I’m not a parent, so other than ten summers of being a camp counselor, I don’t know a lot about raising a child… except my parents did a pretty good job with four of them. So I defer to those who are when it comes to matters of parenting, but I don’t think I’m alone when I say that this is wrong on so many levels.
Debra Harrell is currently in jail because she let her 9-year-old daughter play, unsupervised, in a public park. Almost everything about this story (which I noticed courtesy of Lenore Skenazy) is horrifying. Harrell works at McDonald’s. Her daughter used to tag along and stare at a screen at her mother’s workplace during the day. She asked to go to the park instead, was discovered to be without an adult, and her mother was arrested.
The story is a convergence of helicopter parenting with America’s primitive family policy. Our welfare policy is designed to make everybody, even single mothers, work full-time jobs. The social safety net makes it difficult for low-wage single mothers to obtain adequate child care. And society is seized by bizarre fears that children are routinely snatched up by strangers in public places. The phenomenon is, in fact, nearly as rare as in-person voting fraud.
A couple of things to note. First, Ms. Harrell is African-American. Second, as the story notes, she works at McDonald’s. I wonder what would have happened if she was white and worked at a job that paid a lot more than one that helpfully suggests how to collect welfare to make ends meet. We would never have heard of her.
As for the parenting issue, I am pretty sure that if every parent who told their child to get outside and play unsupervised in the park for the day were subject to arrest, the jails would be full to overflowing with them, including my own.