By Sonia Verma
Today's Parent has a fun story (with a note-perfect headline) about a dad who used a drone to keep an eye on his 8-year-old as she walked to school unaccompanied. As an immensely lazy parent myself, I have to applaud his ingenuity, if nothing else.
My family lives in a densely populated urban catchment, and our elementary school doesn’t have a bus—every kid enrolled lives minutes away. Even in deep snow, it’s way faster to walk (okay, trudge) than to deal with car seats, one-way streets and parking.
I usually give my foot-dragging kindergartner a 50-yard head start to the corner while I strap her sister into the stroller. In the winter, she’d have to wait there for a minute or two while I struggled with blankets and baby mittens. And back before we got to the know the foot traffic, a passing parent or neighbour would inevitably stop to ask if she needed help and where was her family? She’d either answer or they’d glance over at me themselves, wave and be on their way.
None of them called 911 or Children’s Aid. Because that would be a huge overreaction, even though she is only 4 years old and was standing at a corner by herself.
Meanwhile, everyone's hearing the story of the Meitiv family of Maryland. They’re back in the news this month after someone called the police because the children, ages 10 and 6, were playing in the park without their parents.
The Globe and Mail asked five people—a police spokesperson, a (free-range) parenting author, a blogger, an expert on child safety and an academic—what they would have done, and what would lead them to call the police.
The upshot? From police to blogger, not one of them would have called the cops without first talking to the kids or otherwise determining whether they were in distress or neglected.
Even putting aside the question of the Meitiv parents’ judgment (which I happen to respect, plus their son is old enough to babysit), the whole situation could have been defused in a far less upsetting manner—those kids sat, unfed, in police custody for hours—if the unnamed neighbour had acted more . . . neighbourly.
If they had simply asked the kids whether they needed help, or spoken directly to the parents about their concerns, this wouldn’t even be a news story.It’s a question of respect—seriously, who calls the police on their neighbours without even a conversation?—and of how we choose to live in our communities.
But even more than that, it’s about assessing a fairly innocuous situation realistically. It sounds simplistic, but maybe it’s just simple: Take your finger off the panic button and try ringing your neighbour's doorbell instead.