Don't Sacrifice Safety For Convenience

I just returned from dropping my son off at preschool. Today is much like yesterday in that the weather is abysmal. Rain is coming down in sheets; it’s cold; windy. In short, not a nice morning to be out if you don’t have to be.

I happen to live in a town where everyone feels safe. We have a very, very low crime rate. In fact, most of the time the police stay busy by doing community events or responding to medical emergencies. And because the town I live in is one of the more affluent in the area, the population here feels as though crime is something that happens everywhere else except for here. If you scooped up everyone who has that mentality of, “well that sucks, but something like that will never happen to me” and dropped them somewhere, you’d probably have my town. Minus the one dude whose family has a much more real-world pragmatism about personal safety, ha ha…

I’ve tweeted about the encounters I’ve had before with mothers who think nothing of leaving their kids alone in the car (sometimes with the engine running) while they drop another child off. In all of these instances, I’ve spoken to them about how careless that type of behavior is. Within a mile radius of the elementary school, there is both a Level 2 and a Level 3 sex offender living. This comes as a wake-up call to some of the mothers I’ve spoken to. To others, they simply bury their head even deeper in the sand and scream “nyah nyah nyah” as their way of dealing with the reality that Yes, Virginia, even a wealthy town has sex offenders.

This morning, one of the mothers that I’ve come to know and like over the past few years came rushing in and then said to the child she was dropping off, “I’ve got to go now, honey. Meghan and Ken are still in the car.” Meghan is this woman’s brand-new newborn baby girl. Ken is a few years older. I groaned inside because here again was yet another person who has forsaken the safety of her children for the convenience of not having to drag them all inside with her. What made it even worse is the fact that she acknowledged that she was a bad mother for doing such a thing to another mother. But then she started a new conversation with that mother and promptly forgot all about her urgent need to return to the car.

Here’s the thing: I understand that it’s a pain in the ass to drag three kids out of a car and hustle them inside, especially on a crappy day like today. I get it. You’re just going to be a few minutes. You don’t want to deal with the hassle of it. “I’m just going to have to put them all back in their car seats again.” Or “I don’t want to expose them to the rain.” These are all the excuses I’ve heard before and then some.

But you know what? It takes literally seconds for someone to come into the parking lot (which isn’t large at all) cruise around, see a target of opportunity, and nab that child and then be gone.

SECONDS.

I’ve known plenty of people who have willfully chosen to remain ignorant of their personal safety over the years. Trying to explain to nouveau riche mutual fund managers that a threat against them is, in fact, serious and no, his protection escorts will not be carrying his luggage is an experience in and of itself. And my attitude toward people like this and others (say, those who go jogging at 3 o’clock in the morning through a shadowy urban area with their iPod headphones blasting) is one of acceptance. If they want to be that stupid, then so be it. More oxygen for me and my loved ones.

But when it comes to children -little children, especially – I have no such acceptance or tolerance. It’s fine to forsake your own safety, but kids have nowhere else to turn to. They look to their parents as their source of safety, not knowing how to protect themselves. And a parent’s first priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of their children. It is NOT to see how easy they can make their own lives.

I’m the first one to admit that parenting and convenience do not go hand-in-hand. But that’s the deal you strike with the universe when you make the conscious decision to bring another human being into this world. You are saying, “yes, I know this isn’t going to be easy, but the joy of raising a new soul is worth whatever challenges and heartache I might face. I want this.” If you’re not comfortable with giving up your streamlined schedule, your 3 martini lunch, or your two o’clock massage with Diego then DON’T BECOME A PARENT.

If there’s one thing that my background has taught me it’s that bad things can happen ANYWHERE. It doesn’t matter how rich your town is or how gosh-darn-comfy-safe you feel in your McMansion – all it takes is for you to open yourself up and give the wrong person the opportunity they need and everything changes in a heartbeat. And suddenly, all those martinis, tennis lessons, and massages don’t mean shit. Because you just fucked up and now you’ve got to live with the consequences of that stupid decision.

Don’t force your children to deal with the consequences of your stupidity.

Don’t sacrifice safety for convenience.

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6 comments

  • Scott Smith February 25, 2010  

    Good stuff, John. Especially in light of all the tragic stories we see in the media these days about children who are taken by predators.

  • jonfmerz February 25, 2010  

    Thanks Scott. These stories are in the news everyday and we even had an abduction fairly close to here a week or so back, but it just doesn’t seem to register that it could happen even in a nice town. Sad…

  • Julie February 25, 2010  

    Couldn’t have said it any better, Jon! Thanks for writing this piece.

  • Susan February 25, 2010  

    You ever see those women in their early 20’s pregnant with 3-4 children boarding a bus while their “man” just carries the beer? They have a handful of kids, beer, no car… grrrr

    I was leaving my house the other day and one of these nitwits was walking up the road. No sidewalk. The ENTIRE shoulder of the road 4-6 feet in snow. She’s walking IN THE ROAD with an infant running from driveway to driveway so she won’t get splatted. I gave her a rider up to the corner store — she needed cigarettes, she said. I was taking pity on the baby, who was naked except for a diaper and a blanket. It was about 17 degrees out.

    I asked how old she was during the 4 block ride… 14!

    I was SO SO SO tempted to report the convenience store for selling cigarettes to a minor, but would it have done the baby any good?

    Nah. Help who you can how you can.

  • Sarah Ellis February 25, 2010  

    Great post and reminder to us all.

  • KK February 26, 2010  

    Oh, please, visit my restaurant some day at your convenience (first beer’s on me). Cringe in horror at the moms letting their kids run top-speed in any direction while they sip chardonnay and yakyakyak away. It makes me want to print business cards that read “HI! By the time you’ve finished reading this, that child of yours that you can no longer see or hear is getting even farther away…” It might snap some of them out of it, but it’s probably too heavy-handed.
    I think we ought to make kid’s shoes with a GPS chip inside…technology might succeed where humans err.
    Definitely a good essay, though, this should be in every newspaper.
    Best, KK

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