Kids Left in Cars — It’s Not What You Think

clipart image of a boy and girl in a carWith the record-breaking heat that’s accompanied this year’s drought in Indiana, tales of kids being left in hot cars have become all too common.  Whether accidentally or intentionally, toddlers and infants are dying because they’re being left in the stifling heat.  The stories almost always end in tragedy, and they tend to stir outrage within the community.  “I just don’t understand how people can do that,”, someone always says.  Then others, without knowing any details, will say things like, “That person oughta rot,”, or, “Someone should torture that parent for…”

It was because of this summer’s trend that I just assumed, “Oh no, another kiddo was hurt or killed because they were left in a car,”, when I saw a new story that Fred had forwarded to me.  Much to my shock though, it wasn’t what I expected.

Our local CBS affiliate reported a story that, in my opinion, shouldn’t have even been news worthy.  Apparently, a 10-year-old was left in an AIR CONDITIONED car while her grandmother shopped inside.  Because a concerned patron called the police, the grandmother was charged with neglect!

So let me break it down for folks who might not know.  In Indiana, a parent can choose to leave their 10-year-old at home by themselves (which is perfectly acceptable to me for the right kids in the right circumstances), but leaving a 10-year-old in an AIR CONDITIONED car amounts to neglect? I really, really don’t get it.

I guess to understand WHY I don’t get it, you need to know a little background about me.  As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in a little town in rural Indiana.  By the time I was 10 (fifth grade), not only was I capable enough (and responsible enough) to look after my younger siblings, it was a perfectly acceptable choice them.  After all, I knew how to call on neighbors if I needed something, I knew how to get ahold of my parents if I needed something, and of course I knew how to call emergency services for help if I needed something.  I was in no way neglected by my parents because I was left alone at my house to look after myself and my siblings.

In today’s society though, we’re allowing kids to be babies for much too long.  In today’s society, children aren’t expected to act in a responsible and self-sufficient manner until much later than even kids from my generation.  Because of that, we have children who’re far too entitled, and we have police officers charging folks with neglect who probably stayed out in their mom’s car a time or two as kids because they didn’t want to go shopping.

Now please don’t misunderstand me.  I know that not all children are created equal.  Some 15-year-olds have the maturity of a 10-year-old and some 10-year-olds have the maturity of a 15-year-old.  But my point is that we parents know our kids, and we shouldn’t have the government getting in the way of every single parent-child relationship in this country.

I know that things aren’t like they used to be.  I also understand that just because something used to be done a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s the right way to do it today.  (They used to bleed people when they had the flu, for crying out loud!) But all that being said, it seems completely crazy that a 10-year-old is allowed by law to stay at home by herself, miles away from parents, but she can’t sit in an air-conditioned car in a parking lot that’s outside a store where her loved one is shopping.

I’m sure some of you are thinking that I’m giving kids too much credit.  I’m sure some of you are thinking that kids today are different and they can’t handle too much responsibility.  Kids will live up to the expectations that we set for them, and if we set the bar low, that’s all they’ll achieve.  I’m not suggesting that children should be treated as slaves with unreasonable responsibilities piled upon them, but I don’t think it’s inappropriate to allow a 10-year-old to stay in a car if she chooses and her guardian thinks she’s responsible enough to do so.

It’s interesting how stuff like this shows up.  Just last week, our 10-year-old (next week, actually, but close enough) wanted to stay out in the parking lot while we went into Menards.  I was willing to let her; Fred wasn’t.  Fred’s reasoning had nothing to do with our daughter’s ability, maturity, or safety; it had everything to do with worry that we’d be charged for doing something wrong.  I remember telling him, “She’s almost 10! Surely nobody would have a problem with a 10-year-old in a locked vehicle with A/C running.” Boy, was I wrong!

I know this probably doesn’t seem like that big a deal, and I should just let it go and move on.  I can’t help it though.  I’m amazed that this is where things are in our country.  Wow!

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UPDATE: According to a follow-up story on WISH-TV, the prosecutor’s office in Marion County should be applauded for using some common sense.  Despite the fact that the grandmother was arrested, she was not charged because there wasn’t sufficient proof of the 10-year-old boy being in “actual and appreciable danger”.  Good call!

Grandma not charged for leaving 10-year-old boy in car — news story on Indy’s CBS affiliate


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