One of the only things Connecticut has going for it right now (high taxes, unnecessary regulation, massive government waste, fleeing population…) is how liberally it allows parents to do what they think is right for their child. There is no age where a child can legally be home alone. The state believes that the parent knows best when that moment happens, and that a parent may need to experiment by letting the child be home alone, and if they aren’t ready not doing it again for a while. It also has very liberal homeschooling rights. Other states have mandatory testing, curriculum or state approval. In Connecticut you just don’t sign your kid up for kindergarten, or just withdraw from the school. That’s it. You’re free to educate your child in the style you think is best.
Governor Dan Malloy has tried to take away homeschooling rights several times, both with now-failed legislation and through “public health” arguments following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. So far he has been unsuccessful, and I hope he continues to be. Decreasing homeschooling rights would accelerate the mass exodus that is already happening.
But there is a Connecticut parenting law that makes no sense- that no child can be left alone in a parked car until the age of 12.
Whenever I see arbitrary ages assigned by the government, I always wonder what magic they think happens on that birthday. The day before their 12th birthday all children are bumbling idiots barely able to speak or walk upright, but once they wake up that magical morning they’re so mature that they’re ready to apply for social security?
The sad part about this law is not just that the state believes that children who are 10- or 11-years-old are incapable of working car doors or unable to scream and kick if someone tries to kidnap them, but that it makes us all report on other parents, “if you see something, say something.”
I had this problem yesterday. I was at the Target in Bethel, and as I walked back to my car I saw two boys inside an SUV, alone, windows down, playing with what seemed to be an IPad. They looked to be about 8 & 10. They were having a ball, laughing and messing with each other in a way that only brothers can. It made me smile. Then I freaked.
Not because they were in “danger,” but because someone might call the police on their mother.
That scared me. I didn’t want this woman, whomever she was, to get arrested for letting two very capable boys stay in the car. I didn’t want them to experience their mother getting handcuffed and taken away, possibly losing her to prison. It would destroy their family. And for what?
They weren’t infants. They weren’t toddlers. The day wasn’t hot, and the windows were completely down. They weren’t “forgotten.” They were young boys, having fun together in the car while their mother got an errand done. In my mind, there was no crime.
But I became terrified for this mother (I’m saying mother, though I didn’t actually see the adult and it could have been a dad or another family member). I debated going over and talking to the boys. I thought that maybe I could give them a note for her, saying something along the lines of “I just wanted to warn you that the law in CT is under 12 can’t be left alone in a car. I think it’s BS, but I don’t want your kids to lose their mom. Please be aware of it, so nobody has the excuse to call the police on you. I’m a ‘Free-Range parent’ and I don’t like this law, but I don’t want to see someone punished for it,” and including my name and phone number.
Instead, I did nothing, because I couldn’t think of how to approach the situation without sounding crazy. To this mom I would just be another person harassing her for the very safe choices she made for her sons. The end result would be the same: a stranger yelling at her and telling her not to do it again OR ELSE. But I do regret not saying anything, because this mom could very well not know the law, and not knowing is not a valid excuse in court for doing something.
It’s a sad day in America when people have to be warned of what the law is so they don’t break it, when no harm has been done and most likely never would have. And it’s even sadder that parents like me are terrified of strangers, because they have the power to take your children away if they call the police on you just for doing something they don’t agree with.
Nobody parents the same. But having to constantly look over your shoulder in public to make sure nobody is shaking their head at you with their phone out is no way to live. The police are not some neutral group who will assess the situation and say “you know what, your kid is 11, no problem, have a nice day.” They have to enforce the law as it’s written which means they are not neutral at all. Even if no charges end up being brought against the parent the children STILL have the trauma of seeing them taken away with force, cuffed and arrested. In some cases this small event could land them in a foster home for a few days. Nobody wants that for a child.
I want to live in a world where nobody delights in acting like the Stasi and calling the police on good parents who just don’t agree with other people’s risk-benefit comparisons.
If that mom ever reads this, I honestly did not judge you. I just really, really didn’t want you to get arrested for a choice I think you have every right to make.