Rant with Randi: Criminalizing parenting

By Randi Crawford

In case you were wondering, it turns out you can’t parent however you want in 2014.

A 46-year-old woman was recently jailed for letting her 9-year-old daughter play in the park, unsupervised, while she was working. This story comes on the heels of the homeless woman who was arrested for leaving her kids in the car during a job interview. (Sort of ironic, since her home was her car.)

The 46-year-old’s daughter had been accompanying her to work for most of the summer, bringing her laptop and keeping herself entertained. Then their home was robbed and the computer was stolen. The daughter asked if she could go to a local park to play while her mom worked. The park was a 6-minute walk from her house, so her mother agreed.

She gave her daughter a cell phone in case of an emergency, and her daughter was fine for two days. On the third day, a stranger questioned the girl about her mother’s whereabouts, and then called the police when they realized that she was alone. The mother was arrested on “abandonment charges.”

This woman was arrested, and her daughter was taken away from her, because her daughter was playing in a crowded park while she worked? First of all, if this “stranger” was so concerned, why didn’t they call the girl’s mother? What made them call the police?  This morning, they reported that a mom in Florida was arrested after her 7-year-old son was found walking to a park alone. The park was a 15-minute walk from his home and he also had a cell phone. A stranger called the police when they saw the boy unsupervised and the police escorted him home, where they arrested his mother for child neglect.

What is going on here?  Since when did an unsupervised child playing or walking to a park become against the law? Is that even a law? How are kids supposed to learn to take care of themselves and have any independence? One-hundred years ago, these kids would be working on a farm from sun-up to sundown, and today they can’t play without a helicopter parent lurking over them?

I used to ride my bike to the lake — 2 miles away — swim all day, and then ride my bike home when it was dinnertime.  I don’t recall anyone ever calling the cops and arresting my mom because she wasn’t with me. We all did. I’m truly at a loss as to what law is being broken and how these kids are in such grave danger.

We expect people to support themselves, but when single mothers do whatever they have to in order to survive, they are criminals? Look, would I send my 9-year-old to the park all day by herself? Probably not.  But I have family, friends, and money to pay a babysitter or an Xbox so my kids can stay at home and be entertained. I have options.

These moms don’t have options. They are limited in terms of what they can do with their kids, especially during summer. Summer is supposed to be fun and means no homework and freedom from getting up early, making lunches and having to be at school all day.  But for single working parents who have minimum-wage jobs, summer isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. What kids want to sit in McDonald’s all day while their mom works?

Seriously, when did we start criminalizing parenting?  This mom isn’t giving her 3-year-old beers in a sippy cup. She isn’t sexually abusing her child or using him/her as a punching bag.  This is a mom doing her best to support her family on the money she earns, and giving her child a little freedom along the way. Why aren’t the cops spending their time going after the real scumbags? Lord knows we have enough of them. When did we become the “Nanny state”? And why do strangers immediately want to dial the police rather than help?  Why do we jump to demonize someone before knowing any of the facts?

I’m outraged, and I hope you are, too. Do you think these moms should be arrested for abandonment? Email me at www.randiccrawford@gmail.com.

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