How can you tell if a mother is doing a good enough job?
She never lets anything bad happen, ever. No accidents, no missteps, no whoopsies. No, she is watching her children every single second of every single day, including during those moments when a mere mortal would be sleeping or taking a shower or going to the bathroom. If she slips up, even once, she is apparently negligent. Criminally so.
Consider these two recent cases: In Delaware, a woman named Erika Wilson put her 3-year-old down for a nap and went to take a little snooze herself. Unbeknownst to her, her daughter then got up and managed to get out of the house. When police found the little girl later, they went looking for Wilson and returned the girl to her, chuckling "What a little Houdini!" or something like that, right?
Not quite. The police went looking for the mom and charged her with child endangerment.
According to the News Journal, the mom then was "cautioned not to endanger her daughter in the future." Because, I guess, it is "endangerment" to take a nap.
Meantime, in Lockport, N.Y., something extremely similar was happening to a woman named Samantha Boyd. In the middle of the night, while Boyd was sleeping, her 3-year-old son slipped out of the house and started wandering around. The man who spotted him called the police, as did Boyd as soon as she realized her boy wasn't home. When the police contacted Boyd, did they say "Kids will be kids! Maybe install a childproof lock on the door"?
No, they arrested her. "What's nice about that," the police chief said, is that now she'll be put "into the system." In other words, now that her son surprised her once, Boyd's parenting will be monitored indefinitely, presumably by people whose own kids never ran away or sneaked out of the crib or got lost at the mall.
That only happens to criminally negligent moms.
These are harsh times we are living in, folks. Times when those "crazy kid moments" that used to make for fun family stories now turn mommies into America's Most Wanted. Why? Because even the folks in law enforcement and child protective services have a very inflated idea of what makes for a good parent.
It's called perfection. And they think that anything less than that puts a child in immediate danger. They have developed this outlook by living in a country where predators are prime-time TV fodder and stores sell infrared video baby monitors, which allow parents to watch their kids in the crib even when it's dark. The message they get: A good parent watches her kid all day AND all night.
But it wasn't always thus. As one gal wrote to my blog after I posted about the mom whose toddler wandered out while she napped: "That EXACT thing happened to my mom in 1975 when I was 2 (minus the neglect charges). I woke up first and opened the door and took a walk on my own while Mom slept on. I walked through some woods near my house and up to a neighboring street, where a neighbor noticed me and asked me my name, which, happily, I was able to tell her. The neighbor knew my great-grandmother, after whom I am named, and called an aunt, who called my mom and sent me home. The neighborhood, in other words, handled it. And no one blamed my mom, who is of course an awesome mom and entitled to her sleep."
The mom WAS entitled to her sleep -- back then. Now she's entitled to a criminal record and an open file on her parenting.