I am not one of these guys who thinks that if I survived childhood then kids today don’t need bicycle helmets. Just the same, it does seem to me that we have become over-protective. That’s especially true when it comes to nebulous threats. Do people really think that huge numbers of strangers are lurking in the shadows just waiting to abduct their children? The vast majority of the cases are child custody battles. So the over-concern of people about their children’s safety in this regard indicates that as a society, we are highly narcissistic. And often, this is used to abuse children and parents alike.
Take, for example, the case of Laura Browder. She is a Houston single mother and college student. She got a suddenly announced job interview. So she wasn’t able to get a babysitter for her two children — 6 year old daughter and 2 year old son. So she took them to the food court at the mall, where her interview was. She got them some food from McDonald’s, and proceeded with her interview — where she was 30 feet away. Well, someone apparently thought the children were crying, and so called the police. The children were taken into protective custody and Browder was arrested.
It all worked out in the end. Browder got out of jail and quickly got her kids back. I don’t know at this time whether the charges are dropped or whether they will be. Browder did get the job, but after all that, who knows? Job offers are rescinded all the time. But what does this say about our society that this is the way we “help” young single mothers who are trying to make something of their lives? We don’t go and check on the children and help out as we may. You know: it doesn’t take a village; it takes a police department.
At the age of six, I used to walk a mile home from school with my friend George. So there were two (working) mothers who would now no doubt get arrested. Both of us could have had the excellent experience of being raised by literally dozens of foster parents. We seem to now live in a society that cares enough about the safety of children to punish both the children and their parents. But it doesn’t care enough to make their lives better. We can’t spend money on things like universal daycare. But we certainly have unlimited funds for policing and jailcare!
I see this all as the Ann Romney syndrome. Rich mothers are to be applauded for the “tough” choice of staying home and being intimately involved with their children’s lives. But poor mothers must be made to work — and in Laura Browder’s case, also go to college because she doesn’t want to be stuck in her current situation for the rest of her life. It would somehow be wrong to provide poor mothers with the same resources as rich mothers, even though the ultimate result is that rich children have far better lives than poor children.
Meritocracy, my ass!