Boy, 11, Saves Family! (So Why Won’t Many Folks Let 11-y.o.s Babysit?)

Hi Readers! Here’s a terrifying but wonderful story of what happened when a mom going about 55 miles an hour suddenly blacked out  — with her three kids in the car. Thank goodness one was a very smart, quick-thinking young man. Let’s remember the things our kids are capable of instead of treating them all like precious little dumb-dumbs.

Have a great week! — Lenore

39 Responses

  1. Great story! What a brave and level-headed kid 🙂

    In the UK, if someone under 16 is left in charge of other children and something bad happens, the adult who organised the arrangement can be held liable or be charged (if the worst came to the worst!). Fair enough too, because it’s the kid’s parents making the choice about whom to leave their child(ren) with. So does that mean parents who won’t let an under 16 babysit won’t do so because they’re afraid they’ll be held to account??

    That said, the Red Cross babysitting course is open to children aged 14+, and many parents will take that qual as proof that they’ve been trained in first aid and common sense when it comes to little kids. It’s more training than I ever had when I babysat!

    Personally I would love to have DD’s childminder’s daughter act as a babysitter, as they have a great relationship and R takes an active role in helping her parents after school and during holidays. B thinks she’s ready, but says she won’t allow it until R has turned 14 *sigh* One more year…

  2. God Bless this boy. Many adults wouldn’t have the presence of mind to do what he did. And just think – if he’d been in the backseat (as many people think an 11 year old should be), he wouldn’t have been able to save his family and prevent a major traffic incident. Loosening the leash a little prevented a tragedy instead of causing one.

  3. That’s amazing. He was able to focus and get himself and his family out of danger even while his little sisters were in the back seat crying. His parents should be proud and this should serve as an example of how kids rise to the occassion when the shit hits the fan. Bravo.

  4. @Judd
    11 year olds aren’t recommended to ride in the back seat as a responsibility issue, but because it’s a safer place to be. Great happy story, but are the odds of having a seizure high enough that we should change the policy on where kids sit so they can save us?

  5. Er,
    Kids don’t sit in the back because they’re irresponsible, they sit in the back because it’s safer.

  6. @Judd: Keeping kids in the backseat is not a free-range issue per se. Statistically speaking, smaller children are safer back there because of the distance away from the dashboard and airbags, both of which can be traumatically damaging to children AND small adults (as a read of the warning label on my car’s sun visor will tell you!) In addition, the seatbelts in the front seat of most passenger cars don’t fit children well–as the seat is designed to slide back and forth, it often changes the seatbelt’s position on the passenger’s body (if it’s not positioned correctly, it can cause some nasty injuries or the occupant can “submarine” out from under it in a crash). Children are often not mature enough to stay sitting correctly in the seat for the duration of a car trip, something belt-positioning boosters help with. You can use one in the front seat, but many people don’t because it’s a pain to have to move it when there’s an adult in the seat. In the back seat, not only is there not a risk from the dashboard airbag, but as the seats are fixed, there’s a better chance of having the seatbelt fit at least a little better.

    And, as Lenore likes to point out, statistically speaking, a child (or adult, for that matter) is much more likely to be injured in an auto accident than encounter any number of sensational situations… including a parent who has a seizure. 🙂

  7. Er, in my above sentence, “…safer back there because of the distance away from the dashboard and airbags,” I meant “windshield” instead of dashboard. Whoops.

  8. To all,
    I should have phrased that better. I’m not advocating throwing safety rules out the window – I agree that most, including this one, are there for a good reason. And it probably would have been wiser to have him in the back if that was a possibility. No offense to the parents, but that’s the truth.
    BUT the fact still remains that if he had been in the backseat, he wouldn’t have been able to steer, and they would have almost certainly crashed. It’s just nice to read about something where the worst case scenario doesn’t happen, and it’s simply interesting (no more than that) that not following safety regulations actually benefited them IN THIS CASE.

  9. Amazing story and very level-headed young man. However, I think to say that because this 11 year old reacted well in this crisis and averted an accident, then all 11 year olds ought to babysit, is just as foolish as the notion that because one child is abducted from a yard, all our kids are in permanent and mortal danger. I was with two 11 year old boys yesterday, both of them lovely, well-parented kids. Both of them capable of being very responsible; both of them capable of being completely impulsive. That is, I think, the nature of 11 year olds and why a little more ‘seasoning’ may be preferred by some people.

  10. To say “oh, and this is because he wasn’t in the back!” is akin to pointing to that ONE case where somebody was saved by not being buckled into the car. Sure, in a few rare flukes you might be better off without your seatbelt, but usually it’s not the case.

  11. I heard about this story the other day. I had to laugh when my 8 year old, who saw the news with me, said “but he’s too young to have a driver’s license!”

    We had a little talk about doing things in emergencies you might not do otherwise.

  12. The kid being able to think on his feet and even reasoning how to slow the car while still being years away from driver’s ed is way more than a lot of snowflakes could manage, I’d say. Very impressive.

    Yeah, you can babysit your sisters while dad takes mom to the hospital, sport. :p

  13. On the babysitting thing, I was looking at some old papers of mine, and I graduated from my Babysitting course when I was 11. Granted that was in 1990, have things changed that much in 20 years?

  14. lets all stop nitpicking at the shoulds, should nots, are and are nots and just be really glad that this turned out the way it did.
    This is a great example of how, under great pressure and strain, some people (kids) can prove themselves to be exemplary human beings and act with great wisdom and levelheadedness. This kid is more responsible than many adults I know.

  15. @ merinda- I was babysitting when I was 10 in 1990, I was wondering that very same thing!

  16. Many of the comments say that it was too dangerous to drive with the kids in the car.
    If this happened when I was young, my 8 brothers and sisters probably wouldn’t have been close enough to steer the car. Only the slowest and last to get in the car would be up front. We preferred to ride in the rear facing seat in the family station wagon. They don’t make those seats anymore because they say they weren’t safe, but I wonder about that since in a crash, you would be pushed into instead of ejected out of a seat.

  17. Actually, in a substantial rear-end collision – like the one I just had where the backseat was broken by the impact – a child is safer in the front seat of the car. My child survived unharmed only because of the type of car I drove (station wagon). Had we been in a sedan or compact, she may very well not be here anymore. My bosses rear-seated kid broke her leg as the sole injury in an extremely minor collision that just happened to hit her door.

    The fact is that no place is necessarily “safer” in a vehicle. The safest seat in the car is determined solely by the point and type of impact. What is the safest seat in one collision could be the deadliest seat in the next. We can rationalize that the kid is further from the windshield and airbags so is safer but that means nothing in a rear-end collision or a T-bone striking his or her door or a roll over crushing that part of the car.

  18. It only took the second comment for someone to chastise the poor mother, who already probably feels bad enough, for driving if she had a history of seizures. I don’t know… I think moms of any stripe just can’t win. If something bad happens, even if no one is hurt, someone is always going to be able to sit there and say “well, she should have…” When are we all going to be realistic and allow for the fact that parents are humans, and no matter how well intentioned, make mistakes. This probably wasn’t a mistake. A car is deemed such a necessity in society, and many of our communities are not set up where a mother could easily and realistically load 3 kids ages 10-3 in a car and take them somewhere. Sure, she might have had a history of seizures… does that mean she should NEVER drive? Does that mean diabetics, who COULD black out at any moment should never drive? What about anyone with a real or potential heart condition?

    Maybe saying that it doesn’t follow that all 11 year olds could have acted responsibly, but it certainly stands to reason that our kids can surprise us, and can be a lot more resilient, intelligent, and quick acting if something were to really happen.

  19. WOW. I’m going to read this to my guy.

  20. Well said Lenore. Only an educated child could have been able to think on their feet like that. As the news cast mentioned, in their little town, it was normal for kids to be driving golf carts. Which I’m sure most helicopter parents would never dream of allowing their kids to do.

  21. @ Dean: That seasoning you speak of shouldn’t be limited to their age, but rather how much their parents have taught them up to that age. I know plenty of kids between the ages of 7 and 10, who can cook, clean, do laundry. There parents have given them responsibilities. And some even take care of their younger siblings while their parents are out on errands. Not one incident has ever occurred. That’s the result when you empower your kids with confidence and street smarts.

  22. @ Merinda: The world hasn’t changed much, but people have, and for the worse unfortunately. Too many fears and apprehensions. People suing others for the sake of quick cash. Far less community closeness, and more segregation.

  23. On the babysitting thing, probably the scariest thing to happen to me was when I was oh, maybe sixteen and this neighbor down the street and her friend hired me to watch the friends baby. I didn’t know the friends name, and they left me with an infant…and didn’t come home at all that night. Woke up with the baby at three, no parent, six, still no parent and I called my own mom to let her know I was still there. They finally rolled in at like 9am and tried to say they’d called, but I knew they hadn’t.

    Needless to say I never babysat for her again. Oh and they wanted me to give the baby nyquil to put her to sleep!

  24. i am a wholehearted supporter of your movement, lenore. but there is one thing that you keep talking about that i would like to address: the idea of using young babysitters.

    i live in the suburbs in a middle-class neighborhood. i am the mother of three (1, 3, and 5) and i must tell you that i don’t know many teens that i would have watch my children.

    the problem is that all of these teens have led a life of being coddled and babied, most of them spending all of their time consuming sugar and brain sugar (TV, internet, video games). i’ve tried; i’ve had teens (as old as 17) watch my kids while i work from home and they don’t DO anything with the kids, they want the TV on all of the time, they don’t want to be bothered with actually watching my children (let alone changing dirty diapers). i even found one asleep on the couch at 11 in the morning while the two older kids were destroying a room — and she was 22.

    it’s a sad truth in my neighborhood, i wish people would put more energy into making their kids ready for LIFE (i.e. make them do mundane things like clean a floor or take out the garbage, which, incidentally, my 3- and 5-year old boys do help with).

    this is why i don’t leave my children with anyone other than my prized 27-year-old babysitter who is like another parent to them.

  25. me again. and now that i am on the topic, here are some questions that i have:

    – why does my neighbor’s 19-yr old son who is now home from college not know how to boil an egg or make himself a grilled cheese?

    – why do all of the parents at the elementary school carry their kids’ schoolbags for them?

    – why do all of the parents around me take out the trash? and many of them have teens yet they pay a service to mow the lawn?

    – why don’t ANY kids come around asking to shovel snow? all of the parents do it!

    – why on EARTH does my neighbor put her 6-year old in a stroller when walking anywhere?

    – why don’t any of the kids on my street take the bus? every kid around here gets driven to school and then they wait in a line stretching four blocks to drop the kid off at the front door.

    – why does every parent at the playground call their kid, “bud”??? the child is not your bud. that’s the problem. you think you’re doing them a a favor by carrying their schoolbag and making their sandwich. by constantly hovering over them and doing everything for them.

    there’s a quote that i live by that i read in a potty-training manual, i can’t remember the exact wording but it is something like:

    “the best thing you can do for your children is to teach them how to live without you.”

    i really wish more people would embrace that idea and help to get their children ready for life.

  26. Kids generally rise to the level they are exposed to. Keep treating them like babies and they grow up to be babies. Give them respect, responsibility, and challenge them, and you’ll get an adult.

  27. I grew up in a farm community, where kids learn to drive when they’re big enough to both reach the pedals and see over the steering wheel.

    For many years, there wasn’t a minimum driving age–if an eight year old went to a car dealership with enough money in his pocket to by a model “t”, they’d sell it to him.

    Kids in rural areas aren’t any different from kids in urban areas, and neither is any different than kids 80 years ago. While I wholly support not letting kids drive before they’re 16 doesn’t mean that they’re not capable of doing it–just ask the 10 year old driving the hay truck while dad/big brother bucks bales off the back.

    I love the idea that kids will rise to the responsibility placed before them. I’m not a parent (yet) but I believe that it is the job of caregivers to prepare kids for the real world, rather than protect them from it.

  28. in Europe it is common to be able to turn off the airbag. (very clear switch which indicates you must do this if you want to put you booster or cars-seat in the front passenger side.

  29. @ Janine, you’re right – though sometimes I wonder about whether all kids will take up the opportunities for responsibility, as well as whether the parents offer those opportunities.

    My brother and I reacted very differently to my parents’ attempts to prepare us for “real life”, to the point that in the year we were both at uni (him aged 19, me 21) he would call me up to find out how to cook spaghetti. He also got a credit card and sent my parents the bill if he bought clothes during term time – AND THEY PAID UP! Then he moved back home until he married.

    Maybe the difference came from him being the “baby”, or male (heh), but I didn’t perceive any difference in the number of times we were each asked to mow the lawns, wash the car, put the bins out etc. He is the one with the well-paid career though :p

  30. Like I said in a different post, next kid that whines to me about not having enough money is gonna git told that they want to make a lot of money fast, all they need is some equipment for weeding (which can be as simple as their bare hands) or an ability to mow a law (probably around age 11-12). In the winter, they need a shovel. Those kids would make BANK. I would READILY pay $20 or more to a kid who showed up on my lawn today, and I bet my neighbors would too. That kid would only have to do 5 houses a day to make $100!

    Janine, I just finished up my bachelors, and I was FLOORED by the lack of common sense with my “classmates.” Having to be reminded that a test is coming up. Whining about how hard the test was when we all got study guides telling us exactly what concepts we should know before the tests. Spending most class periods updating Facebook and then whining because they just “can’t” get that 8 page paper done. I read an article in the student newspaper about kids taking Atavan to help them study before a big test. Not because they wanted to get the edge, but because they’d rather spend all their time partying, and don’t want to be bothered with studying. There’s brilliance for you…. if you spend even 15 minutes a day studying your coursework, maybe it won’t be enough so you don’t have to do any cramming, but it’s better than nuthin. I gravitated towards the “poorer” students who had jobs or had gotten laid off from careers and were back in school. A whole bunch of these kids are going to graduate and move right back in with mom and dad.

    I think my personal favorite was the kid whining about how they had gotten a bad grade in a class because the teacher was a “libraaaaaaaaal.” Since the class was taught by Walter Mondale, I’ll grant you that the class was in fact, taught by a liberal. However, most times when kids levy this complaint, you find that they didn’t go to class, they didn’t do the reading, they didn’t do most of the homework, the paper they did write was poorly constructed, and spewing your opinion for several pages does not a college thesis make. And really….. as stated earlier. Class was taught by Walter Mondale. If you had so much of a problem with his politics, there were other classes to take.

  31. Oh, and my husband says that when we have kids, he’s pretty much retiring from mowing the lawn, doing dishes and taking out the trash the red hot minute they’re old enough to do so.

    I had a music professor once tell me that the job of a good parent is to parent yourself out of a job… I think that’s especially relevant now.

  32. “why on EARTH does my neighbor put her 6-year old in a stroller when walking anywhere?”

    This irked me so much when we went to Disneyland at Christmas. The place was packed and thousands of 6 year olds in strollers DID NOT help. Every ride had a huge empty stroller parking lot surrounding it that you had to get around. If your kid is old enough to ride Space Mountain, he can certainly walk to it.

    My 4 year old hoofed it through the entire park. She kept up. She didn’t run off. We didn’t loose track of her. Once it got dark, we bought her an obnoxious blinking crown that she wanted and told her that she had to wear it whenever we were walking. Problem of seeing her at night solved. She did, however, get run over by a scooter while the driver was trying to dodge the large stroller parking lot outside of a ride! Got a free toy out of the experience but it hurt her foot.

  33. we bought her an obnoxious blinking crown

    We were at a fireworks/concert event last Saturday, and I was glad we brought our own glowing/flashing stick. Not only was it cheaper, but I was able to make it out from the 100 other identical glowing sticks that were being sold.

    @Party Piper
    The ironic part is that conservatives value self sufficiency.

  34. I was looking looking after my younger cousins by the age of 11, I guess it all depends on the maturity of the kid in question. Thankfully nothing like that ever happend to me

  35. Here’s another positive story about a young kid saving a family member. Funny, this didn’t seem to be all over the news….

    “8 year old rescues sister from abduction, uses info he learned from watching NCIS”

    Great stuff for sure! I hope my kid would be able to do this.

  36. Lenore, not sure if you saw my email on this story, or saw it somewhere else. I was most impressed by this young man’s actions, esp. since we all tend to think that many kids in that age group today have the common sense of a flea, sadly enough.

    @Janine: I think you and I are witness to too many coddled kids today. My hubby, as a kid, would make extra pocket money mowing lawns for his neighbors. Today, most families just hire some service.

    The same goes for most anything else — kids today have to be shielded, it seems, from life’s ‘unpleasantries’. Work never killed anyone; neither does responsibility. Kids are not expected to do anything; if things go wrong, Mom and Dad will fix it.

    The babysitting anecdote is spot on — I have a niece who is almost 11, who could, conceivably, watch out for her younger siblings (ages 4 1/2 and 6) for a short while (maybe an hour, two at most) to assist her parents. Yet, she is incapable of keeping a clean room, assisting her disabled mother with small house chores (she actually pouts and rants if asked to do things), and prefers to veg out in front of the TV.

    I also go to school (am retraining for a new career) and being among younger people, it’s astounding how many are so lax towards their studies/life in general. It’s not easy being a student in your 40s while juggling family responsibilities, but I am there and working, as are most of the ‘older’ students. However, there is one young woman (age 19) who is doing well in her studies, and also holds down part time work, while having a long commute to/from class daily — clearly an exception!

  37. I think the “front seat thing” is based on the size of your kid. My daughter is four feet 2 inches and 80 lbs…she sits in the front…

    and just as an aside…I was shocked that this story made the headlines…Had the trucker been killed in this story instead of injured she would have been charged with manslaughter…Guarenteed. I would not have wanted my name in the news. She had a seizure the week prior for the 1st time…Her driving was illegal and could have cost many lives.

  38. Janine, I think what people are expressing is not “11 year olds should babysit” but “we shouldn’t assume that 11 year olds CAN’T babysit.” If you know the 11 year old, have a sense of how responsible she is, know how well your kids will listen to a kid of that age, and so forth, then it shouldn’t be ruled out becaue the kid is 11. But that doesn’t mean that people should uncritically choose 11 year old babysitters, any more than they should uncritically choose 16 year old or 50 year old babysitters.

  39. Awesome story! Now, hopefully, he won’t get a ticket for driving without a license 😉

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