A camera! Quick, call the police!

scared kid

Kids freak over apparent photographer

Evidently, someone simply taking photographs is enough to launch the local police into DEFCON 2.  I guess if I really wanted to send a town into a tizzy, I just have to aim a camera in the direction of a couple of kids.  Thank goodness these kids had been properly indoctrinated into the freak-out-first protocol, and were able to do their part to spin up the fear and paranoia.  If they hadn’t, this dangerous photographic predator may have gotten away with this heinous crime.   Instead, the town is on high alert.  Phew!

My fingers just hovered over the keyboard for a full minute or so, because I was having a tough time coming up with a way to describe just how ridiculous this is.  So, let’s just say that the police, having been alerted of this photo-taking monster, then see someone roughly fitting the description shoot a photograph from his car. Do you think, for a second, that they would do any thinking, engage in any analysis, or ask themselves any important questions before pulling that car over?  Not likely.  What if the camera was aimed at a kid-free stretch of the woods?  Doesn’t matter. Under freak-out-first procedures, they pull that car over.  You know what’s going through their heads?  I’ll tell you: we have a potential pedophile dead to rights…red handed…we got him!  It won’t matter if the camera is aimed at that impressive old oak tree, or the park, or the anything.   So, with their adrenaline pumping, they make the stop.

This situation is not good.  First of all, the person in the car has (as far as we know) done nothing wrong, and broken no laws.  Even if he WAS photographing kids (perfectly legal!).  Second of all, the mind-set of the officers has already advanced beyond the “normal traffic stop.”  Now, add the complicating factor that the person in the car is well aware of his constitutional rights, and has no trouble exercising them.  “Can you look at my camera?  No, officer, you may not.”   Hah! He must be guilty…the pedophile scumbag.   This is a challenging spot for all parties, and is ripe for potentially dangerous escalation.  The officer is convinced he’s cornered a pedophile, and now he’s refusing to cooperate.  In layman’s terms, “refusal to cooperate” means that “he refuses to voluntarily suspend his constitutional rights, even after he’s asked to do so.”  Does anyone in the world think that this informed (and likely utterly innocent) citizen is going to drive away from this stop without any trouble?  No way.   There’s only one way that’s going to happen:  “cooperate”, turn over his camera, allow the police to search his car and property, answer all their questions, apologize profusely, and just go along with whatever the police want him to do.   All of this over, what?   We’ve seen this scenario before.

The big problem I have, and everyone should have, with this scenario is the fact that people quickly lose sight (if they ever had it) of the actual facts in evidence, and go straight for the sensational pedophile angle.  This is being drilled into an increasingly terrified kid population without space for any mature, measured, reasoned analysis whatsoever.  The “better safe than sorry” crowd has hijacked the collective psyche of American parents (and kids!) to the point of trading almost all common sense for a monolithic, unassailable fear of the worst.  Could the guy in this car have actually been a pedophile?  Sure.  Likely?  Not by a long shot.  It is far more likely that the kid who made the report will be killed in a car accident while his mom drives him to home to keep him “safe.”

In a dark corner of my psyche, I harbor some level of fear that a police-citizen encounter, hypothetically described above, will, at some point, actually end in a violent, and perhaps deadly encounter. Call me paranoid…whatever.

 

 

 

 

Congratulations Readers’ Digest!

Why in the world would I be congratulating Readers’ Digest, you ask?  A fair question.

Yesterday, in the grocery store, while the kids were unloading the cart at the register, and Carson was scanning our items (they do that…:), my eyes passed over the ever-present magazine rack, which is always bulging with headlines that I take pride in not understanding: “Gwen and Lance in trouble!”; “Hannah storms out!”  Whatever.  Anyway, my eyes happened to catch some very small print on the cover of Readers’ Digest.  It said something like, “The Happiest Photo in history.  – Page 48.”  Hmmm.  The happiest photo in history, eh?  So, there I was, actually contemplating picking up a magazine at the checkout counter — something I simply never, ever do.  So, congrats RD, you made me do it.  It turns out, what I found on page 48 was worth the shame.

In order that you could share in the drama, I’ve placed the photo at the very bottom of this posting, hopefully still out of sight as you read this. So, think about the happiest photo you’ve ever seen, and then scroll down and check it out.  After you find out what it is, it’s better if you find a larger version online, of course.

Whad’ya think?  For my part, I was overjoyed to see that it involved kids.  And, quiet honestly, I’ve been thinking about the photo a whole lot since the moment I saw it.  I’m sure that I’d seen it before, somewhere, a long time ago, but the detail is lost to history.  Either way, I’ve already decided that a copy of it must hang in our home somewhere; I’m working on possible spots right now.  If I had to boil down my gut response to the photo, I would have to say it was something like, “Yes!  That’s it!  Freedom!  Unbridled, spontaneous, joyous play!  That’s childhood!”  For those of you who are perhaps not subject to tear-jerking blasts of emotion like I am (especially having to do with the kids), you may not understand just how powerfully this image hit me.  It also came with bonus points – it was taken at the University of Michigan.  You can read about its history at this link:

Ode to Joy photo

So, jump to modern times; do you think the circumstances that helped create this incredible photo could ever be replicated where you live?  Kids of rather young ages, playing together, free to spot, pursue, and spontaneously engage someone or something as fascinating as a high-stepping drum major practicing his moves?  To actually run after someone, without parents, without a security detail, bursting with enough genuine joy and happiness as to land them in one of America’s most famous photographs?   In fact, the “happiest” photograph?   My soul aches just a little bit, every time I whisper to myself, “no.”  So, I ask – why not, and what the hell are we doing about it!?

Just a side note: I’m actually running out of my allotted writing time for this morning, and I’m up against the clock a bit.  So, I will be brief here, and perhaps come back and update.

I regularly hear people say “the world is different today”, or “you can’t keep living in the past, dude”, or “it’s just not like that anymore”, etc.  There is a whole constellation of excuses, rationalization, and “just go along with it” sort of thinking that is helping (further) destroy the traditions of free range childhood.   My response, generally, can actually be framed in terms of sports.  Whenever I hear someone talking about getting tickets to a big game, even the Superbowl, I always correct the inevitable “tickets are impossible to get.”  I answer, “no, tickets are easy to get, you just have to pay for them.”  “Well, you know what I mean.”  “Yes, I do know what you mean, and I hope you know what I mean.”

Giving my kids the kind of childhood that would allow them to be in a photo like this is completely possible.  We just have to pay for it.  Cash doesn’t work, but time, effort, organizing, activism, and a whole alternative constellation of “can do” actions can may it happen.  Do I foresee any time in the near future when I will simply throw my hands up and say “screw it, just bring them inside and sit them in front of the X-box.  I’m sick of trying.”  No, I don’t.  My mission will become increasingly clear when I have to regularly walk past a beautifully framed reminder of exactly what’s at stake.

Go love your kids!

BW

Uniformed drum major for the Univ. of MI marching band practicing his high-kicking prance as he leads a line of seven admiring children who are all trying to imitate his flamboyant technique while marching across the campus lawn.

 

Small victory in Rhode Island – DENIED!

Well, well, well.  It seems that the original link (far below – Common Sense in Rhode Island), which reported that the RI “kids in cars law” had quietly gone away, was a bit quick on the draw.  Unfortunately, some new reporting, linked just below, tells us that the ridiculous bill is, in fact, moving forward.

Rhode Island common sense? NOPE!

I sent the below email to Senator Raptakis yesterday, and have not received any reply.  No surprise there.    If you would like to send your own email, you may send it to:
Sen-Raptakis@RIlegislature.gov
My email of yesterday:
Senator Raptakis,
     Good day, Sir, I hope this finds you well.  I find it difficult to express the deep disappointment I experienced this morning, as I read the below-linked news report regarding children left in cars.  Just days ago, I was happily celebrating the emergence of some legislative common sense in RI, as I had read a report (evidently erroneous) that this bill had been quietly put to rest, as it should be.  Unfortunately, that report set me up for a monumental case of emotional whiplash this morning.
     Five minutes versus ten minutes?  I get the sense, now, that the passage of “anything” with regards to this issue has now become the acceptable measure of success, rather than the creation and application of reasonable and necessary law.  Sadly, this state of affairs often emerges as the political reality of bad legislation, when challenged.  The reality for competent parents, however, will not change.  They will now be subject to criminal punishment for making safe, reasonable decisions regarding the safety and welfare of their own children.  A very sad, disappointing day for American jurisprudence.
    I wish I could say that I wish you luck.

http://turnto10.com/politics/ri-lawmakers-target-parents-who-leave-kids-alone

Best regards,
Brian Wetzler

 

The below entry has evidently been rendered NULL and VOID.  Too bad.

Common Sense in Rhode Island?

Well, according to recent reports at Free Range Kids, linked above, the proposed bill in Rhode Island that would have criminalized leaving children in cars for any reason, has died a slow and silent death. Thank God.  Well, I perhaps could rephrase that to, thank all of the energized parents, and non-parents, everywhere who took up the effort.   You can review my January archive and read “Outgoing Rounds” and “More Outgoing” to get a small sense of what Rhode Island law makers were getting in their inboxes regarding this proposed law.  Congrats to all others who may have reached out and taken action in this particular case. Nicely done!

Go love your kids!

BW

Who has heard of the National Association of Parents?

Busy-body calls 911 over 2-year-old’s tantrum

Well, I had never heard of these folks (National Association of Parents) , which sort of surprised me.  I need to do better research!  I just joined their organization.  Anyway, their name caught my attention while I was reviewing the comments from the above-linked article, from Free Range Kids.  By the nature of their brief comment, it appeared that they were as riled up as I was, and wanted to get in on this fiasco. You need to read the link.  It is an account of a nanny being grilled by the police for 30 mins, after a busy-bastard called 911 over a 2-year-old’s tantrum at a local park.  The encounter is complete with “we need to talk to the kids alone.”  Yeah, over my dead body, officer.  I have a request in for more specific information, as to be able to reach out to the police department directly, and perhaps get an interview with the responders and/or identify the 911 source.  That may not be easy, but I’ll give it a try.  Watch for updates.

Go love your kids!

BW

Shameless echo chamber

Lenore Skenazy’s New York Post Article

Perhaps many readers will recognize the name Lenore Skenazy.  Linked here, is an article she penned for the New York Post. Ostensibly, it is about the recent Oscars “show”, or whatever they call it, but extends far deeper into our parenting culture.  Of course, I wouldn’t be caught dead watching the Oscars, so I’m very happy I got to miss the “oh…my…God…” feeling that may have emptied my stomach.  So, as the title of this post hints, here is my shameless echo of her insight.

Amen, sista!

Go love your kids!

BW

What are they doing?

STAND ALONE SERIES Ondine Jevremov, 12, center, balances on a unicycle between her parents Zoran, left, and Daphne Jevremov during the 2014 NYC Unicycle festival, Sunday Aug. 31, 2014 on Governors Island in New York. In its fifth year, the event brings together first time riders, as well as recreational riders and world-class performers. "It's one of the few things parents and kids try," said festival director Keith Nelson. "When you see families doing things together it's beautiful." (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Recently, I joked with a friend that I should try out a new drinking game:  while watching kids at the playground, I’d have to drink every time I heard a parent say “be careful!” or “good job.”  Immediately, I realized that I may as well just plug into a beer IV.

Almost every time I go to a playground with the kids, I have to wonder whether I’m the only one who sees this incredibly bizarre phenomenon as a bad thing.  I know that the vast majority of parents are well-meaning, but watching two parents follow a 5-year-old kid around like shadows, chattering at him constantly, just depresses the hell out of me.  Parents, what are you doing?  No, stop and think about it.  What are you actually accomplishing?  I hope you thought this through.

What they’re doing, it seems to me, is, at the very least, destroying any opportunity for their 5-year-old to engage in spontaneous play with anybody else.  They are, in essence, the parental Secret Service, making sure that nobody gets to their child with anything dangerous, like a new game, a challenging idea, or, God forbid, something that looks dangerous…like monkey bars.  I know from observing my children, at least, that they generally steer shy of kids surrounded by a security detail.  I don’t think we give our kids enough credit for picking up these vibes, but they learn at lightning-fast speed how to read patterns like this.  Kids with hovering parents aren’t really free to play, and, after all, there’s grown-up competition for their attention.  What fun is that?  Now that I’m a famous blogger 🙂 I’ve been daydreaming about doing some actual research on this issue.  I really do want to know what thoughts, if any, are behind certain parental behaviors at the playground.  Yeah, I know that it seems all holier-than-thou and “who the hell do you think you are?” – ish, but my curiosity is genuine.  Of course, asking questions like that would probably get me a dirty look to start, and then, perhaps, a discreet photo posted on Facebook with the caption, “this is the creep who was asking me completely inappropriate questions at the park today.”  Then, the comment line would fill up with venomous “how dare he!” stuff, with at least one comment saying, “next time you see him, call the cops!”  You laugh…

The other day, I saw two parents literally break into a run because their twin 6-year-oldish boys had just arrived on-scene, saw a particularly cool slide, and started running towards it.  It was as if the parents couldn’t allow more than a 10-foot gap to open up between them and the kids.  Both parents, mind you.  What is that?  Does that absolutely baffle the shit out of anyone else, or is it just me?  I would absolutely loooove to find out if their brains had engaged at all, or whether they were just suffering from some sort of evil parental auto-pilot.  Yeah, I know, it’s always easy to judge while you’re sitting in the cheap seats.  Wait a minute, I’m not sitting in the cheap seats!

While I make these observations, I always have a 6 and 5 year-old running around somewhere, Sydney normally trying to out-daredevil herself somehow.  So, no, I’m one parent minding two kids, watching two parents hang all over one kid.   You’d think it would be more difficult for me, no?  But that’s the bizarre point, what is the difficulty!?  What are they doing that makes it look so difficult and anxiety-ridden?  Well, when I think of it, the answer is pretty obvious.  If I had to stay 5-feet behind my kids at all times, and climb all the stuff they climb, and follow them through the tunnels, and go down the slides with them, and ride the little springy pony thing, and squeeze into the swing next to them, and do all of the other shit that parents shouldn’t be doing, I’d have a tough time as well.

So, I’m wondering how to do this.  Do I bring a clipboard and look like a researcher?   Dress it up as a survey?  Yeah, yeah, this isn’t a good idea.  How about I just write about it on a blog, and leave it at that?  Sounds good.

I’m still curious though…

Go love your kids!

BW