Lady Forced to Delete Pix of Kids (Not Hers) with Mall Santa

Hi Readers: Is there some way we can convince Americans (and then the world, and then the galaxy) that taking pictures of a child who is out and about in public is not the same as sexually violating them? Because the fact is:  Most people taking pictures of kids are not doing it to get off on ’em. And for those few who are, dare I ask: So what? It’s like that disclaimer at the end of a movie: No child was harmed in the making of this photo.

I think the hysteria about kiddie picture taking stems from a lot of sources:

1 – The belief that anyone interested in kids other than their own MUST be a pedophile. (And what a lovely notion that is.)

2 – The deep-rooted fear that a picture really DOES capture the soul.

3 – The conviction on the part of some parents that their kids are SO preternaturally attractive that they are going to be singled out by everyone, including talent scouts, college admissions officers, and perverts.

4 – The idea that, “I once heard something about a picture of some kid that ended up on the Internet and…” I.e., some half-baked urban myth that doesn’t even make SENSE, but rattles around in the collective consciousness.

So here’s the story of a middle aged woman who wanted to take some sweet Christmas photos at the mall (I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms to some of us). She shot some photos of kids talking to Santa, and the kids’ mom kicked shot her dead.

Well, not quite. But the mom certainly killed the photographer’s Christmas spirit. So did the security guard who demanded she delete the photos of the kids.

Now the weird twist is that the photographer lady is actually a former West Virginia State Senator. And in a column she wrote about the mall/photo experience she says:

The woman who had stalked me through the mall did not know that I am a former state legislator who initiated and succeeded in creating strict laws against pedophiles in the West Virginia legislature. To me, the random child in my picture was simply a representation of a special moment in a human life and an innocent attempt to capture the magic of Christmas.

I just wonder how her “strict laws against pedophiles” dealt with other folks just trying to capture a special moment. Let’s hope her laws were measured and sane. And let’s hope that what we all get this season is the gift of calming down and connecting, instead of fearing everyone and everything. — L.

Mom Charged with “Child Endangerment” When Tot Wanders Off

Hi Readers!  According to this story by Terri Sanginiti in Delaware Online, a mom  put her 3-year-old down for a nap and then went to take one herself. Unbeknownst to her, her daughter then got up and managed to get out of the house. When police found the little girl later, they went looking for the mom and charged her with child endangerment.

Agreed: It is not a good idea to have a 3-year-old wandering around the nabe. But I disagree that this means the mom endangered the child. Sounds more like the mom underestimated her child — didn’t realize the girl could or would get up and go!

So how about giving the mom some of those babyproofing thingies that make it hard for a child to open a door? Or an alarm that sounds if the door is opened? In other words, how about helping the mom — and child — rather than making this sound as if the mom is a no-good parent who needs to be punished? As it doesn’t seem like there was any evidence of drugs or alcohol, sounds to me like we’re talking about a parent who simply had something go wrong, which can happen to even the “best” of us.

When we criminalize the ups and downs of normal life, we start making it seem as if living that normal life (which inevitably involves some mistakes and surprises) is criminal. That’s when we start believing we need to take extraordinary precautions against unlikely events, and hovering over our kids out of fear for them and fear for ourselves — we could be blamed!

I hope the charges against this mom are dropped, and that she gets some childproof doorknobs. That should be the end of the story. — L

Applebee’s Over-reaction

Hi Readers — The other day, a toddler at an Applebee’s was accidentally served alcohol instead of juice. It’s appalling — the mom said she knew something weird was going on when he started saying “Hi!” to the walls —  but the bottom line is: The child was unharmed and this was  one single incident. In fact, it was an incident so modest and local, it is bizarre that it made the news. It’s not like this was a terrorist attack. It was one stupid mistake. But as a result, Applebee’s went into OMG mode (probably out of fear of lawsuits as well as bad publicity) and from now on, it says, it will re-train all its employees and use only SINGLE SERVE juice drinks.

So now every kiddie drink has to be individually packed.  I think this is ridiculous, not just for ecological reasons, but for common sense reasons, too. If a child gets hot soup spilled on them at Applebee’s — God forbid — should Applebee’s stop serving soup? Or only serve cold (but not TOO cold) gazpacho from now on? Should it ask patrons ordering soup to sign some sort of waiver, or don heat-proof aprons, just in case?

What the alcohol incident (and official reaction) represent is the fact that though sometimes things go wrong, we cannot accept that anymore. We individuals have been trained to over-react, as has corporate America. We treat minor, even one-in-a-million, problems as major affronts. And then we try to “fix” them, even if there’s very little, if anything, to fix. It’s almost as if we have come to believe that if we just plug every pinhole in the universe, we will all be absolutely safe and sound forever more.

This is the same mentality that says we must issue a recall for any product that anyone has ever hurt themselves on, even if the product is basically very safe. A couple of months ago I read the recall of a table that had a screw protruding from the bottom of the table top. A dog had gotten its hair caught in it. Sad, yes. But worthy of a recall? Can we PLEASE accept that there is some risk in the universe? Or at least some risk under a cheaply made table?

So far I have no proof that we are that mature.  And so we spend a lot of time and money (and political air time) saying things CAN be perfect, and looking for someone to blame when — well gollllly — they aren’t.

NEWS FLASH: Life is not perfect. Sometimes things to wrong. When they’re not too terrible, could we please stop acting as if they are? And when they aren’t anyone’s fault, can we please stop pointing fingers? And, by the by, when there’s no one else to blame, can we please stop blaming parents? — L.

Its not like they gave the kid a whole bottle...