Grab the pitchforks! Light the torches! It’s time to rally the mob and publicly lynch another parent.
For those not in the know, the one we’re after today happens to be a police officer, which makes it all the more delightful, really, because when you’re lynch mobbing someone it’s just that much more fun if they represent the forces of law and order.
Did you hear? This dude left his four children in a car unattended in a parkade and walked away.
No one would have been any the wiser about this incident except for the fact that a television reporter who happened to also be in the car park heard a baby crying and went to investigate and found the above-mentioned children. IN A CAR! ON THEIR OWN! THE HORROR! THE SHAME!
And, of course, it became a news story because, well, that’s how the world works in the 21st century and now social media has picked up on it because that’s also how the world works in the 21st century and people are going crazy and it’s all just exploding and PITCHFORKS, I TELL YOU! PITCHFORKS FOR ALL!
In case my use of sarcasm font didn’t translate onto this page, can I just take a moment to deliver a personal message to all of those people who are outraged about this dad’s actions.
Now, before you turn the pitchforks and torches on me, can I take a few more moments to examine what in fact we actually know?
According to the one news story I’ve seen about this incident, the dad in question is an RCMP officer who left four young children in a car for about 30 minutes because his babysitter cancelled at the last minute and he had work he couldn’t miss. Now, seeing as this parkade in question was at the law courts and the man was a police officer, I’m going to assume the work was related to something in the courthouse and was likely, therefore, an essential court case or legal matter – so let’s just take it as a given that the guy was in a bind and did what he felt he needed to do.
(Yes, yes, internet experts, he should obviously have wrangled a grandparent or unemployed aunt or reliable next-door neighbour, but clearly he fell down on the job. Or maybe, just maybe, the grandparents don’t live close by and the aunts all actually have jobs and the next-door neighbours are, like, at work or something ridiculous like that, and he actually exhausted all the last-minute possibilities he could think of and was just plain stuck.)
He also said he was checking in on the children – whose ages, by the way, we don’t actually know. The reporter who found them said they appeared to be under the age of seven, but (a) people are often terrible at guessing kids’ ages and (b) some kids look younger or older than their years. (I’m sure most strangers think my petite going-on-six-year-old is more like four, and by the time she’s 10 she’ll probably look seven, so there’s a chance that the eldest of these kids was older than people are currently assuming.)
So what do we have? We have four siblings, sitting safely in a car. It’s not super-hot. It’s not super-cold. There are no reports that they were starving, abused, neglected or in distress. (Yes, yes, again, internet experts, I saw that it said a baby was crying. Have you ever had a baby? Have you ever noticed that babies actually cry kind of a lot? And it’s not usually because they’re in imminent danger of anything at all.) We don’t have any real details, but I’d also venture a guess that Dad left these kids with some sorts of snacks and activities. Who knows, maybe they even had a cellphone to contact him if they needed him.
Moreover, Dad being a police officer and all, he’s probably pretty aware of the crime statistics about stranger danger and children. Which is to say: There isn’t any. For all the gasping and heart-clutching going on about leaving children alone in a car, it’s not statistically risky. People don’t just come along, see four kids sitting in a car and think, “Hey, look, unattended kids, I think I’ll just quietly pop them into my backpack and take them home with me.” Because, you know, kids being what they are, they just go along with stuff like that, especially when there are four of them, and they are looking out for each other, and they’re basically just as easy to steal as that handful of loonies you leave in your car for parking and shopping carts, right?
The point is, the children were, by all accounts, completely and absolutely fine.
In fact, if they were anything like my sisters and I way back in the 1970s (you know, the days before parents got lynch-mobbed for leaving their children unattended in cars), they probably found it kinda fun to be sitting there on their own, and the eldest child probably felt pretty proud of her/himself for taking on the responsibility of looking out for the youngers.
Here’s the thing: I’m totally not going to judge if you personally aren’t comfortable with the idea of leaving your children unattended in a car. I’m cool with that. In fact, I have never actually left my child unattended in a car – although in my case, it’s more because she’d never stand for being left alone in a car than because I have any strong feelings about it personally.
Don’t want to leave your kids unattended? Then don’t. Your kids don’t feel comfortable on their own? Then by all means, take them everywhere with you. But don’t assume that your circumstances are everyone’s circumstances.
In this instance, this Dad knows his kids best. He knows how responsible they are (or aren’t), how comfortable they are being on their own, how independent they are, what kind of behaviour he can expect from them. Knowing his children as he does, he made the decision to do what he did because he felt he could safely leave them for the period of time he needed to in order to get some essential work done.
Shall we rewrite the headline of this so-called news story to be “Dad trusts own parenting judgment”? Or maybe “Person spots contented children waiting patiently for Dad”?
Or are those headlines just too non-sexy and far too unlikely to make people want to join in the social media lynch mob?
OK, I’m done now. Carry on.
Just don’t forget your pitchfork.