This excellent nftfthitdk
essay by Tracy Cutchlow in The Washington Post talks about how can we create community, trust and kindness — not to mention some kiddie self-reliance — instead of calling 911 when we witness a parenting practice we disapprove of. Cutchlow is a Seattle mom and author of Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science (and What I’ve Learned So Far). She begins:
Would you call 911 if you saw a child sitting in a car parked outside a store, alone, engrossed in a video game?
Or a 9-year-old playing alone at a playground?
Or a 10- and 6-year-old walking purposefully, hand-in-hand, toward home?
Stories are mounting of people calling the cops on parents who let their older kids attempt a bit of independence….
At least people are trying to look out for the kids,” some say.
No, they’re not. Here’s what it would mean to look out for the kids:
Keeping an eye on the car until the parent returned, to help make sure nothing happened to the child. (Not standing there videotaping the child so you can show authorities, then smugly saying “Bye now” when the mom returns five minutes later.)
Smiling at the child on the playground and saying, “I don’t see your parents here. Please come to me if you need any help, okay? My little one is playing there, and I’m sitting over here.” Enlisting another parent to take the baton when you have to leave. Putting out a call to neighbors to help the family find or trade for child care. (Not calling the cops when the child says her mom is at work.)
The article goes on to list other practices that are simple and helpful, including: Get to know our neighbors by walking around. Offer to help when a parent looks like he or she needs a hand. And I’d add this important one:
Give people the benefit of the doubt.
Even if they are doing something you find sub-optimal, remember no one is on point every second. Kids can and will experience some moments that are not perfect, or even good. That’s okay, even good.
It’s only when we imagine kids as infinitely fragile that we demand parents do everything absolutely “right.” (As if we’d ever agree what “right” is, anyway.) – L