Free-Range Kids

Busybodies and Complicit Cops Make It Impossible to Parent

When mistakes become crimes.

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The title of this Time piece, "Parenting is Now Officially Impossible," made me sit up. It's true. Anything we do as parents can and may be used against us. It's like living in a totalitarian state—we are not free to raise our kids as we see fit because we are being watched and judged. We make choices based on fear of busybodies and the authorities they can summon by punching three digits into their phone.

This surveillance society has become so normalized that yesterday I was listening to a June 9 episode of Marc Maron's WTF podcast where Marc and guest Daniel Clowes are chatting about their slacker '70s parents. (It's about 50 minutes in, if you want to hear it.) As they marvel at the freedom they had as kids, and some bad experiences, they agree that this kind of parenting was totally wrong. Unironically they concur, "You don't let your kid get on the bus at 11 [years old]. Never! I would turn MYSELF into the police."

Isn't that phrasing remarkable? The idea, "Disapprove of a parent? Call 911," has become so unquestioned, so automatic, that citizens don't even realize they have been seduced into the role of Stasi.

In her essay, Time contributor Darlena Cunha writes:

It's impossible to be a parent in 2016. Living under a viral microscope of social media has all but extinguished any hope parents ever had.

With every move documented in real-time on social media, parents have lost control of the very personal narrative of their real lives. What has for years been a cute story at my family barbecue about the time my mom lost me as a toddler at Disney World would today be a hotly contested debate amid strangers online. These strangers feel they not only have the right to comment and judge all involved, but also to take action, in the form of harassment, badgering, petitions or even phone calls to authorities. There is no such thing as an honest mistake for parents anymore.

Mistakes are treated as crimes because of the fundamental falsehood we've swallowed: that kids are extremely fragile and vulnerable. So any moment they are not under our direct surveillance, they are in danger. And what kind of parent puts their kid in danger? Only a monster we must shame and possibly prosecute.

When a child gets lost or hurt, it seems we have forgotten the anguish and intense anxiety the parents go through. It's as if parents are two-dimensional paper cutouts, either good or bad. Emotional strife has no room on the Internet when blame can be invoked. And that blame can act as a balm, spreading over the masses in a comforting swatch of "this would never happen to me."

Cunha blames social media, but it's not just that. It's a web of cops, judges and CPS employees who believe the same big lie the 911-callers do, that parents who are not supervising their kids' every moment, either by choice or by accident, have put their kids in peril. The authorities are ready to jump in not just because they disapprove, but because they truly believe kids can't survive on their own, even for an hour at the park, or a walk to school.

And so it IS impossible to be a parent…until we insist upon laws and punishments being grounded in reality instead of hysteria. The reality is that, even unsupervised, our kids are pretty safe. Not perfectly safe—but perfect safety is an illusion. A kid waiting in a car is not perfectly safe, but neither is a kid taken out of the car. A kid playing outside isn't perfectly safe, but he's safer, crime-wise, than kids were in the '70s or '80s.

Absent indisputable and serious abuse or neglect, we must give parents back the right to raise their kids as they see best. This is such a fundamental right that it is sickening we have to demand it.

We may not be able to stop the Internet shaming. But we must make sure it stays on Facebook and does not turn normal, loving parents—the type who might even let their 11-year-olds ride the bus—into criminals.

NEXT: Trump Joins Obama and Clinton in Push to Use 'No Fly List' for Gun Purchases, Johnson-Weld to Appear on CNN Town Hall, Florida Sheriff Says 'No Question' Two-Year-Old Abducted by Alligator is Dead: P.M. Links

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  1. It’s impossible to be a parent in 2016. Living under a viral microscope of social media has all but extinguished any hope parents ever had.

    If you’re not on facebook and Twitter, you can’t be the target of a facebook and twitter meltdown.

    1. But then what will women do at work?

    2. If only it stayed on Facebook/Twitter. These busybodies will harass authorities to “DO SOMETHING!”

  2. Mistakes are treated as crimes because of the fundamental falsehood we’ve swallowed: that kids are extremely fragile and vulnerable.

    The thing is, they’re making them fragile and vulnerable. It’s anti-science. It’s destroying natural selection. We are cultivating a generation of nancies, and it doesn’t bode well for the species.

    1. You can’t destroy natural selection. You’re just modifying the parameters. Make it easier for people doing behavior X to breed and teach their children behavior X and you’ll get more behavior X, no matter what X is.

      1. You can’t destroy natural selection.

        I’ll take that challenge!

      2. You can’t destroy natural selection. You’re just modifying the parameters.

        It’s my understanding that Natural selection came out of alligator-infested waters and snatched a two-year-old from parents who couldn’t read.

        What, too soon?

        1. I made the same observation at work today. Went over like leas balloon.

    2. Also, you got fisted in the AM and PM links? are you feeling okay?

  3. All the fun has been taken out of childhood, and for what, just to save a few eyes, limbs and lives.

  4. So how far away are we from revokable parenting licenses?

    1. Already there, if they can just snatch the kids when the feel like it.

  5. In these times, you are NOT being paranoid or unreasonable if you teach your child to stay away from cops.

    Don’t talk to them, don’t befriend them, don’t date them: They are NOT your best friend, and too easily, can quickly become your worst nightmare, especially when you did absolutely nothing wrong.

    1. Already done this.

    2. It’s funny, my wife was telling me a story about going to a convenience store, and wanting to leave our four and six year olds in the car for just a minute while she went in and bought some water, but there were people around and she was worried someone would call the cops.

      1. Yeah, that’s not funny. It’s sad that “the land of the free and the home of the brave” has become such a pussy filled surveillance state.
        Not your wife, of course; she made the right choice. It’s just sad that it was the right choice.

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  7. Would not let my son ride the bus alone at 11. However, at age 14, we were quite pleased that he could navigate the bus system to get to and from a summer education program on his own (so it was only about 4 miles with only one transfer, it still counts, right?)

  8. So true. If you can stomach it, try reading this article from eight years ago: “Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?”

    I think there are some fantastic points in that article, specifically this paragraph:

    “Humans, Hickling said, have a fundamental need to create and maintain a narrative for their lives in which the universe is not implacable and heartless, that terrible things do not happen at random, and that catastrophe can be avoided if you are vigilant and responsible.”

    So we’re all in the habit of jumping everyone’s shit immediately for any deviation from Total Security for The Children. Shamefully, I even found myself doing that when I first heard about that poor two-year-old in Orlando. Of course, the media’s first reporting made a big point of mentioning that there was a “No Swimming” sign at that beach, so maybe it’s not entirely on me. Or so I hope.

  9. I was driving a truck at 11. Three on the tree. Of course my granddad was in the front seat and it was just a farm to market road going from the house to the old homestead where he kept his cattle. And when we’d get there I’d be shooting my gun in no time. Hell, his neighbor used to take me up in his Cessna and let me take the controls. I guess it was a golden age.

  10. “You don’t let your kid get on the bus [public transit] at 11 [years old]. Never! I would turn MYSELF into the police.”

    Right?

    I guess no age [in years based on Earth revolutions around the sun] is a good age to let your kid get on a public school bus.

  11. I blame the parents. Both the ones today that are freaking out over each others’ “negligence”, and their parents that taught them this sort of thing was acceptable.

    Or, to put it another way: it’s the Baby Boomers’ fault.

    1. Damn. And I don’t even have grandchildren!

    2. Everything is the baby boomer’s fault; including the fact that we are still constantly bombarded with music from 40+ years ago, although that’s starting to not be as prevalent, for which, ironically enough, I thank the large demographic wave of the Millennials.

  12. So this is the last generation of humans, I suppose.

    1. Next up, Eloi and Morlocks.

    2. We’ll always have bureaucrats, slaves, and terrorists. You know, social mobility.

  13. “You don’t let your kid get on the bus at 11 [years old]. Never! I would turn MYSELF into the police.”

    No wonder Dan Clowes’ output has turned to boring shite.

    Seriously, they think “slacker 70’s” parents? My father and grandfather used to call me a wimp because I wanted them to drive me to the library instead of taking the bus in 1979. I had to explain to them that since they moved to the suburbs, the bus stopped 4 blocks from my origin and 7 blocks from my destination, arrived every 60 minutes instead of every 15 minutes like in their old neighborhood, and that the total round trip would consume over 3 hours rather than 1. And that the price was 90 cents one way, not 5 cents. I would have been happy to be independent BUT I COULDN’T AFFORD IT.

    For good measure I countered that grandma was a wimp for not knowing how to drive.

    My point is. it ain’t “slacker” parenting, it’s “I’m not always going to be there for you” parenting. This is why college is filled with chicken-shit, incapable retards filled with “self-esteem” (aka narcissistic uselessness).

  14. Cunha blames social media, but it’s not just that. It’s a web of cops, judges and CPS employees who believe the same big lie the 911-callers do, that parents who are not supervising their kids’ every moment, either by choice or by accident, have put their kids in peril.

    It’s not really social media at all. Who cares? If guns weren’t going to back busy bodies up, people could just tell them to piss off.

    1. And, I’m not so sure that the agents of the state really believe this. I’m sure some do, but, it sure is a coincidence that this type of attitude increases the power of said agents of the state.

  15. “You don’t let your kid get on the bus at 11 [years old]. Never! I would turn MYSELF into the police.”

    I commuted to school on the New York City subway starting in Sept., 1957, at age 11.

  16. When I was 12 I was going downtown on the bus by myself.
    Playing sports on fields, rinks and streets with my buddies until dark and often even after dark.
    I walked home from school unaccompanied after the first week of Grade 1.
    I bought cigarettes for my mom from the corner grocery store (4 blocks away) where I walked from the time I was 5 !
    Clearly, my parents were monsters.

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