My Top Parenting Pet Peeve?

 

I have a lot of grievances about how we as a society talk about parenting, and the prevalence of fear-mongering about every single thing is probably my highest. As a society, we seem incapable of assessing risk: we helicopter kids in the worst ways imaginable (mom at the playground: you don’t have to wait for your four-year-old at the bottom of that slide), and yet 80 percent of our kids are strapped into unsafe car seat configurations, despite the fact that car accidents are the number one cause of death for children.

One of the reasons people are having fewer kids is because parents are held to an unreasonable standard by strangers in public all the time. I cannot count how many times I’ve been yelled at for my parenting by random people; you’d think I was an actual child abuser. Most recently, last week I let my three-year-old son walk 15 feet behind me in the mall while I ran ahead to call the elevator. A man saw him, got hysterical “Where is his mother?” and when I casually said “he’s mine” I was screamed the riot act about abduction. I looked around at other people like “is he for real?” and was met with a dozen disapproving stares, not of his behavior, but of mine.

Here’s the thing about stranger abduction: it is incredibly uncommon. How uncommon?  If we were able to assess risk and statistics, parents consumed with fear of stranger abduction should never let their children walk outside if it’s raining; because being hit by lightning is five times more likely than being kidnapped by a stranger. You know the stories because they are so exceedingly rare, they make national news. Elizabeth Smart, a teenage girl abducted from her bed at home is still famous because of her kidnapping, well over a decade later. And even more surprising given how frenzied our society is about stranger abduction: it’s getting even rarer.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, David Finkelhor, an expert on missing children explained:

Stranger abductions, such as the case of the three young women in Cleveland, are fearsome because they appear random and so often involve rape or homicide. But children taken by strangers or slight acquaintances represent only one-hundredth of 1 percent of all missing children.

Which is what infuriated me so much about this video on Facebook, which has been shared almost half a million times and viewed over 147 million times already, is how senseless it is, and how it feeds into this culture of fear. In it, a father on his phone doesn’t notice when a man sneaks up to his son playing on the playground in order to “abduct him.”

The comments are, predictably, filled with parent-shaming sanctimony from people who want to feel justified never letting their children out of their sight for a moment, who have never zoned out at a playground.

To those sharing it in my newsfeed, I say: spare me. If you want to be a hovering control freak and raise a child incapable of being alone, or even walking alone, for 10 seconds, fine. But don’t pretend that other people’s children are somehow endangered for being given a few minutes of unsupervised fun in a total bubble, either at a suburban playground or in a mall.

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  1. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    I will pray @iwe that the next time your son gets hit by a car, biking to school 5 miles from home, that he does not get killed or worse yet with a head injury that leaves him incap for life. You live in Baltimore after all. And you think driving your kid to school makes him a wimp? I was under the impression that they were home schooled. Sad.

    • #31
  2. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    I lost a grandson at age 2 in a Mervin’s Department store. He needed new shoes, but they had to be like “them ones” same as the ones he had on. Standing at the counter to pay for them, I dropped his hand to get my wallet from my purse. He said, “Kay Gram, I run” and off he went to vanish behind a racks of clothing. I yelled, NO and dropped to the floor to trying to follow the direction of his little feet. I couldn’t spot him so stood and yelled for the employees to man the doors as a small child was missing. Mervin’s immediately locked the outside doors, security came and the employees started looking for the child. He was found at the other end of the store in the women’s department. Tough little bugger, and he immediately scolded me for “getting lost” when one of the clerks carried him to the center of the store where they had a command post. I reminded him that he was the one who ran, trying out his new shoes. Before we left the store I bought a harness for him. He hated it, people would give me harsh looks, but I took him to the Scottish Games and the Sacramento Jazz Festival with nary a qualm, where he could run (in circles) and dance his heart out and grandmother did not have a heart attack or a nervous breakdown. I did not tell his mother, Kaylett, about it until he was grown.

    • #32
  3. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    I was enraged and I can be kind of dangerous and he drove off quickly, but it definitely made me start carrying a whacking stick stuffed up my sleeve on my walks.

    A whacking stick may not be enough.  A small .38 caliber revolver means you don’t have to get too close to an assailant.  After all, a mean dude can grab your whacking stick and yank it out of your hand.

    Action at a distance is the best self-defense, and a firearm does that.  It’s not called an “equalizer” for nothing, but distance between you and your attacker is your best friend.  A hand-held weapon gives up too much yardage . . .

    • #33
  4. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Kay of MT (View Comment):
    I will pray @iwe that the next time your son gets hit by a car, biking to school 5 miles from home, that he does not get killed or worse yet with a head injury that leaves him incap for life. You live in Baltimore after all. And you think driving your kid to school makes him a wimp? I was under the impression that they were home schooled. Sad.

    We homeschool until high school, generally.

    My kids are raised to become capable, independent people. There are real risks. But it is still better to live life and make it count, than to merely go through the paces in a bubble.

    • #34
  5. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Tell you what iWe, looking out for your child’s safety is not raising them in a bubble. I let Kaylett at 12, ride her pony 15 miles to the arena for horse shows. She would race all day, then ride her pony home, usually with a trophy or two.  She could also move into the trees if she heard a logging truck, or if somebody tried to molest her. She was a barrel racer at 12 and 13. She and her pony were CA Champions first and National Champions second. I don’t think that keeping my thumb on her would be considered raising her in a bubble. She is today a qualified Certified Equine Vet Tech; horse trainer; dog trainer for disabled; Licensed Real-estate Agent; has a Masters in Psychology with summa cum laude; I’ve forgotten what else, but she built an enclosure around her porch in a rented cabin last Fall. Frankly, she is pretty well independent for having her mother coddle her for the first 10 years of her life. Then looked out for her the next 8. For a couple of years in NM she was also a volunteer on the Mounted Search and Rescue staff in Albuquerque.

     

     

    • #35
  6. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Kay of MT (View Comment):
    Tell you what iWe, looking out for your child’s safety is not raising them in a bubble.

    We are not really arguing! We each do what we think is best, and we surely are secure enough in ourselves not to be concerned that other people make different choices.

    • #36
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