Beware the Vultures

Readers: This is a topic we have visited before, but it continues to grow as an “issue.” Today in my inbox I got this notice from “Safe Kids,” urging people to call 911 whenever they see a kid in a car, and using this tragic story as its rationale — the story of a mom who forgot her child in the car for 10 hours.

Seems to me there is a rather huge difference between accidentally forgetting your child in the car, and deliberately choosing to leave him there for a short while while you run an errand. But the “Safe Kids” people obscure that and — as is so popular in our culture today — paint every kids-alone situation as a disaster waiting (perhaps seconds) to happen.

So then what you get is this other letter I got in the mail today. Read on! — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: This is going to have to be anonymous because I learned I could actually get into serious trouble with social services for this??!! My 4-year-old goes to pre-k. My 9-month-old had an ear infection and an upper respiratory infection. It was a 20 degree windy day, and it is a 100 foot walk from the car to the building, so I decided to leave the baby in the heated car while I took her sister in, so she wouldn’t be exposed to the wind.

I was in the building out of view of the 9-month-old for approximately 30 seconds — at worst it could have been 45. The car was locked, the car alarm set. I return and the 9-month-old is sleeping peacefully exactly where I left her. I move on with my day and forget about it.

The following week I pull into the pre- k and a cop blocks my car into the parking space and proceeds to interrogate me about my “dangerous habit” of leaving my child in the car. He threatened me with “consequences” if it continued. This, in front of an entire parking lot full of curious, staring parents and children, the former probably wondering if I was dealing meth or crack to their 4-year-olds…

What exactly did they think was going to happen in that 45 seconds? Was a giant vulture equipped with a huge can opener going to swoop down and extract the baby from the car? Is a terrorist going to blow it up? Will she be kidnapped in spite of the car alarm in 45 seconds in broad day light from this suburban parking lot? And as a parent, could my presence have protected her if she was? And more importantly for me: who, exactly, has so much time on their hands that they are peeking in other peoples’ car windows checking for unattended babies and monitoring the behavior of their parents? And why isn’t this person being properly medicated for THEIR condition? (signed) — Mik