Monday, January 08, 2007

Sitters Aren't Necessary if You're Married

They called it the week of heroes in New York City. In three different instances, bystanders saved life. In the third instance, a three-year-old climbed out onto a fourth-floor fire escape while a sitter was otherwise occupied. Two men saw the child about to fall and caught it. While New York may have improved its civility since the murder of Kitty Genovese, when bystanders did nothing, I was troubled by some details in the story of the child. I noted at once that the boy and his mother had different surnames. This working, single mother left her child in the care of a negligent sitter. She probably paid a good fraction of her wage for this service. Would a sitter have been necessary, if the woman had been, you know, married? A tragedy was averted; but children should not have to rely on the kindness or bravery of strangers, when the disordered lives of their parents put them at risk.


Hmmmm. I don't normally cut+paste from someone else's blog, if I have something to say, I say it in their comment section - but in this case I'm forced to say it here. Alan tends to not like posting my comments and that's his perogative. However, this disturbs me enough to think that it's only fair that it gets refuted to some degree - and by whom better than a "working single mother?"

Not only that, I wonder just how many people agree with him on this one?

I'll try to take this in order here:

1) There's no real evidence that this child's mother WAS a single mother. She may have been married, she may be living with the child's father, she may be a widow, she may be almost anything. It's somewhat unfair to "guess" at her marital status based on different last names. My children and I have different last names....doesn't mean I wasn't married while I was raising them. Doesn't mean I was, either. Point is, it really isn't anyone's business, is it?

2) Why are we assuming that the sitter was negligent? Because she took her eyes off the child for a second or two? Show me a sitter (or a parent) who says she hasn't turned the other way or answered a phone or picked up a cookie while caring for a small child and I'll show you someone who's probably lying about it. As any parent of small children can tell you - children can get in a whole world of hurt in about half a second - and you can be looking right at them while they do it. Eric Clapton's child fell to his death from a balcony while his mother was right there in the apartment with him. Shit happens. And it happens regardless of who's present and who's not present. I watched one kid bean another kid with a sledge hammer (accidently) and fracture his skull - not 12 feet away from me - but there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it - by the time I screamed "Look out" the hammer had connected with the forehead. Was I an unfit mother? Nope - just not quite quick enough. We cannot lock our children in a room nor wrap them up in cellophane - sometimes they get hurt. We can only do our best and pray alot.

3) As for "would this child have needed a sitter if the mother had been, you know, married" - the answer is probably yes. In today's world most parents, even in two-parent families, work. Now maybe that's sad, but it's fact. And they do it not necessarily to pay for "goodies" either - but to pay for things like food and shelter. The cost of living is bad enough here in DC, I can't imagine trying to raise a family in NYC. And if she was a single mother, and she was out there working to put food on the table, would you rather she be on welfare than bustin' butt trying to take care of her own?

4) Last but not least - if all the hypothesising done above really happens to be correct, how come no one wonders where Daddy was during all this? How come the question wasn't "Would the sitter have been necessary if the father was, you know, around?" I mean, he could have been the one out working while the mommy was staying home "where she belonged" or (novel idea, I know) he could have been home babysitting while mommy was out working. (Although for the life of me, I've never figured out why mothers who stay home are "parenting" and fathers who stay home are "babysitting.")

5) All children have two parents - regardless of how many of those parents they are living with. All parents are (or should be) equally responsible for providing for that child's welfare and upbringing. Why cast stones only at the custodial parent? After all, the custodial parent is the only one at least trying to do the right thing. Working to support your children is not bringing your own "disorder" to your child's life - it is a wonderful attempt to bring order into both lives.

I don't know the "whole story" here. I think that all any of us needs to know is just what the story reported - that two strangers thought enough of life to attempt to save one small falling child - and they did it without stopping to question the lifestyle, marital status or current whereabouts of the falling child's mother.

I mean, jeez, what if they had stopped long enough to think about all the things apparently thought of here? They might have gotten all rightously judgmental and decided that some lives are just not worth saving at all.


Julie Carter said...

Hear hear!

Radish King said...

Thanks for this.

Lo said...

Thanks to both of you. It needed saying. I'm sure it could have been said much more eloquently - but (as the single "disordered" mother of three boys) I'm not sure it could have been said more passionately.

And - just for fun, my word verification
is "gewsssboy"

SarahJane said...

Ha! I went through this twice thinking the list of points were what you had cut & paste into your blog, while the italized part was yours. imagine my surprise when i got into the comments box, where I was prepared to box your ears to find i was all wrong. just call me a disoriented mother of two children with a last name other than mine.