Free-Range Kids

Bystander Screams at Woman for Leaving Baby in Car for a Few Minutes

Not illegal.



Should there be a law preventing parents from making rational decisions about how to raise their beloved kids? That seems to be the absurd consensus, at least regarding this particular case, as presented by this news station: KHQ Spokane reported that a man noticed a baby in a car in a Target parking lot and confronted the mom as she returned after her brief errand. 

"You do not leave a baby in the car!" cried the man, Jon Evans, even though—clearly—she did leave the baby in the car for a few minutes, and the baby was fine. That's not shocking: most babies left in cars remain safe and healthy. In fact, children are more likely to die in parking lots than in parked cars

But why let facts stand in the way of foaming at the mouth? Americans are convinced that kids in cars are in danger (ignoring the weird fact they themselves spent part of their childhood waiting in the car) and are positively gleeful at the prospect of harassing busy parents and threatening to call the police. 

Oddly, no one yells at parents who choose to drive their kids around with them in the first place, even though that is the number one way kids die: in moving cars. ("Lady! You drove your child to the mall! What kind of crazy mom does that? That's nuts!") Maybe such a day is coming. But so far we only lapse into hysterics when it comes to kids in non-moving vehicles. 

Video footage of the Spokane encounter shows the mom exasperatedly responding, "If you guys go and have your children, you can take care of them the best you can. I am going to take care of him the best that I can." Naturally, the whole thing has gone viral, with KHQ eagerly reporting nuggets of wisdom from its comments section, including, "Obviously we need to look into a heavier law for leaving children in the car. I'm sorry but if they are under the age of 16 they shouldn't be left in a car, especially a baby." 

Another said: "If it is not illegal, it should be…it only takes a few minutes for something to go horribly wrong." 

Back when I worked in TV news, we used to call this kind of reporting "Triple A"—Ask Any Asshole. Rather than considering whether it makes any sense to condemn this mom, the anchor reported that her actions were not illegal, and then spent the rest of the time harping on why she should be flayed alive. Imagine what would happen if every time we watched a viral video, we demanded new sanctions on the people who parent differently than we do.