Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Right to Parent as You See Fit

One issue that has become touchy with me in recent years is that of parental privacy. Basically what I'm referring to is the right to raise your children however you see fit, without outside interference, particularly that of the government.

Somewhere along the way, we decided as a society that the proper response to seeing other people parent their children in ways we don't agree with is to label it "abuse" or "neglect" and whisper gossip to the local authorities, in this case Child Protective Services (henceforth termed CPS).

Try being a parent in this climate.

Dare to scold your youngster for having a tantrum in Wal Mart, and you better make sure no one follows you to your car and sees your license plate; otherwise, odds are very good an open CPS case will commence. Leave your child in the car--even if you're only 20 feet away, well off-road and with the air conditioning going--and someone says "what are they doing leaving that child alone in there like that!" and picks up the cellular phone. So, even though your child is sound-asleep and you don't feel like lugging them out yet again--and they're safe--you go out of your way to conceal it, or (worse yet) you disturb them anyway, due to fear of being reported.

Again, try being a parent in this climate.

In one instance around 2000, a young woman I knew--a rather well-off woman with a nice house in a well-endowed neighborhood and with a penance for Rolex watches, certainly not someone who would have insufficient finances for caring for her children--she was the victim of a CPS investigation, simply because her daughter (about age 5) mumbled in the background repeatedly "mom, I'm hungry". Her mother was calling the local shipper to check on the status of a package and, apparently, the agent on the phone overheard and thought this a reason to report her.

This is getting entirely overboard.

I am 40 years old, and I well remember as a child around age 8 or so riding in the back of my father's open-bed pickup truck, on the highway at highway speeds (55mph). I also well remember my sisters, cousins and myself riding to our summer-time vacation destination, White Lake; we would ride in the back of my aunt's Toyota truck with a camper shell--during summer, with no air conditioning mind-you. (There were windows that pivoted open, however.) How perfect it was--we were able to be kids, noisy as we wanted to be, our joy totally uninhibited, yet our parents (my mother and my aunt) were upfront with a nice, quiet cabinet to have their private adult conversations without us rugrats shouting in their ears.

No one thought anything of it--not the police, not the locals, and as parents or children you certainly didn't have the worry that a nosy busy-body with more hateful motivation than brains (to say nothing of respect of the common adage "mind your own business") was going to pick up their cellular phone and report "child endangerment" to the local social services agency with your license plate number.

Granted, cellular phones didn't exist back then for all practical purposes, but many folks did have CB radios; had the desire to report on their part existed, it could've been facilitated. But no one did so? Why? Because they respected parents' rights to parent their children as they existed.

(And no, I do not agree with the idea that "you can't do that in today's world, too many crazy drivers out there." I think a little study of the history will show that crazy drivers and highway fatalities existed back then, too, and not necessarily in smaller numbers either.)

It shouldn't surprise us that, in a society where you are co-erced legally to wear seatbelts based on the "I don't want my medical insurance going up on account of your negligence" argument, ditto motorcycle and/or bicycle helmets laws, cellular phones in cars laws, mandatory usage of child-safety seats (even at age 8!)--it should come as no surprise that people fail to respect that how someone parents their children, barring REAL abuse (example, going upside their head with a baseball bat), simply isn't any of their business.

Understand--this view of mine does not apply (typically anyway) to family-members. In fact, I think that parents benefit very highly from the support of family. That's my point, really--people, with some exceptions, would much rather have supportive, loving family members provide advice and guidance for parenting than having some nosy outsiders doing it, or especially the government. When family members provide this, it's usually with a motivation based on love and grace, not the "look at that wacko, someone oughta report them!" mentality that is more likely when it's strangers.

The government already intrudes on too much as it is, now it's the government's business NOT to prevent abuse (which is understandable) but to even dictate what your parenting styles hould be? How we choose to parent our children, so long as REAL abuse (leaving outside in 32'F weather with no clothes on, beating with a 2x4 on a daily basis) isn't occurring, it simply isn't anyone's business, especially the government's.

Parents need to be left alone, if you want to help with a LOVING attitude great, otherwise butt out. This is a family issue, and if you aren't in the family your opinion, unless asked for, isn't warranted or needed. Butt out.

1 Yahoo! Article I Posted to (Comment #42)
2 Yahoo Article #2 I Posted To, Talks About Moms Letting Themselves Go Post-Children (Comment #248)

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