"To err is human; to forgive, divine" - Alexander Pope
I think people need to remember that parents are human. We are going to make mistakes. We are not always going to make the right choices. We will be distracted and our children will fall. We will leave a bag of candy within reach and they will eat themselves sick. We will forget to lock our door and our children will open it and try to leave the house. We will hand our children our keys to play with and they will lose them or worse, lock themselves in the car or out of the house.
Does this mean we deserve judgement? Imagine if your every move as a parent was scrutinized and video taped... or worse, sent to the authorities. Imagine if one bad decision resulted in the potential to lose your child... even if no one was hurt. Even if it was not even against the law, but rather fell into that gray legal space that is open to interpretation.
The Salon article titled "The Day I Left My Son in the Car" is currently making the rounds on social media. I read it and was stunned by the idea that someone felt so compelled by this mother's actions that he or she videotaped the child left in the car and then anonymously sent the tape to the authorities -- even though the mother returned within moments and no one was hurt. Is this what our society has come to? A culture that leaves you fearful of judgement, penalty and repercussions by people lurking in the shadows with cameras?
Should we be forced to parent as if we're on reality TV? Should our decisions and protectiveness of our children come down to what others will think or do, rather than what makes sense for our family or our child?
I do not condone leaving a child in a car, especially one so young, even for five minutes on a temperate day. It was a poor choice by a mother who was distracted and stressed and trying to avoid a fight, but did her actions deserve the potential to lose her child? Absolutely not.
She deserved the benefit of the doubt and kindness and maybe even help. Not judgement from afar. This observer should have said something to her, or simply waited by the door with the child until she returned. This observer who was so taken by this mother's actions could have lent a hand instead of reporting her.
I can't imagine what kind of parent the world would think I was if there were people videotaping my actions. I am human and I make poor decisions all the time.
When my second son was only 22 months old, he burned his hand on my curling iron. I was only feet away and bending over to put on my shoes, yet his speed and curiosity got the best of me and him. His burn resulted in a few trips to the burn unit at Children's Hospital. Imagine if this was caught on film and sent to the authorities.
A few months ago, my two middle children were hiding under my bed because they did not want to get on the school bus, which was coming in less than five minutes. I lost it and started yelling at the top of my lungs that they HAD TO GET ON THAT BUS, OR ELSE. Yes, I screamed (loudly) and yes, I threatened. It was not my finest hour by any measure, but imagine what a video of this would look like to Child Protective Services.
This weekend, I allowed my 8, 6, and 3-year-old to play in our fenced-in backyard unsupervised. I was just inside and they were playing so nicely. When I went to check on them, they were gone. They had opened the gate and walked across our pipe stem (shared driveway) to play in the backyard of our neighbor's house with their friend. Imagine if a passerby had videotaped them walking by themselves.
I am NOT perfect and I err all the time, but this does not mean I am a bad mother. This does not mean I deserve to be judged or scrutinized. No one deserves this. Being mindful and protective of children is a good thing. You should step in and take action when you believe a child is being harmed or could potentially be harmed. But making the decision to be a "good citizen" by secretly videotaping a stranger's actions and reporting their less than finest parenting moment without taking that extra step to offer real help for the child and the mother is disturbing. And it says a lot about the culture we live in today.
A culture of not wanting to actually make that human connection. Where we hide behind technology and think that a "like" is enough. Where an anonymous video makes you the good guy and everyone else subject to the judgement of your lens. Where you look at a situation and automatically assume the worst because you have seen too much television or read too many sensationalized headlines. Where perhaps this disconnect from others makes us forget that we are all simply flawed humans who are trying to get through each day the best way we know how.
What would your parenting look like if subject to video cameras or the scrutiny of strangers simply passing by? Would you pass the test?
Nicole Dash is a writer, blogger, and business owner who lives outside Washington DC with her husband and four children. Nicole writes about life, family and finding herself amid the chaos on her heartfelt blog Tiny Steps Mommy. Please subscribe to her blog to join her in this journey.
This first appeared on Tiny Steps Mommy.