Mom Orders Bickering Kids Out of Car — Ruining Them for Life?

Yowza. A mom fed up with her bickering daughters, age 10 and 12, ordered them out of the car in the downtown district of an upscale suburb, White Plains, New York. Then she drove off. They were three miles from home.

One kid made it home on her own. The other was picked up by a Good Samaritan who found her outside, upset. Now the mom has been arrested. There’s a temporary order of protection against her. And, of course, at least one psychologist has already been found and quoted by the press, warning of the deep and lasting scars that mom has inflicted on her kids.

 Now, listen, I have no doubt that those kids will remember this incident for the rest of their lives. I have no doubt the mom will remember it, too. But can we give kids – and parents – a little bit of credit for resilience? The idea that a bad day, even a scary awful day, means a child is scarred for life just means that every day in every way we could be ruining our kids forever. God forbid we do or say something stupid, the gig is up. Our kids are damaged goods, the human equivalent of those dented cans of pineapple you get at the 99-store. (Or at least that I get at the 99-cent store. Is this why no one comes for dinner?)

 Naturally, I do not think that this mom handled her kids in a truly optimal way. But most of us have days when we don’t. That doesn’t make us criminal parents. It makes us human parents. And kids are built to live with humans, not Robo-Mamas.

 It was not physical abuse, which I don’t condone. It was not even particularly dangerous, though parents who never let their kids out of their sight will argue otherwise. What it was was a dramatic gesture – a wigged out one, indeed – but I could see myself, some day, doing something just about as dramatic. One night I was so mad my tween-age son hadn’t taken out the garbage after being asked 18 times (at least) that I said, “I’m going to scream.” And then I did. Bloody murder.

He cried hysterically for about a half hour after that, he was so shaken. So was I.

Tonight I’m sure the White Plains mom is shaken to the core. I’m sure the kids are too, especially if they think now mommy is going to Sing Sing all because they were fighting in the back seat about who was hogging the arm rest or breathing too loud. But I’m also sure that this alone is no reason to lock the mom up. The kids will be okay after some hugs, an apology from mom and also an apology from the girls for being annoying enough to drive mom up the wall.

 I know, I know. Kids are supposed to be blameless. Parents are supposed to be in perfect control all the time. And it is so fun to point fingers when they’re not.

But let’s just say no one’s perfect, and dropping your kids off in a suburban shopping district and expecting them to deal is not the same as driving them into the Mojave and leaving them with a half-filled bottle of Vitamin Water.

We all have our moments. Let’s assume children and parents both can get over them, maybe even learn from them, and then go on to live decent lives. — Lenore