I got into a Facebook argument. Yes, I know better, but for some reason, I couldn’t let go of it.
It was about the family who was charged $132,000 when their five-year-old broke a statue located in a community center. It was on a thread complaining about loud children in restaurants. So, I really should have know better than to respond to any comment on it.
This is what they said about the $132,000 bill:
Of course it’s fair. People should be responsible for supervising their children in public places.
“What?” I asked, horrified. “Aren’t you more concerned that the statue might have killed that child? Why wasn’t it properly secured? A 5-year old shouldn’t be able to knock over a heavy object. What about the venue? What were they thinking? Why wasn’t there at least a rope around it? The family should counter-sue.”
I got two or three more responses to that statement.
The family deserved it. They shouldn’t have let their kids run around wild.
“But? But…OK…” I replied, trying to be reasonable. “C’mon. Why wasn’t the piece insured? Or was it? Did the insurance company deny the claim either because of negligence or because the statue wasn’t actually worth diddly?”
“And, C’mon…” I continued. “It’s really hard to watch a 5-year old while holding a baby. They get away from you, despite your best efforts. The young moms and the experts that I talk to didn’t think the bill was fair. They thought the venue should have taken better precautions. I watch my grandchildren carefully… but I have to have some faith that people will have taken basic precautions.”
No, it’s the mother’s fault.
I made yet another effort toward civil conversation. “Well, we don’t really know all the facts. We don’t know if the child hugged the statue or tried to climb it. Maybe this is a bit like the Internet Dress sensation. Some folks saw the dress as black and blue, while other’s, in equally good faith, saw it as white and gold.”
It’s nothing like the dress. Parents should be able to control their children. Or they shouldn’t bring them out in public.
I was surprised at how furious I was.
Wait, I said to myself. Take a breath. Put down your keyboard and walk away. Whatever you do, don’t write what you are thinking.
Really folks? Have you ever met a child!?
Really? Have you no compassion? $132,000 dollars for a moment of inattention?!
Really? You know, children are not just untidy annoyances that make too much noise in restaurants.
Really? Sanctimonious, much?
‘Wait,’ I thought, ‘don’t write it on Facebook.’ I thought. ‘Save it for a blog post!’
And, to make it less a rant, I tried for some historical significance. I thought about my own mother and how things were done back in the good-old-days in the 1950’s.
“Go outdoors.” I remember her saying. “Go to Grandma’s.”
“Carol-Ane,” she said at the store. “Watch your younger brothers and cousins. Don’t let them break anything.”
I remember one incident in particular. It was when my youngest brother nearly drowned. He must have been 3 or 4. He and his older brother, age 5, had taken off across the neighbor’s cow pasture next to my house. At the far side, there was a very small pond. No one knows if my older brother pushed him in or saved him. Or both. Only that both pre-schoolers came home soaking wet and explained how they got that way. My mother was apparently working next door. Her children were not only not in sight, but were 1000 feet away, not even in shouting distance.
She was failing to properly supervise.
But my neighbors’ response was not sanctimonious. I have no idea what he said in private, but the public action he took was to hire a bulldozer and fill in the pond. Right away. He felt a sense of collective responsibility for children, whether or not they were his own. (Or maybe my grandfather took him aside and had a ‘come-to-Jesus-moment.’ I don’t really know.)
But it’s a vicious circle. As a society, we have fewer and fewer kids. And people who don’t have kids have no idea. They don’t know how hard it is to ‘just control your children.’ So it gets harder to be a parent. And we have even fewer parents. And fewer aunts and uncles who have who have a clue; fewer grandfathers willing to exert pressure on a neighbor; and fewer officials who think about properly securing heavy statues in a community center. There are more and more people who seem to feel that parents should be totally responsible for raising their own children. After all, they choose that expensive hobby. They should go to restaurants instead.
Yeah. Like my Facebook argument, I fear that this will not end well. We might all need those children to feed us meals when we are all in nursing homes. They are our future and we shouldn’t carelessly break it.