Overreacting Parents?

A mother wrote on her Facebook:

So shocking to see a baby in the car by himself with all windows up in the 80s degree weather in a parking lot at my kids’ summer camp. I was about to call someone when an elderly man walked toward the car with another kid. I told him “please do not leave a baby in the car alone like that, it is hot and dangerous” and he looked at me like I was a nosy lady. He ignored me and got into the car. I was so mad!! What would you do if you see something like that?

I don’t know her so well and her friends already said she should have called the police; therefore, I did not want to engage on the conversation. I just post it here instead.

Maybe just like her, the elderly man was just picking up the other kid at the summer camp and the kid in the car just wanted to sit there for a few minutes. The elderly man was already back to the car when she was about to call the police. Is leaving your child a few minute committing a crime? Are parents overreacting?

Kim Brooks writes about “Motherhood in the Age of Fear” in the New York Times:

We now live in a country where it is seen as abnormal, or even criminal, to allow children to be away from direct adult supervision, even for a second.

We read, in the news or on social media, about children who have been kidnapped, raped and killed, about children forgotten for hours in broiling cars. We do not think about the statistical probabilities or compare the likelihood of such events with far more present dangers, like increasing rates of childhood diabetes or depression. Statistically speaking, according to the writer Warwick Cairns, you would have to leave a child alone in a public place for 750,000 years before he would be snatched by a stranger. Statistically speaking, a child is far more likely to be killed in a car on the way to a store than waiting in one that is parked. But we have decided such reasoning is beside the point. We have decided to do whatever we have to do to feel safe from such horrors, no matter how rare they might be.

And so now children do not walk to school or play in a park on their own. They do not wait in cars. They do not take long walks through the woods or ride bikes along paths or build secret forts while we are inside working or cooking or leading our lives.

I was beginning to understand that it didn’t matter if what I’d done was dangerous; it only mattered if other parents felt it was dangerous. When it comes to kids’ safety, feelings are facts.

As one mother put it to me, “I don’t know if I’m afraid for my kids, or if I’m afraid other people will be afraid and will judge me for my lack of fear.” In other words, risk assessment and moral judgment are intertwined.