I’ve heard all the rationalizations, the explanations. The most common apologia goes something like this: “You don’t understand, these parents have large families. It’s a lot to handle. They can’t be everywhere at every moment. They do the best they can.”
What’s wrong with that way of thinking? For one thing, it suggests that having many children is an excuse for shoddy parenting. I am a new mother, joyously raising my first child. So no, I don’t know what it’s like to juggle a house full of youngsters. But I know that once a couple brings a child into the world, that child is their responsibility to take care of – a difficult mission that should be not accepted lightly.
Of course, it’s not just those with large families who can feel overwhelmed; taking care of even one child is an exhausting 24-hour job. But parenting is not baseball. We don’t get three strikes. There are no excuses when it comes to safety – not for letting a baby travel in a car without a car seat, or a toddler play alone in the backyard, or a child too young to ride a bike walk unchaperoned to a neighbor’s house.
In our material world, parents ought to put as much energy into protecting their children as they do protecting their homes. I’ll never forget what my cousin once told me about a couple she knew going away on vacation and leaving their kids with a babysitter. They were busy locking up their silver and valuables. How, she wondered, could they entrust their children to a caregiver whom they could not trust with their mere possessions?
I still don’t know whether I did the right thing keeping quiet in the store the other day. But if perchance that mother is reading this article, she’s certainly heard an earful. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll pardon my intrusion and, from now on, think twice about letting go of her child’s hand.