I get a letter like this about once a month:
Dear Let Grow: I have enjoyed your blog, your Twitter feed, and reading your book over the past few years. They’ve helped me loosen up a little in most everything with my kids..Case in point: today, my wife and I drove an hour from our smallish Minnesotan town to Sioux Falls, SD, to do some shopping. After a few stores, we decided to stop at Walmart and gave some of our kids the choice: Come into the store, or stay in the car and read. My 9-year-old opted to read on this pleasant 59 degree afternoon..My wife and I looked around the store with our other kids 11, 7, 5 and, of course, our 2-year-old. At some point, our 5-year-old got tired, so we asked our 11-year-old to take her out to the car while we shopped another 15 minutes..As my wife went to covertly purchase a few items for our kids, I went to the car with the last two kids. As I arrived there (a whole 30 feet from the front entrance), I found a police officer speaking with my kids who were seated quietly in the car, with my 9-year-old reading, and my 11-year-old reading to his 5-year-old sister..The cop asked if I’d left them unattended, and I explained that two of them came out a few minutes ago and that the middle one had waited in the car. The cop (very politely) told me that a few people had called to report kids left in the car and someone mentioned that my son had opened the car door and waved. (To people from our church, it turns out.).I explained that my kids know how to conduct themselves and were safe. He informed me that I was “lucky,” given that here in Sioux Falls there was a “very real chance of abduction.” I explained that I am an attorney who does family law, including child endangerment cases, so I am very much aware of the “dangers” (or lack thereof) my kids faced. He was polite and nothing came of it, so I don’t really blame the cop..But who in their right mind sees my 9-year-old reading in a car and calls the cops? If they were so concerned, why didn’t they — oh, I don’t know — take 2 minutes and talk to my kid to see if he was okay? He wasn’t crying. The weather was absolutely not a concern. This wasn’t some dark alleyway, or a baby forgotten in the back seat. Yet, the police told me that two different calls came in. What is wrong with such people?.Luckily, several years of reading your blog prepared me for such moments. And the cop was nice..Long story short: thank you for your continued efforts to help parents and everyone else focus on the facts and not merely irrational fears fueled by social media and doom-and-gloom news reporting. Thanks to your work, my wife is loosening up even more and allowing our kids to remain at home alone together. Except the 2-year old, that is. But soon enough..Keep up the good work!.A Minnesota Dad
To which I replied:
I’m glad you were “prepared” but I am constantly dismayed by busybodies who are eager to butt in but apparently not at all eager to engage to make sure the kids are okay..I’m also so glad the cop was kind, even though he is totally wrong about abduction by a stranger being anywhere NEAR likely. For your info, here are the actual stats on stranger abductions, which are rarer than rare. (You’d have to leave your child unattended for 750,000 years to make a kidnapping likely):.https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-parents-nightmareincreasingly-unlikely-1466465122?mg=prod/accounts-wsj.As for what makes busybodies such jerks, here’s a piece on the fact they confuse moral outrage (“How dare you leave a child alone????”) with actual danger. Turns out the more outraged an onlooker is, the more danger they hallucinate:.https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/12/16/were-really-bad-at-judging-risk-to-kids-were-really-good-at-judging-parents/.So glad this annoying incident has not made you or your wife more determined to helicopter. YOU keep up the good work! – L.