I hear a man’s voice behind me calling, “Sir, sir, stop right there, I’ve called the police.”
The case for trusting parents
This story from Medium is by a dad whose 2-year-old wanted to take a walk in the rain, stomp in some puddles, and to be “dangled” by him — which sounds like sort of hanging onto his hand while he pulls her along, not actually being dragged across the pavement.
Nonetheless a passing van saw the two and, reports the dad:
I hear a man’s voice behind me calling, “Sir, sir, stop right there, I’ve called the police.” proceeded to ask the man what he was up to — and call the cops.
The story from then on is long and convoluted — cops come, no charges are made. (Yay!) But the folks in the van, a man and a woman clearly on a child-saving high, keep tailing the guy, refusing to consider the drenched daddy/daughter duo as anything less than nefarious.
It’s an awful encounter, but that would be just that — except for two things that strike me of Let Grow interest.
Dad completely shaken by accusation of abuse
First is how much the dad is shaken by the encounter:
How many other people think I’m mistreating her? Was van man just a male Karen, or was I really mistreating her? Am I still mistreating her? What other “unusual” things am I doing with her? When will someone call me out for something next? Will they call the police again, or will it play out differently next time, with someone taking matters into their own hands?
When you’re living in an era that considers everyday parenting decisions to be something that the average passerby deserves a say in, it is really easy to start second-guessing yourself. This dad cannot stop:
I am feeling like a complete mess. I’ve lost all sense of confidence in how I raise my daughter and don’t know how to get it back. I feel unsafe and scared of what might happen next time we’re out in public. Here’s to hoping I can put this behind me soon.
That’s why a “Reasonable Childhood Independence” law is so key. It gives everyday decision-making power definitively back to the parents.
And, in fact, the second thing of interest here is that one of the commenters mentions exactly our law!
Here in Utah they actually had to pass a law that it was ok for parents to let their kids walk to school or the park/playground by themselves. Not the littlest kids like your daughter of course - but people were getting too judgemental.
That Utah law was the first “Free-Range Parenting” law in America. Right now, Let Grow is working with groups in four other states — Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas — on similar laws.
“Reasonable Childhood Independence” Bills
These bills narrow the definition of abuse and neglect. So simply letting kids do some things on their own does not qualify as against the law. Nor does — presumably — walking in the rain while your two-year-old hangs onto your hand for fun. The fact that the cops didn’t arrest the dad shows that usually common sense does prevail. But a Reasonable Childhood Independence bill can reassure this dad — and lots more parents — that the law is on their side. Not the side of the busybodies.
We are wise to worry about child abuse, but wrong to believe we’re seeing it in any non-standard parent-child interaction. A society thrives when we give people the benefit of the doubt, not when we do the opposite.
There is no virtue in excess suspicion and vigilantism. And there’s lots of virtue in a walk in the rain.