Helicopter Parenting is Mandatory Now

Jameson Young, 4, left, plays with a smart phone as his brother Nolan, 3, looks on at their home, in Boston, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. Child development experts say it’s natural for toddlers to be fascinated with their own image, and that interest plays an important developmental role as they …
AP/Steven Senne

“Helicopter parenting” is mandated by law now. If you don’t hover over your children every moment they’re in public, you might be targeted by some “concerned citizen” with a cell phone and arrested by the police for “abandoning” them.

Such was the fate of Laura Browder, a 24-year-old woman with two young children who had recently moved to the Houston area. Representatives of a company interested in hiring her arranged a meeting at the food court of the Memorial City Mall. Unable to arrange child care on short notice, she figured it would be no problem to bring her 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son to the interview, keeping them in full view less than 30 yards away during the conversation.

She figured wrong. Browder got the job… and was then arrested by a police officer on the spot, and charged with “abandoning” her children. She was actually handcuffed, according to CBS News.

The Houston Chronicle casts a little doubt on her claim to have kept the children in full view at all times during the interview:

A mall security officer told Houston police that the mall was receiving calls about two children alone at a food court table, a Houston Police Department spokesman said. The HPD officer found the children and saw that a bystander was trying to comfort the toddler who was crying, spokesman John Cannon said.

While the officer was there, the mother returned and said she had been gone about 10 to 15 minutes for a job interview inside the mall.

There are some conflicts to be worked out in these accounts, but if we take both Browder and the mall security officer at their word, she was sitting at a table less than a hundred feet from her children, holding a job interview, for 10 to 15 minutes, during which time her 2-year-old began crying, a bystander decided to “comfort the toddler,” and multiple calls were made to the mall about the children. That’s a lot happening very fast. Browder might be criticized for not excusing herself from the meeting and rushing to deal with her crying child, but there’s a wide gulf between criticizing her and arresting her on the spot, with a round of CPS hearings to follow.

Fortunately, she caught the Leviathan in a relatively good mood, and was able to recover custody of her children after a court hearing. She’s now the subject of an investigation by Child Protective Services, which KHOU News in Houston reports has generously offered “services to help Browder find suitable daycare.” The Nanny State is ever quick to add insult to injury.

The Houston Chronicle notes that “Texas law doesn’t say how old is old enough for kids to be left alone,” but unnamed “authorities” warn that “inadequate supervision puts children at risk.” Yes, and inadequate common sense puts innocent people at risk. I guess you could say the Nanny State is practicing what it preaches, as it frets about leaving its child-citizens inadequately supervised.

Welcome to the flip side of the shameful degeneration of the rule of law in America. Normally we find ourselves goggling at the audacity of the Ruling Class waving aside laws that inconvenience them personally or offend their ideology, such as U.S. citizenship laws. Here we’ve got a young woman who doesn’t seem to have violated any law anyone can put a finger on, but she got arrested and handcuffed in front of her children and prospective employers anyway, and her life is now in the hands of mercurial bureaucrats who will, at best, humiliate her by making her sweat through an “investigation” into her fitness as a parent before letting her walk with some clucking about how she obviously needs help arranging for proper care.

I’m not familiar with the Memorial City Mall of Houston, but at my local shopping malls, small children wailing without receiving immediate attention from their parents is not an uncommon sight. We’re going to need a lot more police officers if we’re going to arrest them all.

It would be nice if we had some clear guidelines – you know, the sort of thing our grandparents would have called a law – specifying exactly how far parents can be from children of certain ages, and how long the kids can be left crying before the cuffs come out. Maybe parents could be required to wear ankle bracelets that beep, and eventually escalate to mild electric shocks, when they exceed the State-mandated maximum orbit from their children for too long. At the very least, they should be issued a chart of allowable times and distances based on the child’s age.

“This was very unfortunate this happened. I had a interview with a very great company with lots of career growth,” Browder said in a statement. “I am a college student and mother of two. I would never put my name, background or children in harms way intentionally. I have a promising future ahead of me regardless of what the media tries to portray me as. A judge released my children to me knowing that I was a good mother who just made a not so smart decision. My children weren’t even 30 yards away from me, I fed them and sat there with them until it was time to meet with my interviewer. This too will pass and I am not concerned with outsiders have to say or what they think.”

I admire her spirit, but I must sadly warn her that she does have to be concerned with what outsiders think. That’s how things work in this totalitarian era, where everything we say and do is freighted with political significance, and government agencies aggressively prowl for targets they can use to make the case for greater power and funding. The chance to get young children involved in a power play leaves Big Government voluptuaries fighting their drool reflex.

Browder’s story is one of several recent examples of highly aggressive “child neglect” actions. In June, a Florida couple was charged with felony neglect for leaving their 11-year-old son to play basketball unattended in their own backyard for an hour and a half. The boy and his four-year-old brother were taken away from their parents and bounced through foster homes for a month, which strikes most people as considerably more harmful than leaving an 11-year-old in the backyard for 90 minutes.

In that case, as with the Houston story, the officials who brought felony charges and took away the children had a great deal of difficulty pointing at any actual law the accused “felons” violated. Mix children with bureaucracy, and you get felonies dropping out of thin air.

There have been stories about questionable “child protection” actions for a long time, but the pace seems to be quickening of late. Perhaps it’s partially due to the spread of cell phones, which make it easy for any random observer to lodge complaints at the sound of a screaming child. Some of those observers might be acting out of annoyance, but others could be motivated by sincere concern about a world that seems to be growing steadily more dangerous for children.

Maybe it’s partly a result of bureaucrats and activists looking to work up a crisis mentality for their own ends. Filling the papers with stories about parents – especially single moms – getting busted for “neglect” is useful for those who demand more government-controlled, taxpayer-funded child care services, and various forms of welfare. It also helps citizens, particularly those single moms, to think of themselves as helpless without the strong guidance and loving protection of the mighty State.

Generations of welfare programs and left-wing social engineer annihilated the family unit. We’re not even allowed to talk about restoring it any more – that’ll get you busted by the Gay Marriage Police, faster than mall cops can bring in a uniformed officer to handcuff the mother of a screaming child. The result is a massive surge in the number of harried single mothers who need even more welfare services to avoid charges of neglect. Who says there’s no such thing as a perpetual-motion engine?

The story of an independent mother of two who moved to a new city, scored a job interview, and ended up in handcuffs will be folded into the Narrative used against heartless monsters who oppose the growth of the State with talk of independence, liberty, and responsibility.

After Browder’s story broke, another single mother in Houston, Tanisha Nkrumah, put up a Facebook post offering to babysit the children of single women with job interviews for free. She said she was soon contacted by supportive people asking how they could donate child-care supplies to her effort. That’s a wonderful story of people stepping up to help each other, but she’s only one person – and she’s a busy college student to boot.

It’s easy to imagine countless ways Big Gov can squash such efforts if they prove troublesome to the preferred political narrative. Already Click2Houston mentions that Nkrumah “is planning to get CPR-certified and she would like to be able to provide a background check for any mother who uses her services.” We’ll be told volunteer efforts are not good enough, and too risky in any event. The State must grow, as The People prove themselves ever less trustworthy.


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