Guest Post: What’s Wrong with This Lemonade Stand?

Hi Folks! Here’s a big chunk of a wonderful essay by my friend and fellow journalist Christopher Moore, published in the New York weekly, Our Town. I guess when life hands you lemonade…write a column:

Lemonade Stand-ing Watch by Christopher Moore

At least in my Manhattan ’hood, there are a crazy number of kids out on the sidewalks hawking cold—or at least cold-ish—beverages. The only problem: their parents are out there with them.

The overprotective parent strikes again. And these adults can dramatically change the you’re-on-your-own tradition for kids with summertime stands.

Yes, this is a case of a person without kids criticizing parents, but I’ll go ahead and do it anyway. These kids will be running my nursing home, and I want them to be capable and able to think for themselves. Anyway, if our neighbors can proudly go public with their overparenting, the rest of us surely have a right to notice.

I wasn’t having all these big thoughts the day my partner and I stopped on West End Avenue at a lemonade stand. I liked it. The two girls—my guess is they were around 9 or 10—sold us a couple of plastic cups filled with what tasted a lot more like Crystal Light than homemade lemonade. The girls took the money and delivered the beverages with a pleasant demeanor. All in all, it would have to be considered a better-than-average commercial transaction in present-day New York.

Later, lemonade stands started popping up everywhere. They felt delightfully small-town without anyone having to give up access to Lincoln Center. Seeing youngsters take to the city streets with such enthusiasm can make a tangible, positive difference in how many of us relate to our neighborhoods. With the children, though, can come some pretty conspicuous parents. Like the mom yakking on her cell phone, creating enough of a scene that the children with her seemed like accessories. Mom was there but, thanks to the cell phone, she was also not there. Our modern problem.

A few days later, there was the dad…

Read the rest right here! And follow Chris on Twitter thusly: @cmoorenyc. And, heck, contact him yourself at  ccmnj@aol.com.

Subway Death

Dear Readers — It is with terrible sadness I report the death of a woman at about 3:45 this afternoon on the New York subway…at the station my sons use to come home from school.  At that very time. My younger son, the famous subway rider, got there just as the cops were sending people out. His friend darted down to see the aftermath.  Apparently the woman had dropped her pocketbook, jumped down to get it, and got smashed by a train. The kid told my son: Don’t look.

Aside from sorrow, I know this tragedy will re-invigorate some people who believe that young people should never take the subway unsupervised. All I can say is, there are an average of 5.2 million people who ride the subway daily, bringing the grand total to 1.563 billion rides a year. Today’s story is so shocking because it is (thank God) so rare.

Our whole family is shaken by the story, and the mental image. And we’ll be on the trains again tomorrow. — Lenore

Irrelevant But So Fun to Watch!

Once in a while you gotta go off-message. That time is now,  since it’s still — for a few hours — vacation. Just saw this great video and had to share it. Oh wait — maybe it IS relevant because I trust the streets of New York, despite creatures like this.

13-Year-Old Boy Survives 11Days on New York Subway

This is a very weird story, but it does prove one thing I’ve been saying for a while: Kids are not snatched willy-nilly from the New York City subways.

On the other hand, they’re not noticed for days and days either.

Hmmm. — Lenore

Get Thee Behind Me, Cupcake

Dear Readers: Use your imagination to conjure up the deepest, most Moviefone-ish voice in your head and now hear it intoning this: “In a world, where the school day is 10 hours long. In a world, where there is no summer vacation. In a world where recess is shortened to make time for test prep and teachers cannot hug a second grader who has collapsed under the weight of her 28-pound backpack, comes the unthinkable: No bake sales.”

It’s enough to make Jerry Bruckheimer hide under his desk, but in my own little burg, New York City, the powers that be are now hard at work at banishing bake sales to just once a month, and only AFTER lunch has been consumed or 6 p.m. (presumably whichever comes first). This is supposed to prevent obesity.

You want to prevent obesity, Mr. Mayor? How about making recess an hour long, every day? How about guaranteeing gym three days a week? How about putting crossing guards at all the major intersections so kids come skipping to school? (Ours was there maybe 1/8th of the time.) How about banning car drop-offs? How about making enough real lunch so that hungry kids can always have seconds, so they don’t NEED a cupcake to fill them up? (At my kids’ school, the lunch ladies often ran short.) 

I agree, I guess, that American kids are getting too much junk food, but bake sales raise money and morale at the same time. They’re fun. They’re communal. They’re CUPCAKES, for gosh’ sake, not crack cakes. Here’s the article on the whole shebang. Long live the bake sale!!

Mom & Son Bike to School. State Trooper Awaits!

Hi Readers! In defiance of a policy that seems to forbid biking to the local grammar and middle schools in Saratoga, New York, a mom and her middle school son did just that last Wednesday.  That is, they ignored “a phone call placed to students’ homes by school officials, asking parents not to allow students to walk or ride bikes to school,” according to The Saratogan. And then?

Upon arriving at school on Wednesday, Adam and Janette Kaddo Marino were met outside by school officials and a New York State Trooper, who were on hand for the first day of school. They were informed that they were “out of compliance,” and had a lengthy discussion over where Adam’s bike could be locked.

And you thought State Troopers were the strong, silent type.

What’s cool is that the next day, mom and son were joined by several supportive adults. Friday was too rainy for a ride, but we can only hope more and bicyclists will be converging every day. (I can see the Disney movie now!)

For its part, the school district is said to be “reviewing” its bike policy.

Good. Once again, it’s not that any of us here are in favor of danger: If we were talking about kids riding their bikes up slippery slopes frequented by ice road truckers who drive while texting, that’s one thing. But The Saratogan reports that the road  in question is actually designated a bike route by the New York State Department of Transportation.

Let’s hear it for folks who defy laws that make no sense and don’t even make us safer.  (And for a middle school student who is still willing to be seen in public with his mom.) — Lenore

A Prosecutor Debates the “Kids Waiting in the Car” Arrest

Hi Readers — A few posts down we were discussing a questionable arrest for “child endangerment.” In this case, the parents had left their  9- and 6-year-olds waiting in the car while they ran into Walmart for what turned out to be half an hour. Vis a vis child safety: The windows were cracked, the doors were locked, the 6-year-old was sleeping and the 9-year-old was reading. The older child was also given a cell phone.  Here is what one prosecutor wrote, which I found insightful:

I am a former prosecutor who worked for some time in abuse and neglect.  I have raised two kids–very much alive, healthy, and active–to their early 20’s.  If I had let every scenario that got played out in my courtroom define ‘reality’ for me I’d have never had children to begin with.  Come to think of it, if I had let every criminal law case I was ever involved with in any manner define reality for me, I’d barricade my home and never leave it.

The ‘reality’ is that we run risks every minute we are alive.  Which shall we, as individuals, change our behavior to avoid or minimize?  And what risk taking behavior should we, collectively, criminalize? 

The legislature of the State of NY has evidently seen fit to criminalize the ‘leaving’ of children ‘unattended’ in a parked automobile if the children are younger than a certain age.  But that is just statute.  An officer of the law has discretion to arrest or not; arrest is not mandatory and should not be.  An officer has the discretion, and is indeed obligated, to exercise his or her judgment in each and every situation the officer encounters than might involve law breaking as to whether or not an arrest should be made.

In this instance, unless the readers of this blog are not receiving some key piece of information, no harm or damage resulted from the actions of these parents.  The parent or parents were arrested not for something they did, but for the possibility that something harmful could occur.  And did not.

I don’t see what good can or will result from this arrest.  I do see that among the readers of this blog it is generating fear, anxiety, and resentment.  I expect that these parents will never leave a kid of theirs alone anywhere, under ANY circumstances, ever again.

If that is considered a ‘good’ and a legitimate exercise of legislative and police power, then there you have it.  To me, it sounds — in the very least — wacky and overblown, and perhaps grossly unfair, and even destructive. 

The desire and impulse to make the world safe for each and every child is a good one, but obviously impossible to effect.  Arrests such as these, in my opinion, deflect valuable (and expensive) police and governmental time and energies away from the myriad pressing dangers facing our children and young people…. Don’t even get me started on gang violence!

Lecture finis.

Thanks for it! I’d add that when we try to protect our kids from every possible “Worst Case” scenario, we forget that there is another worst  case we ignore: Raising children who believe the world is so dangerous that they’d better not try to do anything on their own, ever. — Lenore