ANYTIME YOU HEAR the words "for the safety of our precious children," grab your little ones and run. Someone who thinks he cares more about your kids than you do is about to make you grovel. If he's from the government, run faster.
Chicago mom Kim Brooks learned that lesson a few years back when she was hurrying to get everything ready for a plane trip home from visiting her parents in Virginia. Brooks knew that if hereon didn't have a set of headphones, it would be a miserable flight for him (and anyone seated near them, I would guess), so she drove to the store to buy a pair. When the boy said he didn't want to come in with her, she made the kind of split-second decision all parents will have to make a thousand times before their kids leave the nest: "What makes the most sense for my family, right here, right now?" She decided to let him wait in the car, playing on an iPad, with the windows cracked open on a mild day.
Unfortunately for Brooks, a bystander saw and videotaped her heinous five-minute crime. The cops were already calling her when she got back to Chicago, and she was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Brooks relates this tale in Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear (Flatiron Books), the latest addition to agrowing canon of work raising the alarm about how easy it is these days for parents to find themselves in serious trouble for having done something statistically safe but socially frowned upon. (Another great book in this genre, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haifa's The Coddling of the American Mind, is excerpted starting on page 62 of this issue.) Usually that means they had the temerity to take their eyes off their kids for more than a few seconds.
I'm talking about moms like Danielle Meitiv, investigated for letting her children, 6 and 10, walk home from the park together. Or Debra Harrell, held in jail overnight for letting her 9-year-old play in a sprinkler while she worked her shift at a nearby McDonald's. Or Natasha Felix, placed on the child abuse registry (yes, there's one in every state) for letting her kids--11,9, and 5 at the time--frolic at the playground across the street without her. All...