For a few minutes, after writing the headline above, I felt guilty, especially after reading Carolyn’s post from earlier this week. I also felt nervous, as in, Will the world think I’m a terrible mother? Will some government or law enforcement entity read this post and arrest me or take my children away from me? Perhaps a tad paranoid, butcrazier things have happened.
My kids are ages 5 and 9. I’ve only begun to let them sit in the car alone–engine off, doors locked–when, for instance, making a mad dash into the post office to drop off a postage-paid package into the mail bin. I can see the kids at all times and I’m only a few feet away and Katy Perry’s “Roar” was playing on the iPad when I got out of the car and still playing when I got back inside.
When my kids were babies, I lugged them inside the post office (or wherever) in their pumpkin seats, even if it meant disturbing slumber or exposing them to rain, snow or cold-slapping winds. I schlepped the kiddos because I worried a lot and would never forgive myself if anything happened while I was not there.
I also feared judgement. What if someone saw me dash to the mailbox with a sleeping baby in the car and told me I shouldn’t have kids? That I’m basically unfit to be a mother and should just make it easier on the world by getting myself sterilized? This may sound extreme but it happened recently to a mother who left her 22-month-old in the car solo while she ran an errand that took less than a minute (and the toddler was visible to her).
An elderly woman yelled to the mom, drawing a crowd, “You don’t deserve to have children! You don’t deserve to have children!”
The incident is documented in detail here and here on Lenore Skenazy’s popular site, Free-Range Kids. I have bothFree-Range and Helicopter parenting tendencies but I feel for this woman. Based on her description of events, I don’t think she is a terrible mother. Honestly, my parents frequently left me alone in the car while they ran into the supermarket for five or 10 minutes. So did many of my friends’ parents–and no one thought a thing. And rarely did anything bad happen. Yes, this was during the 1970s and 80s but it’s not as if things were frighteningly or radicallyworse then.