Commonsense Rearing Its Uncommon Head. Yay!

Hi Readers — You’ve probably seen this story, closely mirroring the one in England where the two moms sharing a job TRIED to share babysitting duty, too — and found out this was against the law. Here in the States, a Michigan mom takes in the kids of three friends each morning before the bus comes. Suddenly, the mom — Lisa Snyder — was informed this is illegal, as she is not a licensed day care operator.

Amazingly, she did not go to jail. The case got the attention of no less than the governor, who immediately instructed the child welfare agency to draft some kind of law making normal human decency legal again. Imagine that.

Meantime, my friend Chris Byrne, editor of, had this to say:

It seems to me that what’s happening is that the very legal system that is supposed to establish and protect community standards is being so narrowly applied that it undermines them. The utter lack of common sense and the insistence on applying the letter of the law indicates much more than just misguided application, it’s a deterioration in the ability of people to think about the realities of a situation. Keeping a kid at home for an hour is not daycare!

I have always said, “Those who don’t read Dickens are doomed to live it.” This is the hidebound attachment to literalness that he decries as soul-numbing in “Hard Times.”

Well, I have to admit, I have not read Hard Times (I did read David Copperfield!), but I feel in my icy bones exactly what he’s talking about: The idea that using your own brain and heart is verboten, and that bureaucracy must be exalted. It’s the same thing we see when parents get hauled in for “negligence” for leaving their kid in the car when they go to return a Blockbuster video. Same thing we see when a parent is not allowed into the kindergarten Christmas party because her background check has yet to clear. Same thing we see when a teacher is chastised for hugging a pre-schooler. Rules were not only made to be broken, there are a lot of stupid rules out there that should never have been made at all.
Kudos to the governor of Michigan for wrestling this rigid rule right away, but how many more are lurking? How many parents will be persecuted because of draconian laws and brain-dead bureaucrats? (That’s a rhetorical question, of course. I guess the real answer is, “A lot,” which would be dull way to end this post but…we are moving today and it’s chaotic around here and my brain is in some box with our cooking utensils. So — talk to you again soon, readers! We are off to beautiful Queens, New York!)  — Lenore

18 Responses

  1. You have to realize that the goal of daycare licensing is not to protect kids. The goal of daycare licensing is to limit competition for daycare providers, allowing them to charge more for their services. In other words, the law was functioning as intended.

    Nice to see the mayor work around it, but it would be even nicer to see the whole law stricken from the books.

  2. this kind of thing makes me want to hug the people who came up with those laws and say WHY DID YOU DO THAT? also welcome to queens! we hope you enjoy your stay.

  3. Lenore,

    You are a jewel. Thank you for expressing sanity and commonsense when it comes to our children. Just wanted you to know that we are a child care organization ( that is working hard toward the de-institutionalization of child care and have several sites in North America. Our children play outside every day and are as close as possible to being free-range kids in child care. It is not always easy, and we have to do a fair amount of advocacy work with licensing, but it is worth the effort. Blessings on your work and words, Cynthia

  4. The broadness of the law as described in the article astounds me. I think it would apply from everything from birthday parties to play dates to slumber parties and study groups… any instance where a child’s relative is not present at the home. Other people’s children can only be present at your home 28 days in the entire year. That’s ridiculous.

    Growing up, the neighbor kids and us were back and forth every day of summer and plenty enough during the school year to violate that law dozens of times.

  5. Good luck with your move, moving can be hectic.

  6. What an intelligent and well-put comment from the editor of! I couldn’t agree more.

    But I would like to point out that the ‘legal system’ does not run itself. It’s run everyday by real people, thousands of individuals, many, if not most, of whom have much more discretion built into their jobs than people who work outside the system generally realize. Police officers, social workers at CFS offices, teachers, administrators of school systems, DA’s, judges–all have tremendous discretion as to how strictly, or how loosely, they will interpret statutes and regulations, when and how and with whom they will enforce the law. That’s built into our system, and for very good reasons.

    But with discretion comes responsibility and, potentially, blame and criticism. It’s hard to use discretion; one must think, evaluate, ponder, consider, gather facts, and wait to reach judgment. It’s ever so much easier–and, in a system that seems to have gone blame-happy and litigation-mad, so much SAFER–to interpret the law as if it’s an ancient code of absolute decrees, which it is not.

    I too am glad that the governor has seen fit to put a stop to this nonsense. But, that it had to climb as high as the governorship’s office is a sad commentary on the state of our collective thinking.

  7. @wellcraftedtoo: well said! I always think about the cop who pulls some one over and, for whatever reason, decides to not give them a ticket. Every day, people in positions of power use their discretion. It’ sad that more and more are deciding not to, to be free of blame and responsibilty, hiding behind some “law.” Sad too that the fear of getting sued (unnecesarily) is real and leads to this kind of thinking.

  8. It really is wonderful to see a little sanity on this issue. That’s such a broad law it’s amazing more people hadn’t run afoul of it… or at least been caught by it.

    It’s sadly easy for laws to be written in an overly broad manner so that people get caught by it for doing things the law wasn’t intended to cover. Great to see something being done about this one.

  9. Thank you, Nicole!

  10. Lenore- THANK YOU! I could NOT figure out why I’ve been having trouble thinking since our second child was born, but you’ve helped me realize that my brain must have been packed in with that box of pots and pans that never turned up at the new house. It explains EVERYTHING!

    Obviously you’re still thinking more clearly than I am. ; )

  11. This is why discretion is known as the better part of valor. Or something. And, people like you are necessary to keep things honest. No law can be written without some opening for absurdity .. it is often in the follow through and addressing problem areas when they come.

    BTW, your Amazon vid suggests you should take over for Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes! The voice and everything! 🙂 Miss you at the DN!

  12. I’m reading this blog from my hotel room while my two boys ages 7 and almost 11 are down at the pool. Many mothers would be aghast that I’m in the room and they are out of my site at a POOL! No need to worry. I trust that they can handle the situation quite well. Oh, they’re knocking at the door right now!!

  13. I’ve got to tell you, I think that you are BRILLIANT!

    For many years now I’ve said that Americans have turned from the strong nation it once was, into a bunch of mamby-pamby whiney babies. Somewhere along the way, it was decided that it was easier to sue someone, than do the work to succeed.

    Guess what folks…Real Life is NOT “Upward.”

    How do you teach someone to deal with life’s disappointments, if you don’t have any teachable moments?!

    We as parents must equip our children for life as adults! That means learning to do things for themselves, make decisions by themselves, earn some money for the things they want by themselves, not make the squad because they aren’t skilled enough, and Heaven forbid, lose a soccer game every know and then.

    Your blog has just made my “must follow” list!

  14. Hello! Just read your article on AOL. Loved the quoted of “you don’t remember the times your dad held your handle bars, you remember the day he let go!”. Love it!

    I have 4 kids, and have no trouble letting go, LOL..(maybe out of sheer tiredness). Alot of the issues you talk about though, I don’t hear about, I think it could be where you live. We live in rural Ohio, and maybe things are alot different in big cities like New York, IDK. Your a great writer…keep up the great work!

  15. Welcome to Queens!

  16. Wow, you aren’t on my AOL front page anymore. You have been on there three different times, on three different screens. The last time it said something like, “the worst Mom in America. You will never guess what she let her son do.” Really, agree or disagree with you, the “worst mom?” Hmm, my nieces Mom would come much closer to that, which is what CPS thought and removed them from her home, thus the reason our family was blessed with them through adoption. The children my husband has to help rescue in his job as an LEO have the worst parents. They are the ones that do drugs with their 5 year old, teaching them how, molest their 4 year old, drive drunk with their infant, and beat their 11 year old. I can’t imagine you letting your child have more freedom than a lot of people are comfortable with rates you anywere NEAR the worst parent in America, not even close.

  17. I think the real question here is who called the law in about the mom in the first place?

  18. Here in Ontario, you are able to take in up to 5 children (not including your own) without being subject to any regulation. I think it’s a wonderful system, as it lets many many mamas take in one or two children and are thus able to stay home with their own little one. We are using homecare and my son spends the day with an amazing babysitter. She only watches him, and her own daughter, and is so flexible and caring. I was nervous about the idea of homecare at first, but this woman was a friend first, so I know exactly how she cares for her daughter and she cares for my son the same way.

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