Kim Brooks left her 4-year-old son in the car for about five minutes on a "mild, overcast, 50-degree day" while she ran into a store—and her life went off the rails for years because a "good Samaritan" reported her to the police. After she wrote about her experience on Salon last year, she was contacted by three other moms. One left her 8-year-old daughter to watch her sleeping 4-year-old daughter in the car for a few minutes on a 45-degree day and got arrested. Another left her daughter in her car in front of a Rite Aid for three minutes and returned to find a woman who called her "disgusting" and informed her she'd called the police. The third left her sleeping 3-year-old in the car, parked in a shady spot with windows cracked on a 70-degree day, and was later arrested after witnesses informed police.
When Brooks thinks about the "good Samaritans" in these cases, she writes on Salon, she feels "sadness and regret at how little any of us know about each other’s lives." These people are "resisting the anonymity of modern life, wanting to help but unsure of what to do, of how to reach out or engage. ... We’re raising our kids in a moment when it’s easier to call 911 than to have a conversation." Of course, there are the facts—statistically, a moving vehicle is more dangerous to a child and a family member is more likely to abduct a child—but Brooks' plea goes beyond that. Take a moment before you judge, she writes, because "there is a moral vigilantism about parenting that, as with all forms of vigilantism, veers far into paranoia," and sometimes it seems we've "entirely forgotten how to interact with other human beings, or talk to strangers from a place of openness and curiosity, rather than fear." Click for her full piece. (Read more parenting stories.)