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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Mom arrested for dropping kids off at the mall

28

July

Mall This mom's essay is heartbreaking about the ordeal she went through because she let her kids spend an afternoon in a suburban Montana mall.

In a nutshell, her older daughter, 12, and her best friend, also 12, were in charge of the younger kids, ages 7, 8 and 3. They were told the rules: They must behave, never let the kids out of their sight and the 3 year old had to stay in the stroller. She dropped them off at 1:45 to have lunch and walk about a bit and she'd pick them up at 4.

The girls, who are seventh graders and have taken CPR and babysitting courses, are absolutely capable of being babysitters. The mom called the other family and her husband with the plan and all the adults agreed it sounded like a fine way to spend a couple hours. The families are close friends and the kids often travel in a pack like that in the neighborhood.

The mistake the older girls made is popping into the dressing room for a few minutes to try on some shirts, leaving the 7 and 8 year olds with the 3 year old in the stroller. When they came out, security had been called. The police were called. The mother was charged with child endangerment.

Keep in mind the kids were waiting quietly and doing nothing. I will admit I wouldn't have let my 3 year old go to a mall without me, but that's MY 3 year old. Shouldn't this be a judgment call for the parents to make and not the police? 

Ever since I did this interview with the Lenore Skenazy, the author of Free Range Kids, I've been acutely aware of the divide growing between parents who want their kids to grow up like they did (you know, riding bikes and hanging out at the mall or movies). But then there's the uber judgey parents who will call the police if they see a 10 year old walking to soccer practice alone.

Little do they realize that the crime rate the last 10 years has been plunging. So it's actually far safer to hang out in the mall than it was in the '70s or '80s, yet we've never been more fearful thanks to 24 hour news networks.

I also wonder if the divide comes from people whose kids are still toddlers. When they are 5 and under you are still in the watch-like-a-hawk mode for choking hazards and nutty impulsive choices. We forget that as they hit school age, they can and should get a chance to navigate the world on their own. I could maybe see calling the mom and giving her a warning, but to actually arrest her and prosecute her for doing something we did as kids? Unbelievable.

-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Photo: The Shops at Wiregrass [Lance Aram Rothstein/Times]

[Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 11:02am]

    

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