Sunday, August 5, 2018

Parenting in the age of fear

Here's my WND column for this weekend entitled "Parenting in the Age of Fear."

For those unable to access the WND website, here's the text:

Parenting in the Age of Fear

Every parent has done it. Come on, ’fess up.

Your kid fell asleep in the car. Your errand is very brief. The weather is neither too hot nor too cold. Because your chore will take such a short time, you crack the windows, lock the vehicle, and dash into the store for two minutes.

Of course all is well when you return. Your child never stirred from his nap. Relieved, you unlock the door and continue your day.

Unbeknownst to you, a stranger observed this incident, photographed your license plate, and reported you to the police. The next thing you know, there is a warrant for your arrest.

Something like this happened to a writer named Kim Brooks, who found herself justifying her decision to leave her four-year-old in the vehicle both to the police and to the world at large. “If it had been warm out, I would have said no,” she wrote. “I knew about how quickly a closed car can overheat, even on a 60-degree day. But it was cool and cloudy. I’d grown up in that same town in the 1980s and had spent hours waiting in the back seat of my parents’ station wagon, windows open, reading or daydreaming, while they ran errands. Had so much really changed since then?”

Ms. Brooks contacted a lawyer, who told her to wait to see if the police would either press charges, or report her to the Department of Children and Family Services. “And so I waited, terrified, until the morning I received that second call and learned that I was being charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor (my son),” she wrote.

Ms. Brooks’ case might have loped along like endless other parents accused of negligence for something that was perfectly normal a few years ago – except she decided to look for other mothers experiencing similar accusations. “I was beginning to understand that it didn’t matter if what I’d done was dangerous,” she noted. “It only mattered if other parents felt it was dangerous. When it comes to kids’ safety, feelings are facts.”

Feelings are facts. That’s a terrifying standard, especially when parenting is under the microscope.

I know something of the fear Ms. Brooks felt. When our younger child was a five-month-old baby, I took her to town with me on a sparkling October day. She was attired in nothing but a diaper, so I put her in my trusty sling, draped a jacket across both of us, and we skipped across the parking lot toward the store. We were both laughing in the snappy air and pretty sunshine.

That is, until I stepped into the store. Immediately I was accosted by an outraged woman. “How dare you take that baby out naked in this weather!” she snarled.

Taken aback, I looked at our daughter. Her eyes were bright, the cotton sling was tucked over her bare shoulders, she was warm against her mommy’s body, and she was laughing out loud. “She’s perfectly warm,” I assured the woman. “She’s laughing and happy. See?”

Not satisfied, the woman dogged my heels into the store and absolutely lambasted me for my poor mothering skills, for my unthinking cruelty to take a baby out unclothed on such a cold day (it was 60F degrees), and quite literally threatened to call Child Protective Services over the unpardonable sin of not dressing my child in a down parka for the polar expedition of walking 50 feet across a parking lot in October.

She finally left me alone. I did my shopping, but before I stepped foot outside the store I confess I looked around to see if the harridan was lurking in a corner, waiting to take my license plate number and report me to CPS. For a young mother, it was a terrifying experience.

Parenting has changed over the last few decades. “What kind of parent wouldn’t buckle up his children in the car?” asked my husband rhetorically. “Oh yeah, my parents. Your parents.” In fact, most parents in the late 50s and early 60s didn’t buckle up their children.

When I was a kid, my father was always diligent about vehicle safety (he frequently sang this jingle), but even he didn’t hesitate to drive home at night with us unbuckled after we had all gone to a drive-in movie. We children were sound asleep on a makeshift bed in the backseat. Somehow we all survived the trip home and no one ever accused my parents of neglect.

Now don’t start laying into me about how important safety is regarding children. I’m not advocating leaving your kids unbuckled or neglecting to attend to their safety. But sometimes it can go too far – not for the kids, but for the parents. Mothers especially have been accused of the vilest offenses for things that – a couple of decades ago – would not have caused anyone to bat an eye. (For further examples of over reactions, see this, this and this.)

The demand to be a “perfect” parent affects all socio-economic levels. “We’re contemptuous of ‘lazy’ poor mothers,” writes Brooks. “We’re contemptuous of ‘distracted’ working mothers. We’re contemptuous of ‘selfish’ rich mothers.”

One of the accused mothers Brooks interviewed stated, “[N]o matter what color you are, no matter how much money you do or don’t have, you don’t deserve to be harassed for making a rational parenting choice.” This mother was censured for child “abandonment” for leaving her children in the car for three minutes while purchasing a Starbucks coffee.

So who’s perfect? “A mother, apparently, cannot be harassed. A mother can only be corrected,” states Brooks.

I concur. The busybody twit who harassed me for not dressing my baby in a parka was simply “correcting” me. Loudly. In public. While following me. While humiliating and intimidating me in front of strangers.

Ironically this forced helicopter parenting is creating a twin backlash. One factor is children who never have the opportunity to make unsupervised decisions while growing up, resulting in stunted abilities as adults. The other factor is parents pushing back against societal busybodies. “There seems to be a slow-brewing backlash to the idea that we should let our lives be ruled by the twin fears of danger and of disapprobation,” concludes Brooks.

Remember those golden summer days when children played on sidewalks and in parks? Remember the tree forts and the bike rides? Remember when children played outside like children should?

If you can remember this, you were a child of the 70s, 60s, or earlier. If you can’t, you’re a child of the 80s, 90s, or later when playing outdoors unsupervised became “dangerous.”

Today, our fanatical insistence on perfect parenting and eternally supervised children means kids stay inside staring at screens of various sizes and shapes. The tree forts and bikes are ignored or never purchased. The imaginative rough-and-tumble games are forever gone. Children never see the sun, but at least they’re “safe” – thanks to societal busybodies who won’t let kids be kids, or parents be imperfect.



  1. It's amazing that me and my siblings grew up amidst what is now considered parental neglect. My mom was a single parent in the 50's and worked 2 jobs to keep us fed and clothed. As the oldest, by age 12 I was supervising the 2 younger ones, making dinner, doing laundry with a wringer washer. Nobody went to the ER, went hungry or unwashed and I was (an still am) proud that I was called by all the adults we knew "Mothers Little Helper". My how things have changed. Also, that buckle up jingle is still ringing in my brain. Thanks for the memory!

  2. God in Heaven by today's standards I would have been removed from my childhood home because I was allowed to climb trees, play ball in the street,walked home from school everyday,learned to cook, bake and can food, and learned how to fish and shoot at the age of 10. No wonder so many are lost in their parents basements fighting zombies.


  3. This same scenario happened to me a month ago. I went to a store to return an item, left my children in the car. 60 degrees out, overcast breezy day. Left the windows cracked, locked the doors and ran inside. 10 min later, I walked outside to the car. I saw a man looking inside my car, and two women waiting off to the side. I asked the man if I could help him, and was informed that the women had called the police on me because I left my children alone in the car. She told me that it was illegal to leave my children alone in the car. I asked her to name the law that states its illegal to leave your children alone in a car. She could not, she just reiterated that it was illegal. This conversation led me to tell her to mind her own business, and then I left. Didn't wait for the police. Never got pulled over, or a phone call later. By the way, it is NOT illegal to leave your kids in the car where I live. Very frustrating. I wake up everyday trying to be the best parent I can be, and deliberately try not to put my children in harms way. Long comment I'm sorry. I resonate with you Patrice, as well as Mrs. Brooks. My husband remembers walking to school in the freezing cold snow in Michigan. Alone. Heaven forbid!

  4. My husband told me that when his mom had to take the kids with her to errands, (she had 6), she would always say, OK the big ones hold the little ones, no seat belts in this case. As for myself I was so unsupervised and neglected and yet managed to make it to adulthood without any major incidents.
    The busybodies that report parents and harass them are usually the ones that have never had a child in the first place, but somehow feel that it is their right to harass women who do have children. I still don't get it, how can a child learn about life without practice.

  5. I'm a child of the 70s & 80s we are the last great generation... last of the great music movies getting dirty playing with firecracker and bbguns. Fighting but never killing respecting elders cops and robbers never coming home till street lights come on. Then playing flashlight tag till midnight. Yep THE LAST GREAT GENERATION

    1. Whoa. Hold the selfie. I have good news and I have bad news for you.

      I am a child of the 40s. The bad news is that there is not one Great Generation alive today. The 'tree of liberty' fell on our watch. Not one shot was fired.

      The good news is that real Americans can still honor “their duty, to throw off such Government “. Am I an anarchistic anti-government domestic terrorist (FedGov’s New-Speak)? I am pro-Declaration of Independence. Government’s end game will soon be revealed. All will be forced to make choices. If you bought into FedGov’s slogan, “If you see something, say something” you are already lost. So folks (excluding young parents), ask yourself, ‘Will you be a Loyalist to the Crown or pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor?’

      Dock Guy

  6. Grew up in the 40's and 50's on a large farm. By the age of 5, was spending many hours out in the field on a tractor. Never looked back from there. By the age of 14 had taken over all the farm work and my dad handled the cattle. Today my parents would be in deep trouble. Farmers can not hire high school kids to help with harvest. Sad world, Lord help us. More

  7. I was born in 1946 and survived somehow. There were no seatbelts, nor for my children. The only time I say anything to parents is when I see adults with a child in arms that is barefoot, barearmed, and hatless while the parents have on boots, hats, and jackets over sweaters AND it is cold. They look frightened, so I figure they realize they are wrong. My comment is only once and quiet. Usually, the weather is 50 or below and the wind is blowing.

    In the 70s I allowed my children to do dangerous things other parents would not allow. I think my children are helicopters, but I never voice my opinion. I lived in a small town and they live in big cities, like NYC, so I figure they know best for their children.

  8. I’m a child of the 80s. We grew up riding bikes and playing in the creek and watching younger siblings. Miraculously, we all lived!

    I’ve given up, somewhat, on the forced helicopter parenting. Three of my kids accept it. My middle daughter never would. She NEEDS to climb trees, dig holes, and take stupid risks on a scooter. If she doesn’t get to, she has a tendency to climb walls, attempt back handsprings on a ceramic tiled floor, and do other things that really ARE dangerous.

    I live in fear that someone will call the police. I guess I’ll just have to deal with it. I cannot sacrifice my kids’ well-being to emotionalism.

  9. I have had many issues with busy-bodies in public, probably because when I'm out with my boys, everybody notices (they're obviously adopted). One that sticks in my mind is how absolutely determined one librarian was to prove that my baby son was too cold in his jon-jon outfit and front carrier I was wearing him in. I kept trying to laugh it off and she kept following me, protesting. Finally I pointed out the sweat on his nose (hello, Florida!) and she subsided behind the counter, grumbling and giving me dirty looks. Not sure why anyone would think I would willingly allow my baby to be cold or otherwise uncomfortable...? You know those moms who bring their kids to the library--totally neglectful.

  10. And if the Government is so twisted up about safety regarding our children, then why are there not seat belts on school buses. We've seen how crazy stupid most of the bus drivers are, they wheel that bus around like a Corolla.

  11. I went into a store to get a prescription for my youngest. I went straight from the doctor to the pharmacy. She had 103 fever and it was pouring out. She fell asleep on the way. She was about 3. My son who was 5 wanted to stay in the minivan too so I let him. I was in and out in about 3 minutes to drop it off. When I can out a lady started yelling at me that I left my kids alone in the car and should be arrested. I told her to mind her business. I got in my car and my oldest daughter popped up from the back of the minivan and asked me why was that lady yelling at me. She was 12. From the outside people assume they know how to run our lives better then we do. To bad for them, its my life.

  12. The larger issue as I see it is that today anyone can use Government to force their personal choices and values on others thus destroy their liberties. This same evil Government that would destroy Kim Brooks to ‘protect her child from her’ also ‘protects’ and enforces this fallen country’s designed infanticide. The only thing Government is protecting is Lincoln’s Northern model of a highly centralized supreme federal government. It failed. The South won.

    As heartbreaking as this is, I am very optimistic. We are now in a near free-fall toward the inevitable breakup. Prepare accordingly. Where do you want your loved ones to be when the breakup happens, an ‘Estonia’ or a ‘Tajikistan’?

    Dock Guy

  13. Expecting perfection is actually a sin. No one is perfect and to pretend we are is simply seeing the bar far too high. I'm always being harassed by people because we homeschool and on Friday's sometimes I have to buy groceries... With 5 kids in tow. This summer I was asked why my kids weren't in school. Seriously. In July. We live in town... I'm frightened to let my kids play in the street much less ride their bikes. Not without direct constant supervision which is insanely tiresome on Mom. I'm a child of the 80's. I played outside every single day. I ride my bike on a crazy busy road alone up to the creek and went fishing alone. For hours.i cannot fathom letting my children do that today. The fear. It is real. If I happen upon a gas station where the pump is broken I will drive to another gas station because how does one tote5 kids into the store just to pay for gas to rebuckle them all back in. Is seriously effort. But just that fear that someone will call/report or God forbid do something....I feel sad for kids today. I really do.

    Yet! When something is actually wrong in a home and you report it.... It goes completely nowhere and the kids still suffer. But the good parents, the ones who work hard and try are relentlessly harassed. It's so messed up.

  14. I was in the market when my kid started acting up. I told him to cut it out, or I'd smack his butt. He didn't, so I did. I was surrounded by people. Some of them clapped. Some of them said "It's good to finally see someone disciplining their child." There was this one lady though; "OH, HOW CAN YOU HIT YOUR CHILD! HOW CAN YOU DO THAT???" It went on and on. I went full-on New Yauk on her. I looked this "hall monitor" in the eye, and told her "Unless you're ready to take this kid, feed him, house him, discipline him, and be otherwise responsible for him until his eighteenth birthday, I'd advise you to SHUT UP AND GET BACK TO YOUR SHOPPING!" She slinked away, her tail between her legs... more clapping in the background...

  15. Thank goodness my kids were raised in the late 80's/early 90's before things got so out of hand. I locked my firstborn in the car when he was a about a year old (long story) but the fire department came and got the car unlocked with no questions asked, and a lot of laughs along the way...DS was having a great old time watching us all scramble! My kids were also allowed to 'free range' much as I did when they were younger, it was as they got older that their wings got clipped a bit, so to speak, as society was changing. By today's 'standards', my parents would likely have been jailed, for the amount of freedom my brother and I were given, and the 'dangerous' things we were allowed to participate in...And Pete, good for you! I would have been one of those clapping for you! I work in a grocery store, and can't tell you how often myself and coworkers of a similar age comment on how a parent should just stop and take the child out of the store because of their behavior, or handle it in a manner similar to your situation. A swat on the butt is one thing. I have seen such situations handled in much worse manners that one could consider bordering abuse, or at the least bad parenting. But an announced swat on the butt? Nah, that's just good parenting.

  16. about the same thing happened to me in the P.X. in Germany. but I told the "lady" threatening to call the M.P.'s to call the ambulance first because she would be needing it before the M.P.'s got there.
    she walked off in a huff, never calling anybody.

    1. Would have said the same! What is it about people minding their own business they can't seem to understand. Would it be better to just have unruly kids run rampant in our stores? Oh, I get it, now they who have grown up in these last years are running rampant... shouting "resist!!!" etc. Snowflakes all!

  17. we are somewhat free er still in England. our children still play out on bikes unsupervised and climb trees but the fear of abuse is making it harder. There are areas where children can't play. we live in a village where they do. its nice to hear them as well.