Helicopter Parenting

carsI have recently read an article by author Kim Brooks titled “The Day I Left My Son in the Car.” And then I read a response by a blogger who raked her over the coals for her thoughts. (Read that here.) I found myself writing a long response to her response (hoping she wouldn’t then feel the need to rake ME over the coals with another response), when I decided, “Why don’t I just say this on my own blog?” It’s a little scary to me to do so, because this is a very emotional subject about which people feel very strongly. But here goes.

Long story short (in case you decide not to read her original article, which is kind of long, but well worth the time): One cool day (50 degrees and overcast, by her account), Kim made the decision to leave her recalcitrant 4-year-old son in her car with the windows cracked, the car locked and the alarm set, for a few minutes while she ran into a store to pick up a pair of kids headphones for an airplane trip on which they were about to embark. She was running late, her son, who wanted to go with her in the first place, was suddenly unwilling to accompany her into the store, so she made the decision. Someone in the parking lot saw her do it, recorded the incident on their smartphone, and called the police. She was arrested, charged, and sentenced, in the end, to community service and taking a parenting course.

Frumpy Mommy argues that Kim Brook is trying to justify her actions in her article by talking about the epidemic of helicopter parenting in our society today. I think Mrs. Brook knew she was wrong. I read the entire article. It was a lapse in judgement. I don’t agree that the person who saw her do it should have waited, recorded and called police. I think right then they should have said, “Hey, it’s probably not a good idea to leave your kid alone!” If she ignored/was rude to/cursed out that person, then maybe matters should have been taken further. Why not nip the problem in the bud instead of watching someone fail?

I had a friend who recently lost track of their 3-year-old child at the beach. One minute he was playing with his brother, the next minute he was gone. They searched for 30 minutes for that little guy, panicked all the while. Turns out, a couple down the beach thought to themselves, “This child probably shouldn’t be wandering by himself.” But did they call the police and accuse the mom of being a terrible parent? No, they followed to make sure he wasn’t harmed by someone, they contacted beach patrol, and mother and child were happily reunited. Do children wander away in public places? Yes.

I lost my son for a terror-filled 5 minutes once at Sea World. Was I a bad parent because I took my eyes off of him for a minute? Granted, Mrs. Brook left her son in a locked, alarm-set car on a cool day. She made the decision. It’s different; I know that. And I’m not in any way, shape or form advocating that anyone leave their small child in their car for any reason. I didn’t even go into a convenience store to get my receipt if it failed to print at the gas pump if I had my babies with me. But no parent is perfect. I think we’ve probably all put our children at risk at some point. I think her point was not to excuse herself—I think she learned her lesson—I think her point was to say that judgement of others has gone way too far.

There is so much more to say. Don’t judge me until my thoughts are all out there (like yes, she’s the parent and should have taken control of the situation instead of letting her 4-year-old have control. And no, I’m not saying she was right in what she did.) In my next post, I’ll share more thoughts on this subject.

I’m willing to engage in polite debate on the subject. Leave your comments below.

image from eriesense.com

6 thoughts on “Helicopter Parenting

  1. Here’s my opinion on the subject: I leave my kid in the car when I go to check my PO Box, or when I run to the ATM, or for other quick errands that I do. I let him ride his bike around the neighborhood and I don’t watch him every second. I let him play in the (unfenced) back yard while I do stuff in the house. When we are at the park I don’t watch him constantly. I did this when he was four. I live in a very small community. Would I do this in a bigger city? Maybe not. But I honestly don’t think the author of the original blog is a bad parent, or even really did a bad thing. I think the person filming should have said something to the woman instead of calling the police if they honestly felt that her child was in danger. It makes me sad that people are so quick to call the police instead of talking to their neighbors.

    • Exactly, Mary! Your community is a lot different than mine, but mankind is the same everywhere. Many people will talk about how they were raised “back in the day” and I must say that I think kids were a lot better off back then. Yes, the safety measures put into place nowadays—like car seats and bike helmets—have saved a lot of lives, but the restrictions kids face have done them a disservice. Levi is one happy, secure little guy—even if he thinks swings are too dangerous :-). The preponderance of stories out there on the internet for everyone to read has so many people much more paranoid than they really need to be. I’ll talk more about that in my next post. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I agree with you. The kind thing to do (for the little Brook child left in the car, as well as for Mrs. Brook) would have been to wait outside the car and make sure nothing went wrong with her errant plan. Then, when she returned, tell her, “I had your back now–but you shouldn’t do it again.”

    There is a reason random acts of kindness are called that – they are are few and far between. Expect that people are going to do mean things, say mean things, or just not want to involve themselves. Humans are often driven by the desire to feel better about themselves, which, sadly, too often leads to them being mean or saying mean things. Realizing that our judgments will not always be sound, we should just do the best we can with what we’re given, and trust God to always have our back. His kindness is not random!

  3. Being the mean mom that I am (was), I would’ve made my child come in with me. Actually, I probably did do that a time or two. But, yea, let’s help each other out before we point a finger. Sheesh. I mean, seriously, would that bystander with a camera want someone filming him/her breaking a law?

    • I think each of us a time or two have had the urge just to take the easy way and not fight the battles. We assess every situation and make our decisions. Being judged for that is very hard. Do unto others, people. Do unto others. Thanks for commenting!

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