Our pal Jeanne Sager wrote a post at The Stir the other day (one specifically labelled a “rant”) in which she suggests that the parents of a little girl who was accidentally left behind at a Chuck E. Cheese in Maryland should lose their parental rights. As of this writing, the post has 120 comments, and we here at Strollerderby thought it was time to share our opinion. So welcome to our first ever Strollerderby Salon, a round-table conversation featuring two or more of our bloggers dissecting a newsworthy topic or trend.
Here’s the background info you need to know, from Jeanne’s post: “Police were called to the kiddie restaurant around 8 p.m. on Sunday to help a lost little girl named Harmony who approached a restaurant manager to say she was a little thirsty. But they didn’t get a call from Harmony’s mom and dad until after 11 … after her picture was plastered on every TV screen in town. And they still gave her back!” You should also know that “The parents, who share custody but seem to be split up, apparently told the coppers that they’d been at a “large party” at the Chuck E. Cheese, and they each thought their daughter had gone off with another member of the family.” CPS brought the girl to her parents and will not press charges.
Sager says, “This could have been inadvertent. But inadvertent doesn’t mean excusable. And that’s what everyone seems to have done in Bel Air this week … excused the crap out of some spectacularly crappy parenting.”
Here’s what Madeline Holler (MH), Meredith Carroll (MC), and I (CC) have to say about that:
Madeline Holler: I love Jeanne, but she’s slightly unhinged on this one. My husband and I share pick-up and drop-off of our son at preschool and sometimes we have to double-check with each other during the day. “Right, you’re getting him,” that kind of thing. If we ever DO err, it would be completely obvious since we live in the same house and we’d be all … where the hell is he? Anyway, I can see how this would happen.
Carolyn Castiglia: And I hate to add controversy to controversy, but I wonder what everyone’s reaction would be if this were a white kid. I feel like maybe more forgiving? Accepting of the “honest mistake” theory?
Meredith Carroll: Sorry – but what am I missing here? I get forgetting to do pickup at school or something and then realizing it 15, 20, 30 minutes or even an hour later. But at 11 at night don’t you think they might have realized that neither of them gave her dinner or put her to sleep? Something there is seriously WRONG, I think.
CC: The parents don’t live together and they each thought she was with another family member.
MC: Oh. But, yeah, I’m still with Jeanne on this one. I walk my kid up to another adult and make sure she’s OK. Especially at Chuck E. Cheese, where I’ve never been, but I’ve read enough about to not let a kid roam free.
CC: It’s not model parenting, but I don’t think someone should have their child taken away for a first time offense that is fathomable. I mean, I’ve read all these stories about frazzled white parents who’ve left their kids in the car and the child has *died* from baking to death, but in that instance everyone goes, oh, I can totally see how that could happen. So…
MH: Yeah, and that’s a parenting choice, the walking up hand-off of a 3-year-old used to having more than one home. Harmony’s family does this all the time. And at Chuck E. Cheese, it’s very much set up as a place for kids to roam freely … they’re caged in, there are hand stamps to prevent abductions, etc.
MC: No, I wasn’t saying I thought she should be taken away. Believe me, I’ve almost forgotten my 6-month-old baby countless times because she’s so damn quiet – but I never actually have. I’m just agreeing that it’s outrageous that she was forgotten to the extent she was. If it wasn’t an outrageous example, I also don’t think it would be on quite so many media outlets. Although, that being said, the media does like to blow up even not-worthy stories, as we all know.
CC: Well, that’s good – cuz Jeanne actually does argue the kid should have been taken away, which I think is crazy.
MH: I’ve also defended people whose kids have died after they accidentally left their kid in the car. Those are devastating stories and there’s an actual science behind the brain lapse that allows that to happen. These are lapses in plans, mistakes. Not even to be equated with bad parenting. This particular family is split but they attend birthday parties together. That’s known as good parenting these days. The girl has two homes to go to with two different parents — homes safe and good enough that neither parent (who showed up immediately after seeing the kid on the news!) felt they had to call and double-check that she was with the other. Also a sign of good parenting! This girl wasn’t any more forgotten than my son would be if my husband and I ever leave him at his preschool. It’s not a scale. It’s just a one-time failure to communicate among allllllll those other times everything went off without a hitch!
MC: Yes, well, if I forgot my kid at preschool or at a birthday party I wouldn’t be calling myself a good parent. I feel bad enough when I almost forget my baby places, and I have lots and lots of utterly legitimate excuses of why that’s almost happened. Good parents can do very bad and/or irresponsible things sometimes but that doesn’t make them bad parents across the board.
MH: Which just goes to show how meaningless/unachievable the term “good parent” is.
Your thoughts? Should Harmony’s parents have had their child taken away from them? Or was this just a simple mistake that was handled responsibly in the end?
Photo via The Stir