Guest Post: Home of the “Brave”?

Hi Readers! — Some thoughts on how easily we criminalize erstwhile normal behavior. These are brought to us by Ann Sattley, a stay-at-home mother of two boys and author of the book Technically, That’s Illegal: An Experiment in Following the Rules and the blog of the same name,where she questions the efficacy of many laws.

The Home of the (lol) “Brave”? by Ann Sattley

When we say that the United States is the “Home of the Brave,” we must not be talking about our children or their parents. We can’t very well be the home of the brave if we run out and buy every new safety item and are concerned about our children’s eyes being damaged by the glare on notebook paper.

Besides the sundry products that are marketed to (over) protect our children, there are also laws that are selectively enforced based on whether a child was involved. No, I’m not talking about molestation or child endangerment. Those things are heinous. I’m talking about people getting fined and arrested for simply scaring a child.

In Idaho, a man was asked by the police not to wear his bunny suit anymore. He wore the suit in his own yard. I don’t know why he likes to wear the suit, but I do know why he was told by the police not to do so – because it frightened some children. What kind of children are these? When I was young, I would probably have followed a person in a bunny suit expecting to get some candy out of the ordeal. Maybe the children will feel differently around Easter time. Until then, the bunny suit is considered a public nuisance, and the man could be guilty of disturbing the peace — and traumatizing children.

You know what else is traumatic for a child? Witnessing a wine tasting. In Maine, any child under 15 is protected from such audacious displays of wanton disregard for civility. This law intends to prevent any child from even catching a glimpse of someone with a wine glass in their hand at a public event. Having blinds over the windows and doors is not sufficiently protective because a child might happen to glance into the room when the door was partially open. The sensitive child would then go home, cry himself to sleep and wake up deciding to become an alcoholic.

Imagine the precedent we set if simply upsetting a child or his or her parent would result in criminal charges. It upsets me that some people in my neighborhood don’t bother to recycle. It bothers me when young women wear a sports bra with no shirt on to run past my house. Although I’m sure this won’t bother my young sons in a few years, there has to be room for criminal charges in there somewhere.

If we looked for opportunities to help and empathize with our neighbors as much as we look for ways in which we can criminalize their behavior, we might revert to being the home of the brave. Until then, we’ll call the police when something annoying happens. — Ann Sattley

OUTRAGE OF THE WEEK: Cops Say It’s ILLEGAL for Kids to Play Outside, Unsupervised

Hi Folks — Here it is again. The creeping idea that anytime our kids are outside without us they are in DANGER, thus it is CRIME to take our eyes off them. The writer of the note below, from Western Maryland, also pens this blog. Here’s what’s happening out by her:

Dear Free-Range Kids:  Our kids have always been “Free -Range.” Unfortunately, today, someone called the police because of the “unsupervised children” running around the neighborhood.  My son is six (seven in September), and we allow him to ride his bike to friend’s houses up the street (we live in a small, three-street neighborhood far from any major roads), rollerblade down the road, play with friends in the little patch of woods across the street from our houses, play in sprinklers with the neighbors, etc.  There are constantly kids running around our neighborhood, playing with their friends — kids of all ages.

The officer said that kids under ten, by law, are not allowed outside, unsupervised except in their parents’ yard.  The officer did not come to our house, but visited the mom of two of my son’s good friends.  The people who called reported that all the way back in the winter, a “whole bunch of unsupervised kids were sled riding down the hill” that is across from our townhouse units.

It’s true — there were 10 or 12 “vagrant” children sledding in full snow attire with NO PARENTS present for hours, with some stops to run home for bathroom breaks and hot cocoa.

I don’t know who reported our kids.  The officer was very kind and said he understood, but still said that if there were more reports they would have to take more aggressive action than just a warning.  I have no idea what to do about this. My husband and I have been looking for the law online and found nothing.  All I know is: it’s not fair for us to have to keep our kids inside or in our backyards for the entire summer.  Any insights? — Maryland Mom

Dear MM: This requires a fight — for the sake of your family and for the sake of the neighborhood. If there really IS a law, you and your neighbors must protest. If there isn’t a law — and I certainly think you could ask the local precinct to actually show it to you — then you have to remind law enforcement that we live in a free society where parents are allowed to determine the way they want to raise their kids. Oh, and by the way, it is GOOD for kids to go find their friends outside and play. Not bad. Good. — L

When Will It Become Illegal to Take ANY Photos of Kids?

Hi Readers — Here’s a piece I wrote for ParentDish about the topic of kiddie pix. Adults are getting really paranoid about the idea of children in photos, as if any snapshot or video of a kid is going to be used for scary, nefarious or disgusting purposes. As a reporter and sometime video maker, I can’t stand the fact that in many cases, we’re not even allowed to shoot casual images of kids at play, if their faces are identifiable. That’s why so often on TV you’ll see pictures of kids’ LEGS running around a playground, but not the rest of them.

Think of how grateful we are to have archival photos like these:Today, you’d have to get releases from these kids’ parents to publish that, or possibly even to take it! Once again, normalcy (the desire to take a lovely picture) is being de-normalized.

It may not sound like a big deal, but it is another brick in the “When it comes to children, no one can be trusted” wall. Sure, kids have rights, but how about the right to live in a society that doesn’t second-guess every interaction between child and world? — Lenore