Free-Range Kids

Mom Arrested for Leaving Kid Alone for 5 Minutes. Anything Could Have Happened.

"Anytime you have child of that age, alone, and unattended, there is a ton of risks that can happen to them."

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Target
NECN News

The desire to criminalize imperfect moms continues unabated. This week it was a New Hampshire mom, Dina Dambaeva, a native of Russia, who left her 2-year-old in the car while she went to return an item at Target—an errand she expected to take five minutes.

It ended up taking about half an hour, someone must have called the cops, and though the child was completely fine, the mom was arrested because, according to the Hooksett Police:

"Anytime you have child of that age, alone, and unattended, there is a ton of risks that can happen to them," said Hooksett Police Sgt. Matthew Burke.

Which is true. But of course, had she dragged him across the parking lot, there are "risks" too. This flip side of the equation never gets any play, in our rush to imagine the worst of any mom and any situation involving an unattended child.

In fact, we have been trained to imagine the worst, not just by the cops but also by the media, which treats fantasies as potential facts if not alternative facts. Here's how NECN News beefed up the story:

Area shoppers said they could not help but imagine the worst.

"Just someone breaking in and maybe abducting the child," said Michelle Yang.

"I would never leave my child in the car, no, there's no excuse," said Penny Gurley.

Wow, what great reporting. When I was a TV reporter at CNBC long ago, we used to call this type of man-on-the-street thing "AAA" for "Ask Any Asshole."

So the fact that the policeman could imagine something terrible happening (as could two onlookers, quoted only to make the story more juicy), the mother is treated as if she deliberately left her child to be possibly kidnapped.

The mom, who probably thought that by leaving Russia she had escaped a totalitarian system that dictated her every move, tried explaining that where she comes from, it is still normal to let your child wait in the car.

"I thought it was going to take five minutes, I didn't know it was going to take more," she said. "I'm not the worst mother in the world, I just did one tiny mistake, and people judge me for that."

Judge we do. So why not try judging from a place of rationality? Here's a mom who loves her son, did not put him in any kind of likely danger, and comes from a country where this practice is common. So even if this was a mistake, let's not treat it like an act of abuse. What parent hasn't had some less-than-perfect moments?

We cannot keep arresting people for something very rare and unpredictable that could have happened. Otherwise we could start arresting parents for letting their kids walk down the stairs (they could have fallen!) or eat food (they could have choked!).

And yet, Dambaeva will be in court this May, facing a misdemeanor charge of endangering a child.

NEXT: Why Do D.C. Evictions Require Rifle-Wielding U.S. Marshals?

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  1. When I was a TV reporter at CNBC long ago, we used to call this type of man-on-the-street thing “AAA” for “Ask Any Asshole.”

    Hey, wait a minute. I remember being interviewed on the street by CNBC once.

    1. That’s why they started calling it that.

    2. I’m pretty sure this is the single biggest reason I don’t watch local news. Local news is rife with all sorts of idiocy. But AAA is essentially its cornerstone.

      1. It would be improprietious for reporters to actually voice these opinions themselves. That’s where Johnny Lunchpale and Betty Soccermom come in.

        1. (I know I made up improprietous, internet, but did you have to add that third i in there?)

          1. Lunchpale…lightly toasted grilled cheese with white bread and a glass of milk.

    3. Editor: “We need you to interview an asshole on the street”
      Lenore: “How do I find an asshole?”
      Editor: “Just go talk to Fist of Etiquette”

      1. Lenore: How will I know who he is?

        Editor: Just go broadcast a bunch of news blurbs in rapid succession in the morning or evening. The first guy to show up, halfway through, like he knew when and where you were going to broadcast from, that’s him.

  2. She should have just aborted the little monster and this never would have happened. Now that she’s proven herself an unfit mother, they should take the child and she should be sterilized. Duh-doi!

    +sarc +progressive

    1. I don’t know if there is a political angle to the bystander outrage effect of leaving young children alone in cars for short time intervals. It seems like progs would be the instigators given how much they claim to love “the children”, but there are lots of judgemental social conservatives out there too who think the child should never leave mommy’s side. Lets not forget that this is a product of the Reagan-era hysteria over child abductions, sex offenders, and the war on drugs culture.

      1. I mention progressives specifically because this is something they have literally already done here in the United States before. Not common knowledge, I take it?

      2. Bingo! The average American is a moron.

        Now consider those who aren’t even average.

        They would be politicians.

  3. Nothing adds to the safety of a children more than jailing their parents and saddling them with steep fines and career stunting criminal records. No need to even have an injured child anymore. Just ask a few morons in a parking lot to give us a some bizarre hypotheticals and send the child off to a state sanctioned foster home.

    1. The media and prosecutors don’t care about that James-they want to show that they are doing their job of protecting “the children”…

  4. What parent hasn’t had some less-than-perfect moments?

    Lenore, you’re conceding that she may not have made the right decision, but an actual comparison of the risk of being run over in the parking lot vs abduction suggests that her decision absolutely did minimize risk to the child, and if busybodies got their way she would have put the child in greater risk.

    It’s amazing to me how little people think about the risks of the most dangerous things we interact with on a daily basis – automobiles. Their risk perception gets it completely backwards.

    Naturally, the busybody escalated the situation by calling the police. Thank god the kid didn’t make any furtive movements.

    1. I don’t know if leaving a 2-year old alone in a car for half an hour involves less risk than taking them through a Target parking lot. On the other hand I have seen a lot of puddle drinkers at Target.

      I wouldn’t leave a 2-year old alone like that but I wouldn’t call the police either. Unless the kid appeared to be in some sort of severe distress I would have made a quick pass to see if they were okay. At the most I would have noted the car and the license plate and asked the store to page the owner.

      The assholes who escalate everything to the police are the same people who would lose their shit if someone called the cops on them. I can’t think of many non-life threatening situations where police involvement makes things better. This is definitely an example where getting the police involved made everything worse.

  5. While I am with Lenore on pretty much everything, I think the mom here should have gone back and gotten the kid once she realized her errand was going to take longer. The mom definitely should not have been arrested or charged with anything, but I think 30 minutes to leave a 2 yr old alone in a car in a parking lot is a bit long. I am the dad of a 7 and 4 year old who does leave them in the car if I am going to run a quick errand like dropping off dry cleaning-I go to Target a lot and nothing at Target takes 5 minutes unless you are there after 10 pm.

    1. What is the correct length of time you feel children should be left in their parent’s cars?

      1. 5-10 minutes because any longer than that is asking for a bunch of nosy fucks to smash your car and call the cops.

        1. Hmmm. If they smashed your window in Florida, a reasonable man might assume they were attacking or abducting the child, and if armed, might shoot the perpetrators dead on the spot.

          And we can’t assume that cops don’t break the law. There’s plenty of evidence that they do!

          So everyone just Back Off! before you wind up DEAD.

      2. What is the correct length of time you feel children should be left in their parent’s cars?

        The correct answer is, as with most smug questions, it depends. Having no information other than the child was 2 years old I would say 5 minutes is the longest I would recommend leaving him or her alone if I could not see them. If I had an unobstructed line of sight as long as the climate was comfortable there would be no limit. YMMV. The problem is the state’s response. Plus a police chief who does not understand the meaning of the word risk.

        1. The correct answer is unless they are your children or they are in obvious duress, you have no business placing time limits on any parent’s childless journey inside of a store.

          1. This is the correct answer. Mind your own goddamn business unless intervention is clearly necessary.

        2. GODDAMN YOU!

          *deep breath*

          Sorry swillfredo. I don’t know which is worse, knowing that your mind and fingers were quicker or that the comment system is still so fucking broken.

      3. Depends on the kid and the age-for under 5, I would say 10 -15 minutes. Older than that, they can be left longer if they have something to keep them busy and its not a hot day. My mom would leave me sometimes for an hour with the keys in so I could listen to the radio, this was when I was 7 or 8 though.

      4. I’ve got a algorithm centered around differential equations taking into account things like distance from the car, vehicle price and amenities, ambient temperature, crime levels, visibility levels, parking lot surveillance, and so forth – look, it’s all a bit technical, but the important thing is that the child’s future is secure.

        At our house, we have an hour of forcible neglect every day and at least 8 hours every night. They’re called ‘nap time’ and ‘bed time’ respectively. I’ve never actually synchronized watches and calibrated the GPS to know if the Wife and I have been >1 TPL away from the kids for >30 min. but if the number were closer to the full hour, it wouldn’t surprise me.

  6. OT, but somewhat related:

    Saw a story about a brave heroic woman who “escaped human traffickers” at an IKEA dumb panicky broad the other day.

    The media coverage is, of course, completely level headed and not likely to feed into any kind of hysteria at all, as evidenced by some of the headlines that turn up in this google search. /sarc

  7. “Just someone breaking in and maybe abducting the child,” said Michelle Yang.

    Objection your honor. Fearsay.

  8. And yet, Dambaeva will be in court this May, facing a misdemeanor charge of endangering a child.

    Of course, the real punishment begins when the CPS clowns start checking in once a month for the next God knows how long looking for any excuse to take her kid away from her.

  9. “The mom, who probably thought that by leaving Russia she had escaped a totalitarian system that dictated her every move, tried explaining that where she comes from, it is still normal to let your child wait in the car.”

    Can’t beat ’em – join ’em.

  10. an errand she expected to take five minutes.

    This is the real crime here.

  11. And had she done this in Russia, nothing would have happened.

    Welcome to America, comrade Dambaeva.

    1. Or someone would have stolen the child and sold it to a crooked adoption agency.

      1. Fuck you “guru meditation”. I haven’t seen that for ages.

    2. Or someone would have abducted the child and sold him to a crooked adoption agency.

  12. When I was a TV reporter at CNBC long ago, we used to call this type of man-on-the-street thing “AAA” for “Ask Any Asshole.”

    Now you just insert Tweets into your story. You know, pulse of the nation.

  13. New Hampshire? Home of the Free Staters? Say it ain’t so!

    If they’re buying into this helicopter cr*p, there’s not much hope left.

    1. Hooksett is practically Massachusetts.

  14. had she dragged him across the parking lot, there are “risks” too. This flip side of the equation never gets any play, in our rush to imagine the worst of any mom and any situation involving an unattended child.

    I honestly think it’s because of the sentiment that if something horrific happens, at least you’d be with your child to see that last sec. of hir life or freedom?or possibly that you’d die or be severely injured together, rather than separately. I really think that thought’s what’s operating.

  15. Forget MAGA. Let’s bring back MYOB.

  16. The Russian mother learned the hard way that the US is no longer the “land of the free”. That in some ways they now have more freedom in Russia (from the sort of busybodies we have now) than we do here…

  17. So call me crazy, but if I were concerned. I wold wit in my care next to the other car till the mother came out. Wave to her and drive on. Kinda like people se to do if they were concerned about a kid.

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