as parents, in their attempt to raise responsible, active, and thinking children. You people are awesome!

  14. Suzanne May 20, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

    This world is so very illogical. Case in point: I took my 12 year old to a babysitting class, as she’d like to earn some extra money this summer. I knew I would be late picking her up, and asked her to sit on one of the benches outside the community center and wait for me get there after the class. When I got there, the instructor was sitting with her. I got a firm reminder that class had ended 10 min ago and she was inconvenienced for having to wait with my daughter.

    Who had just taken a babysitting class.

    So she could be qualified to be the grown up in a home when the parents were away.

    Does this make sense to anyone?

  15. E May 20, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

    I read the Slate article and recall her story being mentioned here and the ABC (I believe) coverage of her issue — it was done very fairly. Her Slate piece (featuring parents she’d heard from since her story aired) is really heartbreaking and frustrating.

    I can understand concern — I kind of lingered in a shopping center parking lot when I saw a small child buckled in their seat, it was a warm day and honestly I just don’t see it that often that I felt like it made sense to just make sure. We were also concerned when we saw the same nervous/shaky dog tied to a bench at a shopping center on both our entry and exit after eating. We called the # on his collar and left a message with the owner.

    Anyway — I understand concern, I do not understand calling 911.

    I also do not understand why reason doesn’t prevail even after the authorities are called.

  16. Donald May 20, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    …..My child could be killed because I left him inside the car. Or he could be killed walking across the parking lot at my side……

    These are two things to consider. This is EXACTLY the problem. When fears get out of control, part of the brain shuts down. Survival kicks in. This simple part of the brain is only capable of looking at one side only. It can’t consider the hazard of walking across a parking lot because we are use to doing this often. Therefore it can only consider, ‘My child could be killed because I left him inside the car’.

    This simple part of the brain is also incapable of judging the likelihood or assess the amount of risk. Even if the risk is 0.00005% it is still a risk.

    It can’t consider two things at once and it can’t assess the amount of risk. Therefore it thinks the risk of 0.00005% (leaving a child in a car) is more dangerous than the 0.002% of making him walk across the parking lot

  17. Donald May 20, 2015 at 5:03 pm #

    The simple part of the brain also can’t consider all this additional stress it’s placing on children for years of fear that they themselves can get mommy or daddy in serious trouble.

    This is Real fear and is detrimental to a growing child

  18. Eric S May 20, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

    @John: Sadly, over the last decade, it HAS become embedded in our society. Just like with anything else, the more people believe and do something long enough, the more it spreads. And eventually it just becomes the new norm.

    At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy nut, I also believe part of this “hysteria” is by design as well. Corporations stand to make millions every year preying on over exaggerated parental fears. Just like the weight loss industry targets people’s insecurities of their self image. And they make billions every year.

    Somewhere, some how, some people are benefiting from helicopter parents, and their irrational fears.

  19. ChicagoDad May 20, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

    @Puzzled, you wondered about how common CPS investigations are. Lenore ran a piece a few months#comment-35600

    And here’s my comment comparing your risk of having a car accident while your kid is a passenger to your risk of CPS investigation:

  20. Donna May 20, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

    ChicagoDad – That is for all CPS cases not just cases of free range-esque parents getting investigated for routine parenting decisions, like the Meitivs.

  21. Donald May 20, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    Survival takes priority over everything else. The brain is hardwired for that. (as it should be) It has a trigger that when feels a great deal of stress that can temporarily disable rational thinking. That’s because rational thinking weighs up pros and cons. In a survival situation we don’t have time for that. We use the automatic reactions because they’re faster. The intelligent part of the brain has been temporarily disabled because the more advanced thinking takes longer.

    In a healthy brain, this system works well. However over the years the hysteria has taken a toll on the stress trigger. It’s become too sensitive and fires inappropriately.

    There is more on my blog

  22. Ronni @ The Screenwriter's Wife May 21, 2015 at 12:48 am #

    Wow – I’ve been reading FRK for 5 or so years now (before I was even pregnant!) and I’ve been reading Kendra’s blog for maybe a year-ish. I’d read her “If I Get Arrested” post last week and thought “ha, that sounds so Free Range Kids”, but didn’t say anything about it. And now, look at this, Kendra’s blog quoted here! My internet worlds are colliding – this is awesome. 🙂

  23. KittyKat May 21, 2015 at 12:59 am #

    Hileray is that for real??!! 🙁

  24. Dave B May 21, 2015 at 2:39 am #

    It seems people have somewhat regressed in their mentality.
    Small babies haven’t developed object permanence, so if they don’t see something it ceases to exist for them.
    Society seem to have lost safety/responsibility permanence, if you can’t see and touch your kid right now, it’s safety ceases to exist.

    Little billy hides under the blanket for a game of peek-a-boo => mortal danger!
    Little billy is in the bathroom/kitchen without you => mortal danger!
    Little billy is out of arms reach in public => mortal danger!

  25. Bob Davis May 21, 2015 at 3:49 am #

    This is one of those discussions that makes me “heave a sigh of relief” at the fact that my daughters were kids back before 24/7 news coverage and wall to wall internet–we didn’t have a TV in the house until they were well into grade school, and the only communications device was a black rotary-dial phone (yes, we did have electric lights and indoor plumbing). Thank you, Lenore, for being a voice of sanity in a world that seems to badly need a dermatologist to remove the worry-warts, and maybe a plastic surgeon to do nose jobs on people who stick their shnozzolas into places where they don’t belong.

    And regarding laws passed in response to tragedies, the old cliche about “locking the barn door after the horse is five miles down the road” comes to mind, along with the “law of unintended consequences”.

  26. sexhysteria May 21, 2015 at 4:08 am #

    This is what the world has come to. Surviving in this modern jungle means not getting caught by the crazies (in uniform or not).

  27. Jen May 21, 2015 at 7:08 am #

    I am afraid there is little hope. A truly intelligent, rational coworker quoted an episode of CSI to me the other day as a reason I should not let my daughter out of my sight.

    Is anyone else finding it common that folks are not differentiating between entertainment (so-called) and reality? “Even the news has been degraded to the point of being sensationalist junk instead of real news.

    For the past few days, our local tv station has been running a radio ad about “the real dangers of letting your kids online.” It was titled “to catch a predator” and made it sound like any time your child is online they are at risk even if they are careful and following your rules. Real live investigators are coming to your living room to scare the heck out of you!!!!

    What’s interesting is that last year a teenager was actually abducted on her way home from school in a small community of a few thousand people. months later, she was returned alive and the man that took her was caught. . .but when she went missing, did anyone immediately say she was abducted? No, it was immediately decided in the court of public opinion that she ran off with someone or that she was pregnant and went away. Apparently, we are hypocrites who can never be satisfied without something to be outraged or morally superior about.

  28. shdd May 21, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

    Last night I went to the mall with my husband and teenage daughter. We split up to have dinner in the food court. My daughter got the table my husband and I got the food. Later that night my daughter got a text saying why my daughter was left alone and me (her mom) was having fun in the mall. I got my daughter’s food first and then went to get mine. I must have spotted getting my food. At 8 pm believe me I wasn’t happy just tired and ready to go home.

    My daughter assured her friend that I wasn’t really alone and neither was she. My daughter could see her dad the entire time. I guess I just lost mother of the year for the hundred time because none of us could agree on the same food.

  29. nicole Gainey May 21, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

    It’s is horrible what happens to the family after being arrested for any of these, I live everyday seeing the affects of what my arrest for letting My Son go play at our neighborhood park alone, it has flipped our lives upside down and caused a lot of unnecessary damage to my son, more of my story at & Lenore did a story on what happened to me all for letting My Son go play alone at our neighborhood park little while ago. This world is getting crazy compatriot how I grew up, I was always outside unsupervised playing.

  30. Liz May 21, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    There is a misguided American belief that laws prevent crime and tragedy. They don’t. They don’t prevent crime because crimes of passion can’t be prevented and others believe they’ll never get caught. They don’t prevent tragedy because that’s due to accidents or “black swan” events. While some accidents can be prevented, most are just that- accidents that just happen. Black swans are impossible to predict, and therefore impossible to know what would stop them, since the perpetrators fall into both categories of criminals. But when we think crime and tragedy will be prevented we allow laws that zap our rights and our lives, but then the events continue.
    While this is not a gun control discussion, this is an apt response and desire to “fix” that comes from tragedy. A friend of mine was killed by being shot by her husband in the head 8 times. He was angry, and it was a crime of passion. A misguided person said to me “if there was no gun in the house she’d still be alive,” and that was why we needed to make all guns illegal. No, he was going to kill her no matter what the weapon was. If the gun hadn’t been there she would have been stabbed to death, strangled, or beaten, which are all a lot nastier ways to go.
    Americans become so obsessed with a “solution” that they lose sight of logic.

  31. Catherine Scott May 21, 2015 at 7:25 pm #

    I’ve said this on another post but I think the bad Samaritan behaviour arises because people want the fun and excitement of donning the super hero cape and ‘defending’ kids against nameless terrors.

  32. Catherine Scott May 21, 2015 at 7:31 pm #

    We are a very authoritarian culture and it lurks there at all times, just waiting to bust out.

    We aren’t supposed to make slippery slope arguments but it’s how good and bad ideas catch hold and propagate offspring. This becomes illegal, which opens the door to its near neighbour being declared illegal, and then its near neighbour until we are all subject to a tyranny few saw coming.

  33. Catherine Scott May 21, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

    Hileray. I am so so sorry. I don’t know your personal circumstances but I bet they don’t do such terrible things to rich people.

  34. Buffy May 22, 2015 at 8:55 am #

    Hileray is a troll.

  35. May 22, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

    Nice Concept…

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