Country Living Series

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Trashy parents

Recently I drove into town to go to the library. As I turned into the parking lot, I nearly ran over a two-year-old girl, alone. I parked, walked over to her, and asked “Where’s your mommy, sweetheart?” The child pointed to a house half a block away.

I took her by the hand, then lifted her onto my hip as we walked toward the house. Seven or eight children were playing on the lawn, ranging in age from three to ten years.

“Does this little girl live here?” I asked the group, and received affirmation. “I nearly ran over her in the library parking lot.”

One of the boys ran indoors and retrieved an adult woman. The woman took one look at the toddler and yelled, “What did I tell you about staying in the yard?” She spanked the child. "Now get into your bed and stay there!"

I walked away muttering to myself.

A few years ago a similar incident happened. Don and I were driving through the same town when we spotted a three-year-old boy on the shoulder of the highway, dangerously close to stepping into traffic. We jerked to a stop and Don ran to take the child off the road. Turns out he had wandered away from the Grange building in town, where an event was taking place. When he walked into the building holding the boy by the hand, the mother ran up, relieved. She had been frantically looking for him and had no idea he had wandered so far away. She snatched him up and hugged him.

Please note the differences in outcome with both these incidences. Which mother do you like better?

There isn’t a parent alive who hasn’t temporarily misplaced a child. It's terrifying, it's soul-searching, it's frantic. But let's make one thing clear: It isn't a toddler's fault if she wanders away from an unfenced yard.

A two-year-old isn’t capable of understanding the boundaries of a yard if there’s something interesting to investigate beyond those boundaries.

Twenty years ago one of Don's friends went fishing with his four-year-old son. In a moment of inattention, the boy wandered too close to the river and drowned. The father has (literally) been an emotional wreck ever since. He has never forgiven himself for that momentary lapse.

This kind of lapse can happen to anyone. I would never blame someone when a child wanders off… until I see their reaction when the child is (God willing) found.

That's what made me so mad about the mother of the toddler I found. Her reaction wasn’t, “Oh my God, what happened to my child?” It was, “Oh my God, how could you inconvenience me so much?”

I know there is a bell curve to humanity. There are outstanding mothers and there are abusive mothers. The vast majority of us fall in the middle because most of us are decent mothers. This woman clearly falls on the lower end. She has apparently lost the instinct to nurture and protect her child. She didn’t have the imagination to think what could potentially happen if the toddler wandered off.

There really isn’t a point to this blog post except to rant, I guess. Women like this child’s mother might lead me to despair about our culture…until I stop and look around at others who mother beautifully.


  1. I vividly remember "losing" my youngest son in a hotel. His older brothers sent him up from the pool in the elevator (I was waiting at the door of our room, with a napping baby) and he got off at the wrong floor. One looks pretty much like another, y'know?

    While logically I knew that by stopping at each of the 7 or 8 floors we would quickly find him, my panicky mind imagined a 'creeper' taking advantage of my frightened son.

    Hallelujah, but for a few tears all was well.

    But moms like the one you mentioned...? Well, you nailed it. She "lost the instinct to nurture and protect her child." But how does that happen? I think it gets seared away (like one's conscience) by repeatedly choosing self over sacrifice.

    Seeing those moms with their kids just breaks my heart. And I've had a lot of experience with it. *sigh*

  2. Years ago when my children were younger we had a neighbor who let her 5 year old and 2 year old play "wherever" in the neighborhood. One evening they ended up in our backyard with a bunch of other kids. The 5 year old played nicely with the other children but the two year old was wondering around front trying to open my car doors, amongst other things. When I noticed this child I took his hand and walked him home several houses away. The mother, who was inside, came out and said "What has he done." I then want on to explain to her that he hadn't done anything wrong but I was not the neighborhood babysitter and I was afraid for his safety. That his 5 year old brother was too young to take care of him and that she was lucky I was not some wierdo. This family had just moved into the neighborhood and didn't even know us yet. I don't know if this little boy ever ended up in anyone else's yard unattended, but I never saw him in ours again.

  3. I live in a densely populated metropolitan area. If I had found a a small child I would have waited with the child for maybe 5 minutes to see if anyone showed up looking for them and then I would have called the police. In these days and times, especially in a densely populated area, if a child is unattended too many horrific things can happen to them. And I believe the authorities need to be made aware of children left unattended to determine if there is a pattern of abuse and neglect. Some parents are found to be dealing drugs or otherwise engaged in bad acts. Reporting a found child may give the parents an opportunity to reform, other family members to get involved, or the justice system to make appropriate actions to insure the child is in a safe home. Again, I live in a metropolitan area where we probably have more negligent parents. I also do not want to be involved in potentially 'returning' the child to someone who is not the parent, I prefer to let the police confirm to whom the child belongs.

    As an odd aside, I recently received an email that said that gangs were using children as lures on the side of the roads. The objective is to get someone to pull over and take the child to the child's 'home' where gang members lie in wait to rape and/or rob the victim. I have no idea if this is true. But again, I would wait with the child and call 911, nothing more.

    One last comment, just this week in my area a man was shopping at Best Buy, he took his 2 yr old son out of the shopping cart set him on the ground and a man ran up and snatched the child and ran out of the store (all caught on video). Fortunately the father caught the baby snatcher. But can you imagine?!


  4. I don't think some women know when to stop.
    When they have birthed enough babies to equal their capability of expendable energy and responsibility levels, that is. My own mother self admitted many years after the damaging facts of her negligence and abuse, that she should have stopped after 2 of us. Hearing that come out of her mouth was painful enough. I think about what life would have been without the last 2 she bore that got discounted after her insensitive statement. We have learned not to take things she says like this personally, now that we are all adults. She was quite aware of what she was doing when she had all of us, she was filling an emotional void in her life, by having children. I don't think she once thought about the consequences of having so many children, that she might not be able to meet the needs of us or be able to caretake all of us, a husband and herself as well.
    The biological thing that perplexes me is the early age that humans are able to conceive. Back in the day, of the 1920's, 30's, it was perfectly normal for women to marry and start having children at the early ages of 15 or 16. Now adays we are appalled by this behavior because we realize that it takes much more than a marriage to successfully raise a child. It takes will, money, attention, health care, food, a home, and the pledge to be unselfish and responsible enough to intend to give those necessities to each individual child that is born. And, preferably BEFORE you chose to conceive or have another child.
    The issue with some young mothers, like my own, just had no effective mothering skills to cope effectively with the job of motherhood at such an early age. By the time most women are responsible thinkers and doers, they are well into their late 20's and 30's. By then they are usually career bound and are able to make a sincere option of the roles and responsibilities of motherhood, as well as being wives first.
    Just some thoughts to consider regarding this behavior. Some women have it, some just don't.
    The ones that don't, the children suffer or cope the best way they can, at very early ages.
    Thank God I did, my siblings did, we relied on each other to get through the neglect and abuse.

  5. Our daughter is autistic. She is here, she is gone, not uncommon with autistic children. Fortunately as she has gotten older these incidents are not as frequent. When she was 3yr and we stopped for lunch in the city before going to one of her first assessments we had one of those heartstopping moments. I turned to get my purse off of the booth bench. My husband turned to speak to the waitress. We both turned back and our daughter was gone. It was one of the worst moments of our lives. I can't comprehend the heartlessness of that mother. What I fear though that it is a more common reaction in today's society than we know. We just saw a mother on trial who's child was missing for a month before she reported it. Not a crime, just bad mothering they said. God, please save these children!!

  6. HG is so right! The instinct to nurture and protect her child, as well as consideration and respect for others, is seared away by repeatedly choosing self over all else. Self-centeredness has become the status quo in this day and age. Very little love, courtesy and respect is taught our children anymore. Don't think of others, think only of yourself. That's all that counts! Those we called "trailer trash" were once in the minority, but it seems they're everywhere you turn nowadays. (Yet another "accomplishment" liberal progressives can be proud of.)

  7. I'm confused here.

    A couple posts back, you wrote about how offended you were that people were "attacking" a friend of yours based on her blog, yet here you are attacking this woman based on one short incident.

    How is that any different?

    Maybe she was just overwhelemed with trying to care for 8 or 9 children, and was already having a bad day. Maybe she was inside taking care of another child. Maybe you caught her in a bad moment, and maybe she spanked an punished because she followed the advice of some of the many "parenting experts" who advise that for every mistake a child makes.

  8. Well written and excellent point, but the question that pops into my mind is, "Is this woman raising a family or running a business i.e. is the state paying her to raise children? Her reaction seems more like a rancher when one of the herd wanders away.

    (now the rant) When government gets involved things always go awry (unintended consequences).

  9. @Raine,
    You are making a very bad mistake apologizing for that "overwhelmed" woman. There is no excuse, NONE, for being so distracted that a child in your care is able to wander off unattended. (Note that I have 3 grandsons that I watch every week and I keep a sharp eye on them all the time.)

    This woman obviously had too many children to safely manage and should be castigated for taking on so many children beyond her capabilities. If I had been there, instead of Patrice, I would have severely berated the woman for spanking the child - then I would have called 911 to report a woman endangering (and abusing) a defenseless child! I am infuriated when people like her are given a pass by people like you!

  10. these days it is odd to see any children outside riding their bikes, or playing on the playgrounds or actually visiting the library or playing in their yards. maybe that is why we come to attention when we see a small child on the road, or "out of place", looking lost, or having any kind of "problem". i can remember in my own childhood being free to play at the playground, or down the street under the streetlights, riding bikes with all the other kids, and being responsible for the younger ones too. we were aware of dangers back then just like kids are aware of dangers today..but somewhere over the last fifty years or so things have changed drastically but i dont think we have improved much.

  11. I can't castigate the Spanker on her reaction alone. Mind that I didn't see the scene so I can't completely judge it but my mind wanders in this general direction.

    It would seem the deciding factor in difference in reaction between the two women would most likely be the fact that the Relieved Mother KNEW that the child was not where they were supposed to be. She had been searching for the child. She had already started to process the situation and all the possible outcomes, therefore she reacted relieved when the child is presented safely to her.

    The Spanker being presented with a child she didn't know was missing but being informed that the child had been disobedient by leaving the yard reacted in a disciplinary mode. She hadn't time to process the whole of the situation. She hadn't yet become emotionally engaged with the missingness before she reacted. Had the woman first noticed the missing kid and been looking for her when you presented her to the woman the reaction MAY have been different.

    Different people react differently to situations presented to them. There are just too many variables in an emotional reaction for me to truly judge one based on a blog entry.

    That said, I do have to ask, WHY THE HECK WAS A 2 YEAR OLD ALLOWED OUT IN THE FRONT YARD WITH NO ADULT MONITORING THEM!!!! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT WOMAN THINKING!!! A 10 year old is not adult supervision. Maybe, depending on the 10 year old, one could be trusted to monitor a couple of younger siblings so that Mom could run in for a toilet break, but put them with that many little ones running about and they lose sight of the situation amongst the play really fast. You just can't turn a herd of toddlers loose in the front yard with a 10 year old. You gotta have an adult out there and paying attention.

  12. I had missed this section the first time I read it through....'That's what made me so mad about the mother of the toddler I found. Her reaction wasn’t, “Oh my God, what happened to my child?” It was, “Oh my God, how could you inconvenience me so much?”'

    With it in mind that the woman had an air of being inconvenienced and unconcerned, I would have to tend to concur with your accessment.

  13. I once had a family living across the street from me who allowed their then three year old son to wander the neighborhood at will.

    One day, he wandered far enough afield that the person who found him didn't know who he was or where he lived, and he was too young to say.

    So, that person, being a responsible, law-abiding sort, called the police to report an abandoned child.

    The police, somehow, figured out where he lived and brought him home.

    Then, the child's father ranted and raved after they left, saying, "The police surely have more important things to do than to stick their noses in my business."

    He was not moved at all at the danger his child was in, only angered by the policeman's lecture.

    To the day they moved away, that child was allowed to roam the neighborhood. The families on our street, through repetition, taught him to stay on our street and not go anywhere else, something his parents should have done (better yet, they should have kept him by their sides).

    I just hope their new location is as safe as this neighborhood, or we might be seeing that little boy's picture on the evening news.


  14. It's sad, and rubs me raw. Too much behavior like this takes place in this country today.