Past generations of so-called 'unattended' children turned out just fine

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The news nearly every day seems to have a story about a child left unattended either in a car, in front of an apartment building, in a store parking lot or even in a neighborhood park. At first blush, we say “How terrible! These awful parents!” Usually, we hear it because a parent has been arrested. “Well deserved,” it is said. “Those awful bad people. Lock ’em up!”

Well, I say how lucky are we that our parents, and even I as a parent, didn’t have to meet today’s requirements. Now, let’s not start shouting about those poor little darlings being so poorly parented. Granted, there are some bad cases, and thanks to 24-hour news coverage, hardly one happens that we don’t hear about. And we do need laws to prosecute those deranged parents who deliberately attempt to harm their children.

But I would like to look at it from a different perspective.

By today’s legal requirements, the parents we grew up with all would have arrest records! When I was a child, my mother had no clue where we were at 9:30 p.m. on a summer night – nor did my friend’s parents know where they were. The parents were shelling peas on the porch or inside ironing clothes in the coolness of the evening while we ran the streets and played. Heading home alone, this 9-year-old girl didn’t attract a call to the police for investigation as to why I was outside by myself. And I got home safe and sound.

MY HUSBAND’S PARENTS certainly would have been arrested, too. He and his three brothers left on bicycles early in the morning riding all over town by houses inhabited by people they didn’t know, and his parents had no one watching them, either. They went to the park all by themselves, sometimes as a group, but often just one alone for hours shooting baskets. No one seemed to need to call the police to protect them. They just showed back up when the hunger pangs hit – only to take off again for parts unknown.

I am so grateful no one felt the need to flag down the Florida Highway Patrol as I cradled a worn-out toddler in my arms on Interstate 95 as we returned from taking grandchildren to Walt Disney World. Had an officer done so, Bob and I would be getting out of jail just about now, I guess.

My heart goes out to these parents here locally who have been arrested for offenses regarding children left alone. In every case, at a different time in history they would have been seen as parents simply doing the best they could under difficult circumstances. The mother facing failure in a college class and a loss of means to make a living was accused of leaving a baby in the car for 20 minutes with windows open because she had no one with whom to leave the baby.

Well, our parents left us in hot cars while they went in grocery stores, and we whined and carried on something awful, but our parents weren’t arrested. We grew up riding in the back windshields of cars (if we could get there first) with all the windows down, or we were standing between the openings in front seats leaning over to see better! Nobody called the police then, but today? Lord, help you if you dare allow such.

And who in the world except weirdos wore bike helmets? Amazing, isn’t it? And there are millions of us here to tell about it. My painter recently was terrified he might get a $500 ticket because he couldn’t find an infant car seat when he went to pick up his grandchild at day care. He cleverly put the toddler in the floor and drove the few blocks home. We grew up never even seeing a car seat! Well, I did get baskets to bring my babies home from the hospital. But, as I recall, it was because the baskets were so cute.

AND THE 12- AND 15-year-old girls left in the car at a shopping center while their mother was inside working? Come on! Twelve- and 15-year-old girls are baby-sitting age, for heaven’s sake. When police are called, they have little option but to find and arrest the parent. After all, it’s the law. Scary to think how many decisions our parents had to make that, by today’s standards, would have locked them up.

And there’s the dad who left his children in the car for a few minutes in an apartment parking lot. An observer calls the police, and he gets rewarded for his interference! Why didn’t he just sit on the curb and watch out for the children until the dad returned, if he was all that concerned?

But, I guess for me, the one that takes the cake is the do-gooder who called police when she saw a young girl playing in a park alone. If she was all that concerned, why didn’t she just stay with the girl until her mother came? Or why didn’t she ask the girl to call the girl’s mother’s work to see how she could help the mother? No! Miss Let-Me-Tell-On-Her calls law enforcement. Now police have few options, and what seems like a mother who made a pretty reasonable decision in a difficult situation is locked up and incurs awful legal expenses; is separated from her child; and put through pure agony.

Thankfully, that story was picked up online, and a stranger from New Hampshire is helping the mother financially. I should have done it myself. Shame on me!

What’s my point? We could just stop and think: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

(The writer – a lifelong resident of
Augusta – was first lady of Augusta to former Mayor Bob Young, and is a licensed real estate broker.)

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specsta
7229
Points
specsta 08/10/14 - 12:45 am
12
4
They Will Never Grow Up

Great commentary!

America has become a society of the fearful. We are afraid of our own shadow. We teach children to be afraid of everything. We have become a society where we treat children like mindless babies. So, they become mindless babies in maturity and responsibility, despite being elementary or middle-school age.

We tell children that strangers must be avoided at all costs, lest they kidnap you and do despicable things. Even though "stranger danger" is a myth - if a child is going to be harmed, it is going to happen in that child's home or a relative's home - not by a stranger. Children do not even speak when spoken to by an adult anymore. In my day, this would be considered rude and disrespectful. Adults are afraid to say hello to children lest they be branded a weirdo. Or worse. What kind of a world are we creating?

Young parents smother their children with zero freedoms and then they wonder why these same kids rebel so much when they become teenagers. These kids are helpless, because they were never allowed to live with any expectation of maturity or responsibility.

We have created the safest society for kids - and created the most unsafe one for their future as free-thinking members of society.

Knee-jerk legislation has destroyed common sense. Parents need to be allowed to be parents, not arrested for letting their mature 9-year-old play in the park. Law enforcement exhibits a two-faced mentality - kids are arrested for kid behavior and parents are arrested for being parents trying to raise a responsible child.

Back in the day, we would go to the park all day, ride bikes, play catch and baseball, explore abandoned buildings, camp in the backyard, walk to the store which was over a mile way - with no cell phones and no parents worrying about our whereabouts. We would take the bus all over the place and no one asked us where were our parents. We would speak and say hello to other adults out of respect if we were spoken to.

And yes, we were left in cars sitting while a parent shopped. And we were not kidnapped nor did we die from heat stroke (I am not referring to a baby being left in a car with the windows rolled up). We rolled all the windows down and let the breeze in, because we had not been indoctrinated in "stranger danger". And adults kept their noses out of our business, while we laughed and played in the car.

I would not want to be a child raised by these overprotective parents and overprotective laws of today.

Young Fred
21157
Points
Young Fred 08/10/14 - 04:12 am
5
0
Mixed feelings

Good points made! But...

In times past, a greater portion of our population were believers of eternal truths.

Today more have been led to believe subjective beliefs should rule.

In times past there was more of an "accepted" right and wrong, more ridicule of those whom stepped out of societal norms.

Today there's a full court press suggesting most all opinions are equally valid. Which is ludicrous, and leads to a more dangerous atmosphere in which we raise our children.

It's the acceptable gray areas that leads to greater dangers. By equally validating all opinion, we've opened ourselves to approving, or at least allowing our children to participate in more and more stepping stone, or gateway, destructive activities.

To think responsible people can treat today exactly as yesterday is ridiculous.

SimpleGirl
977
Points
SimpleGirl 08/10/14 - 06:17 am
6
4
Not the same

Things have changed greatly since long ago and I am one that believes children and animals should not be left in cars. When I was growing up, we didn't lock our doors.....do you really think we can do that now? It's clear children must be protected in every way possible these days. Those who don't are selfish and lazy. I used to play outside in the dark with friends and had to walk a good way home alone from school every day...it was a more safe and simpler time. There is nothing more precious than a child and if parents want to be stupid and not take every effort to protect them in today's unsettled society, you shouldn't have children. Yes, times have changed and so should people's actions.

Bizkit
35764
Points
Bizkit 08/10/14 - 06:52 am
8
3
Times have changed because

Times have changed because the times of people leaving their homes and cars unlocked (and keys in the car) are long gone. The population has grown and with that the proportion of lunatic liar, thieves, pedophiles, murderers have increased-and that is just the federal govt. LOL
Back then "gay" meant happy and homosexuals had a mental issue. Porno was seedy magazines and not a major proportion of the internet-which there was no internet. No cell phones, no 24 Jiffy, Gas, or Wal-Mart. There is no comparison really is there? Kids have to be protected from stupid people, which from the last two presidential elections is well over half the population of the US.

deestafford
32319
Points
deestafford 08/10/14 - 07:57 am
6
0
Specsta, As long as I've been reading your comments...

Specsta, As long as I've been reading your comments, this is the first I've totally agreed with you. :) Keep rooting. The blind hog finds an acorn if he roots long enough;)

I think two changes have impacted the way we look at things now versus back when we were youngun's. The first is information available. For instance, tornadoes did not exist for us boys in Savannah when I was growing up because The Wizard of Oz was the only tornado we knew of. Now, we see them on TV and think something is going on with the weather because we hear so much about them.

I think it's the same with abductions and such. We are able to read about everything that goes on not only locally but all of the US and around the world.

The other thing is the mobility of the crooks and bad guys. They used to be pretty much confined because they did not have the ability to travel around as easily and as much as they do today.

One of the great things about the human brain is we tend to forget the bad things and remember only the good things...at least that's the way normal brains seem to work.

SimpleGirl
977
Points
SimpleGirl 08/10/14 - 08:06 am
3
9
And..I would have done the same thing

And for the child left at the park all day while the mother worked, yes, I too would have called police. I would have done that in good judgment in the safety for the child. Everyone has problems, but to leave a child all day in a park? What if she got sick, what if kids beat her up, how about her being hungry or getting hurt? How must this child have felt being dropped off alone to stay in a park all day. A parent's job is to love and protect their child, no matter what! So, thank goodness we have law enforcement. I only wish they weren't out numbered by all the crazy people in world.

Riverman1
94467
Points
Riverman1 08/11/14 - 06:13 am
9
1
We Remember The Way It Was Through Child's Eyes

With a common sense revelation, such as this letter and the comments made the other day under the story, it’s always said “things have changed.” But that’s really not true. Children are not harmed intentionally or accidentally in greater numbers today than years ago. It’s a knee jerk reaction to say it is. For instance, from studies, I’ve seen, admittedly scant as they are, the cases of child abductions have actually decreased over the years. What’s different is the media is now more prevalent. Another reason that some think of the country as more dangerous is when they were children, they remember through the eyes of a child instead of the adults they are now.

As far as the 9 year old playing in the park for 8 hours, what’s wrong with that? If the mother had left her home and let her play in the yard and neighborhood would it have been better?

Oops, I see where DeeStafford said this too above. Credit to him.

seenitB4
98779
Points
seenitB4 08/10/14 - 09:39 am
7
1
The Media is a 2 way sword

We hear of EVERY child death---every breakin--every gun shot--too dang much news! Most will be negative for obvious reasons---IT SELLS.

We were left in open cars many times, our doors were not always locked, we didn't shake with every storm, we rode bikes all day long & only came in at night.
They had to make us come in to eat......I miss the good ole days, they worked so much better than today......pull away from the messengers of dread 24/7...

Darby
29609
Points
Darby 08/10/14 - 10:12 am
6
0
"Heading home alone, this 9-year-old girl

didn’t attract a call to the police for investigation as to why I was outside by myself. And I got home safe and sound."

.
While I can agree and at the same time disagree with some elements of GFY's letter, the fact is, things have changed in so many ways since the 1940's.

A prudent parent would be wise to take those changes into consideration while determining just how much freedom an immature child should have.

One size has never really fit all.

Truth Matters
8105
Points
Truth Matters 08/10/14 - 11:20 am
2
0
"We grew up riding in the

"We grew up riding in the back windshields of cars (if we could get there first) with all the windows down, or we were standing between the openings in front seats leaning over to see better!"

Lord, do I remember that. Being the youngest of six children I never got to sit by the window, so the opening between the front seats was the only place I could fit. In the back seat one kid would sit forward and the next sat back to make room for all. With the exception being when our neighbor's grandson tagged alone, then I had to sit in someone's lap.

deestafford
32319
Points
deestafford 08/10/14 - 11:57 am
4
1
The comments about too much, or so much, information...

The comments about too much, or so much, information are on target.

I remember after my Daddy died Mother lived alone and what did she have? A police scanner. I don't know if one of my brothers bought it for her or if she bought it herself, but she believed there were crimes going on all over the place. Why? because that was all she listened to. After I brought her up here to Augusta from Savannah we got rid of that thing.

Truth Matters
8105
Points
Truth Matters 08/10/14 - 12:09 pm
5
0
"why didn’t he just sit on

"why didn’t he just sit on the curb and watch out for the children until the dad returned, if he was all that concerned?"

A grandfather in our congregation would often bring his granddaughters to church. They would stop at the local restaurant in town ( population less than 5k), to get takeout dinners after church. One Sunday I was stopped at the traffic light and noticed the two girls (ages about 6 and 7) in the car alone. I pulled into the parking lot next to their car and waited for g-dad to return with dinners in tow. I told him that while I knew he would never deliberately put those girls in harms way, others who may not know him might conclude differently. I went on to explain the law about leaving young children alone. He apologized, said he had no idea that was wrong, and promised to never do it again. On occasion he still thanks me and says he hasn't done that since.

Sweet son
11793
Points
Sweet son 08/10/14 - 12:26 pm
5
1
So thankful that I grew up in Gwen's world!

I had a happy childhood and I did the same things she described. So sad that the world is so different today. The bad element is of course there but too many busybody people cause parents who make a mistake to be labeled criminals. Thanks for the letter Gwen.

Truth Matters
8105
Points
Truth Matters 08/10/14 - 12:30 pm
5
2
@specsta

"These kids are helpless, because they were never allowed to live with any expectation of maturity or responsibility."

One last thought:
Sometimes the children of parents from lower income households who give them the most freedom, have better coping and life skills than do those from higher income families.

I remember teaching a unit on money to a group of students and noticed right away that the children who walked to the neighborhood store with big sister and brother, and bought goodies, and to teachers appeared less cared for and less supervised, could recognize coins and count money far better than those whose parents wouldn't dream of allowing them to go to a neighborhood store alone or who did all the transactions in the store for them.

harley_52
26146
Points
harley_52 08/10/14 - 03:06 pm
8
1
Most Of Today's Societal Ills...

...can be traced to the way parents raise their children. I see two extremes at work here....first, children raised effectively with no parents. I mean mainly single parent households where the single parent isn't really a parent at all, either because of working too much, drug or alcohol addiction, or simply a lack of concern. Without proper guidance, children's character and ethics are developed on the street, by what they watch on TV, or what they see at school. Children need a loving, caring, nurturing mother and a loving, caring, nurturing, and sufficiently stern father in order to develop normally. Can the roles be reversed (stern mother versus stern father)? Yes, but it can create problems too.

The other extreme is the so called "helicopter parents." Parents who constantly hover over their children and smother them with suggestions, demands, rules, and restraints which disallows children from learning about life, stifles their creativity and self-esteem, and discourages initiative and creativity.

When you couple helicopter parents with political correctness and with ultra-lefty teachers permeating the public education system you get little boys being kicked out of school for making a "gun" sign with their thumb and forefinger and parents accepting it as being "good for him." Metrosexuals replacing traditional men in society are the result.

In both cases, as in most problems in American society, liberalism is the ultimate culprit.

blues550
380
Points
blues550 08/10/14 - 02:50 pm
0
0
The Elevator
Unpublished

Have always suspected the elevator in the mind of Young's 10 story building only went to the 8th floor. Perhaps she has missed the fact that things are a wee bit more dangerous in our society and her "good old days" also included cars with no safety belts or air bags and many of the safety standards we have today.

A wast of clumn inches.

Truth Matters
8105
Points
Truth Matters 08/10/14 - 06:15 pm
1
2
"In both cases, as in most

"In both cases, as in most problems in American society, liberalism is the ultimate culprit."

It is no more fair/accurate to attribute ultimate blame on liberalism than it would be for one to attribute ultimate blame on conservatism.

You were on a roll until you "went there."

nocnoc
49787
Points
nocnoc 08/10/14 - 06:55 pm
1
0
Was left in my mothers car a lot at JM Fields & SouthGate

and on Broad St. and Daniel Village from about 5 until I was
9 y/o with the Windows down and a bottle of Coke. At 10 did what I wanted and got left more than once at the Peach Ord Drive-in John Lasirbes(sp) or the DEA's store at Tobacco Rd and US 25, to teach me a lesson.

But I am still here?

I was raised mostly feral like a lot of 50-60's souther dirt road young'ins kids. We learned to take care of ourselves.

The standard rule in our house was:
Up for and out after breakfast.
Be home for Supper,
Call after dark to say where you are.
No Swamp fishing after 5pm.
Don't walk the US 25 highway edge after dark, use the ditch.

jimmymac
48086
Points
jimmymac 08/10/14 - 10:41 pm
0
0
TIMES
Unpublished

The times have indeed changed. We always had our front door open when I was growing up. In the summer so were all the windows because there was no air conditioning back then. Try and do that now and you'll be a statistic. My dads car always was unlocked with fishing gear in the trunk. Do that now and you'll need some cash to continue your hobby. Don't tell me people pointing out that times have changed are nervous nellies. Times have indeed changed and not for the better. I've read comments on this vine blame people who left their cars unlocked as being stupid when their stuff was stolen. Growing up I never heard of a drive by, a car jacking and my bike was usually laying in the front lawn every night. Try it now!

corgimom
38808
Points
corgimom 08/14/14 - 11:07 pm
0
0
When I was 4, I was with my

When I was 4, I was with my father, and the car broke down at the intersection of Route 40 in Havre De Grace, MD, one night.

My father was afraid that the car would be hit in the dark, and he was afraid to take me across Route 40 (with good reason!) so he had me hang out the back window shining a flashlight with a red filter over it.

I was proud that I could help my father, and when people stopped, I yelled, "The car is broken down, my daddy has gone to get help."

Today, he'd be arrested.

corgimom
38808
Points
corgimom 08/14/14 - 11:22 pm
0
0
Truth matters, I agree. noc

Truth matters, I agree.

noc noc, you don't understand what "helicopter parents" really are.

EVERYTHING is a crisis. EVERYTHING is a disaster. EVERYTHING is a cause for concern.

Germs! Accidents! Bullying! Safety! Illnesses! Teachers picking on kids!

There is no longer "Kids get hurt, that's how they learn". "Kids get sick, it's part of childhood." "Kids learn to handle bullies, and learn how to get along with others." "If the teacher said you were doing wrong, you were."

And now, it's SUE SOMEBODY, the more people the better. SUE because something is always somebody else's fault.

We have helpless children that can't tie shoes, can't put on a sweater, can't toilet themselves. They are 5 and 6 and still wet their pants (we are supposed to REMIND them. Huh?) They can't open a milk carton, can't clean up a spill, think that every microscopic scratch and scrape is a 911 emergency. They need help handling EVERYTHING. They tattle constantly. Every time somebody says something that they don't like, they are being "bullied". They can't handle any negative interaction.

There are kids who have to put out place mats on the school tables, because of "germs". They want to do hand sanitizer 5 and 6 times a day, because their mothers told them to do it (we take the hand sanitizer away from them, btw. It's a safety hazard. And they survive.)

It's gotten utterly ridiculous.

corgimom
38808
Points
corgimom 08/14/14 - 11:37 pm
0
0
But the worst is when parents

But the worst is when parents come to school at lunchtime and spoon feed their 5 year old child. I'm not talking about a disabled child, I'm talking about a normal, healthy, able-bodied child. And then they hold a sippy cup for them to drink out of. 5 years old, and drinking out of a sippy cup, like a toddler. And it happens every year.

Can you imagine such a thing?

AutumnLeaves
10443
Points
AutumnLeaves 08/15/14 - 08:31 am
0
0
Yes, those kind of parents

Yes, those kind of parents are still "assisting" their children through college and even after they've graduated at their job, hands on, right under foot. What is going to happen to that young adult if something happens to that helicopter parent?

AutumnLeaves
10443
Points
AutumnLeaves 08/15/14 - 08:42 am
0
0
But as far as those days when

But as far as those days when you could let your youngster walk a mile to school or leave them in your car, hot or not, they were over in the late 60's as far as my parents were concerned. They left us sitting in the car with the door open in a major metropolitan city while they ran into an insurance office and we were approached by a man with candy. I slammed the car doors shut, locked them and when my parents came out I was worried I would be in trouble. They said no that I did the right thing. And never left us in the car alone again. I was very relieved about that because I was the oldest and felt responsible for the others. EVERY time I went for my cross-training runs at age 13-14, I would get followed around, men would slow down in their cars ask me how old I was, I had no idea why, or that I should have had someone running with me for safety, but I would take off like a rabbit on instinct. Now that I know better, I'm thankful I had that instinct. Times have changed. We don't live in Gwen's idyllic times anymore, if we ever really did.

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