Corey Widen, mom of two in hometown of Wilmette, Ill (and neighbors with my friend since middle school -- who was NOT the person who called the cops!) writes this great piece in USA Today today:
My 8-year-old daughter walked her dog alone. Then police came knocking on my door
Low-income families are especially vulnerable to our mom-shaming culture. It wastes resources and hurts children to call the police on safe families.
by Corey Widen
When the police knocked on my front door one day in early August, it was my 8-year-old daughter who answered.
It started out as a perfectly normal day. After a busy summer, my daughter and I were looking forward to a rare day free of organized activities. Over breakfast on our patio, I told her, “Today we can relax and all you have is a play date this afternoon. The only thing we have to do today is work on Marshy's dog training.” A good plan I would live to regret.
My daughter walked her tiny Maltese dog, Marshmallow, by herself (the norm in my neighborhood for kids). From where I was in our yard, I could see and hear her nearly the entire time. Then a neighbor called the police.
The neighbor actually told the police a 5-year-old was out by herself. The cops checked in on my family and reported back to the neighbor that I had done nothing wrong and was not endangering my child for letting her walk her dog. Apparently wanting to see me hauled away in handcuffs in front of my kid, the same neighbor decided to call the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), which launched a weeks-long investigation for neglect.
All because my daughter walked her dog.
If this sounds crazy to you, that's because it is. I would soon learn, however, that in America reporting mothers to the authorities because an onlooker disagrees with her parenting is shockingly common.
My family is fortunate. We stretch to rent in a beautiful, safe area outside of Chicago. But our society is particularly judgmental of mothers and people are fond of forcing their ideas on other parents. Parenting will make you keenly aware of just how valuable some people think their opinions are.
Aside from completely traumatizing my daughter — nightmares, paranoia, anger — the whole situation was particularly ironic.
I home-school my kids year-round, which means I am with them practically 24/7. I am actually that annoying mom you secretly think really needs to get a life: I cut off crusts, cut grapes in half, carry Band-Aids, hand wipes, rain ponchos, tissues and snacks wherever I go. Just in case.
God I love her writing! She then gets to her main point:
The fact that our government, urged on by busybodies who think their parenting style is the only correct way to parent, takes away or ruins this tiny bit of precious time from mothers — particularly mothers of color — should be the shame of our nation.
Agreed! Here's the rest of the piece. Now Corey is part of a group of people in Chicago looking to pass a Free-Range Parenting bill like the one in Utah, which states, basically: Our kids have the right to some unsupervised time and we have the right to give it to them without getting arrested!
For info on why a bill like that is a good idea, and how to get it adopted, here is our info packet. Let freedom ring and kids walk dogs! - L.
Photo courtesy of Corey Widen.