Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

   

Last week I read the article about Debra Harrell, the mom who was arrested after her 9-year-old was reported as abandoned at an area park. One article I read stated that Debra worked at McDonald’s and would let her daughter would play on a laptop in the store while she worked. When their laptop was stolen during a burglary at their home, Debra allowed her daughter to go to a park and play. The 9-year-old had a cell phone in case of an emergency. Another article claimed that the 9-year-old was found a mile and a half away from the park.

Have we become a nation of pearl-clutching handwringers who won’t allow children the right to be children or is it irresponsible for a parent to assume that “someone” will be able to look out for her kid because she has to work? I applaud that mom for finding a job and doing what she needed to do, but as a person often left to watch unattended kids, I am on the side of the parent who called the authorities.

During the summer my library is overrun with the children of people who send their kids to the library to “read.” Some of the kids arrive when I do, at 9 or 10, and are at the library all day, still there when I am leaving around 5 or 6. While we do have age policies (children can be 10 without having to be chaperoned — which is still too young for some of them, in my opinion) but often there is a 10-year-old or younger child  in charge of even younger siblings.

I am surprised to find myself sympathizing with the parent who called the cops. As the authority in my section, I do find myself worried/frustrated when I have kids who are misbehaving and there is not a parent to be found. Our society has made us all so suspicious and paranoid that I find myself hesitating to act when it comes to other people’s children. I have been on the receiving end of one too many people cussing me out, angry at a decision I made or just upset because they didn’t like the rules. Rules are in place for a reason, but having a someone come into your work space and threaten to have you fired and or “effed up” is no one’s ideal work setting. The children I encounter are not all ill-mannered, rude or hostile. These children make up the minority of what my day consists of, but the few who are problematic are enough to make me want to call the police myself — and those who know me know "Rachée and police" are not words oft found in the same sentence (unless, of course it’s Rachée doesn’t want to call the police).

I work full-time and struggle to pay for quality camp and activities for my daughter. Now that she’s a little older we have a little more flexibility as far as getting to and from places, but this was not always the case. When The Bee was younger there was a question of rides and having to pick her up. I had a job which was flexible, but it demanded  a lot of my time and attention (and it is still a job!), so I totally get why people make the decision to try and save a few dollars and send their children to activities which are free or low-cost.

Not everyone is fortunate to have someone home to watch the kids or the flexibility to leave work at will to attend to their kids. For years I worked overnight so that I could be home during the day with The Bee. I was exhausted and tired for years but felt like it was the best thing to do. When my situation changed, I was fortunate to have people available to help out. But there were times I struggled with child care. My family all worked during the day when I would need some help. Then my mother, The Bee’s caregiver for a while, became sick and quality camp/daycare was very expensive for me, not to mention making sure I was there at the correct time to sign her in and out. When I think about these circumstances, I can totally understand why that woman allowed her kid to go to the park alone.

I won’t go into my summers as a kid; with time and distance EVERYTHING was better 20 years ago than it is today. I do wish I were more comfortable allowing my child the freedom to play, explore and just be without it being a thing. Until then, your child is welcome at the library, so long as an adult is nearby.

Rachée Fagg is a Delaware County, PA mom. This post was adapted from her blog, Say It Rah-shay.

Categories: MomSpeak