This is the tale of two neighbors.
Not too long ago, in a neighborhood not too far away lived a young family. They all lived together in a little white house, with ivy and two large trees in the yard. There was a mom who spent her days preparing meals, wiping messes and chubby faces. There was also a daddy, who left the little house with ivy and two large trees to go to work every day. This little home with the ivy and two large trees, a mommy and a daddy, rumbled all day long under four perfect sets of little feet.
One day the oldest, who was seven, was drawn outside by the warm Spring sun shining through the windows. Without a word, he walked out through the front door looking for something to conquer. The two trees in the front yard tempted him, but they towered over the little house like giants. Each tree stretched its limbs out wide, protecting the ivy below from the sun. The first branch the boy could see was too high for him to reach, but it pointed at something within his reach–the family van.
The bumper looked enough like a ladder to give him an easy place to start climbing.
Within minutes, he climbed the front of this mom’s van, then up the windshield he went until he made it to the roof. Pleased with his accomplishment, he paused for a brief moment. Then, in an instant, Mt. Minivan transformed into a slide.
Before he could scramble up the windshield for another thrill, two neighbors ran to their phones. One called the boy’s mother. The other didn’t.
Within minutes, his mother was off the phone and the boy’s adventure came to an abrupt end. The rest of the family came outside to play while Mom sat on the front steps, watching and waiting for reinforcements to arrive. Within minutes, Daddy pulled into the driveway. After a couple of hugs, he took Mom’s post so she could go in and finish cooking the family’s dinner.
This was an uneventful tale–no blood, no drama or injuries. The excitement existed only in one little boy’s imagination. Nothing more than a typical day in the life of a growing family; one that should have ended with a family dinner.
That should have been the end of the story. In the not so distant past, it would have been. But not today.
The other “concerned” neighbor changed the happily-ever-after. The following day an agent of the state showed up at the family’s little house, demanding to see the children.
Maybe it’s reality TV. Maybe it’s an epidemic of narcissism, the kind that makes mothers believe they can judge another woman’s parenting. Or maybe it’s a byproduct of political correctness. Wherever it comes from, it has endowed unseen onlookers with the false assumption that they can impose judgment on other parents.
That’s not exactly new; I realize that every neighborhood has at least one neighbor that sticks her nose out the window and into everyone’s business. But gone are the good old days when she merely stirred up gossip.
Today, that nosy neighbor doesn’t call her friend to gossip, she calls Social Services or goes on social media for public shaming. When did we stop lending a hand or offering advice? Instead, judgment is pronounced about what they perceive is right–and safe. Social graces once considered rights (like being left alone), are circumvented and authorities are quickly called.
This ease of bringing the government into our everyday lives is a disturbing trend. It’s happening more than we realize. From calling in the police to supervise corporal punishment, to calling Social Services on parents for leaving siblings to babysit, these are course-of-life altering calls that are taking place with little regard for the ramifications to the families involved.
It’s not uncommon for mothers to compare their children–especially new mothers. It’s not unusual for mothers to judge the parenting skills of others. But here’s the thing: there are no perfect families. Most of us begin our parenting journey without previous experience. That doesn’t stop us from thinking we have the scoop on how it should be done–especially first-time moms and people without children.
There is a gap between what parents “allow” and what children do or attempt. Time, love, and experience will fill in that gap in order for children to grow into healthy adults. There will be bumps and bruises along the way. No amount of good parenting will keep a child completely safe, just as no amount of laws or services can create a perfect society.
There is a sad irony to calling in authorities to keep a child safe. The neighbor that fears a child falling off a car and skinning his knee puts that same child at risk of losing his parents and falling into a nightmare of social services.
Raising a family is messy. It’s loud. At times, it’s dangerous. There are all sorts of risks involved. Do we allow our children to climb a tree, carry a pocket knife, or ride a bike downhill with no hands? When it’s all said and done, no one goes through years of raising their children without making mistakes.
The lessons learned in raising our children are vital when covered in love and forgiveness. That’s what makes a family. For the majority of parents, those lessons should never be taught by the state.
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