Author Topic: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'  (Read 3177 times)

serpico

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'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« on: May 17, 2015, 12:26:35 AM »
Not widow-related, but still very thought provoking: http://www.salon.com/2014/06/03/the_day_i_left_my_son_in_the_car/

I found this while reading a similar story about a couple who got in trouble for letting their kids walk home: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/maryland-couple-want-free-range-kids-but-not-all-do/2015/01/14/d406c0be-9c0f-11e4-bcfb-059ec7a93ddc_story.html

Because I have three kids of my own and I am the sole decision-maker (hey, THERE'S the widow part!), I'm sort of intrigued by the Helicopter Parent vs. Free Range Parent debate.

Thoughts?
'I think I got some of your pickle'

widowat33

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Re: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2015, 12:59:15 AM »
I'm definitely closer to the free range parenting, the only thing that prevents me from being completely free range is of course society.
If you, god forbid, allow children freedom to make their own choices and teach them responsibility by experiencing things it is often frowned upon, or as we've read in many articles, can be illegal.
I am truly afraid for the generation coming up who have never had the chance to be independant. I personally will not be there to hold my sons hands when they are older, they are going to have to figure stuff out on their own. I will be supportive of course, but these are essential skills they need to learn on their own, or by example.
Being a widow, I've experienced worse case scenarios, so of course I worry about my boys too. I tried to explain to them that even though I worry about them getting hurt, or worse, we can't stop living and doing things we enjoy even if there are some risks involved because really what's the point of living if you aren't really living?! Does that mean I'm going to encourage them to participate in risky behaviour? Of course not. But I can't let the fear of them riding in cars (car accident widow), walking to school, etc..overwhelm me to the point that they aren't allowed to do anything.
I do understand the helicopters point of view, wanting to keep their children safe, and worrying about them...

Portside

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Re: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2015, 09:26:58 AM »
To me, the bigger, but totally predictable upshot of helicopter parenting is that is never stops. Such parents get in "hover/cover" mode and can never break out of it - no matter how old little Johnny or Susie become.

Case in point - I have a son in the Navy. Due to his security clearances and assignments I rarely know where he is and what he is doing. My mail/packages are sent to a mailbox in Virginia and are forwarded on. That is just the way it is - he's an adult and chose this life and is thrilled with traveling the world and being out on his own.

I am in contact with a number of other Navy moms whose sons/daughters serve in the same capacity as my son. Routinely, some of them badger commanding officers or their Congressmen for info and insist (yes, insist) that they be informed about the who/where/what etc. concerning their child - even though that kid is in his 20's. They ask about ship movements, dates, missions, etc.

That kind of attention gets around and soon, Sailor Susie has lost her security clearance (and her very good job) and is stuck in some warehouse addressing shipping labels to send pallets of socks to Fort Polk, LA. for the next four years. 

Yes, I worry. But the hover/cover moms are interfering with the maturation of their children and if they are not careful, it will negatively impact the child's life and may even cause a rift in the family. You delay a child's grown by sticking too close for too long.

Don't even get me started on the 200 parents picking up their kids at the grade school each and every day.  >:(

Best wishes - Mike
The war is over for me now. But those of us who did make it have an obligation to build again, to teach to others what we know, and to try with what's left of our lives to find a goodness and a meaning to this life.

SoVerySad

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Re: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2015, 11:02:11 AM »
While the first article is thought-provoking, I feel like the author is trying to have it both ways. On one hand, she seems to be saying that we should have some faith that other responsible adults in the village will help watch out for our kids. On the other hand, she is incensed that one of the village members reported her for leaving her child alone in the car.

I'm pretty sure that many would label me a helicopter parent. I could care less what someone else labels me. Portside has commented about parents who transport their grade school children to school. Guilty... heck, I still transport my daughter to high school. Why anyone else cares is beyond me. My DH & I based our decision on the fact that there are no seat belts on buses in a state that mandates seat belts in all other vehicles. I know the argument that buses are safe, etc., yet I have my own experience of having been in a school bus accident as a child. My sister and I sat in the front seat. Our bus driver, who we loved and was a good driver, ran into the back of a truck one day. We both flew out of our seats. My sister's head actually cracked the windshield. Thankfully we weren't seriously injured. Here the school buses regularly seat 3 children to a seat, which leaves the 3rd child halfway on the seat. On most field trips I chaperoned, at least one kid ended up on the bus floor when the bus driver hit the brakes. So, decisions for my children are made based upon my experiences and beliefs. I realize the likelihood that one of my children would be involved in a bus accident are small, yet if you are the person it happens to, then the statistics really don't matter. My children have never been allowed to ride in our car without seatbelts - regardless if they were tired, restless, whatever. It wasn't negotiable. My kids were the few who rode in the back seat in booster seats until they grew big enough to not require them, while their schoolmates were riding in the front seat. They didn't always like it, but it was just the rule. I also never left either of them in the car temporarily to run into a store, so not everyone does it.

My feeling is the laws exist and were put into place based upon situations that happened. While statistically the risk may be small, why take unnecessary chances? I would venture to guess the people who fall into that small statistic of having their children abducted or harmed would appreciate the chance to make a different choice if given a do-over. Of course, they never intended to put their children in any sort of danger. I personally have never found it particularly difficult to parent within the existing laws.

In looking at the first situation, I might feel based upon reading the article that the mother may have been doing more harm to her child's future by giving into him to allow him to stay in the car rather than face a tantrum. My kids learned at a very young age that tantrums don't get you what you want. They still threw tantrums, but we were firm in not rewarding them, because we knew they are going to face a lot of situations in life where they'll need to suck it up and do things they don't want to.  Once again, just our choice for our kids. I support parents choosing for themselves, but draw a line where it comes to breaking laws. If you feel the laws are wrong, then fight to change them.

I will agree that parenting decisions are difficult, particularly when it comes to the balance between safety risks and encouraging independence. I have found these type decisions even more difficult since becoming widowed as I feel a sense of desperation at the thought of something happening to one of my kids as well. I do a lot of talking to myself to try to stick with the standards we had while my husband was here vs. my inclination to go overboard now.


Without you, Baby, I'm not me.

TooSoon

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Re: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2015, 11:38:00 AM »
I have two perspectives on this: one as a parent and one as a college professor who teaches large numbers of incoming freshman, witnessing many of them in their first foray into life away from home.

As a parent.  I grew up in the 70s.  We were told to go outside and come back when the street lights came on.  We routinely called home to say we were eating at someone else's house or getting pizza at the pool.  We rode our bikes to the playground where we would inevitably find enough children for kick ball or kick the can or capture the flag.  Sure I went to girl scouts and had other organized sports but mostly from a pretty early age what I remember is freedom.  Every morning we walked 3 houses down the street to the bus.  The only time my mother ever came was to take a picture on the first day of school.  We were CONSTANTLY left in the car during errands.  Constantly.  It was a given that when my mother came back the wind shield wipers would be turned on and all other knobs and buttons pushed and turned.  The whole "you can't leave your kid in the car for 5 minutes" is ludicrous if you're living in the burbs.  I see kids waiting in cars all the time.

In 2015 it is hard to emulate this life but I strive for it.  Minimum number of organized activities.  Lots of outdoor time (though with an only child in a "mature" neighborhood, I often have to be the playmate or at least facilitator).  Very few rules as to the nature of what that play entails.  When we go to the pool, she is on her own.  I do not go in with her.  She's a good swimmer but as for play it is sink or swim.  I can see her at the bus stop but she waits alone.  If she isn't safe at the end of my driveway, then where is she safe? 

Anyway, to Portside's point, when I was 16 I announced that I was going to France for my senior year of high school a an exchange student for a year.  My parents were like, "OK, whatever."  Since my grades weren't great, they thought I wouldn't get in, but I did.  And they let me go.  Along with about 6 other American kids sent to the same region that year, I gallivanted all around the place, skipping school, going to museums, sitting in cafes reading books and smoking cigarettes and pretending I was some sort of young Ernest Hemingway (I must have been intolerable).  There was no internet.  The phone was so expensive that I spoke to my parents once a month.  We wrote letters.  I spent a lot of their money and got in big trouble when I got back.  My point is this:  that singular experience, coupled with the freedom of growing up in the 70s, defined me and has defined my career and personal choices to this day.  Without that year in France, my life would look quite different today, I have no doubt. My perspective on many aspects of life would be very different, too (and not, in my estimation, in a good way).

Was there risk?  Yes.  Was it worth it?  In my case, yes.  I'm not advocating for irresponsible, lazy risk taking. 

Second, as a college professor.  My students are wimps.  They've been coddled and praised without being challenged.  When they dont like something, they get their parents to call me, which, at a state school is against the law.  My students are, by and large, entitled, unaware, intellectually incurious, and without drive or determination.  That is why those very few stand outs that we have get an Ivy League quality education at an all-access state institution of with 15000 students and go on to do AMAZING things.  They stand out from day one and we grab onto them and mentor them for dear life because the others are largely a lost cause.  Sure, there are a few who blossom later in their 4-5 years and they tend to gravitate toward us and we mentor the hell out of them too and they also go on to do great things.  But make no mistake, those who sink to the bottom often, though not always, do so because they cannot handle the challenges, the criticism, the competition and they certainly have no respect for authority.  I'm speaking here in large brush strokes and blacks and whites and with humility, as I grew up with a lot of opportunities my students have not had.  Still, in my 13 years of college teaching, the rigor has declined.  The sense that students come to the table with questions and interest in learning about the wider world has shrunken to a point that there have been times when I've wanted to walk out of my classroom in disgust.  Its troublesome, this concept that a degree is their birthright, regardless of whether or not they put anything meaningful into it or get anything meaningful out of it.  Don't get me wrong, I love what I do and I love my students but I am worried about these kids.  I simply don't see them prepared for the workforce let along prepared for independent and personally fulfilling lives.  But hey, the customer is always right, as they say...........

Sorry, massive rant.  I'm proud of my kid.  She's strong and independent and forthright.  I didn't make her that way; she was born that way.  The only real power I have is to put her in situations where she can cultivate those strengths and also put her in situations where she has to confront her weaknesses.  To me, that's my job as her Mom and also to be here to help her understand when she makes a mistake or finds herself in over her head so she can handle it better next time. 

With utmost respect I also just want to say that given our shitty circumstances, I think we must all do what we feel is best given everything we and the children have been through.  I have a very specific kid (we all do) and I have to meet her where she is.  I do not intend for this to sound judgmental in any way shape or form because that is not how it is intended.  We are the heroes of the parenting universe!
 

widowat33

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Re: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2015, 12:00:08 PM »
It's funny SVS I had the same thought too about the mom giving in and leaving the child in the car because he didn't want to go in.
Like I said I get where the helicopter parent is coming from..I would do anything to protect my children as well, and it is easy to make a mistake or not be as cautious as we should be sometimes. I would never allow my children to do something reckless, or illegal. Mine also rode in boosters and the backseat until they were legally able to ride without them. Seat belts are a must, I don't start the car until seat belts are on, especially now as my husband was thrown from his vehicle due to not wearing a seatbelt, either way he wouldn't have survived the accident I've been told by officers, but not the point.. I mentioned illegal activities because I just don't understand why children can't walk from school? My 12 year old, despite having the bus stop at our door, walks most days. Sometimes my ten year old tags along.  But they are responsible kids, most of the time. I think the choices of what you allow your kids to do should be based on them individually, your surroundings, and how safe you feel it is. I live in an area that since I have been living here, 34 years, all of my life there has never once been a child abducted, killed from walking or biking, etc..I know that all it takes is once to be the first time, but yes I feel very safe here and I don't worry as much about my kids as I would if I lived in a more populated area.
I view it the same way..I don't really care how other people parent their children, they are the ones who have to live with the decisions they make, not me. I only worry about what I'm doing, but there is a lot more judgement about free range parenting than there is about helicopter parenting, which I think is unfair. I just identify more with the free range because that is how both my dh and I were raised, and I turned out all right :)
I think what bothers me most about the whole vs. debate is that although I see both sides, one does get judged more heavily than the others.
I also think that no matter how hard you try to protect your children, or 'hover' over them, bad things can still happen.
We actually do agree on many points, SVS, I think I look at helicopter parents more as those ones who step in every time their child has issues and tries to solve it for them, or interferes when the kids are trying to develop independence.

serpico

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Re: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2015, 01:35:04 PM »
I also agree that I recoiled when the mother gave in, though mine was at the point where she allowed the kid to go to the store even though she didn't want him to. Just tell him 'no', for crying out loud. But I'm sure we've alll made similar mistakes in giving in.

I don't care much for calling the police in either of the circumstances, though. If the kids were throwing rocks at cars while walking home from the park, sure, but not just BECAUSE they were walking home by themselves. And the kid in the car? If I came upon such a situation I'd be curious and probably wait by the car, but unless it was clear the child was in distress there is no way I'd call the police.
'I think I got some of your pickle'

Sugarbell

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Re: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2015, 02:00:19 PM »
I think it's a "Damned if you do damned if you don't" debate. Kinda like the working vs SAHM debate.

I don't really have the time nor do I care whether parents are helicopter or free range parents. I am friends with both...but I admit certain helicopter parents annoy me more at times. I am probably both but err on the side of free range.

My kids are one of the few in school who ride a bus home. It's a necessity I can't be at the school everyday at 2:45 to get them. They are also the only ones who walk from the bus stop home. I am in a safe out of town neighborhood-it's less than a half a mile from the bus stop. Sure if I am home in time I will wait on the bus..but it's 50/50.

My oldest is 12...this is the first year that I don't have anyone with them after school (and my current job..I never work later than 4:00...so they aren't home more than 30 minutes alone). They walk home, get a snack..start homework...but again it's not very long at all.

But it depends I know on dynamics location of neighborhood. My kids walking home alone from school is very different than if we lived in a large city in a bad part of town.

If my kids don't like what's on the menu for hot lunch...they have to pack there own (although I do check it)
If they forget there cold lunch-tough. they eat hot lunch. dozens of kids call at school for Mom to bring them subway or whatever when they forget there lunch. Doesn't fly in this house...same goes for homework.

They know to be involved in activities they have to help out. My son does yard work (and yea runs a weedeater)...Some think it's too dangerous for a 12 year old ( he's 5'9 and 150lbs-he runs it better than me)

I support and am involved with my kids...but I don't coddle .

They are pretty independent for there ages. I don't hang out at the school....I don't hang out and talk to other Moms during my daughter dance class-drop her off and pick her up (usually do errands during that time) Same is true for sports practices..I do to sit and watch and discuss. I have stuff to do.

I think circumstances have caused me to make my kids more independently....but really when I was growing up my parents were the same way with us.
B.W.H. 9/24/2007

Sugarbell

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Re: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2015, 02:02:05 PM »
I left all 3 of my kids in the car when I had to run in the post office quickly etc. Oldest was always in charge-Never more than 5 minutes and never on a hot day. Again necessity
B.W.H. 9/24/2007

SoVerySad

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Re: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2015, 02:29:14 PM »
Widowat33, I'm sure we do agree on most points. Parenting was an interesting experience for my DH & I,  because we were raised very differently from each other. I grew up outside of town. Very few kids around. We had a big yard and a farm with fields behind us we were able to play in, but always within sight. My grandparents who raised us knew all our neighbors and I'm sure those neighbors did act as a village in many ways. Many of the neighbors were older, so we were like adopted grandkids to them. Dh lived in town. Tons of kids around. They ran around in a big group - left the house in the morning, stopped by someone's house for lunch, and went home at dark. Very little supervision. DH did end up involved in more nefarious activities than I did since he had more opportunities to do so. Combining our backgrounds into one parenting philosophy was interesting. It was interesting that he wanted us to watch our kids more closely than he was watched. I think he worried about them becoming teen versions of himself. ;)

In my area, kids that live close to school do walk home from school alone (often in groups of students), but there are crossing guards at most streets at the elementary and middle school level. I think child laws are often written for the benefit of the children who would be most vulnerable. There are responsible parents like you who teach their children good safety practices and develop their skills to be more independent, etc.. Then, sadly, there are other parents who would just rather have their kids out of their hair for awhile and don't teach them good safety skills, etc.. I think laws get written with those children more in mind. It may not be fair, but I think it is driven to try to see that all kids are taken care of.

My daughter (15) recently went on a band trip to Philadelphia. I was worried, because they were allowing the kids 3 free hours on their own without chaperones. These are small town kids with no street smarts. I had planned to go along on the trip specifically due to my worry over those 3 hours, although I did want to see her perform at the NBA game. Then the car crash made my traveling along impossible. Oh how I worried during that 3 hour period. I tried not to let her know. I told her to text me a pic of her with the Liberty Bell. No pic came. I worried more. When she finally was back on the bus and texted me, she told me that she and her friends were ready to head out when they realized they had no idea where they were going (no directions provided). One of her friends said he thought it was kind of crazy that they were being allowed to run around Philly alone. The others agreed, so they just spent the 3 hours at the shopping/eating complex where they'd been dropped off, LOL. I was pretty proud of them for recognizing their own comfort levels.
Without you, Baby, I'm not me.

widowat33

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Re: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2015, 03:50:07 PM »
It helped that my dh and I had similar upbringings, but he definitely had more freedom than I did and sometimes I questioned that as well!
Your post makes perfect sense..sadly there are some parents who do just want their kids out of their hair. One afternoon I picked my oldest up from the park where he was hanging out with friends and gave one of the boys a ride home. This boy mentioned his mom didn't care when he came home as long as he was home by 8:30. I was surprised by that, what about supper and homework and chores? While I allow freedom there are also rules that go along with that freedom. We live in a very rural area where I know everyone that lives here, I think that definitely makes a difference in how parent.
That is great that your daughter and friends recognized their own comfort levels. Some teenagers would have loved the opportunity to run around a city alone!

mmg19

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Re: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2015, 04:36:03 PM »
This has been an interesting read.  Not into labels and for me I am a little of both.  Safety of my children is the first consideration and from there it's a lot of common sense.  Teaching a child to be responsible and develop independent thinking skills does not happen without a lot of time, effort, and hard work.  My area is considered safe but no way would I be comfortable allowing free range with no regard to where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing.  That being said I am comfortable with going to a friend's house in area and checking in with me as well as being home on time.

My boys frequently are brought home from soccer practice my another parent but they are aware never to accept a ride from one parent who I consider an unsafe driver.  No seat belt rule and phone texting while driving.  The Philadelphia scenario of 3 hours of free time is not safe in my way of thinking.  The kids were smarter than the chaperones.  Parenting is the most difficult and the most enjoyable job I've ever had.  Being firm, consistent, and loving trumps the parenting label in my book.




trying2breathe

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Re: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2015, 09:08:39 AM »
Interestingly enough, I find myself becoming more of a helicopter parent with my daughter age 16.  I have been involved yet  have given my kids increasing responsibility and freedom over the years.   In my daughter's case this has unfortunately backfired and resulted in her getting into trouble. 

widowat33 writes
"I would never allow my children to do something reckless, or illegal."     
 
 I am wondering about this  ^^  maybe this statement was meant for parents of young children.  The actions of a teenager are not always a direct reflection of parenting skills.   At some point a teenager needs to take responsibility for their actions. 
Have I told you lately how much I love you?

widowat33

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Re: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2015, 10:47:39 AM »
 
widowat33 writes
"I would never allow my children to do something reckless, or illegal."     
 
 I am wondering about this  ^^  maybe this statement was meant for parents of young children.  The actions of a teenager are not always a direct reflection of parenting skills.   At some point a teenager needs to take responsibility for their actions.
[/quote]

Yes definitely about my young children, aged 10 and 12.
I agree, and would even go as far as to say that even the actions of younger children are not always a direct reflection of parenting skills. Same goes for younger kids taking responsibility for their actions, my boys know that if they messed up they need to be honest and while they may get in some trouble, if they lie and do not take responsibility they will be in a lot of trouble. I am actually proud of them because if they get into trouble at school they tell me as soon as they come home what they did and what they plan on doing to "fix" it.
As far as me saying I wouldn't allow them to do reckless or illegal things, I simply meant they wouldn't have my permission nor my encouragement. Does that mean they won't do those types of things when they get older? Probably not. I am quite sure as they get older the peer pressure, defiance and multiple other things teenagers face will apply to them as well. That is one reason why I don't pass judgement on other parents or kids, because the "my child would never do that" statement has backfired so many times on people.
I am not a perfect parent. I make mistakes and I own those mistakes. I hope that my children will follow that example and continue to do the same as they get older.

Mizpah

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Re: 'The Day I Left My Son in the Car'
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2015, 10:50:56 AM »
I love this article, and I think things get so much more complicated with age.  My daughter is almost a year, and if she's sleeping and I'm running into a store for a short time and can just lock up and leave the windows open, I really don't see the damage (as opposed to bringing her either in her carrier (crazy heavy and can jostle her awake for no reason) or intentionally waking her to carry her (why?!)), and if anyone's concerned enough to be watching, they should stick around to see if it's just a short jaunt or if I'm leaving her period.  I feel like the world has lost all sense of sanity and balance.  There is a huge grey area in everything that's just getting lost. 
widowed 2011 (DH 28)