You don’t own them. Children are not possessions that belong to you. Children are a blessing, but it’s more important that we bless them. They are not here to entertain or titillate adults, to make us look good, to justify our existence or to give adults a whipping post for taking out anger. They are not even here to love us; they are here to be loved.
Since you don’t own them, don’t be mean to your children if they act badly in public. The public will be more disgusted with your behavior than the child’s. The purpose of discipline is to nurture and train the child so that he or she grows into a healthy adult. It is not to vent your anger, or even to make your life easier. It isn’t about you.
Note to men: Dating a woman does not give you the right to discipline her children.
Note to frustrated parents: Children are not things you can put away when you’re tired of them — not in a closet, not in a car, not in a cage, not in a drug-induced stupor, and not in a shallow grave. They are in your care, but you don’t own them.
In fact, they own you. According to the law, every child has a right to be cared for and financially supported from the moment he or she emerges into the world until the age of 18. If you are the biological or adopted parent of a minor child, that child owns you.
You have certain responsibilities, and the rest of society will condemn or punish you for failing to meet them. Children have the right to expect that their caregivers will feed them (more than once a day, and something other than Lucky Charms), clothe them, nurture them and teach them. When you can’t take care of them, you have to find someone who can.
State law does not specify at what age a child may be left alone — but 6 isn’t it. Parked cars do not make good babysitters, although they do make good ovens. For a small child, being inside a car unsupervised is as dangerous as standing in the highway. In the summer it only takes minutes for a child to become brain-damaged in a parked car (even with the windows “cracked”).
Children in cars are also at risk for kidnapping, car-jacking, parking lot wrecks, engine fires, putting the car in gear, or injuring themselves on the power windows. Many automobile-related child deaths occur in the parent’s or grandparent’s own driveway.
Committing a crime against “your” child is not somehow better than committing a crime against a stranger. In fact, it is worse because you had a responsibility to protect that particular child from harm.
Children are people. This would seem to be self-evident. You would think that when a child emerges from the womb, both new parents would look down at that tiny face — a mirror of their own — and instantly fall in love. You would think that for them, that child would suddenly become the most important person in their life — the very sun around which the rest of their solar system rotates.
But here are some tips for those parents that do not experience such a paradigm shift: Ropes are for cattle, not children. If it is illegal to do to your dog, it’s also illegal to do to a child.
Pavement is blisteringly hot, and the men’s restroom floor is nasty, so put shoes on your child when you go out. Children should never be subjected to addictive, cancer-causing, asthma-triggering cigarette smoke — and certainly not in an enclosed space like your car. Oh, and when the diaper package says a diaper will hold “up to 34 pounds,” that indicates the size of the child, not the amount of excrement it will hold.
In our society, there is no excuse for cruelty to children. If you cannot or will not give your child the basic requirements of life (food, clothing, cleanliness, safety and a little love) then please be grown-up enough to hand that child over to someone who will.
-- Jeannie Babb Taylor