"The day I left my son in the car"

Like many Americans my age, I read this story with a sense of awe at the difference between my own childhood and the norm today.  Are things really more dangerous now?  Neighborhoods are more anonymous, for the most part, but then statistics say the real danger is from family and friends rather than from strangers.  One thing of which there can be little doubt is that our culture feels more entitled to intervene in decisions between parents and children.

I'm curious whether the parents in the Hall will think the mother was in the wrong.  The comments in Salon are a tall drink of crazy.  "So what if your child isn't suffocated or abducted!  He could be maimed by the power window mechanism!"  What do I know?  I'm over-anxious even about my dogs.  Who am I to think I'd have been brave about children?  Still, I'm glad I grew up when kids were still allowed to go into the woods alone.


DL Sly said...

Man, what an exercise in narcissistic hubris! Although, the point of her story is one that will get my blood boiling for many reasons not the least of which is the bogus freakin' charge the police came up with so they could be seen as doing something!!!!!eleventy!! But this line, In place of “It takes a village,” our parenting mantra seems to be “every man for himself.” is so assininely obtuse that it begs the quote, "You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means."

E Hines said...

Well, my daughter grew up with a father who, as a boy, chased tornadoes with his bicycle and in college bulldogged freight trains from motorcycles.

So when she, as an adolescent, would go out into the street in electrical storms to call down the lightning, I didn't bat an eyelash. In her presence.

But times really are more dangerous today than yesterday, if only because today's parents tend to outsource their parenting jobs far more than my daughter's parents' generation, or my parents' generation did.

Nothing like an intrusive, Progressive government's overreaction, though.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

This story reminds me that (sub)urban America has gone completely insane. I really must find a way never to live there again.

I spent my boyhood in the woods with a dog, a book, and a machete knife. How else would you spend it?

E Hines said...

How else would you spend it?

Apparently with a monitor and an Xbox.

Eric Hines

Cass said...

OK, I'll bite.

I'm pretty sure it's not a great idea to leave a 4 year old boy in a locked car.

Two words: emergency brake.

And yes, the entire story is disturbing on a number of levels. Parents do dumb things all the time, but I'm not going to say this wasn't stupid.

It was. Absolutely. She shouldn't have done it - and doing it because she couldn't handle a temper tantrum is a particularly poor excuse that makes me question her intelligence and her judgment.

It was stupid when I left my firstborn sleeping on a bad and he rolled off.

Absent a tragic outcome, I don't think this merited charges being filed. I don't have a problem with someone reporting it (they don't know if Mom is coming back or not) OR the police investigating it to make sure this wasn't an isolated incident.

Cass said...

"bed", not "bad".

mtwzzyzx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
douglas said...

Cass, in a flat parking lot, even if the kid releases the parking brake (not easy in most cars), he's not going to get it out of park without the key (probably not even if they did as he wouldn't be tall enough to hold the brake pedal and shift at the same time).

I figure they're safer in a locked car (barring a hot day) than riding around in it with you and every crazy driver on the road. Statistics say I'm right. 2011 saw 33 heatstroke deaths of kids left in cars (I've not heard any other concern about leaving them in there). In 2011 around 230 kids under 11 were killed in car accidents. She was seven times more flagrantly risking her childs safety by taking him to the store than by leaving him in the car once there- actually less, because she didn't leave him thoughtlessly, she considered the conditions, and concluded it was reasonably safe.

You know, maybe the reason so many older kids are doing 'extreme' sports is because they've grown up so bubble-wrapped. I have to wonder if they aren't less able to judge risk and reward as a result of almost never having to practice it.

Texan99 said...

Cass, I had the same reaction to her inability to deal with the kid's tantrum, which wasn't a good reason to do anything. She didn't seem to have any authority with her kid. Someday that was going to be dangerous--even if this particular thing didn't strike me as unreasonably dangerous.

I don't think I remember being carted around in the car as my parents ran errands. I guess I was occasionally. I shudder to think what would have happened if I'd refused to get out of the car when one of them asked me! Not that they would have beat me or anything, but it was simply out of the question. Anyway, we'd more likely have been left home alone, which today probably would bring the cops down on the parents' heads, too.

DL Sly said...

Actually, as soon as she realized he was trying to score more video game time before even leaving the house was the time to be a parent and say, "No, you stay home. I'll be back in a few minutes."
And. Just. Freakin'. Leave!

Cass said...

Douglas, when I was 5 I managed to climb inside my Dad's car and get it rolling. It wasn't hard at all.

I also managed, at 7, to back my parents' station wagon out of a flat garage by leaving the door open and pushing with my foot. I then climbed up onto the roof of the car and pulled myself onto the roof of our house.

From the time they were toddlers, if either of my boys were inside a car the very first thing they did was begin playing with the gearshift, steering wheel, and parking brake. My grandsons (4 and 6) naturally do the same things. It's entirely predictable and normal behavior for any small child but especially for boys.

I just don't think personal convenience or inability to overcome a toddler's objections are good reasons to do what she did.

re: relative risk, I agree that driving is statistically more dangerous. But exposing a child to danger from driving is very different from exposing a child to danger from something there is *absolutely* no need to do. People do have to drive to conduct every day business.

But there is really no reason - except her inability to "parent up" and deal with childish whims - to leave the kid in a locked car. I wouldn't leave a 4 year old home alone either for all the same reasons.

As I said before, pressing charges is just silly absent a tragedy. A stiff warning and a bit of a scare seems right to me. This woman doesn't seem to have much common sense, and aside from the pressing of charges, I don't have a problem with her being reported to the police or with the police coming out to check out her side of the story.

Texan99 said...

Wouldn't it have been nice if the tattletale, instead of standing there shooting video or walking up and delivering a lecture, had stood guard near the car? When Mom came back, the point would have been clear without any need for haranguing or calling the police.

If I see a child alone in a public place, I usually hang around discreetly long enough to be sure that the parents aren't really gone. It would take a lot to get me to intervene actively, but I can at least be ready in case the kid shows signs of distress or I don't like the vibe of what some other adult tries to do. With no kids of my own, I stand in loco parentis to any strays nearby.

I've never been inspired to call the cops on any parents so far. In fact, I can scarcely imagine calling the cops on anyone before trying to talk to them, absent a physical emergency like a beating. I think that kind of interpersonal breakdown is a major source of corrosion in our society.

Grim said...

I once called the police because of a child in the car -- not because the child was in the car, which struck me as entirely non-dangerous (it's an environment that is really pretty safe and contained, so long as the car is in park and the ground is level) but because the driver was heavily intoxicated.

As in this case, though, the police didn't get there in time to do anything about it. In retrospect I should have simply put the driver under citizen's arrest until they got there, but I was on the phone with the dispatcher trying to get her to send someone when the driver re-emerged, hopped in the nearby car, and drove off.

Grim said...

And if I'd had my wife with me -- instead of being all alone, and in charge of two boys myself -- I would perhaps even have simply intervened by insisting on driving him home myself, having the wife (and boys) follow behind to pick me up when we dropped him off. No need then to call the police at all. The police would have gotten DFACS involved, and that is worse for the child even than occasionally being driven around drunk.

Texan99 said...

That qualifies as an immediate emergency, and one in which talking to the driver might have been beside the point. A good idea to try, as you say, but there may not be time, and arguing with a drunk often yields limited returns. All you can really say is, "You can give me the keys, or we can wait here for the cops."

Ymar Sakar said...

Depends on if the option was being locked in a car or being locked in with Hollywood directors and producers.

raven said...

Grim said "I spent my boyhood in the woods with a dog, a book, and a machete knife. How else would you spend it?"

BB gun and fishing pole?

Grim said...

Never liked fish all that much. Now, a .22 and you can get something.

Ymar Sakar said...

Heard dynamite is popular for fishing.

Good to train people in explosives every now and again. Might be needed soon.

DL Sly said...

I'll take that fishing pole! And bring back a mess of fish that I won't clean, but I'll cook and then won't eat.
The worst day fishing is better than the best day at work any day.

E Hines said...

The worst day fishing is better than the best day at work any day.

My days at work often were spent...testing...fighter simulators while immersed in the visuals. Much better than sitting there in the mosquitoes watching the fish not bite.

Eric Hines

douglas said...

"Douglas, when I was 5 I managed to climb inside my Dad's car and get it rolling. It wasn't hard at all."

Sure, when he was 7. my brother did it too. I'm assuming she's driving a nice, safe, modern car with an automatic and an ignition interlock. No key and brake pedal pressure, no go.

Four is a bit young to leave in the car for a moment, but I'd leave my ten and/or eight year old in the car to go inside the gas station. To some people, that's insanity. I don't know how long she was in the store, and if it was more than two minutes, I can see being concerned, but I'm with you all- why call the police and/or get DHHS involved? Grim's right, they're worse for the child than whatever is going on at least half the time.