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Mrs. Lieb,You did not do anything wrong that day. Perhaps the arresting policemen were too young to remember a time when kids that age were routinely given such awesome responsibilities as crossing streets and shopping, but that time was not so long ago: it was the 70s, maybe even the 80s. The idea that a 12-year-old girl is incapable of surviving on her own is a very recent one.I'm glad you did not plead guilty, and I'm glad for your sake that the case is over, but on another level, I'm sorry the case is over. The only way things are going to change is for a few cases like yours to become very high-profile and move their way up the courts.By the way, I would not take personal affront at the opposing lawyer's characterization of you. Believe it or not, I don't think it was personal or malicious or even mistaken. It was what lawyers are trained to do. It was that lawyer's responsibility to paint you in an unsympathetic light, and your lawyer's responsibility to do the opposite; for better or worse, that's just how the game is played.But people with common sense about children have to play this game very vigorously now, before we are no longer allowed to let them play in our front yards without bodyguards. Please don't give up. My 10-year-old son bicycles to the mall by himself all the time. I'm not going to stop after reading your story. I say, bring it on.-Kenny Felder KenFe@HotMail.com
As I have seen posted around this mighty tool called the internet:"Common sense is so rare it's a flipping superpower."I am only 31. I can remember at the age of 10 being in charge of my younger brother during the summer months. Living in a divorced household tends to force responsibility onto people.
I sympathize entirely with Bridget Kevane's feelings of guilt about all the less-than-perfect things we do as mothers, and I applaud her determination not to feel guilty about letting her kids spend an afternoon at the mall. Good grief! What's happened to us, that bringing criminal charges against a responsible, conscientious parent for giving her kids a little bit of responsibility could possibly seem reasonable to anyone?I remember being twelve years old. My parents had been separated for two years by then, and in the extremely messy custody hearings attendant on their divorce my father repeatedly accused my mother of neglecting my little brother and me by going out to work. Fortunately, this was 1986, and pretty much everyone considered his arguments absurd. These days ... well, I shudder to think.As parents, we need to trust ourselves. Know our children, trust them, and trust our knowledge of them. But it's bloody hard to do that when the people around us, and around our kids, don't trust us.And here's a question for those Macy's employees and the Bozeman police: Which do you think was more traumatic for those kids -- a few minutes alone (alone together) in the purse aisle, or seeing their mother prosecuted (and, in fact, I'd go further and say persecuted) for the crime of trusting them to look out for one another?
I found myself in a very similar situation earlier this year because I let my 10-year-old son walk to soccer practice alone. There were calls to 911, the police responded, drove him to soccer and then found me and threatened me with child endangerment. I live in small town in Mississippi, it was broad daylight and about a mile to the soccer fields behind the school from my house.My story has a happier ending because I called the chief of police to complain about the behavior of the officer (who only warned me, he didn't actually charge me) and got an apology from him.For awhile I felt those exact same feelings of self-doubt about my decision to let him walk. But, parents who trust their children who have proven trustworthy aren't bad parents.I'm glad you stood up for yourself. I'm sorry it was so difficult. Just know that there are plenty of people who support you.And, thanks for sharing your story.
I'm a guy who grew up in Scotland, and now live and teach in Australia. I've chosen to live in the kind of small community that the author describes, and like the other posters, remember cycling around the streets from 4 or 5, and taking the bus into town with friends at about 10 years old (I was fairly insular, so it hadn't arisen before then!)I'm horrified by Mrs Lieb's experience, and especially of being told that if she didn't express "appropriate" remorse she'd be found guilty, regardless of the facts in the case. My son is coming to the age where I need to consider these issues and I'm tempted to print it and the associated ones and take it to our local two man police station and see what they have to say ahead of time - I honestly don't know what they would say. I'm willing to bet though that it would be the default "don't" rather than a supportive "do."Thank you all for sharing your stories.PS I got here from the "Free Range Children blog" and they've got useful statistics which I'm going to pre-arm myself with (although, that would probably be interpreted by some as evidence of willful neglect!
While I do think a criminal endangerment charge is over the top, I agree that it was poor judgement to leave a 3 year old at the mall with two 12 year olds. Obviously, since the 12 year olds though t they could leave the three year old "just for 5 minutes", they are not ready for the responsibility of watching a child that young in public. It is too bad that they decided to charge you and put you on the defensive because it does not sound like you learned anything from the experience. If it had been just the 12 year olds and the 7 and 8 year old, I don't think there would have been such a reaction. Adding a 3 year old to the group is just too much though. I have a 4 year old and she managed to give my husband the slip at a department store not too long ago. It happens so fast and then you have a lost small child who most likely doesn't know your phone number or perhaps even your last name. As parents, we all make mistakes. I am glad nothing bad happened as a result of your mistake, however, I do hope you learned from it.
@Megan: I have a 4 year old and she managed to give my husband the slip at a department store not too long ago. It happens so fast and then you have a lost small child who most likely doesn't know your phone number or perhaps even your last name.Our son is 23 months and can say our names (and his own first and last)---because we taught him. Whenever we go out, he knows to keep his "special card" in his pocket, which is nothing more than my business card with our personal cell phone #s on the back.In the extremely unlikely event that "mommy or daddy get lost," he knows that he can show the card to an adult and they will find us.I smirked at the comment from the article about how one of the mock jurists was incredulous about the author's assertion that their podunk town was safe because someone or other was killed there.I (in a former life as a travel agent) once had an elderly couple cancel their 50th anniversary trip to the islands because they heard on the news that someone had been stabbed on the island (on the other size of the island from the resort where they were staying). That's like saying I'm going to avoid Kansas City, Mo because someone in St. Louis got her purse snatched.
I'm also in Australia, and support the author's decision entirely. Just because one 3yr old could not be managed by a 12 yr old, does not mean that all can't. My 4 yr old could not possibly be entrusted to a 12yr old (not if you liked the 12 yr old, anyway) but my elder child could have been escorted by a 12yr old at 3 for a couple of hours, no problems at all. Never allowing your child to learn their limitations, or to develop personal and interpersonal responsibility - that's child abuse.
During the years when I was 9 and 10, my sister (a year younger) walked home from school, did homework, heated up our supper on the regular stove or in the oven (not everyone had a microwave in the mid- 70's), and were usually getting baths or watching TV by the time Mom got home from work. No one tried to kidnap us or anything else. My kids are 11, 8 and 4. Although I have never left them at the mall (our mall has rules against it), I have left them in the house alone while I visit with an accross-the-street neighbor in her front yard. I have also let them play in the back yard (no fence) while I was downstairs putting clothes in and out of the washer/dryer.My children at 3 y/o knew their full name - and my middle child knew our phone number and address. Depending on who the 12y/o was, I may have left them in charge of my children. None of my children were prone to wandering off - not all 3 y/o's are created equal in that department, I guess.
In my family, we weren't allowed to walk to school by ourselves until we were in the first grade. School was a mile away, across two busy streets, only one of which had a crossing guard.Things sure have changed since then.
It's so sad that society is going down this path. I'm also in Australia and just the other week I received a 30 minute lecture for allowing my 9, almost 10, year old son to ride his bike unsupervised in our quiet little backstreet (that only ever gets local traffic) with his mates from up and down the street.My son may or may not have hit a car of someone visiting someone up the street, but the only alledged witness had gone for the day and when I asked if he would be able to drop past to explain what he saw he was suddenly going away for a week, then a month. I offered to pay for any damage, after all that is my responsibility, but that isn't what she wanted, she wanted to dress me down in the middle of the street for being lazy and negligent.I asked my mother how old I was when she allowed me to not just ride my bike up and down the sustantially busier street that I grew up on but to also ride around the corner to my best friend's house, she told me I was 9 or 10 and that was in 1990.Then she started on the 'but it's a different world' rant. I asked her how old she was when her mother allowed her to do the same and she thought back to the mid 60s and realised that she too was allowed to do the same at around 9 or 10, younger if she was travelling with her older brother (although she never had a bike, which has been the cause of many jokes and stories).In Victoria, Australia, we've seen a sudden increase of violence by young people, 18 to 20 year olds, and I firmly believe that this has something to do with the fact that for a lot of these people it is the first real time they have spent in their lives away from the watchful eye of a grown up and have no skills in how to resolve disputes, throw some alcohol into the mix and things get violent.The time I spent away from my parents with my friends growing up taught me how to handle things on my own; how to handle illness and injury, how to deal with two friends who suddenly hate each other, how to find safety when something is amiss aswell as tuning my intuition to know who and who not to ask for help. There are a lot of young adults on the streets these days that simply do not have these skills.At the end of all that, Mrs Lieb, you did the right thing and are doing the right thing. Your kids will have real world skills that will protect them as they get older. As for the cops at the mall, they sound like they are too young to have kids of their own and henceforth only have their own experiences as kids to draw on. They have no clue as to what your kids or any other are capable of, except perhaps the kids that cross their desks at the station.
As an only child of a divorced mom I can't say that I watched over siblings. However, I was latchkey in 4th grade and making dinner around 5th. I learned more from having doorbknobs fall off and things go wrong then I did from being sheltered, I grew with each experience. I read your story to mom this weekend(I'm now in my 30s and mom in her 60s) we both cheered you on! Children don't learn or grow without some hiccups in the process. The most that should have happened was the mall cops giving your oldest and her friend a talking to about supervision and following the rules and you getting a phone call about the whole ordeal. Keep up the good parenting. We all know that your children will be better off for it as adults. The most capable always shine through and survive.
I've also wandered over from Lenore's Free Range Kids blog and the 150-some comments that have been left there, mostly in support of your decisions.
"In the extremely unlikely event that "mommy or daddy get lost," he knows that he can show the card to an adult and they will find us."My, you're certainly trusting.I think Prof. Kevane is protesting too much. The 3 year old shouldn't have been left in the company of the 7 and 8 year olds, period. Why should the mall be reponsible for your kids? I think that this whole thing is more about town and gown than about the actual kids. All of Bozeman is dependent on the college, and profs. are always glad to feel superior to the locals.
Kids can give their parents the slip, get lost for a few minutes, escape their babysitters, or babysitters can make a mistake and step away for 5 minutes. These thing happen all the time. So what? What are the consequences of this that are worth the erosion of parents decision-making? The chances of anything happening even given that a 3 year old is alone for a few minutes at the mall is so diminishingly small that it makes no sense to freak out about this. I know, people's response to the statistics is, "but what if it happened? It could happen, so why risk it? This reflects a certain idiocy concerning understandings of probability. Your child could get hit by lightening, or have any other number of incidents. Yet we focus on the dangers of the American mall, dangers that just are not reflected in actual crime.
Parental fears are driven by media, not by the actual probabilities associated with getting hurt. Kids are far more likely to get hurt or injured riding a bike, swimming in their own pool, or climbing a tree than they are to be abducted. If we ordered our fears by the actual likelihood that something bad could happen to our kids, we'd freak out about driving long before we freak out about 12 year old babysitters. The fact is that parental fears are just not rational.
It's so very sad that we live in a world where kids are never allowed to grow up and be individuals. We are no longer allowed encourage independence, competition, drive for success, desire to explore and do new things. Everything has to be so wrapped in caution that kids groan in having to venture outside on a nice summer day b/c "there is nothing to do". When my husband and I tell our kids about all the things we did as a kid (coming home when the street lights came on, etc.), they always respond that we had a much cooler upbringing than they have b/c we were allowed to "do" things on our own. When did that become unAmerican?? No one keeps score at little leage, everyone is a winner, teachers don't give out F's anymore. Everything about our society is fabricated to be some sort of disney land experience for our kids but what happens to them when they are shoved out of the nest and into the real world where not everyone gets the job or the promotion or the raise, etc. Is it better for them to learn to deal with things on their own when they are an adult? NO! It's better for them to learn all these things as kids when they still have us to rely on as a constant support system, guiding them into making good decisions and teaching them how to cope when things don't go the way they hoped. Sadly, we (the parents with common sense and a bold willingness to encourage indepence in our kids) feel forced to chose between what our very parenting bones are telling us how to raise our kids and following the accepted (stupid imo) social norms of the day that will be thrown to the curb with the next generation. The "acceptable" methods for raising kids today will produce the saddest generation in the history of America. How did we go from the Greatest Generation to the Saddest in such a short time? I don't understand how we got there. What I do know (and I'm getting to my point Mrs. Leib), is that I would have done EXACTLY the same thing as you and don't for one minute think you weren't a responsible parent. I hear people tell me all the time "you shouldn't let your 13 month old play near that, he'll get hurt" to which I bite my tongue and think, yeah, he may bump his head, but he'll cry for a moment and then he'll LEARN not to play near that thing. Obviously I wouldn't let my child do something dangerous but you have to let them fall or they never learn. We won't be there to protect them from all the bad, unhappy things. We have to prepare them and the only way I know to do that is to teach them how to do it and give them the opportunity to try it out for themself....if that makes me a bad mommy...well then I'll wear that badge with pride. At least my kids will know how to deal with disappointment, rejection, pain, etc. and won't wonder what cruel joke the world has played on them as an adult. Stepping off of my soap box now....
This was really a great article. At the start, I found myself more judgemental, but as I read it, I reminded myself of my own childhood. I can not leave my children at the mall because of where I live. However, I am much more laid back when we visit my parents house at the coast. I read this many weeks ago and I am still thinking about it - a sure sign that something was very, very good!
Oh that is so sad that Mrs. Lieb was prosecuted. It's also nuts. Maybe because you live in a small town but heck in the bigger cities tweens and teens are in charge of and take to the mall infants on up. I hope they are actually babysitters and not teen mothers. I think it is a big case of prosecuting the outsider as Mr. Lieb or the friend's mother was not charged. You had the right to discipline your child for leaving the younger children when they were babysitting them BUT the police did not have the right to interfere. Think now how will those children respond to a police officer? Not in a good way. All the trust is gone.
Bridget,I am a 27 year old writer who grew up in Bozeman and was dropped off at the then-Main Mall, and later Gallatin Valley Mall, many a Saturday during my childhood. 3 to 4 hours was precisely the stretch of time, usually, and while I was not in charge of younger siblings, I was allowed to be alone starting in about 5th or 6th grade - 10 or 11 years old. Part of why I left Bozeman is this smug sense of superiority present in the governing bodies - in this case, the cops, and of course as is lighting up the world news, currently the City and their outrageous hiring practices (that ask for email, Facebook, etc passwords and logins). It surprises me not at all that this would happen in Bozeman, and I am sorry you went through it. I commend your decision to fight this hybrid of small town smugness and big city attitude that Bozeman suffers from, and I hope that you and others in town will continue to be the voices of reason, trusting parenting and genuine community values. Cheers.
I get the feeling the people at Macy's were thinking more of their liability than anything else. If something happens to one of those kids in the store, Macy's is liable. If it happens in the mall, the owner is liable. It all comes down to "what if something happens, who will get sued.". When I was a kid I was allowed to do all of the things people here mention. Of course, if something had gone wrong, I would have gotten punished, and no one would have been sued. Can Mrs. Lieb say the same? Would she have been so quick to punish her 12 year old if her 3 year old fell down the escalator, or would she have sued Macy's? Who knows?Prosecuting her was silly and over the top, but I think the mall had to make a statement about leaving kids there unattended in such a litigous age...
I really loved this article but not because I agreed or disagreed with the author because the whole point of what I think about what she decided really doesn't matter. I did think about my own comfort level with giving my children freedom and responsibility and I also thought about how much we, as mothers, judge each other so quickly. I don't think its my right to judge anyone on this topic. Even in this discussion, people are so ready to bash each other saying that people who are not willing to do what the author did are doing it wrong because they are not giving their children responsibility. I thought the point of the article was for each parent to use their own judgment.
"Why should the mall be reponsible for your kids? I think that this whole thing is more about town and gown than about the actual kids. All of Bozeman is dependent on the college, and profs. are always glad to feel superior to the locals." In response to this comment left anonymously, I have to say it is sad. "ANonymous" is obviously suffering from an insecurity problem. It sounds like you actually live in Bozeman, so even sadder that you would not be supportive of a fellow resident.I think it is clear from the essay that Professor Kevane does not feel "superior" to the "locals." And also clear that it is not the gist of the essay. The import of the essay seems to be trusting your instincts as a mother, and allowing your children the freedom to be responsible. Many 12 year old girls are entrusted to babysit infants and toddlers. I think the actions of the Bozeman police and the prosecuting attorney were outrageous. Indeed, a civil suit against them would be warranted. Bravo to Prof Kevane for her integrity and refusal to be bullied by small minded officials.
Being charged with child endangerment is probably too harsh of a punishment. However, it is not appropriate or acceptable to take a 3 year old to a public venue like the mall and leave him/her in the care of a 12 year old. Many things can go wrong in this situation, and no matter how responsible the 12 year old is, he/she is not capable of making adult decisions.If the 12 year old was in charge of the 3 year old at home or at a friend's house, then I would understand the outrage at this invasion of parenting privacy. But once you bring this situation into a public place, you should expect others to notice and be upset at the sight of young children unsupervised by an adult.
I love how people use the term "not appropriate" so much these days. It is a key term of judgment, which as one of the posters pointed out, is the whole point - not to judge others. Now, if the incident had been really egregious and actually physically dangerous, that would be another thing. But here it's clearly a question of judgment since so many people disagree about whether this was a bad idea or not. "Not appropriate" is a blanket decree of judgment that really, when you think about it, has little meaning
Mrs. Lieb, I am so sad to have read the ordeal a simple decision that could have easily been me created for you! I remember being 12 when my sister was born. From the time that she was big enough to sit up, I was charged with her care. My mom and step-dad (her dad) both worked and I spent the rest of my childhood summers with her. I imagine the wonderful small town feel isn't so wonderful to you now. The same qualities that make it desirable create the 'small town/big ego/prove you know what you're doing' in the local 'authorities'. I admire the fact that you didn't give in to the guilty plea. Even though it created a living hell for you to survive, I can't imagine the lessons you taught your children by standing by the decisions you made. May your future be filled with blessings and rewards!Dani RClaremore, OK
I disagree with the majority of the posters here. I find the decision to leave a 3 yr old in the care of 2 12-yr olds in a public setting like a mall to be in poor judgement to say the least. Add to that the responsibility of tending to a 7 & 8 yr old as well and it seems outrageous to me. Any number of emergencies could have arisen that 12 yr olds simply are ill-equipped to handle, being children themselves. No amount of CPR/infant care training is going to prepare them for a child caught in an escalator, a predator targeting them as prey, a fire at the mall, a ornery 3-yr old intent on slipping away. Having the 12 yr olds babysit in a private home setting would make more sense to me, but not dropping them off at a public retail establishment for them to roam freely. Besides, have I lost touch as far as what types of activities are available at the malls these days? Other than the quarter-chugging ride-on toys and candy machines exactly how were these younger children supposed to be entertained? My 5-yr old daughter would be bored to tears and inevitably wind up in some form of trouble if I sent her shopping with a 12 yr old for 2 hours. I truly feel like this was a case of very poor judgement and heaping far too much responsibility on minor children. I do agree that kids need to be able to develop responsibility, but that's not how this situation strikes me. To me it would have made more sense for mom to pay the 12-yr olds a stipend to babysit the kids while she napped at home, then dropped the older girls off at the mall alone to spend their hard-earned cash.
I have to say that I am at the middle of the road here. When I was twelve, I was left in charge of my two younger siblings who were two years old and less than a year old a the time. So, a twelve year old is capable of tending to younger children, however, I still think it was bad judgment to allow them all to go to the mall at the same time together. Does Bridget deserve to be criminally charged? HELL NO!!!! Would I have allowed two twelve year olds to roam the mall with three younger children? No, but I happen to live in Chicago, so I probably wouldn't even allow an eighteen year old to roam the mall with three younger children. I'm considering the fact that they live in a small town and I also so greatly sympathize with the fact that Bridget was dead tired and needed a break. I am a mother of three children under the age of five so I understand the need for rest. I also understand the constant feelings of guilt and worry that seem to reside in a mother's subconscious from the minute we give birth. I said all of that to say that I don't agree with what she did because twelve year old girls act differently when they are not with their parents. They were, in my opinion, too young to be allowed to take three younger children to the mall with them. The twelve year olds were obviously going to be fascinated with the mall and forget their responsibilities: however, I don't in any way feel the need nor do I have the right to judge Bridget. Another thing I want to know is why the parents of the other children weren't charged with a crime? They knowingly allowed their children to go when they knew they were all going to the mall together without adult supervision. Why was Bridget the only one charged?In this day and age, there are so many friggin rules that a parent is almost not allowed to parent their children their way. You can't spank them anymore; you can't put them in the front seat anymore (I used to ride shotgun to my mother all the time) and you can't drop them off at the mall or allow them to go into a store by themselves (please, I was going grocery shopping for my mother when I was eight).I just think Bridget's town had nothing else to do. Bridget, if you read this, please know that I am not judging you. I totally sympathize and I hope you don't carry guilt about this around with you for the rest of your life. You don't have to prove to anyone but yourself and your children, that you are a good mother. God already knows the truth...that's what's most important. I wish you and your family the best
I read Ms. Lieb's article and was appalled at the charges against her. I just wonder at the dichotomy between the times. When I was a child, I knew I couldn't misbehave away from home, not because my Mom would hear about it (which she would) but because our neighbors felt they could discipline me outright for my bad deeds (and they did). When did we move from "it takes a village to raise a child" to it takes a village to judge a child's raising?Wouldn't a better lesson for all have been for the Macy's employees to take the smaller children to the office while the girls were changing? Leave one employee behind and when the girls come back for the small ones and find them missing, let them simmer in fear...just a bit. Not so long as to make a drama out of it, but just long enough for the beginnings of the mind to work and panic to build. Then have the employee take the girls to the little ones. The girls then learn the lesson of obeying the rules their mother set before them and no one is hurt. This is all part of responsibility. How can someone learn without the possibility of failure? I think our perfectionistic, fear-mongering society is more harmful to kids than what Ms. Lieb did that afternoon.My mom used to drop me and my brother off at the mall all the time. I was 11 or 12 so by brother had to have been 9 or 10. Sometimes we would stick together, sometimes not. When we were a little older, 12 and 14, we were dropped off at a rock concert at a major metropolitan colosseum. We were given rules and told to be back at a certain time. We obeyed and we were fine.We walked ourselves to school beginning in 1st grade. When we changed schools and had to ride the bus, we walked to the bus stop and waited on our own. Heck, we were even allowed to ride our bikes to school if the weather was nice.Kids today live in a safety vacuum and don't learn about true responsibility. They grow up feeling entitled and coddled. It's truly a shame.
I'm also going to disagree with the majority of the posters here. An 8, 7, and 3 year old were left alone in the middle of the store. I don't care where you live, that's not a safe situation. It's not safe for the kids, it's not safe for the store. So what if the Macy's people were "more worried about liability than the welfare of the children"? The employees at Macy's shouldn't be more interested in the welfare of those children than their mother is.The author wants to muddy the situation by saying her 12 year old was supposed to be watching them and instead went to try on clothes. Part of what 12 year olds do is make bad decisions -- they're still learning to be responsible. A 12 year old should not be held more responsible than her adult mother. In the end, this was not some grave miscarriage of justice. This was a woman who was appropriately charged with a crime (if you argue with a police officer about whether you should get a summons, they're ALWAYS going to threaten to take you in), WASN'T handcuffed, DIDN'T have to post bond, DIDN'T have her children removed from the home. In the end, she received deferred prosecution -- meaning that the charges would be dropped if she took care of her kids appropriately for a period of time. The author needs to stop trying to make this about coddling kids, self-reliance, or anything else but the fact that, because of her actions, an 8, 7, and 3 year old were left unattended in a public place with no way to contact her (the 12 year old had the phone), while she was miles away, sound asleep. If I'd been the prosecutor on this case, I wouldn't have dropped it, either. She shows no indication of having learned any lesson and instead turns HERSELF into the victim instead of the children she failed to care for.
The crime here is living in a society so unable to function properly. 12 year olds around the world, work full days and support families. 3 year olds work fields and drag water out of wells. In those situations, we are shocked that a child is having to work so hard to put food in the mouths of themselves and their family. We never suggest they are incapable of the work. Street children all over the world, from as young as 3, 4, 5... care for the babies on the streets, wrapping them in rags to keep them warm and begging to keep them alive. Children care for children, and it's how most societies raise their kids. Kids are capable. And mothers have always worked. To suggest that working mothers is a new thing, is to ignore the entire history of humanity. Work is the norm, not to work, is the new thing. Not working is about wealth, and we've not had much of that, for very long.Kids have grown up in this world, learning to toddle around an open pit fire and used sharp knives as soon as they were strong enough to hold them. This is true infantilisation - not of the kids, but of an entire culture.What strikes me, is what the danger was? Was it kidnap? In which case it didn't matter where the mother was. Kids are taken with the mother six inches away. If it was not kidnap.. what was the danger? Which, incidentally, I think is an issue about whether this 12 year old was 'wrong' to leave the kids for 5 minutes. Yes, it broke the agreement, but it did not leave the kids in danger at all. The 12 year old made a decision based on a rational understanding that the strapped into the stroller 3 year old was perfectly safe with the older two.It's not just that we're treating our kids as incapable.. we're treating the adults that way too.The only thing to say to this mother, really, is to be grateful you have a life where you can muse if your working is a bad thing or not. :-)16 hours in the fields, pulling crops, whilst your 12 year old sits with all the other kids and make the meals, washes the clothes and then sit and sews for several hours to make money for food... then you might have something to worry about. And then, it wouldn't be about whether or not you had a choice. Beating yourself up for having an affluent life that affords you the luxury to give your kids a child hood at all, is a bit pointless! As I said.. women work. Always have, always will do. And kids learn by doing.Hope this heals for you all, quickly.
Every once in a while something happens that really makes us think about our parenting. I concur with most here that the Bozeman police grossly, horrifically overreacted which caused certainly a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering for Bridget and her family. (I wonder how the 12 year olds fared psychologically as well.) Bridget should not have had to go through quite that level of soul searching. However...I'm kind of surprised that in Bridget's journey she did not apparently spend more time thinking about the choices she made that led up to her being so exhausted she felt her only choice was to leave her kids in charge of little ones at the mall. (And from the sound of it, I think she sort of admits that the mall babysitting was a kind of last resort thing- not an ideal thing to do.) She seemed to put herself up as a victim of supermom syndrome, as though she had been struck by a virus or something wholly outside her control. I have 3 kids, I have a very busy life, but I put limits on what I choose to take on. Sometimes, it's still exhausting. If things seem overwhelming, people will say sympathetically "oh, well look, you have 3 little ones". Yeah, but I chose this.I am careful not to whine about it. Even though I want to sometimes, but that puts me at the level of my 4 year old.I don't think Bridget is whining, but I am wondering if this experience has affected her attitude toward choices available to her as a parent, in her career, and that she has choices which could help her get her life more compatible with her energy. Of course exhaustion is part of parenting, but, well, I think my drift has been got.
I sincerely hope that the author has sued the city for abuse of power. This story is truly shocking and makes me very sad as a woman, a mother, a professional, a wife, and most definitely a feminist. We need to reconnect as a movement because this is merely one of many examples of what Susan Faludi, fifteen years ago, described as a backlash. Because most of us have to work for a living and are busy holding down a job, raising children, maintaining a household, etc., etc. these instances of abuse, while disturbing, go unaddressed. (I just commented on Judith Warner's article in the Times online.)
Bad Judgement, I would say on your part. I wouldn't accept your exhaustion as an excuse. Perhaps, this may not be the first time, you have done something like this.What I am extremely uncomfortable is that you left 3 year old away to be taken care by your pre-teen daughters. That's irresponsible.The police and law enforcement went overboard in trying to prosecute you. A reprimand would have been enough than make a case out of you.
Yes it is sad that we live in a world where kids can't go the mall by themselves. But that's the reality. Wishing it were not so is pointless. It is hard to know when to let kids go off by themselves, but it is not hard to know when to allow children to take responsibility for younger children when out in public. This was a bad decision and I am appalled that this woman won't even recognize that. No one has been kidnapped at that mall. Yet. No one has been molested at that mall. So far. Cut me a break. Bozeman may be nice and safer than most places, but I'm sure it has a few bad people who do bad things to kids. No town is immume. And that three year old - can walk, right? And stray away, and into traffic, maybe? I think this woman is clueless and irresponsible. Her education has nothing to do with it. She is clueless and irresponsible. Period.
I have a lot of empathy for what you went through, Ms. Kevane, but I think you were wrong to entrust an eight-year-old, a seven-year-old and a three-year-old to the care of two twelve-year-olds in a public environment. There are just too many unknown variables in that public, uncontained environment and, as you found out, something very simple could very easily go 'wrong' . . . and things did go wrong.The older girls acted like twelve-year-olds and thoughtlessly left the other kids unattended in a public, uncontrolled, insecure environment.I think it would have been very reasonable for you to entrust the younger children to the older girls' care in a home environment, where the girls-in-charge would have a familiar sense of safety and know all the 'lay of the land'. . . at home there would be few variables.You offloaded your adult responsibility for the three younger children onto the twelve--year-olds and you got caught. Your mistake was a small one and I think your punishment was grossly disproportionate to your small error in judgement. But it would be a ot easier for me to feel empathy for you if you did not make such a myopic, self-servicing presentation of the facts.Man, it sucks, I think, that you made a very small mistake and, snap! you got caught with such disproportionate punishment.I know what it is like to want a quiet hour to yourself on a Saturday afternoon. But I think you made a bad call. If you owned up to it, instead of using this event to come up with a tortured argument about feminist backlash. . . . I would have more empathy . . . and now I am repeating myself . .. sorry. . .
Leaving a three-year old in the care of a twelve-year-old in a public place where many things could happen is irresponsible, period. One could have a reasonable debate about whether or not the police action is warranted or extreme, but the proposition that they thought the child faced risk is at a minumum defensible and may be correct. All of this business about whether this is really about a woman scorned because of her socioeconomic status is crap and beside the point. I do hope that she had a nice nap while the kids were at the mall, though.
Mrs. Lieb does not relate her neighbors' reactions to dropping off their children at a mall while Mrs. Lieb took some rest. I would have been angry and likely to have ended the friendship if my neighbor dropped my 12 and 8 year old children at a mall."I have three kids, a dog, a cat, a hamster, and a fish named Oscar. I have a husband who had started his own company and was working on weekends. I teach classes, write books and articles, and am chair of my department."I'm not impressed. Mrs. Lieb, maybe you need to cut back on some of those.
Say what you will about whether her actions were irresponsible or not, but as a legal matter, the charge doesn't seem to fit the crime. This falls under the Montana Code 45-5-622, Endangering Welfare of Children: http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/mca/45/5/45-5-622.htmRead it for yourself and decide whether Ms. Kevane's actions match any of the provisions. Is there a lawyer (preferably a lawyer from Montana) who can comment on whether this case represents a common application of the law? This particular charge seems like a stretch to me, but I'm not a lawyer.
i am interested to know if ms lieb had her sought after down-time and got some rest before the phone call an hour later...or was she quietly concerned/worried that just maybe it wasn't a great decision but hoped it would be ok??i hear her take responsibility for a lot of our shortcomings as parents...lack of patience sometimes, too busy sometimes, etc...but she is taking NO responsibility for the huge responsibility she put on the 12 yr olds...who i'm sure eagerly agreed to the arrangement so they could go to the mall!i hear a lot of people telling their own growing up experiences in the chores they had to do or where they were allowed to go alone or with friends at a young age (10 or 11) BUT HELLO PEOPLE...that was either 20, 30 or 40 yrs ago!!have you not heard the story of adam walsh?? what about the young girl taken from the hotel room while her parents went to dinner?directing the 3 y.o to "stay in the stroller" for over 3 hours???are you serious??regardless of the mom's education or the current safety in bozeman it was a terribly irresponsible decision...and deserves the punishment...although the exposure to this story may be humiliating and some may think (especially the perpetrator who wonders why she wasn't just given a slap on the wrist), this mom who i know loves her children put them in harm's way for a really selfish reason. I shudder at the thought of something happening to one of the friends and how those parents who entrusted their kids to this woman would ever be able to move forward...i think of the random shootings in food courts, i think of abduction or enticement of the younger ones as the 12 y.o.'s were in the dressing room...if they say they were in there 5 minutes you KNOW it was at least triple that time...do YOU remember going to the mall with friends and trying on shirts?it was fun and silly and you looked at yourself in the mirrors from all angles...it took 5 minutes to just "set up" before trying anything on!!i am sensitive to bad parenting decisions when no one is hurt in the end, i have an 23 and 24 y.o. who i reared as a single parent...when they started going to the mall by themselves i would take a book and hang out out of sight because driving away felt too scary...i wanted them to develop their independence and learn how to be in public without an adult but I needed to hover behind the scenes for my own sanity.Oh don't even get me started on how i lingered around public bathrooms when my son first began to go in the men's room by himself!!if the macy's employees were concerned or even concerned after they heard the story but were not really there is not the point, if they reported the kids ages as younger that is not the point...if i saw a 7 y.o., 8 y.o. and a 3 y.o. in a stroller just hanging out in the purse dept with no babysitter or adult in sight i would have notified security too!this mom had a terrible lapse in judgement and no justification or explanation can excuse it...she could have asked her husband to accompany them an hour later or tag team with him...the 12 y.o.'s could have had their mall experience with no burden of watching 3 younger kids and the little ones could have either stayed home or hung out with one of the parents having ice cream or taking care of other things in the mall...i also think the 12 y.o.'s also had a terrible lapse in judgement...they will learn from this but should be also keep it focused on what they did wrong not for getting the mom in trouble!this mom needs to take FULL blame and stop blaming prosecuters, mall employees, judges and god forbid her own kid!back to my initial question...did ms lieb have peace of mind as she drove away from the mall?
The moral of the story is not did Bridget make a good or bad decision here but does she have the right to make the decision?More and more we are being told that no, we do not have the RIGHT to decide. Parenting is instructed and dictated to us at best, and legislated at worse. IMHO Bridget ABSOLUTELY had the right to make a judgment about dropping her children off at the mall.
For almost 30 yrs, I worked in a police department and then a fire/ems department for a city of more than a million people, I need to comment on two things:1) Anonymous who made the snide remark about the "trusting" parents who had the foresight to prepare their children with contact information and to seek an adult if they are separated. Actually, that is the best option. Lost children are crying and creating a fuss are not a viable option for a child predator for a number of different reasons. Life isn't like hollywood TV programs. Which is why large scale events that attract children are always prepared with a Lost Kids program to get that info as most parents don't prepare in advance. Everyone appreciate the foresight that allows for a quick reunion. a quick check of justice stats did not locate a child abduction of a lost crying child in the last 20 yrs; it did show the hundreds of thousands of lost children that are reunited with their families nationally 2) for those that worried what would the 12 year olds do if "something dire" happened.They would do the same as any adult:dial 9-1-1 Only firefighters and medics have the necessary training to extricate a trapped child on an escalator and paramedics to deal with any injuries.Just because something is conceivable does not necessarily follow that it will. We truly have become a culture that spends way too much time in front of the TV instead of being out and doing things, being active and learning new things.
The stark differences between the majority of comments on this page and the one with Judith Warner's essay in today's New York Times (http://warner.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/dont-hate-her-because-shes-educated/)is very interesting to me. Most folks here seem determined not to judge and to be supportive; the comments on the NYT site are mostly damning. Wonder what that says about the two readerships?
It's a brave, brave woman who humbles herself to share such a story with other parents.***I don't think I would have made the same decision as Ms. Kevane,but some people would disapprove of the freedoms I have allowed my own three-year-old.In the last week, two horrific crimes involving young children in my state have been in the news. The father of an 18-month old was convicted of her murder after her body was found in trash bags in the attic of her house. She'd been beaten with a belt. Autopsy reports show she likely lived for many hours before dying.About an hour from my house, a girl was found living in a shed - with her mom and dad. She is not yet two years old, and has allegedly been exposed to methamphetamine and marijuana smoke from her parents. Her father reportedly admits to raping her and deliberately burning her on her back with a cigarette.Suddenly, dropping a three-year-old off at the mall with older kids doesn't seem so bad.
Sorry, things have changed since the 70's and 80's. Bridget Kevane was wrong. You don't leave a 3 year old alone with 12 year old's in the mall.Why did she not just tell the kids that she needed some quite time and that should go out side and play or have them watch a movie or something.To just drop them off at the mall was not a good idea. To try an spin this as one being a victim is another sign of how people today are into viewing themselves in the lens of "victims". Granted everyone overreacted here, the police should have just given her a warning. The 12 year old's are the ones at fault, but as legal minors the fault is on the adults.The 12 year old's showed that they are not responsible and that is another issue. I use to live in Vermont and I would never have left my 10 year old daughter at the mall alone.If she was with friends and under adult supervision, no problem. No adults no wandering.
This is not a case of society imposing some type of new prejudice against well-educated women. It is another example of a person pointing to the stupidity of others as a rationalization for incredibly poor judgment. It's a shame that Mrs. Kevane didn't use this as an opportunity to teach her children what it means to take responsibility for her actions.There is another lesson in this as well. I have certainly made my share of mistakes, but how I deal with them has a big impact on the outcome. Mrs. Kevane had opportunities (based on her story) to manage this incident far more effectively. I don't hesitate to defend what I believe to be right, but I do it with respect for others.It's tough being a parent. Learn from your mistakes rather than making excuses for them.
I think it's germane to the discussion to note that the Gallatin Valley Mall has a bar and gambling casino right across the hall from Macy's. Not quite like the shopping malls of old...
"Most folks here seem determined not to judge and to be supportive; the comments on the NYT site are mostly damning. Wonder what that says about the two readerships?"I don't think it says much about the readership, I think it says something about Judith Warner's inflammatory tone and overgeneralization. I say that as a nontraditional, non over-protective mom.From this story and from the other recent story about the City of Bozeman requiring job applicants to provide their email and social networking PASSWORDS (now repealed), something very, very significant seems to have occurred in Bozeman to make the city and public safety personnel extremely paranoid about child abuse and neglect.As my partner was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused as a child, while apparently no one noticed, I know there are two sides to this coin.The fear of strangers is overemphasized - humans prefer to project their fears there rather than consider those closer who are much more likely to abuse.
I think the mother is trying REALLY hard to spin this. The truth is she left a three year old in a public place for over two hours with no supervision. My stomach churns to read that.My verdict: GUILTY.
While I understand your need for rest, you actually posted this entire article in a disingenuous fashion. The salient point is left for the 22nd and 23rd paragraphs, which is the fact that the two twelve year old girls in question were not capable of discharging the responsibility with which they had been saddled.Some of your cultural observations are true, and I certainly wouldn't elect to throw you in jail, but you were by your own admission negligent. It does not behoove you to play the victim.
Bridget, I am sure you are a good mother. I just think that - once - you did a very stupid thing."Details of the incident became clear later. The kids had gone into Macy’s after lunch; it was to be the final stop of the afternoon. Natalie and her friend decided to try on some shirts and left the three younger kids in the purse section by the cosmetics counter—which, it’s true, was against the rules that I had laid out for them."The problem is that two 12 year old girls are NOT responsible enough to supervise 3 smaller children in a public place. It would have been fine had the two girls "babysat" the three children in your house. BUT, in a public place, like a mall - even though it was a "safe" environment - the two girls did, as you write, abandon their charges. Anything could have happened to the three younger children, and none of you would have been able to live with the outcome.So, are you a "bad mother"? No, probably not. But, in this instance, you did a monumentally stupid thing. I don't care how much education you do or do not have - that is not the issue - you did a stupid thing. Accept it and move on. We ALL do stupid things in our lives. Generally, as with your case, nothing bad happens.But, quit blaming others, accept the blame yourself and learn from it. I'm sure you did. Now, go on with your life, enjoy your kids and husband, and move on!
The story of Bridget Kevane’s arrest for “endangering the welfare of her children” by dropping them off at a small town shopping mall is a classic depiction of two social rules in this country. First, the young male arresting officer told Kevane to be quiet or be handcuffed when she tried to defend her action. Women have been raised to be quiet and submissive, yet Kevane did not adhere to this traditional requirement for females. Second, the prosecuting attorney, a mother herself, wanted a full admission of motherly guilt and shame from Kevane for acting within her rights as a mother. Women can be their own worst enemies, and in the case of a mother who disagrees with another mother’s actions, this became an obsession to prosecute. Would this lady prosecutor have sought a case against the father for dropping his kids off at the local mall? That is highly doubtful.Judith Warner's New York Times commentary is correct about the “simmering resentment” of certain women in this country that is “spiraling out of control.” Educated and affluent women are the target for many critics, and the subject of Warner’s blog, but the same can be said of any woman who strives to be anything more than “ordinary.” Society, including the political, religious, and business sectors, accepts and praises the “ordinary” woman, who is educated (not super-educated), works hard, raises children, and supports the male in her life unquestioningly and unconditionally. And most women fall into the “ordinary” category out of necessity as much as choice. The case can be made that women striving to be more than “ordinary” are in defiance of the acceptable social order. As such, they must be taken down a notch or two unless they remain humble, secondary figures, and never claim a higher status. Earning doctorates or achieving political or business success without humility or an acceptance of a secondary status indicates a privileged elitist attitude. Women who crash the stained glass ceilings and gain entry as ministers may not be as openly castigated by society but they do not rank at the top of the leadership pool in churches. This cultural bias against women, more obvious today than in the past, is hard to pin down and even harder to erase. As for Kevane’s actions, I cannot agree that dropping kids off at the mall is the wisest course. However, the prosecuting attorney who pursued punishment for Kevane not only cost the family thousands of dollars but also cost the state in pursuit of the prosecutor’s personal satisfaction.It is very sad that a woman prosecutor (educated and affluent herself) is the one who turned the screws. Psychologically speaking, that could be seen as a form of self-hatred.
Did the 12 year old know CPR? The Heimlich maneuver? What would have happened if one of the younger children had choked on some candy? Ms. Lieb, you're irresponsible at least. Criminal, probably. Lucky nothing bad happened to the kids. Got off easy in court.Maybe Lieb is one of those parents who lets her kids run around in restaurants (apparently at least in malls) without supervision and calls them precocious. Tweleve year olds are barely able to keep themselves out of trouble in public, let alone herd a bunch of younger kids.
The Mall and its patrons are not responsible for the care, feeding, and supervision of your children. And certainly not responsible to provide or exchange for your patronage and/or association, a free day-care or babysitting service while you physically abandon your children for some nice rest, relaxation, and "mommy down time."If one of your children had had an accident, been harmed, gone missing, or , God-forbid, killed, you might be writing your letter from behind bars; and some of these comments would not be so favorable. You were lucky to receive the punishment you did.And get "real," the lawsuits would be flying at supersonic speed in a New-York minute, and last for years. Not to mention the possibility of bankruptcy from legal fees. The Mall, the legal profession, or your employer would not be picking up your tab for legal fees. Unless you are destitute, you will be re$ponsible. Also, the tabloid press might need a small-town story and take notice; and you would have another opportunity to further publicly demonstrate your inherent good academic judgment and child-rearing skills by talking with them to enhance their sales and reporting, and prove your "lack of guilt." Day-care/babysitting fees will look like a bargain in retrospect.Nobody is responsible for anything anymore, are they? Uh Uh...no way...not me!Thank the Lord for our children, who are the future, literally and figuratively. The dictates of personal safety, public safety, and common courtesy suggest that you should not leave unattended and unsupervised children to their own devices in a crowded public place.And some people regard children as annoying rugrats, or worse.Children are not given legal capacity for a reason. Capacity is granted, usually between the ages of 18-21. They do not have the mental development or life experience to make sound judgments with regard to their safety, themselves, or others. And this is with or without the level of distractions found at most malls. Why do you think teenagers pay a different rate of auto insurance? Because they lack the inherent capacity and experience. This does not prove it, just reflects it.Of course this is all hypothetical, innit? Have a safe day, respectfully submitted.
I live in a small college town and am highly educated. No one I know would ever consider leaving 5 children between the ages of 3 and 12 alone at the mall. This is way outside the bounds of normal, responsible parental behavior.I'm amazed that the author can state without reservation that "the mall is a safe place." She is wrong. Children of all ages are abducted in "safe" public places. No one would take issue with a couple of 12-year-olds babysitting the three younger children at home. It's the fact that they were left in a public place that put them in danger.I also grew up with less supervision and more independence than the children of today. But America in the 1960's and 70's was a much different and safer place than the America of today; the childhood that we adults remember is simply not relevant to this story.I will say that the rudeness and threats of the Bozeman city police were outrageous and completely unacceptable and I think the officers should have been punished for their behavior. The entire episode could have been handled in a much more civil manner, certainly without threatening to handcuff or jail the mother or trying to shut her up. Unfortunately the author still sees nothing wrong with her decision to leave these kids at the mall while she rested. I actually agree with her last statement that she is not guilty of knowingly putting her children in harm's way -- she still does not seem to know or accept that the children were ever in any danger.
The author said that "No child has ever been kidnapped or molested at the mall" to partially justify her actions. Please. These crimes are over-reported and sensationalized. And the implication that a mall where someone *had* been kidnapped is a high risk kidnapping ground is just plain silly.A few of the real risks --- that the author ignores --- are as follows. First, the older kids could have become involved in other things and lost track of the little ones. This process had already started and could have become worse over time if nothing had happened the first time the younger ones were left alone.Then:* Small child gets lost in huge mall and gets traumatized in part because Mommy left her there.* Small child wanders into The Heavy Objects Store and pulls something down onto his/her head.* Small child wanders into the Breakables section in Macy's and breaks a small fortune worth of stuff, some of which crashes onto his/her head. "But I just wanted to see the pretty glass birdy!"* Small child handles knife on display in Macy's and cuts self.* Small child wanders onto escalator, loses balance, and falls down same.Etc. etc.Why didn't Ms. Kevane call one of those neighbors who help with "mutual child care"?Why didn't she have the older girls watch the younger ones at home?Why couldn't the second girl's mother have helped with the young ones for a couple hours? If Ms. Kevane was that exhausted, why didn't she call her husband to tell him she needed him at home (or the mall!! given how close he was??)? He was home in an hour or less --- she couldn't have held out that long?Oh, obviously, the husband and other mother are at fault here too. Sorry, but anyone who remembers being 12 or has a 12-year-old knows that leaving two pre-teens in charge of THREE young kids, at a mall full of distractions, who expects them to "follow the rules," is fooling him/herself.How would these three adults have reacted if one of the little kids had been injured? Would they have blamed someone else? Say, the mall?A mall isn't a village full of acquaintances who'll watch out for your kids. And justifying your actions by arguing that there weren't any signs saying "Don't leave kids unattended" is like arguing that it's okay to play in the road because no one posted a sign saying you shouldn't.
I was raised by a single mother and being the oldest of two kids I was left in charge countless times. My brother and I were left home numerous times alone, because my mother had to work to support us. Occasionally we fought (my brother and I), broke things, and then teamed up to come up with a story (excuse) for the broken things. But we never thought that at the age of 10 or 12 we weren't responsible enough. Common sense is what's missing today. Kids are smart. And both kids and adults make mistakes. And I'm sorry that you had to go through such a horrific ordeal. It saddens me that so much taxpayer money went towards prosecuting a case that really had nothing to do with child endangerment, yet a lot to do with the prosecutor's insecurities. I'm sorry you had to go through this. I'm sure your kids will grow up to become better functioning adults then those who are given responsibilities and taught common sense according to some arbitrary time line.
I was thirteen when my parents left me with my brother (then 8) and my sister (then 10) to head for the U.S. to establish a new home. My country, at that time, was nearly a day away by flight. My grandmom would come to sleep with us every night, otherwise I am on my own to "run the whole household" for a year. It was really hard as I was studying in a highly competitive private school and I had to do all the house work and cooking, in addition to taking care of my brother and sister. I felt lonely at times. But, I always felt that my parents trusted me so much to give me the responsibility to take care of my brother and sister. I never felt that they didn't love us. This experience has given me a tremendous sense of responsibility and most of all confidence in my own ability to "conquer all" against all odds.The whole family came to the U.S. later on. And, I started in high school with a vocabulary of a three-years old. I've gone through the cruelty of ridicules by high-school kids laughing at me whenever I tried to speak a single word of English in class and all sorts of difficulties in life as an "outsider". Years later, I became the first to receive a Ph.D. among all family members and our relatives, while my dad never even went to college.Today, like Kevane, I'm struggling with all kind of "guilty feelings" for not being able to do a better job at being a better mother, a better wife, a better daughter to my parents, or a better sister to my sis/brother. Most of all, I'm ashamed of not having the courage to give my oldest daughter the same kind of trust as my mom has given me and to give her a better sense of responsibility and training that has helped me grow as a strong individual. (I wouldn't even let her play outside alone!) I've "caved" in to the news media and pop culture about how we should raise our children and how dangerous today's society is, etc. Not giving our children a chance to exercise some judgment calls is depriving them the chance to grow up and be strong. Reading Kevane's story has really stirred up so much feelings and my own internal conflicts. In today's society of fears and rules, Kevane should be proud of having the courage to raise her children with her own instinct and live by what she knows would be the best for her children.
As someone who is 7 years older than my sister, I was given the responsibility of taking her to appointments after school since my parents were working. However, dropping two 12 year olds off at the mall to watch after younger children because you needed some rest is irresponsible. I don't care how many jobs or responsibilities an individual may have outside of or in addition to being a parent. Malls are not safe places for children who are left alone unsupervised. Perhaps if the author was tired that day, she could have enlisted the help of a trusted adult to watch over the children. She seems to believe that law enforcement had a bias against her because she's well-educated and privileged. I think that they reacted that may because she made a bad choice. It's just hard for her to understand and accept their point of view because she has book sense and very little common sense.
My fifth grade teacher, an absolutely wonderful woman who I befriended as an adult, let her kids take the New York City subway alone from when they were about 8. At age 5 I walked half a mile, alone, to school in a Boston suburb. At six I rode my bicycle around our suburb unattended. At 12 I was allowed to wander around Paris by myself.
When I was nine, and my sister was three, a big dog came galloping into our yard, and my brother, thinking the dog might be vicious, yelled "Run!", so we ran. My sister fell behind. When we reached our mom -- without little sister -- Mom said "Well, go back and GET her!" So my brother and I picked up sticks and went charging back into the front yard. We found our sister, screaming because a big St Bernard was ferociously wagging its tail and licking her in the face. Could have been much worse, yes. But my brother and I learned a lot about what was expected of us that day.Failure is part of learning. Kids need to learn - and maybe fail at - responsibility when they're kids, or we risk their not learning these things at all. What does that world look like? Epic Fail.
Ms. Kevane put 5 children, ages 3 - 12 in danger. She should have enlisted the help of a responsible, experienced older caregiver (with references and a clean driving record) to take the children to the mall.Barbara Warren, M.S.Marriage Family and Child Therapist
Ms. Kevane made a poor choice and made that situation an even worse lesson for her children by refusing to at least acknowledge that she may have made a mistake. I read the entire article twice and saw a woman blaming everyone but herself for the situation she found herself in. A population of 40 thousand can hardly be described a small town, im glad the children were not hurt. the mall is not the place for 12 year olds to hone their babysitting skills.....
The reason why this woman needed to be charged is because she is still oblivious to the problem. Everyone else is to blame her except for her. This wasnt a question of leaving a 12yo in change in a safe home as a baby sitter. She dumps the kids at the mall- including endangering someone elses 7 or 8 yo- in a situation that was never going to work. She expects a 3 year old to stay in a stroller for over 2 hours. A mall is brightly lit and full of enticing displays (because it is designed that way by professional marketers!) they are going to attract kids to wander over and take a look. The kids are going to play in the coats and be lost to view- because thats what kids do. The arent going to be able to find their way back, because the displays block their sight lines. She is still oblivious to the fact that this was never going to work: the older girls went into the changing rooms trying on clothes, and they took candy from people they didnt know at the mall. A quickly internet search turns up 76 sex offenders in 5 miles of the mall, including the guy who lives across the street who was convicted of Lascivious Acts With Child. Whoopsie, Professor NotGuity. Instead of taking responsibility we get a list of excuses about why *she* is the victim: -she has to take care of a fish name Ocsar. Do you have a dog named Checkers too? - my husband endorsed the plan, and his office is 5 minutes away, so it really his fault. - the Macy's employees stories varied wildly! Its Fruit of the Poisoned Tree! - I'm caught in a culture war! Its Town vs. Gown. In this case, teh rarefied academic Gown is the Montana State University. - their against working mothers! - the DA is prejudice because she has a daughter she'd wouldnt abandon at the mall. - the DA even admitted she was treating me the same as commoners even though I am a professor - And I am underpaid. Maybe if MSU wasnt so cheap I could have hired child care- so its really society's fault. - the DA had "obsession" with me realizing my behavior was wrong. - I was "visible but silent". Waaa. - Did I mention that I'm a Jew? Almost. This whole thing is probably a pogrom. - My mother "believed in the power of allowing her children to gain independence " and now these people are trying to take it away! - I was the only one who was at the parenting class involuntarily... how fair is that? - I am not going let someone tell me how to raise my children like those saps. Are you? - I love my children! I would die for them! But I wasnt going to wait an extra hour for my husband to get home. - I refused to plead guilty so I had to pay thousands of dollars to a lawyer who's advice I ignored. - I'm successful and I am being accused of failing! How is that fair. - A bunch of Bozeman meanies at the mock trial thought I was wrong and wanted me to show remorse. Never! - No parent ever feels they are a complete success and I am no different. Why isnt everyone else being prosecuted? - Oh maybe I am guilty of being torn between daily demands, and trying to make it all work, of doing it all, and of being totally awesome. I do run a department you know. I am guilty of that. - I had to rewrite this essay on Mother's Day. Huh, isnt that ironic. I bet miss fancy pants DA and her daughter are out having mani-pedi's and I am stuck here. This town just hates mothers! My kids are out running the log splitter, I'll join them in a few hours after my nap.
Anonymous@12:59 a.m. wrote,I also grew up with less supervision and more independence than the children of today. But America in the 1960's and 70's was a much different and safer place than the America of today; the childhood that we adults remember is simply not relevant to this story.This argument, in these or slightly different terms, is repeated over and over in the comments here, the comments on Judith Warner's article, and the comments on the FreeRangeKids blog. Every time any adult mentions the level of freedom and responsibility they had at age 12 (or younger), someone pops up almost straight away to say "But that's irrelevant! Times have changed!! It's a different world out there now!!!"And it is a different world. Just not in the way these commenters think. Crime rates are down across the board; rates of violent crime, including homicide, are down; rates of crimes against children are down. (I'm not sure about kidnappings of small kids by strangers specifically, but that happens so seldom anyway that it's not even worth taking seriously as a risk to any one kid.) It is not more dangerous "out there" than it was in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, it's safer.Number one killer of kids in the United States today? Car accidents. Those 5 kids were in far, far more danger during the drive to the mall than they were once they got there.
Anonymous said: "Did the 12 year old know CPR? The Heimlich maneuver? What would have happened if one of the younger children had choked on some candy?"What would have happened if the mom and all the kids were at home and the child choked on some candy while mom went to the bathroom? Granted, the mom made an error in judgement in thinking that these two 12 year olds were responsible enough to care for a 3 year old and two other children in a mall. That doesn't mean that NO 12 year old could do it and it certainly doesn't warrant prosecution for criminal neglect.Anything can happen at any time. Some of the worst accidents my children have had occurred within arm's reach of me.
"Those 5 kids were in far, far more danger during the drive to the mall than they were once they got there."Ridiculous.Tens of millions of kids ride in cars, taking probably hundreds of trips each, in every year. Next to no mothers are stupid enough to allow 5 kids to wander around a mall with no adult supervision for hours at a time on a Saturday. That why the abductions are rare- because people dont leave their 7 yo's out in public with minimal supervision and then drive away.So you are comparing an event which happens probably a billion times a year (child riding in a car) with one that hardly ever comes up.
Ms. Kevane writes of her then 12 yo daughter, "Certainly, she had failed when she made the decision to walk into that dressing room, and had the police not intervened, I would have been angry with her, and she would have known that what she had done was wrong."And since the police intervened, you were not? What *were* the repercussions for the 12 yo girls? If these girls had truly had the skills to supervise three younger children, then there needed to be consequences for failing to use these skills. I find it troubling that Ms. Kevane spent more time rationalizing her actions than accepting the logical consequences for herself and the 12 year olds she entrusted with the care of young children at a mall.It seems that she could have gained much from a parenting class, and it is pity she did not avail herself of the opportunity simply because her attendance was involuntary.
I haven't read all of the comments but I wondered if anyone else is bothered by the idea of requiring a three year old to stay in a stroller for over three hours.
Let's imagine a situation in which Prof. Kevane was confronted with a student essay that potentally breached the university's norm against plagiarism by taking insufficient care to acknowledge the use of other's language and ideas.What would be the professor's responsibilty when the student responded to the professor's correcting the student paper by stating that any such correction was unjust because her previous teachers never complained and compliance to the university's norm would damage her self-confidence, inhibit her freedom of expression and, by the way, is likely only being exercised against her because she is a member of a minority group?I suspect that Prof. Kevane would have done something similar to what the justice system did with her: direct her student to take a writing workshop so she will have the opportunity to learn in greater detail what is expected and discuss the suggestions of peers and instructors on how to observe the no plagiarism rule and as well as making an institutional record of this incident which can be called up should there be a future similar incident.To edit a borrowed comment on this story on this or the NY Times website: "perfect symmetry of overzealous prosecution and overzealous defensiveness".But the outcome is not reasonable and Prof. Kevane's article provides the opportunity for others to debate, learn and make further refine their own parenting decisions, realizing that as parents we accountable to a wider community when it comes to children.Thanks for putting out there.
I have never seen or heard such crap in my life. I raised three children here in New York City, in Manhattan. They all attended public school. By the time they were THREE they could hail a taxi with enough aplomb that the damn thing would stop for them.Two went to a great public intermediate school, the Center School, grades 5-6-7-8. The school drew from all over the city. We had 5th graders, age 8 going on the subways and public buses ( NO SCHOOL BUSES) from all over the place. They never got lost, they didn't need parental supervision, and nothing bad ever happened to any of them.Your only mistake was moving to Bozeman, MT. I trust you have learned your lesson and will move to an inner city and stop abusing your children by raising them in the suburbs.
OlderMan - fifth graders are typically 10 and turn 11 during the school year, not 8. Your point is well-taken but I think when we look back on the old days we sometimes exaggerate.
Having read all the comments, I do think that the mall was right to worry and take action, not because of the remote possibility of kidnapping, but simply because of the more common, mundane dangers - such as kids pulling heavy objects onto themselves or getting caught in escalators - and they don't know which parents are going to punish the twelve-year-olds and which are going to sue the mall instead. Who can blame Macy's for that? (The policemen's reaction is maybe a bit of a different story.) Aside from that, it's interesting how one poster thinks a father would have gotten off more easily. The men's rights activists (MRAs) at glennsacks.com seem to believe the opposite, regarding this case. Do most women believe a father would just get a slap on the wrist? I'm not saying the MRAs are wrong - just that it would be useful to have some reliable legal studies done to find out who's right.
I enjoyed your essay. Our culture is too litigious, and people are ridiculous to think that a 12-year-old or even an 8-year-old are not independently capable of going to a mall. I am 28 and was able to "wander" about 4 miles away from my home, go to convenience stores, tromp through woods with no trails, go to the rail yards, etc. when I was about 7. Sometimes by myself, other times with another 7-year-old. I lived in a city that was neither crime-free or crime-ridden.I think you should be proud of your parenting style, as you intimated, because your children will be so much more "well-adjusted". I love that phrase "well-adjusted"; I use it to show off examples of parents allowing their children to be independent, responsible, and child-like according to the child's maturity.
I'm mystified by how much of the author's impressions of the incident (as well as so many of the comments) are sourced not to what she saw, but to what she did not see, and how far afield from the actual incident her ruminations wander.Putting all the focus on the 12 year olds is a diversion from the three year old who was abandoned by them. How about cutting some slack to store employees and security who saw only what Ms. Kevane did not, and for some reason still cannnot -- a toddler with a seven and eight year old, and no sign of a caregiver? Apparently those professionally trained 12-year-olds didn't learn so well, nor did they have the judgment on their own to not leave the little ones alone. The author believes that if the employees had not intervened, the older girls would have told her about the abandonment, and she would have scolded them. What? If there had been no intervention or incident, there would have been no report, because the older girls wouldn't have had any reason to report. On the other hand, if they'd met a couple of friends in the dressing room, the trying on of the shirts might have taken longer than five minutes -- something the 12-year-olds, and the mother still have not considered, but something the store employees and mall security are trained to consider and act upon. All they saw were three very young kids who were completely alone and unaccounted for. It's not their business to try to understand this busy mom's life, her impressions of mall safety, or her belief in independence and privacy. Their jobs are to simply act in the moment to secure those (and by extension, all of our) children. Come on -- what if the 3 year old needed a bathroom? Were the older girls around to get there in time? Were the younger ones capable of responding? If they were, might not the 12 year olds come out of the dressing room to find the younger ones gone, and no idea where to start looking? This is the basics, fellow parents. It's not all about whether someone would harm the children. Not that harm wasn't a possibility, as it frequently comes in forms outside Ms. Kevane's contemplation (or at least her reporting). It's not always about killers and molesters. It could just be something slippery on the floor, or a toy a kid wants to get down that's one shelf higher than his or her fingers. Who doesn't know this? Apparently not too many readers of this magazine. Brain, Child?(to be continued due to character limit)
(continued from previous post)Why is the author, and so many of the readers, unable to step back from their emotions for a minute and try to see what the store employees actually saw, and how that may actually be an equally valid version of the true events? Nobody accused her of being a "failed" mother, as she keeps repeating and so many of you keep underscoring. All she was accused of was abandoning her child care responsibilities on a single day. There is no question that she did that. It does not mean anything deeper.Let's get serious, folks. Ms. Kevane doesn't need to explain to us why she was tired that day. We're all tired a great deal of the time, even after the long nights of crying and feeding during infancy end, and all for several of the same master set of reasons. When we're tired, we send our kids on play dates or overnights with other kids whose parents are home, with an explanation of the situation to those parents, and we take a nap. Even if a pair of twelve-year-olds are acceptable babysitters (and I believe in most cases they are), this wasn't babysitting. Five kids between three and twelve were dropped off at a mall. 7 & 8 year olds don't always obey 12 year olds. 12 year olds don't always obey parents. It doesn't matter how safe you think your mall is, or how well you think you know the kids. It's an inherently unsafe setup. Merchandise is on shelving and racks in aisles around which youngsters easily disappear from view. There are staircases and escalators, and the little one was in a stroller. There are parking lots full of moving vehicles. Just because there haven't been reports of suspicious characters in the mall doesn't mean it's safe to leave 8, 7, and 3 year olds in the care of a 12 year old -- or two 12 year olds, who are capable of having their own interests to pursue regardless of parental instruction, and as Ms. Kevane found out in a way that actually worked out much better than some of the other possibilities that store employees and police are required to contemplate.You don't have to feign remorse to impress a jury. Just tell the truth -- you made a mistake. It was the wrong thing to do. Unless, of course, you truly believe that you did not make a mistake, in which case let me tell you -- you did, and your righteous indignation is going to lead others to do the same, until one of them ends up sorry in ways that are far worse than awkward and deflating contact with the judicial system.
You take your degree and your 'career' way to seriously; everyone knows professors are the protected class and are lazy, arrogant, self-serving, smug idiots.Your 12 year old is smarter and far more sophisticated than is her mother because she doesn't yet have a worthless piece of paper to hide behind; the degreed do not even know how to pay their damn taxes much less raise children.
How times have changed.I collect old textbooks. Their pictures and stories provide lessons of what the authors thought life should be like and what students ought to learn.One post WWII primer shows a mother asking her son and daughter, aged 6 and 8, to bundle up against the wintry day and walk down to the corner grocery to buy a quart of milk.Oh, and take the baby in his buggy, too.Small children pushing an enormous black buggy over an icy sidewalk, happy as can be, happy to be out and helping mother and doing business with the nice grocery man.While the lesson was building reading vocabulary, the second lesson was this- small kids can be helpful and take responsibility for shopping and a bit of childcare.It's not 1948.This article made me shiver. As some parents are terrified of unthinkable horror of stranger abducting their child at random, there is also the terror of being accused, at random, of bad parenting. You can do your very best and yet, the unthinkable- an arrest- can occur.Children at the mall? I would have done the same.
Twelve-year-olds babysitting a pre-schooler in public. A criminally neglectful idea?No way. The three-year-old could pull something down on her head while her mom was doing the dishes. Unless, of course, you have that type of perfectly child-proof home that consists of four rubber walls.I feel sorry for my children. In order to give them a childhood free of paranoia, with freedom to play and explore, I will need to move to another country.As the author noted, it's safer now than when I was BORN.No wonder so many kids are fat and drug-addicted. You would be, stuck inside with a paranoid adult all day, dealing with litigious cops and not even allowed to take a pre-schooler to the MALL. Geez. I'd need medication for that, too!
Liz, I'm not sure you read the entire article. The two 12 year olds were taking THREE, not one, younger children to the mall. One of those younger children was three years old and expected to stay in a stroller for three hours.I've been reading the responses since I posted mine a few days ago. I think most of the posters grew up in simpler times. There weren't malls, full of fancy stores that are full of fancy merchandise, that can tweak the interest of two 12 year old girls and tempt them to leave the three younger ones on their own. There weren't malls with escalators, which can cause accidents for even the most watchful rider. It was a simpler time, the 50's, 60's, 70's.The Macy employees did exactly the right thing when they found the three younger children left alone. Ms Kevane WAS wrong in sending five children off to a public place. She was expecting mall employees - strangers as such - to look after her five children.
What it comes down to is: While we can sympathize with Macy's desire to protect itself from litigious parents, why did they feel the need to call the POLICE when they could have simply called the mother and ordered her to come to the mall? (If they had no legal choice, that needs to change.) Surely they could have given the mother a fierce lecture that would have made her feel pretty awful without bringing the law into it (example: "if this happens again, we WILL call the police") - and then the mother would likely have punished her daughter pretty memorably.BTW, I happened to find today, in the current issue of Yale's alumni magazine, a short interview with Lenore Skenazy (known as "America's Worst Mom" for letting her 9-year-old son ride the NYC subway alone and the author of the new book "Free-Range Kids"), who, I'm pretty sure, would NOT expect Macy's employees to act as babysitters, but chances are she'd also disapprove of their calling the police.Excerpt:"The child of a friend of mine broke her arm on a swing. Other parents asked: 'Why weren't you there?' In fact, my friend was pushing her daughter on the swing. Her child fell because sometimes bad things just happen, and it's no one's fault. But we don't believe in accidents anymore."
A few quick thoughts (which echo many other posters'):1) Times have changed! I grew up in NYC in the 1970s (much less statistically safe than currently) and I was riding city buses -- with a classmate -- to an after-school swim lesson at age 8. That was also the year I began walking to school with other children in my class (a parent followed us at about a 1/2-block distance for a few days to make sure they were comfortable that we could deal with traffic at cross-walks; it was about a 10-block -- .5 mile -- journey).2) Putting aside whether you agree with this parent's decision in this specific instance, this prosecutor has too much time on her hands! Where is the "harm"? If the parents of the other involved family had wanted to sue the author for her purported "neglect", they would not have any claim because the children were, in fact, fine. Shouldn't criminal negligence/endangerment have a higher bar than a civil (tort-based) complaint? I know her lawyer advised her to take the plea because of the mock jury reaction (I LOVED the rancher's reaction b/t/w!) -- but, honestly, a judge should have tossed this case for the ridiculous instance of grandstanding it was; it should NEVER have made it to a jury. (I would like to think it wouldn't have.) 3) Strangely, I was on a plane to Bozeman from the east coast when I read this article &, upon arrival, shared it with my sister-in-law who lives in western Montana (fairly near Bozeman). Her first reaction was along the lines of "if I'd read this and hadn't known where it happened, I'd just be grateful nothing like that could happen here." She has since taken the tack that she can avoid the whole thing by disavowing mall culture. :-)
Ms. Kevane, I want to hug you for standing up for yourself and not taking a guilty plea. Good moms know their kids, and their limits, and you are a good mom.
This is a fascinating piece because it pulls in so many different issues: independence and growth for children; safety for children; independence--and guilt, and second-guessing--in parenting; and many others.What has not received much comment here is our growing over-dependence on the criminal justice system. One can reasonably applaud the author for her decision that day or scold her for it, as we see from the comments (from the rational ones, that is). But the criminal prosecution? Child endangerment laws aren't meant for this kind of incident -- and think about it, child endangerment laws are not newly on-the-books; they were written decades ago, when we were walking around our towns and cities at tender ages, watching over our baby siblings, etc.What is most disappointing and, frankly, outrageous, to me, is the ill-advised use of the criminal justice system in this way. The police should not have charged this crime, the prosecutor should not have prosecuted it, and the judge should have dismissed it.I would be curious to know why the judge placed a gag order on the case. Was it because he or she knew how ridiculous it was? I think the press and public would have been mostly favorable to the author -- even if not on the issue of leaving the kids, certainly on the issue of criminal prosecution.
Like some of the posters, I think the majority of the people here are overstating the danger. Malls are not all that dangerous, crime rates are not higher now than in the 70s and 80s - they are far, far lower. The actual risks of injury at the mall are probably not much higher than in a home. True, the kids could have wondered off and been scared and lost for a while, but that also happens with adults and is hardly catastrophic. People love to imagine the worst-case scenarios. Leaving 12 year olds in charge may not be wise or particularly cautious, but the doom and gloom here of the consequences is ridiculous.
Wow. I read this article and couldn't believe the author would leave her three year old at a mall. She can't watch her ONE three year old? Then to not even feel a bit of remorse at having pawned her kids off on the mall employees? Good grief. Hire someone if you can't handle your own kids. Accept some responsiblity. For someone so smart, the woman lacks some serious common sense. Don't leave your baby at the mall! DUH!
Just one more thing. I re-read the first page and the fact this woman dropped her kids off at the mall so she could NAP, just pisses me off. You should have napped in jail.What a lazy person. Like we don't all get tired. I had four children in 16 months. I've been so tired, I thought I would die. You could have had your twelve year old watch your three year old in your own house and taken a nap. Drink some coffee and get a grip on reality.
I found myself in a similar situation several years ago when my oldest daughter was about 18 months old and was in the mall with a co-worker of mine who was 17 at the time. She was out of school (it was summer) and had offered to take my daughter for ice cream until my shift was over, my son, who was five stayed with me at work. I got a call about 30 minutes later at work from mall security informing me it was illegal for my child to be out with a 17 year old, even though I was IN THE MALL. I informed the guard to bring both of them to me immediately and that I was 17 when my son was born and asked if it would have been illegal for me to have my son in the mall and he said yes as I was not old enough to have a child. Needless to say I was offended and mall administration apologized to me within a day or so.Now I have four beautiful children and struggle with what is and is not appropriate for them to do as they are all older, my son is now a teenager. I fell at 14 years old he is old enough to be dropped off at a movie with his friends, his friends parents feel they are still too young. Right now I am having a slumber party for my older two daughters and the girls are all familiar with music by Katy Perry and Carrie Underwood (they are singing it right now) but two of them cannot watch the movie Mamma Mia. At 12 I babysat, including at the mall, walked to and from school and watched my brothers at home. I have allowed my son to do the same but have been told i could be prosecuted for such. The world has become too concerned with raising other peoples children. Everything is abuse or neglect. I work for CASA and could tell you stories of REAL abuse and REAl neglect. Parental mistakes are not neglect. They are mistakes. Parental choices vary from experience to experience and culture to culture and very few of them are true abuse or neglect. Most of them are misunderstandings. I would have to agree with the "book education" stereotype as well. I have a Master's Degree in Public Administration and I often hear that I do not have any "real world" experience or ability to make choices in the real world, this is untrue. My choices are just not other peoples.
Wow.. this is really a tough one for me. One one hand, I think the mall security and police overreacted to what transpired... after all no crime was committed. There is no age limit at the mall and who determines what is the appropriate age for babysitting. On the other hand, I do find it hard personally to think that two 12 year olds are mature enough to handle the responsibility of watching three other children, including a three year old. I understand and agree that the author has the right to raise her children according to her instincts but I think she is lacking some perspective. The 12 year old's did indeed leave the other kids alone (just for five minutes) and so much could happen in just 5 minutes. Not even taking the extremes- like abduction, but what if the 3 year old got lost? Are 8, 6, and 3 appropriate ages to be left alone at the mall? And yes they were left alone at the mall even if it was for "just five minutes".I think there are two different stakes at hand- one is the issue of parental rights-- specifically our right to raise our children without oversight from the government, free to trust our instincts. The second issue is parental responsibility. Were the actions responsible? Why should the mall and employees at Macy's be responsible for the welfare of three young kids? Because the parent was tired and needed a few hours of rest and silence? Perhaps sending the kids to the backyard to play or to a friend's house would have been a more appropriate choice.
In this day and age, where pedophiles, perverts and criminals prey on young children.... The sheer fact that a 3-year-old child was left unattended while the designated guardian was in a dressing room, whether legally classifiable as child endangerment or not, represents sheer irresponsibility and idiocy. Both on the 12 year old sister and the mother. There's a difference between being a 12 year old kid taking care of a younger sibling at home, and ANY PERSON who leaves a toddler unattended outside a mall dressing room. You are insanely, insanely lucky that no one grabbed one of your children and ran off. You can justify your actions all you want, but truth is truth... you unnecessarily risked losing a child all because you wanted "me" time.
Most every one on here has said things that I agree with our "new" society is building dependent irrespondsible young people and their need to protect children though very important and commendable can become obssesive and boarderline "small town" minded (no offense to small town folk) to the point where they cant think outside of them selves and won't look at reson or logic.But what I found to be most offensive is the attitude of the state prosecuter. Are we to now be punished because we have brains that we use and exercise on a regular bases. Is being educated some crime and do people who don't go to college or university raise their kids differently to the extent we have a subculture of "professor's kid rearing techniques". Well my Great Grand mother was not fortunate to go to college but my Grandmother and my mother did and I know for a fact that alot of the lessons I learned from them they learned from her growing up because the time I spent with my Greatgrand mother I relized that her peranting methods where the same as my nanna's and my mother's; and I so would have been that 12yr old and most likely I would have been in trouble for leaving my younger siblings unattended.
The kids are not to blame here. I may have let my 12 year old go with her friend to the mall, I would have never put them in charge of my younger children, especially a three year old. And to put the blame on your 12 year old daughter is disgraceful. "Oh they broke the rules I had laid out for them". It's not their fault, it's your fault. I hope that you haven't laid guilt at your daughter's feet for this and that you are only trying to explain what happened. From what it sounds like to me, you are blaming your daughter for breaking your rules. Were the charges a bit much? Hm. Maybe so. But, take ownership of you actions. It was not a smart thing to do.
What kind of a mother when faced with the prospect of losing custody of her children, immediately retreats to her bed? Ms. Kevane: the countless hours you've spent trying to justify this ridiculously poor "choice" in your mind are evident, as is the well-crafted shield of self-righteousness that you mistake for confidence in your parental instincts. None of us are born knowing how to be good parents. That's why the good ones embrace humility and a willingness to gather and sort through the information and wisdom that already exist. Perhaps you didn't "knowingly" put your children in harm's way, Ms. Kevane; you put them in it with little thought because, it seems you allot too little of your precious time toward the consideration of the welfare of your children.I grew up in the quintessential small town in the Midwest. No murders, no rapes, no Boogey Men. Yet my mother was never so flippant with my safety, and I was raised to be self-reliant, responsible and worldly. It may surprise you that I have survived in a large city for many years now, raising a self-reliant daughter of my own. I am appalled by the handful of comments I've read here and am starting to wonder if this rallying 'round the "victim-mother" has more to do with an anti-authoritarian bandwagon then an intelligent discussion on parental ethics. Grow up people. Please. Our children need better parents.
This story reminded me of a time I lost my 2 year old in a department store. I let her out of the cart to run some energy off because I was just too tired of listening to her whine "I'm stuck!" "Down, please" "I'm stuck!." I kept one eye on her while trying to find the item we came to the store for. One eye just wasn't enough for my energetic toddler. She was gone in seconds. I started looking for her, calling, trying not to make a scene but intently trying to find her as well. I checked the immediate department first, nothing. Then I checked the toy department, nothing. Panic set it. I headed directly for the help desk and had them announce a "child find". Every employee in the store dropped what they were doing and started looking for her. That was the longest 5 minutes of my life. They finally found her in the toy section. I was in tears when they told me she was safe. I'm honestly getting emotional and teary-eyed just remembering those moments when every horrible scenario passed through my mind. In those five minutes I realized that no matter how tired I am, or how much I think everything will be OK if I allow my daughter a little premature freedom in exchange for some personal momentary peace of mind, nothing could bring her back if anything happened to her. Mistakes often have permanent consequences and although a mother has to use her best judgment, sometimes that judgment is impaired by sleep deprivation or plain old mommy burnout. Every child is different and every situation is unique, but when it comes to our children it's our job to protect them. Often that requires us to error on the side of caution to insure their safety. I think Bridget should just be relieved that no real harm came to her children because no amount of justification or legal battles can bring a child back.
Oh, and Ms. Lieb should be sentenced to 18 years in prison for each child she left unattended - 18 years EACH. She also shouldn't be allowed ANY contact with ANY of her children EVER. Her parental rights should be permanently terminated and her children put up for adoption immediately. She is an unfit mother.
Transplant - you should invest in a child harness. I know it sounds cruel, but it would give you some extra safety because even in one blink of an eye a 2 year old can disappear real quickly, and all too often never to be seen again. I urge you to invest in a very good quality child harness, and don't listen to the parents that yell at you and tell you that you are treating the child like a dog - just tell them it is an extra safety tool.
I was horrified and shocked by this article. I home-school my children and it is, by the way, their choice. My 16-year old daughter was named Sportswoman of the year in 07 out of 7 states (for gymnastics), has raised more than 25 thousand dollars for childrens' charities after losing her young brother to cancer. She practically has run my gymnastics business since she was 12 and began taking college classes at age12 as well. So...I guess I am not only guilty of child endangerment, but also must have violated child labor laws since it was a new business we opened and she worked many free hours. She certainly learned how to coach gymnastics, could answer phones, schedule classes and do payroll as well. I did get her a cell phone so that she could call me when her college classes ended and I immediately went to pick her up, but I know there were several young men in her classes. I guess her maturity means nothing? She is street smart and strong (a gymnast), but shouldn't I have accompanied her to each class? Absolutely NOT! Each child is different. I wouldn't allow my 17-year old adopted son get his Learner's Permit this summer because the poor boy lacks so much common sense. I have, however, let my 16 year old daughter start my car on cold winter mornings ever since she was 8 years old. No guilt here....just a very proud mother of some very exceptional children all in their own ways. By the way, my 16-year old daughter is very beautiful but has put her education and sport first. She has not dated yet because she says it would be a waste of time since she's not ready for a serious relationship. She thinks that high-school boys are very immature.
my daughter babysits all the time. I think she'd be the one in trouble. Or, I'd be upset that her and her friend chose to go in the dressing room and leave three kids out. ONe of the girls should have stayed out and watched them, or they should have brought them in the dressing room. I have a 3 year old and 7 year old, and that'd be a bad combination. Seriously though, it's lame you are getting reamed for this.
If I happened to be shopping at Macy's that day and saw two young children and a toddler all alone in the purse section, I would have definitely have asked where their parents were, and gotten the store involved. And I would hope that someone would do that for my child if for some reason she had gotten separated from me in a large department store.My daughter is two, and I have trouble keeping her in her stroller for more than 15 minute stretches, especially in a location with lots of visual stimuli. To expect that two pre-teens can do this for 3 hours, in addition to watching over a 7 and 8 year old is simply unreasonable.The arguement that Mrs. Lieb felt that the 12-year-olds were mature enough to take care of the three kids is moot. They obviously were not mature enough because they abandoned the younger children to try on shirts. So we have two instances of very bad judgement on behalf of Mrs. Lieb. One was to leave three young children in the care of 12-year-olds in a public place, rife with lots of distractions and potential for danger in one form or another. And the other is the judgement that the 12-year-olds were mature enough to ignore all the distractions the mall had to offer and be responsible enough to care for the three kids.The saddest part of this story is that Mrs. Lieb has learned nothing at all. No one is a perfect parent. We all learn through trial and error. Mrs. Lieb will not grow as a person and a parent because she refuses to admit she made a mistake.I do feel that the reaction of the police was over the top. But I am also reasonably sure that if Mrs. Lieb had been willing to admit that she had made a mistake instead of vigorously defending her less-than-well-thought-out parenting decisions and her need to provide autonomy for her pre-teen, all this would have been dealt with in a much less litigious manner. This was a scene of her own making.AZ
"Liz, I'm not sure you read the entire article."I did- on paper, no less.But then, the eighties (when I grew up) had higher crime rates than now, and I babysat a two-year-old wen I was eleven, in the most dangerous of places: the home!
I originally wrote a watered down version, but THIS is what I really want to say to this mom:Wake up. If your town is big enough for a Macy's, it's big enough for a child predator or two. Or ten. These freaks are experts at getting access to children. Why make it so easy for them? These children were sitting ducks. I am all for children learning their own lessons but NO child should have to learn that one. There is a reason you don't leave small children alone in public places with 12-year-olds: THEY DO THINGS LIKE WHAT YOUR DAUGHTER DID. The consequences are too steep. Quit your whining and count yourself lucky that the mall cop found them first.
Just out of curiosity, I looked it up on the Montana sex offender registry. http://www.doj.mt.gov/svor/search.asp106 offenders. No way in hell would I EVER leave those kids alone in that mall.
Ok, change the scenario a bit: an eleven yr old, a seven yr old, and a four yr old, all siblings walking around a big city with two older boys, a fifteen yr old and a twelve yr old and the 12 yr old has a bb gun that looks like a .9mm. They were six blocks away from the three siblings' home. Should the parent(s) of the three siblings be charged with neglect??
I can't for the life of me see the need to leave small children- yes they are all children - alone at the mall. MAYBE the 12yo's, but anything can happen to young girls. Everyone reading this has seen a creepy secrity guard or "mall walker" creep around- a seven and 8yo CHILD and especially a 3yo child should NEVER EVER be left alone in my opinion. There is no need to take a risk that something may happen to these children. Kids are abducted in front of their homes - we've all heard about Jaycee Duggar this week. Or how about Adam Walsh? Any of this ring a bell? Yes, it's rare for an abduction but if it's preventable- then WHY take the risk. There are plenty of ways to teach responsibility to your kids. Putting them at possible risk shouldn't be a parenting strategy.
Dear Mrs. Lieb,The only part of your "crime" that I wouldn't have easily committed myself was leaving a generic 3yo in the care of a generic 12yo. I write that without knowing your daughter, as I WOULD have left a generic 3yo in the care of MY son or MY daughter at 12.Welcome to the Nanny State. If it's gotten to Montana, even my beloved Texas is soon doomed.I worked on a farm and drove a truck to the feed store at 12. We all walked to our elementary school (by ourselves) starting in kindergarten. The walk was just over a mile each way, with about a 1/2 dozen street crossings.Our neighbor was a former Navy Corpsman in Vietnam. He put lots of stitches in us, saving us a trip to the doctor.My dad caught me sneaking one of his beers when I was 13. He sat down with me and we drank beer through the whole football game on TV, with me being required to keep up with him. My next beer was at 18. I set aside my plans to try smoking after the beer incident.We went to the state fair with $15 (in 1978). We were counseled to not blow it all too quickly. That money included dinner. He wasn't kidding. I was hungry after spending it all on rides by 3pm. The next year I ate well at dinner time.Interesting that the young police officer was the least flexible. Having just emerged from several years of Nanny State Education will do that to you.He'll recover when his second child reaches about 6.I hope you are well.JAB
I'm an unmarried male, almost 60 years old.You did nothing wrong. This was a travesty. My jaw dropped when I read the cop told you to shut up and threatened to cuff you. That power-drunk prosecutor should be removed from office and disbarred. Maybe she was working out HER OWN guilt. If I had been on the mock (or real) jury, I would've just laughed like the rancher. But I'm not laughing now.A murder in Bozeman? Sweet Jesus! Jump in the car IMMEDIATELY, leave everything behind, and move from that pit of violence to...where? WHERE? OH NO!Like many other people and groups, the "Nanny State" USES guilt to extend control over ordinary citizens.Jim C. - demento.fan /at/ gmail =dot= com
"I do feel that the reaction of the police was over the top. But I am also reasonably sure that if Mrs. Lieb had been willing to admit that she had made a mistake instead of vigorously defending her less-than-well-thought-out parenting decisions and her need to provide autonomy for her pre-teen, all this would have been dealt with in a much less litigious manner. This was a scene of her own making."No. The young cop CLEARLY would not listen. He had already made up his mind. Just like the prosecutor did.Mrs. Lieb's lawyer was able to arrange a diversion, but I wonder if he missed an opportunity, by not moving to have the prosecutor removed on the basis of bias. That was not prosecutorial discretion, it was grandstanding and quite possibly an expiation of her own guilt about something.Mrs. Lieb's only parenting mistake was to mis-judge the level of attention her daughter would bring to her care-giving duties. But that was NOT a breach of her duty of care under the law. Her daughter breached *her* 'duty of care' by failing to keep watch at all times.Maybe Mrs. Lieb should consider that it is time to run for office in Bozeman (or the county) so that she can instruct the prosecutor on the proper reaction to an incident where NO damage or injury occurs... that is, do not waste taxpayer's money and proscutorial time on non-event "crimes". From the sound of it, about 50% of the populace would agree with 'non-nanny-state' candidate in Bozeman. (Good luck with that in lots of other places!).
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What's ironic to me is that the older children took care of the younger ones in exactly the same way this mother took care of all of them: she decided to let the 12 year olds watch the other three at the mall so she could have some down time (which I know all parents need). They decided to let the 8 and 7 year old watch the 3 year old while they went to try on clothes. I'm sure they thought, "It's not far. We'll just be in the dressing room. We'll only be gone a few minutes. This is a safe place. What could go wrong?" They probably even laid down some ground rules like, "Stay right here until we get back." Maybe they thought it was time to start teaching them self-reliance and responsibility! I'm sorry, but how is that much different from dropping these five kids off at the mall unsupervised? The mother admits that she would have been angry with the 12 year olds for what they did, so why is she not admitting guilt for doing basically the same thing to all five of these children? I agree with many of the posters here that say children need to learn self-reliance and responsibility, but our responsibility as parents is that they can learn those things in safe environments. I'm not sure that a very public place like the mall (even in Bozeman, MT) is the best place to learn those things. You can say it's a victimless crime because the children were unharmed, but that's like saying you shouldn't get a ticket for driving 20 miles an hour over the speed limit because you didn't hit or kill anyone. It's a crime because the risk is just too high. Having said all that, what's unfortunate to me is that this was pushed so far in the legal process. If the officer had simply told her, "Look, you made a bad choice. Don't drop your kids off at the mall unsupervised anymore," and not charged her with a crime, I think the outcome would have been acceptable to everyone. She probably would have thought twice next time before leaving her children unaccompanied in the mall for the right reasons. Instead, this mother was pushed to legally defend her actions and missed the opportunity to learn from them. Now she won't leave them alone at the mall because she's afraid of being unfairly prosecuted, not because she sees it as a poor parenting choice.
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I believe children should not be given adult responsibilities. I am a mother of 3 children, 14, 10 and 6. I was given the responsibility of looking after my little sister when I was younger (10 - 16) and i would never put that kind of responsibility on my own children. No one has the right to put a child under that much pressure. Does any parent even concieve of the amount of near misses regarding safety that their kids would never dream of telling them about? I was a good kid. Most kids are. But the fact is kids are children not little adults. And kids will be kids. I resent the responsibility that was forced on me - too much too young so that my parents could work 2 jobs for that nice house that doesnt belong to me. It would be wonderful to be working two jobs and investing all that money in material things but not at the expense of my kids. My spouse and I make financial sacrifices so that there is always a parent or adult present. i would never (unless there was an absolute emergency) put my children in the care of other children, no matter who they are. That is the parents job. I understand its difficult because sometimes you need the help from them so that you can rest or work etc but we dont have our children to support us in our life, we have them to give them their own. By the way, to those that think that protecting kids so much leads them to drink and muck about when they are older.....the ones that dont have adult supervision growing up are doing it before they are old enough legally. Thats a cultural issue not a protective parenting one. This is not to make any parent feel guilty, that would be unhelpful, this is my opinion based on my experiences. My ingredients for my receipe, everyone has their own.
I think that Mrs. Lieb needs to change her final summation to Guilty as Charge.You do not leave a three year old, seven year old and 8 year old at a mall being supervised by two 12 year olds.I don't care how responsible and trained your 12 year old daughter is, the girls wanted to go to the mall but because YOU are feeling overwhelmed you tag on the provision that they needed to take the younger kids. What type of mother endangers her children for some nap time? Yes kids are a handful, yes having kids and working full time is tiresome, yes it is exhausting to have kids, a job and a pets. So let's start by freeing up your load. Lose the fish, the cat, the hamster and the dog if it is too much for you. I don't care if you live in a town so small that the mall is bubbled wrapped for security, a parent cannot teach responsibility and common sense to children, when she thinks it is appropriate to drop off a three year old at the mall with slightly older children. The court system should have sent you to parenting classes and maybe a lovely visit with parents who have children either maimed, dead or missing because they were left unattended.
I wanted to support you Ms. Lieb, I really did. But after reading about you and your exhaustion all I can say is: "Are you stupid?" It is highly unlikely that two 12-year-olds could get around a mall without "making a ruckus" (I've been a preteen girl, we like to shriek and run and try things on and giggle and be loud). I'm pretty sure, though, that the 12-year-olds would have been just fine. I would have left them without hesitation, but to require them to babysit too? Without a ruckus? Without leaving kids alone? You my dear need to take a class in common sense...and parenting. I'm sorry for your exhaustion - we are all often exhausted as parents. Unfortunately, that doesn't give us the right to pawn our children off on unsuspecting mall personnel...or our 12-year-old daughter. Please, please don't go around promoting yourself as a hero. Please take this as the warning you obviously need. Children are precious and need our protection - we do not need to cower behind them and our exhaustion. Often, children need a mother at home to care for just them - and not be so concerned about their own personal needs. This might have given you the opportunity to watch your own children that day!I'm not a perfect parent, but I always, always put my kids first. I never check out on them because I simply am too tired - or can't deal. We all have hard lives.
Mrs Lieb, you didn't do anything wrong. There are responsible 12 year olds, and not-so-responsible 12 year olds. You made a judgement, and had everyone's consent. You know your kids better than anyone.... and by the sounds of it, they're more responsible than the average 16 year old.While children should be protected, they shouldn't be coddled to the point of never learning responsibility. I feel badly for the kids of parents who treat them like pre-schoolers until they're 18. Then when these kids go to college, they have no idea how to behave like responsible adults. THOSE are the kids who get in trouble, and it's their parents who did a terrible job!
I believe Mrs. Lieb should have the sole discretion as to when her children are old enough to be allowed to go to the mall alone. The Bozemon government should have no say in the rearing of a citizen's children. If I were she, I would sue the prosecutor and the police. That said, I will agree that throwing a three-year-old into the mix was taking a gamble.
As a mom I think it was poor judgement for Mrs. Lieb to leave her children at the mall and frankly they were endangered. It doesn't matter that she lives in a small community where everyone knows each other and she felt "safe" leaving them - many abductions and crimes happen in small towns and at malls. I am a Montessori mom and I'm all about empowering children towards independence but this is a different time than it was in her childhood and the sad fact is that there are predators out there. I remember being 12 and at a birthday party at the mall - we went to a movie - the girl's mom forgot to pick us up so we had to make our way back home and we were terrified. I do not agree with Mrs. Lieb's choice at all nor do I agree with her loudly protesting people who were trying to help keep her children safe. If you want a rest - take a nap at home where your kids are safe. I am appalled.
We live in a fair-sized European city where children routinely go out by themselves from the age of six or seven. Our kids did not do that, but I respect the decisions of mothers here who realize--correctly in my opinion--that children need to develop a sense of gradual independance. The thought that the mother of two twelve-year olds would be prosecuted for leaving the kids with three younger ones at the mall for two hours is just laughable.
It is now 2012. What was the verdict of the case, could you please share? Thanks
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