The Terrifying Reality of Parenting in America Today

by | September 5, 2018

Parenting is filled with worries, but the reality of parenting in America in today’s world is more terrifying than you’d think.

Mass shootings in schools, accidental shootings in homes, parents arrested for leaving kids alone for a few moments, arrested for their kids walking the family dog, shamed for breastfeeding in public, shamed for formula feeding at all, the risk of death during pregnancy, the alarming rate of women of color dying during pregnancy and birth, getting arrested for having a miscarriage, not being able to access adequate family planning –

This list could go on all day.

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Being a parent has enough worries, from your relationship suffering, not having adequate sleep and always wondering if you’re doing a good enough job at raising little adults. However, the reality of parenting in America brings with it a sense of fear that is not quite like anywhere else – where politicians demand Ms. Henry, the fifty-year-old geography teacher, now learns how to arm herself with a Glock and take down a mentally ill mass shooter on a regular school day. Or constantly looking over your shoulder, lest someone records you on their phone and calls the police for raising your voice. 

The reality of parenting in today’s world

Thinking of giving your kids some independence by walking to the park by themselves, or earning some summer funds by walking the family dog? Think again,  earlier this month, 8-year-old Dorothy Widen took her family dog Marshmallow for a walk around the block near her family’s suburban Chicago home. When she returned, there was a knock on the door — but instead of her expected playmate, it was the local cops, according to the Chicago Tribune

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As it turns out, a neighbor had called authorities after seeing Dorothy alone with the dog, stating the child was less than 5 years old and had been outside and unattended for 90 minutes, NBC 5 reports.

Another mother,  Nicole Gainey, 34, was arrested on July 26 after her son, Dominic, was found by police alone in a park less than a half-mile from her Port St. Lucie home. She let him walk to the park once or twice a week to play. 

Gainey was arrested on a felony child neglect charge and taken to jail, leaving Dominic and her 17-year-old daughter at the house with her boyfriend. She was released seven hours later on $3,750 bond.

reality of parenting
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Gainey isn’t alone, for example, take Connecticut mom Christina Williams, who was charged for leaving her 11-year-old daughter unsupervised in a car, at the request of the child. Or the case of Ohio father Jeffrey Williamson who was arrested and charged with child endangerment when his 8-year-old son skipped church to play around the neighborhood. And of course, there’s the much discussed story of South Carolina mom Debra Harrell, who spent 17 days in jail for letting her 9-year-old daughter play alone in a well-attended park, while she worked her shift at a nearby McDonald’s.

In each of these cases, the primary concern about a child’s safety was likely the impetus for getting the police involved. “It takes a village to raise a child,” the saying goes, but it seems nowadays the village has been replaced by vindictive busybodies who are more interested in calling the cops than helping or even talking to one another. Calling the police on a parent in these cases shows an absurd lack of empathy. Except in the most extreme cases, exactly how is getting a parent entangled in the criminal justice system a way to ensure a child’s well-being?

reality of parenting

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Companies such as Nest are routinely discussed in parenting groups, where parents who are forced through work or living a life, are not hovering over their children 24/7, can record their kids and endless check in with them. The idea that we hire someone else to watch our kids, be it our own parents, who seemingly raised us without a hitch, to a nanny at home, and then watch them, watching our kids, isn’t absurd, it’s routine. 

But who knew modern parenting would evolve into an immersive, competitive activity, with seemingly no room for error — and a host of overamped societal concerns, from “stranger danger” to the obligatory sense that parents should be minutely, overtly, involved in observing, let alone participating in almost every aspect of their kids’ childhood.

Then there are the guns. We hover and constantly watch our children for every breath of their lives, afraid to even leave them in the garden to play alone, in case they scrape a knee, or get whisked away. Then walk them through the front door of a building of education, and know the chances of them getting shot is increasing. 

Instead of demanding more legislation for real threats, we want someone else to take control, more guns, more violence. It’s maddening that we want children around more dangers, while insulating them against ones we’ve concocted in our own heads. 

A school recently held a ‘fashion show’ with bulletproof vests and gas maks, and nary an eyebrow was raised, that we are forced to live with these fears, and this is a normal part of society. That there is nothing we can do about guns. ‘oh well’ hands in the air, the bad men have them, so that’s that. Yet, other countries had the exact same problem, and were able to stamp it out in a matter of years. We just keep sending our children to school, keeping a careful eye on them, never raising our voices. Gentle parenting, gentle parenting… let us hope they live past their fifth birthday.

As back to school is here, the blog posts and newspaper articles are in full swing on how to keep your child safe. Parents laughing about driving behind the school bus, demanding kids have their cell phones, fundraising for more bulletproof protections for kids, always there, warning about the dangers, worrying about the neighbors calling child protective services or the police. Not damaging our kids by sending them to bed without a hug, or paying enough attention to them, even though, that. is. literally. all. we. do. 

Society has created a monster, that while parents sitting with the three loads of laundry, a messy kitchen and crying toddler, will jump online and scrutinize another person’s pictures for a less than perfect life. Pointing out their flaws and inadequacy. 

The reality of parenting, is that we can’t leave our children alone, and somehow think that having them unload the dishwasher three times a week, will prepare them for when they move out with creep roommates or uncomfortable conversations. We demand that teachers are responsible for children’s grades, instead of asking our children to be more attentive, and we instill fear in every parent as soon as they walk outside the front door, that if they take their eyes off them to chat to another person, or look at a phone – they are instantly terrible people that need to be watched and reported. 

“Fear is a feeling, but it takes up space,” Kim Brooks, author of Small Animals explains. “We invent it, and it becomes an artifact of our penchant for telling stories about the future, stories that help us order a chaotic and unpredictable world.” It’s an ultimately uplifting thought — fear is neither wrong nor right, and it never gives us what we truly desire: control.

Parents cannot continuously ask what happened to the village, while simultaneously burning the same village to the ground. 

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2 Responses to “The Terrifying Reality of Parenting in America Today”

  1. Rachael Kovatch
    September 7th, 2018 @ 2:12 pm

    Interesting article. A shame that people would rather call police then offer help. But all in all, we really dont have all the information right? More than likely these are parents who are trying their best and like all of us are not perfect. Also the guns. I just wish the media would at least show the stories where a school shooting has been stopped by an armed adult. There have been a couple. I dont know the right answer of course, and I don’t believe a teacher who doesn’t want to be armed should be forced to.
    It is so hard being a parent this day and age, but I’m starting gto fell like if your a conservative parent, which I am to some point… holy cow people want to crucify you.

  2. Melissa Berry
    September 7th, 2018 @ 6:02 pm

    Feeling very blessed and love my village. Very different in my inner north west primary school in Melbourne (6km from CBD) , Australia. My 10 and 8 year olds walk to school (1km away), library and get bread from around the corner (200m away).
    If we are late to school pick up, I have at least 3 phone calls from friends, who also offer to stay back or bring them home.

    No threat of guns.

    In a short trip to school, there would be at least 5 families who know you and your children. It’s an amazing feeling to have a village, I hope it’s not to late for the US communities to get that back.

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