Culture

Is the Government Trying to Criminalize Your Basic Parenting Decisions?

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It’s no secret that cigarette smoke, even second hand, is dangerous for everyone around it. MyFoxDC reports on the latest legislation aimed at smokers:

It’s already illegal to light up a cigarette inside most public places in New Jersey. Well now, a legislator from the Garden State is hoping to put another anti-smoking law into place.

But this one’s designed with a certain age group in mind. The man behind this bill is standing up for those he says might not have a choice when it comes to second-hand smoke.

The bill would make smoking with anyone under age 17 in your car a ticketable offense. The bill’s co-sponsor Assemblyman Charles Mainor told FOX 29 this is to protect children.

There are many other things parents and caregivers do for and around kids that aren’t always in their best interest. Soda and junk food consumption as a young child has been directly tied to obesity. Watching television is detrimental to the growing minds of children under two years of age, leading pediatricians and experts to advise no screen time before a child’s second birthday.

Don’t tell Child Protective Services (CPS), but my 20 month old is currently watching Daniel the Tiger on PBS while eating animal crackers at 9 a.m. I’m serious about the television and animal crackers (she’s taking a bite out of each one and putting it back), but I’m only half-joking about the CPS part. The blog and movement Free Range Kids chronicles the insane lengths our society has gone in order to “protect the children.” The government has stepped in time after time in instances where children were in no direct danger, they merely disagreed with parents’ choices. Children have been interviewed and removed from their homes and their parents arrested across the country if they were left to wait in a car for five minutes on a mild day, if their parents let them walk a few blocks alone to a playground, or if they missed too many days of school without a doctor’s note. The woman behind the movement, Lenore Skenazy, has an entire chilling archive of stories of average parents making rational decisions who were visited by CPS.

This bill, introduced in my home state of New Jersey (where the Supreme Court is currently deciding if letting a kid wait in a parked car for a few minutes is automatically neglect), further criminalizes parenthood. Before smoking became as unpopular as it is today, generations of kids grew up around second hand smoke. We breathed it in in restaurants, in cars, and in our homes. There is nothing stopping legislatures that pass this bill from passing further laws about cigarette smoke in private homes, as they have already in restaurants and bars nationwide.

The intentions may be pure, but as the saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. This isn’t just a bill about smoking in cars. It’s a bill that criminalizes parenting decisions of everyday parents, who, while imperfect, are the best stewards of their children’s futures. This is another step in the government’s slow crawl into homes as they attempt to control big and small parenting decisions which our parents and grandparents freely made just a generation ago.

Some might say that legislatures are acting in the best interest of the children of their state. To those people I warn: First they will come for the smokers, but make no mistake, you might be next. There are any number of decisions that parents sometimes have to make which an outsider might not deem totally appropriate. Mommy blogs are filled with stories of busybodies in supermarkets and stores lecturing mothers about their kids’ outbursts, eating habits, and appearance. Most of parenting is about making decisions, and sometimes, it’s a choice between two bad outcomes. Does your baby have reflux? Maybe it’s not best for them to sleep on their backs, despite an abundance of medical evidence that indicates that back sleeping reduces the risk of SIDS. Does your child have severe motion sickness? Despite the fact that rear-facing car seats are up to 500 percent safer, some parents may need to make the decision to forward face their toddler sooner than conventional wisdom advises. Think the government wouldn’t dare become involved in such mundane and subjective parenting decisions? New Jersey has already done so on the latter, recently mandating that car seats be rear-facing, no matter what, until the age of two.

I’m not one to light up around my children, not in my car, not in my house, period. For the sake of my fellow parents though, I defend their right to do so. I hope that they too will defend my right to run into the drugstore with my kids waiting in the car for a few minutes on a mild day. Parenthood is hard enough; we don’t need the government involved in subjective decisions which in no way endanger the lives or safety of our children.