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Friday, October 09, 2015


I think it's asinine. However a lot would depend on the neighborhood. Were there sketchy teenagers hanging around in the park who might have been inappropriate w the older kid? Or were there guys in raincoats who might have been flashers? as a mom of 3, I'm comfortable w the the Ida of "take care of your baby brother or you die" but I had 3 kids in 3 years so there wasn't such an age disparity as in this case. My concern here wd be that 5 year olds do dumb things and 11 year olds often have poor judgment and are fed up w supervising the little kids, so might be off trying to look cool instead of adequately supervising. Perhaps the middle kid is the cop? But the reality is that in a modern American public park somebody has to be on predator watch and know what to do if somebody gashes themself. No mom is actually looking out the window the whole time, she is cleaning the kitchen, scrubbing toilets, etcetera. I did in fact send my kids to our local school playground alone (11-8) a half a mile away but I did so with a very large dog (who I fondly imagined would scare off predators) and a dozen years ago when people were less hysterical. Also, a very safe neighborhood, knowing that neighbor's' kids wd be there and that it isn't a public park--adults not allowed unless supervising kids. But not entirely comfortable and only after much nagging by kids.

Of course in my own youth I was roaming the fields of Pennsylvania farm country w a friend and BB guns at 7 and 8, playing war games, trapping snapping turtles, throwing rocks at hornets nests, and other safe pursuits.....

It's one of the safer neighborhoods in Chicago, mostly middle class. There are parts that get a little dicey, but it isn't a neighborhood where residents fear walking the streets.

If it were a bad neighborhood, no one would call the authorities. That's the irony. I think that the safer the neighborhood, the more likely that cops will get called about an unsupervised kid.

There is the other issue of judgmental moms trashing other moms. Many privileged modern moms who have their own ambivalence about what they imagine unrealistically they gave up when they chose the luxury of being full time at home moms ("I cd have been a CEO or corporate counsel! Oh, the things I gave up for my kids!") and so they become Super Helicopter Moms who second guess and compete with all others. In rare instances they may actually have a legitimate concern for the safety of kids like these and hope that this call may get the family the spotlight it needs. Perhaps they have seen Mom loading a lot of empty liquor bottles into the recycling and/or smacking kids. The kids not warmly dressed. Sometimes moms get the uhoh feeling and they aren't just being bitchy and nosey. Just as many rich kids get abused as poor ones, but the rich ones get less help because the houses are further apart so further apart and fewer people hear the screams. I know from personal experience with both.

This is the problem with conservatives (including me) who initially assume that these stories represent nothing more than ridiculous over protectiveness. Usually they do, or are part of a vendetta against someone. But occasionally they are part of a larger concern and worry that people may have been developing for some time. It's a bit like the way they were only able to get Al Capone in the end for mail fraud. For the thing that could be proved.

"That's the irony. I think that the safer the neighborhood, the more likely that cops will get called about an unsupervised kid."

I don't think that that's irony.

I think there is a causal relationship. Those neighborhoods are safer, in part, because of the vigilance and concern of the people that live in them. Many problems that children get into, or accidents that happen to them, are directly related to a lack of supervision and a lack of knowledge about what the kids are actually doing. If you live in a neighborhood where the inhabitants concern themselves with what's going on around them, that neighborhood is going to be intrinsically safer than one in which the neighbors don't give a shit about what's happening with other people, or mind their own business because they are afraid to get involved.

It's all about context too. If I saw that age group in the park my likelihood to call would be based on what they were doing, how old I perceived them to be, and how long they happened to be by themselves. An 11-year-old can look like they are almost 13/14 or they can look like they are only 9 themselves.

Personally, I would keep an eye on them for a while and see if an adult showed up or if they seemed to be doing just fine. I remember many years ago living in an apartment complex that had a large pond in the center of the buildings. There was sidewalk that went around that people would walk/jog on. One day, as I was walking, I noticed a small group of kids, probably about age 13 hanging out with a toddler running around them. While they goofed around, talking and posturing, I observed the toddler run off and head straight for the pond. He was almost in it before I yelled out to them and one of the kids, an older brother, ran after the toddler and grabbed him at the last second. If I hadn't been there and called out that toddler might have drowned in a couple of minutes before the teenager even noticed. They were alone and the older brother was supposed to be baby-sitting.

So, yeah, I would be likely to intervene in situations in which I wasn't sure what was happening, or if I perceived there to be danger.

Here's the thing. A call like that should turn out to be no big deal. Police show up, they find out the mom is keeping tabs on the situation, and if there are no laws on the books with specific age requirements about being left alone, the police leave and everybody is A-OK. End of story.

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