Thursday, July 9, 2009

No Place for Kids

Joanne Jacobs has a post about a Montana mom who was charged with endangerment after dropping 5 kids off at the mall. Two were 12 and supposed to be responsible for the three younger ones. Full story is here, Endangered at the Mall.

There used to be a time when this would not have been unusual. There are many cultures where this would not be viewed as unusual. Where 12 year olds were seen as sufficiently responsible and mature to look after younger children. Where unaccompanied children were welcomed as part of the community. Not here in North America apparently.

So if not here, could it be that despite all our chatter we really don't value children as we should? After all, if children were really as precious as we pretend, wouldn't we build communities that didn't exclude them? That didn't view a group of teenagers with hositlity or didn't make us fear for the safety of a lone 6 year old biking to a local store?

Maybe the Montana mom exposed the fact that for all our bluster about child safety we have no real intention of making out world a safe and welcome place for children to live in. We'd much rather pin responsibility on a scapegoat.


Momma said...

Wow. I really feel for this lady now that I find myself in a similar situation. I left my kids in the un-running, locked car where I could see them the whole time to drop videos in the slot of the movie store. There was a police officer standing there, who charged me with child neglect. If it is unsafe to leave my kids in the car in front of an officer, is there anyplace safe left in this world? You can read about my ordeal here:

Laura said...

I used to walk myself to kindergarten alone at the tender age of 5. I had to cross a very busy street--there was a crossing guard-- and the whole walk took me 10 minutes or so. Was my mom negligent?

I think there is a huge culture of fear about almost everything important--marriage (MUST have the right stuff to get married), pregnancy (multiple invasive tests), birth (intervention as a matter of course), nutrition, education, health, death.

I am not opposed at all to expert opinion, it's just that I allow for the possibility that they're wrong, and they often are. People need to make their own educated, reasoned choices about how to handle their lives.

12 year olds are old enough to take care of younger siblings. I haven't read the story, maybe there's more to it, but on the face of it it seems a ridiculous over reaction and I totally agree with you about our communities not allowing for children to be an integral part.

JJ Ross said...

Laura and others might be interested in Pandagon's take:
My Brain is Bigger Than Your Brain

"Kevane barely admits that her trust was broken by the 12-year-olds, that they actually did something wrong. She never admits that there may have been alternatives to dropping them off at the mall, and that her own childhood experiences don’t mirror the decision to leave five children alone in a large shopping complex. . ."

JJ Ross said...

Something else, since Pandagon is liberal and this is by a conservative (written about politicians but shared here because I think it applies to the kind of parents our world needs now, too) --

The world is a dangerous place. It has never been more so, or more complicated, more straining of the reasoning powers of those with actual genius and true judgment. . . .It’s not a time to be frivolous, or to feel the temptation of resentment, or the temptation of thinking. . .the assumptions of our childhoods will more or less reign in our future. It won’t be that way.

We are going to need the best."

Anonymous said...

hi... just dropping by!

Homeschool Mom of Four said...

I don't think this has anything to do with our world being safe or any of the mentioned problems. When I go out shopping I do not want to run into a pack of unruly children and let's face it, children are not what they used to be. Parents are also not what they used to be. I'm all for having children in our community and being involved but teach them how to act right. Don't drop them off to babysit at the mall. I have a 12 year old and in my home I trust that he knows what to do for the younger children but would NEVER drop him off at the mall with his younger siblings. He simply lacks the maturity to oversee the toddler of our bunch.

Parents want all of this "free" parenting style where children can just be children and that's great. However, teach the children, don't just set them free. If parents were not such twits our children would be becoming better contributing members of society, it all starts in the homes.

I have four children, homeschool, work from home and am very religious. With all that said, I am glad that the mother got her wrist slapped, the mall is not a babysitter. It causes the rest of us to worry about children who are dropped off. I have enough on my plate without worrying about the children sans parents roaming around. People should take care of their children, not pawn them off on society.

kelly said...

Do you remember when I was 12ish? And mom would let me babysit both my brothers, as long as it wasn't overnight?
Overnight was when she'd call in the big Gee, I think we're all still alive and just fine thank-you-very-much.

My point: People are morons.