Outrage of the Week: Don’t You DARE Throw This Woman in Jail!

Readers — I am SO SICK of our finger-pointing culture ever-ready to criminalize a normal, if tragic, parenting moment. In this case, a woman named Felicia Tucker is being charged in the drowning death of her toddler nephew Joshua because he got out of house and she didn’t realize it quickly enough. He drowned in a nearby lake. According to an article in The Courier Post Online:

Tormenting Tucker on Friday was whether Joshua had suddenly learned to open the front door or whether it had not been latched. Tucker said she and her sister had taken “every precaution” in recent weeks — such as emptying out a backyard pool and ensuring the doors to the home were latched — after a co-worker’s toddler son drowned in a Monroe pool in June.

Note to police, prosecutors, judges: This is hardly a woman who is negligent! What happened is HUMAN, NOT CRIMINAL! Quit pretending it isn’t, just to feel smug or safe or superior. You could be a wonderful, even saintly parent, and it could happen to you. How would sending this woman — a mom herself — to ten years in prison make anyone safer or rectify anything?

That’s easy — it won’t. It’ll just teach us all a lesson: Unless we are absolutely perfect, we have absolutely no business parenting. (Or even being allowed to set foot in the community.) — L.

UPDATE!! Outrage of the Week: Mom Convicted in Death of Her Son (Who Ran Across the Street)

UPDATE! Readers — Here’s a petition asking Georgia to release the mother from her “vehicular manslaughter” conviction and PUT IN A CROSSWALK! I just signed it! — L. 

Hi Readers — This case is so sickeningly sad, I don’t know where to begin. Fortunately, a blog I’d never heard of before — Transportation for America — does a PERFECT  job of summing up the whole story and why it is such an outrage. Read it right here and kudos to the author, David Goldberg.

In brief: An Atlanta mom and her three kids got off a bus stop that is across a busy highway from her home. She COULD have dragged everyone to the next light,  three tenths of a mile up the road, but it seemed to make sense to try to cross. Not only was her apartment in sight across the way, but the other passengers who disembarked were crossing the highway right there, too.

So she and her kids made it to the median, but then the 4-year-old squirmed away and got killed by a drunk driver. The driver was convicted of a hit and run.  The mom was convicted of vehicular manslaughter. Yep. But as Goldberg says:

What about the highway designers, traffic engineers, transit planners and land use regulators who allowed a bus stop to be placed so far from a signal and made no other provision for a safe crossing; who allowed – even encouraged, with wide, straight lanes – prevailing speeds of 50-plus on a road flanked by houses and apartments; who carved a fifth lane out of a wider median that could have provided more of a safe refuge for pedestrians; who designed the entire landscape to be hostile to people trying to get to work and groceries despite having no access to a car?

They are as innocent as the day is long, according to the solicitor general’s office.

Goldberg also points out that none of the jurors who convicted the mom had ever even taken a public bus in Atlanta. They all had cars. In other words:

They had never taken two buses to go grocery shopping at Wal-Mart with three kids in tow. They had never missed a transfer on the way home that caused them to wait a full hour-and-a-half with tired and hungry kids for the next bus. They had never been let off at a bus stop on a five-lane speedway, with their apartment in sight across the road, and been asked to drag those three little ones an additional half-mile-plus down the road to the nearest traffic signal and back in order to get home at last.

When we prosecute parents who are trying their hardest, who make mistakes, or who misjudge a situation, we are prosecuting them for being what parents have always been: human. Not superheroes with super strength, judgment, fortitude and foresight.

A human parent is what I am and what we all are. Let’s not make that a crime. — Lenore

Why I’m Not Cheering the “Helicopter Parents Have Neurotic Kids” Study

Hi Readers! A bunch of you have forwarded this story, from livescience.com, that I’ve been mulling for days:

‘Helicopter’ Parents Have Neurotic Kids, Study Suggests

The piece is about a study of 300 college freshmen that found the students who are “dependent, neurotic and less open,” may have their over-involved, over-worried, helicopter parents to thank for crippling them. It even went on to say that  “in non-helicoptered students who were given responsibility and not constantly monitored by their parents, so-called ‘free rangers,’ the effects were reversed.” [Boldface, mine.]

So here’s our movement, being scientifically legitimized, and even called by its rightful name — the one coined right here! So why am I not jumping up and down and shouting, “Told ya so!”? Two reasons:

First, the story includes three of the questions that were asked of the students to determine if their parents were the “helicopter” type.

Participants had to rate their level of agreement with statements such as, “My parents have contacted a school official on my behalf to solve problems for me,” “On my college move-in day, my parents stayed the night in town to make sure I was adjusted,” and “If two days go by without contact my parents would contact me.”

By those criteria, I pretty much qualify as a helicopter mom. I have spoken to my son’s school when he was having problems. (As recently as  yesterday!) And I am pretty sure that if and when, God willing, we drop our kids off at college, we will help them unpack and then stay the night in a nearby hotel before bidding them goodbye in the morning. Just like my parents did when they dropped me off at school. What’s the big deal?

As for constant contact, I’m not sure how often we’ll call back and forth, but I just can’t see that as a black and white, helicopter vs. free-range issue. In my book I do suggest leaving your cell phone at home some times, so your kids can’t call and ask you to solve all their problems or make all their decisions — e.g., “Can I have a snack before I start my homework?” But if they call from college every couple of days to say hi, is that fatal to their characters or damning of ours? I don’t think so. Which brings me to —

Point #2: Who says it is the parents and only the parents who shape a child’s entire personality and outlook on life? That’s the very same belief — parents as Michelangelo, kids as clay — that motivates helicopter parents in the first place. If you really see your child as yours and yours alone to create or destroy, naturally you are going to worry about optimizing every single moment. That’s a big burden.  Every parental choice looms large because it is seen through the lens of MAKING or BREAKING the child. One of the cardinal rules in my book is to let go of the idea we CAN control  everything about our kids. As if there’s no such thing as luck, genes, other relatives, teachers, siblings, the neighborhood, quirks and a million other influences.

A study like this — a study like so many that academia seems to churn out on a daily basis, pointing fingers and purporting to be able to boil down an entire person to how good or bad a job his parents did raising him — is so  simplistic as to be meaningless.

Which is not to say I still don’t believe wholeheartedly in the idea of giving our kids more freedom and responsibility and hovering less. I do think it is great for them — and great for us. But we are not the only influence on our children, and one of the reasons parents are being driven so CRAZY these days is because everyone seems ready to blame us for any problem our kids ever evidence or endure.

Yes, it’s nice to see Free-Range Kids endorsed in the parenting-obsessed media. It’s too bad the parenting-obsessed media is still part of the problem.   — Lenore