September 22nd, 2021


Mom-Shaming Gone Viral

Lenore Skenazy

By Lenore Skenazy

Published August 12, 2015

A video going viral shows a young man named Carl Paz entering a Sprint store in Torrance, California, to confront whoever let a baby wait in the car parked right in front of the store's plate-glass window.

When a mom in the store says it's her child, Paz, who is already videotaping the encounter, tells her, "As a good parent, I would go out and check on my baby."

The mother says that's why she parked her car where she can look on. "There's nothing wrong with my kid being right there."

"In your sense, maybe there's nothing wrong," Paz responds.

You bet, in her sense ! She's the mom. She cares far more about the child than Paz does — but he assumes she doesn't. Because we've all been trained to judge parents mercilessly and assume the worst.

But the mom is right. There is nothing wrong with a child waiting a few minutes in a car.

Yes, I know we have been exhorted to believe every child in every parked car, even 10 feet from a parent, is in immediate danger of heat stroke or kidnapping. But in fact, the most dangerous thing the mom did that day was driving her child at all. Kids are in more danger in moving cars than parked ones — traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among children ages 2 to 14 — and yet we don't make viral videos every time a mom drives her kid to the mall.

We go crazy when we've been told to go crazy, and lately we've been told to go crazy when a kid is waiting in a car, no matter what the circumstances. Paz even parrots the mantra "If you see something, say something" — a phrase that implies we are in such constant danger, we must be on the lookout at all times.

Fact: Of the average 30-40 children who die of heat stroke in parked cars each year, 80 percent are either forgotten there (which was not the case here) or got in without anyone knowing and could not get out. They are found too late. That leaves about 10 children a year who die in cars where we don't know exactly how it happened.

As for the odds of this child being in true danger, here's the math: If there are 40 million children under age 10 in America (and there are), and if they take an average of, let's say, 10 car rides a week, we are talking about 20.8 billion kid car rides a year. And 1 in every 2,080,000,000 of those trips could possibly prove fatal because a parent left a child in the car during an errand. Should we really be regulating parental choice based on 1-in-2-billion odds?

No. And by the way: more kids die in parking lots than in parked cars.

What I appreciate about Paz is that he did NOT call the cops, because he knew that this could easily bring on a Child Protective Services investigation, and the family could be traumatized.

On the other hand, he posted the video on Facebook, including a close-up of the license plate, and now the police are apparently looking into the matter. In the meantime, on his page, strangers are calling the mom a "bitch" and "crackhead" — which would make most of our own moms bitches and crackheads, because most of us waited out some errands in the car.

I wish the mom well, even as she is raked over the coals for doing something so innocuous.

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