I guess I’m pro-choice. On how to let my child live.
I spent the first 8 years of my life living on 50 acres of woods, hills and streams in Southern Indiana. We lived right next to a limestone quarry, and could sometimes feel the explosions. There was a pond on our property, where we would try to catch frogs and tadpoles. It was a pretty gross, mucky pond, but we would occasionally swim in it anyway. I know I was usually barefoot. I think I wore shoes when there was snow on the ground, and skipped it the rest of the time. There were trees we would climb, every day. Most of our friends also had several acres, and everywhere we went all our time was spent outside; playing, climbing, hiding, catching small animals, eating various plants, getting scratched and bruised and bumped. And our parents were always inside. When I was nine we moved to a neighborhood in northern Indiana. We still played outside; there were lots of kids in the neighborhood. We weren’t supposed to leave the sub-division, but we could go pretty much anywhere within. We would walk or bike. We played with the neighbors. Again, I remember spending a lot of time outside. I don’t remember adults being around.
I’m 30 years old. My childhood was not that long ago! I think that most of the kids in my generation got to play outside about the same way. I’m the oldest of 6, and all my siblings had about the same freedom. I recently saw this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XDVDyDJ3s0
The title of the article is, “So Incredibly Sad”. Yes, it is. What makes it even more sad, is that the government and nosy busybodies have pushed this onto our children.
I blame the government. Not for everyone, but definitely for my children. I have five, beautiful, happy, healthy, smart children. My sons love Minecraft and would probably say that Minecraft is their favorite thing to do. My oldest daughter loves princess movies. The youngest two aren’t old enough to talk, but the 2 year old picks up my phone every time I set it down, and plays with the iPad every time she finds it on. If she can’t get past the locked screen, she takes hundreds of photos. (Which is wreaking havoc on my iCloud storage, by the way.) If, for some reason, I tell my children they can’t have screen time for a day, they scream like they’ve had a leg cut off.
And I blame the government. Why, you say? Because over the past three years I’ve been investigated by CPS and harassed by police no less than 6 times. Six! I want to send my kids outside to play. We live in a nice neighborhood now, and there is a lovely greenbelt in walking distance. There’s a tree house and a stream (when it rains, which is not often in Texas). There are fields and trees. I want my boys, and eventually my girls, to be able to go play outside. I want them to explore, catch animals, bring home flowers, eat lemongrass, follow the stream and collect dead bugs. But they can’t. They literally can’t. If my children go outside alone and someone calls CPS, I could lose them. I could lose my children for letting them play outside. Is anyone listening? That is wrong Where are the rational people? I played outside as a kid. My parents played outside. Their parents played outside. For the last 10,000 or 10,000,000 years, human children have played outside. And now, suddenly, they can’t. So, yeah, what am I supposed to do with them? I had a cop say that if I couldn’t handle my chores and my children I should hire a babysitter. I can ‘handle’ my children and my chores. I just want to handle my children the way children have always been handled, and that’s suddenly illegal. People think I’m doing something wrong if I want to send my kids outside. That it’s negligent. No, I intentionally choose to send my children outside because I want them to be outside. I want them to be learning and playing naturally, not on the TV/iPad/phone all the time. But TV/iPad/phone it is, because I’m more afraid of the cops stealing my children than I am of their screen time addiction.
Why can’t our kids play outside? That’s how most of human history and most of the world currently live. Why can’t I send my children outside without the fear that my government will take them away from me? The government! The government is in the business of kidnapping kids and claiming that they’re in the right! People are terrified of their children being stolen, not by strangers or pedophiles, but by policemen who will pick up children they see without parents around, then accuse the parents of neglect. Children in their own back yards, children walking home from the playground, even children on the far side of the playground from their parents. When did this happen? How did this happen? How did the government get this kind of power?
When I was younger I broke my wrist. I ran over a ball while riding my bike, the bike tumbled over, and I had to wear a cast for several weeks. My parents weren’t around, I was a few blocks from home. But another adult heard me scream, called my parents, and they came and got me quickly. I still have several scars on my arm from breaking through a plate-glass door. And I might still have a scar on my stomach from catching on a branch while falling out of a tree, but I can’t see it under all the stretch marks. The broken wrist got me a trip to the doctor, the scar inducing cuts got me some gauze and fancy band-aids. You know what those injuries will get you today? A CPS investigation. Accusations of negligent parenting. Where were the parents when this happened! Why didn’t they stop it!
A woman my husband works with just had a CPS investigation against them closed. They were taking their son to some kind of therapy. You know, taking good care of their child, providing him with the extra speech training or whatever that the schools probably said he needed. The therapist reported them to CPS because he had bruises on his legs. A seven year old boy, with bruises on his legs. And the government launched an abuse investigation.
What is wrong with everyone?! In my opinion you’re doing something wrong as a parent if your 7-year-old son doesn’t have bruises on his legs. For heaven’s sake! I am so sick of these adults walking around thinking that they have some kind of duty to report bruises. I know they hide behind laws; they’re required to report bruises because they could be indicative of abuse. Therapists, teachers, coaches, everyone who interacts with your children when you aren’t around. The government mandates that they report back to the government on your children. Without checking with you first. Without asking the child. Without exercising a modicum of common sense and thinking, “Hm, are bruises on a 7 year old boy’s legs normal?” before subjecting the entire family to intrusive, stressful, accusatory, inconvenient proceedings. When we were going through our most recent CPS investigation (which was closed) I contacted our mayor, governor and district representative. They all responded that CPS wasn’t under their jurisdiction. That’s fine, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do anything. Someone makes the laws governing how reports have to be handled and what is required to be reported. Having a kid with bruises doesn’t mean the government has the right to interview your kids outside of your presence and inspect your house and write down the food they see in your refrigerator. Having a child that hurts themselves badly enough to go to the hospital doesn’t mean you are automatically suspicious. It usually means you’re a good parent, because you care enough to take your kid to the hospital. But, no, the hospital has CPS on speed dial.
I’m going to go ahead and say it. Kids get hurt sometimes, and I don’t care. Yeah, my kids come home with bruises, and I DON’T CARE. My kids need band-aids, and I put them on and don’t think about it again. I don’t think, “OH NO! A cut! I should have been watching my child more carefully! I should have taught him to play more safely!” Other, more ‘concerned’ parents say things like, “Your child could fall!” “Your daughter could get hurt.” And I try to respond politely while in my mind I’m thinking, “So WHAT?!” I got hurt as a kid. You got hurt as a kid. Everyone from the dawn of civilization grew up getting bruised and cut and occasionally breaking a bone, and it’s not a big deal! My daughter cracked her skull. Yeah, that sounds scary, but she was fine. It was a broken bone like any other broken bone, it didn’t even need a cast. They just said, “Be really careful not to bump her head for the next few weeks,” took her temperature every few hours, and charged me $23,000. Sometimes kids fall, sometimes kids cut themselves, sometimes kids get bitten by bugs, sometimes kids step on a cactus, sometimes they fall bump their head, and then they heal. Having a kid with bruises doesn’t make you a bad parent. It probably means you’re a parent with kids who play outside instead of spending 30 hours a week on screens.
Guess what. You can love your child with all your heart, and not care that they get scratched and bruised. I wholeheartedly believe that. It’s not callous, it’s freaking common sense. Bruises just aren’t that big a deal. A little blood just isn’t that big a deal. It’s called life. A cracked skull is… kind of a big deal, but like most broken bones it will heal and we’ll all move on. It’s also life. If my kid falls off the playground equipment they learn from it. They learn to play. They learn risk analysis. They learn what it feels like to get hurt. They learn their limits. I think that is a good thing, even though it may involve them getting hurt.
I don’t know how to say this with the intensity that I want to convey. Sometimes kids get hurt and it doesn’t matter. Being a good parent doesn’t mean you never let your child get hurt. Having a hurt child does not mean the government should be able to launch an investigation against you. Parents, not the government, should be able to choose when their children are responsible enough to walk home alone, or escort their younger sibling to the playground, or stay home alone and for how long. The parents.
If a child is home alone and someone calls the cops, the cop’s question for the parents should be, “Are you okay with this?” And if the parents say, “Yes,” then that should be the end of it. CPS should say, “Okay, you’re in the best position to judge the capabilities and maturity and responsibility of your child.” First off, because it’s the truth. And secondly, because anything else gives the government an unholy amount of control over our lives. If the parents aren’t in the best position to judge the capabilities and level of responsibility of their children, then the only other choice is the government. Do people really think the government knows better than I do when my son is old enough to be home alone? Is that right? Think about it! Is it RIGHT that the government can take away your child because you leave them alone for an hour? Is it RIGHT that the government can take away a child over bruises? When did anyone start thinking that the answer to that question is “Yes”?
Is child abuse horrible? Of course it is. Never said it wasn’t. Is negligence horrible? It depends on how you define negligence. It would be horrible if the definition was going days without feeding your children. But if the definition is leaving your children unattended for any amount of time in any circumstances, then no, that isn’t horrible. I don’t think that children should be attended to, stimulated by, guided and taught by adults every waking moment of their lives. I know some people disagree. Some of those people pay nice day care centers and baby sitters and nannies a lot of money to make sure their children are stimulated, guided and protected at all times. Then they think I’m negligent because I don’t want those same things for my children. I should be watching all five of my children every moment of every day, and I’m doing something wrong if I don’t have eyes on them. I should have less kids if I can’t ‘take care of them all’ or if I don’t want to pay the money to have someone else ‘take care of them’ for me. Because I want to let my kids explore. Maybe it’s in the grocery store, where they want to explore the aisle next to the one I’m in. Maybe it’s at the park, where they want to explore behind the clump of bushes where I can’t see them. Maybe it’s our neighborhood, while I’m doing the dishes inside my house. Don’t I get to choose what’s best for my kids? Can we just assume that I care about my kids, I don’t want them to die or get kidnapped, and I’m actually making all my decisions with those things in mind? Maybe I’m not choosing to let my kids play outside because I’m lazy, but I’m choosing to let them play outside because I’ve done the risk analysis and I think that the benefits they will accrue from the freedom I give them outweigh the astronomically small chance that they get kidnapped.
As their mom, I want to be the one to make that choice.