DEAD TODDLER DEBATE

Thomas Nephew is outraged that Michelle Malkin is outraged at parents who leave their children to die in vans.

Malkin cites a handful of such cases to make a rather broad point:

Parent activists are demanding more laws, regulation and government oversight to prevent similar deaths. “Kids in Cars,” a non-profit group, has launched a legislative and educational campaign with bumper stickers that warn: “A car is not a babysitter.”

Some of these measures may help. But there is a need to look deeper. I believe Dakota, Nehemiah, David, Amber, Brandon, Darnecia, Dominique, Zaniyah, Chloe and Alan are not merely victims of isolated day-care accidents. They are also symptoms of a culture where parents treat children as disposable as their diapers. Some of these kids probably spent more of their brief lives in their deadly car seats than they did in their own parents’ laps.

It is absolutely unfathomable to me that anyone could leave a child forgotten in a car, like an old umbrella or a fast-food wrapper. But then again, we live in an age where teens dump their newborns in toilets and junkies sell their offspring for drugs and “liberated” women pick up and drop off their kids at day care as nonchalantly as their dry cleaning.

Now, clearly, the vast majority of parents who leave their kids at day care don’t leave them to die in vans. And including putting kids in day care in the same comma series as selling babies to support one’s drug habit or abandoing them in toilets is rather idiotic.

Still, outrage over such behavior is more understandable than Nephew’s reaction:

Aha. YOU INSUFFERABLE, ARROGANT PIG . . . . At least I don’t use dead children and — who knows — maybe add to their parents’ anguish to make crappy little culture war points, I thought furthermore. FATHOM THIS, YOU SELF-RIGHTEOUS TWIT, I added silently: the hell with you and all your nasty right-wing pals wagging their fingers at me and my wife and all the other decent people who put their kids in day care. MAYBE YOU HAVE A CRACK HABIT OR SOMETHING AND JUST REALLY NEEDED THE MONEY, EVEN IF YOU HAD TO WRITE A SHAMEFUL PIECE OF TRASH LIKE THIS, I mused more charitably.

Frankly, anything that adds to the anguish of parents who leave their kids to die a miserable death in a hot van is fine by me. Or, should I say, FINE BY ME.

Malkin makes a reasonable point in an unreasonable manner. There are indeed a disturbing number of cases all over the country of abandoned babies, neglected children, children murdered by parents, crack babies, fetal alcohol syndrome babies, and all manner of other instances of children being treated as disposable. Not to mention, of course, a phenomenal number of abortions performed solely for the convenience of the erstwhile mother. And, yes, frankly, there are a large number of kids shunted off to the lowest-available-cost daycare service so that both parents can find “fulfillment” in their “careers” even though one income would be more than adequate to provide for them. It’s rather difficult to argue that having one’s kids raised by minimum wage workers is the best possible scenario. Is this the equivalent of treating kids like disposable hamburger wrappers? No. Tantamount to murder? Of course not. But it’s a reasonable discussion in which to engage.

(Hat tip: Brett Marston)

Update (17:55) — Kevin makes a point in the comments with which I generally agree: In general, kids are treated *far* more lovingly and given way more attention than they ever were in the past. The slightest attention to history would convince you of this, and a teensy bit of research into childhood death statistics would nail the case shut.

I think it’s true that, because people are more affluent, have more leisure time, have fewer children, and no longer need their children as farm laborers, most parents dote on their kids more than in the past. They also cart them around to soccer practice and various other activities.

On the other hand, kids almost certainly spend less time with their parents than they did just a couple decades ago. When I was growing up–and I’m only 37–it was “normal” for kids to have two parents–almost always the original set–living in the same household, with the mother staying at home to raise them at least until school age. Day care and latchkey kids were rather unusual for all but the poorest households.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kevin Drum says:

    I hope no one will take this as a defense of morons who leave their kids in cars, but….

    Malkin is spewing drivel. In general, kids are treated *far* more lovingly and given way more attention than they ever were in the past. The slightest attention to history would convince you of this, and a teensy bit of research into childhood death statistics would nail the case shut.

    Malkin, like so many conservatives, is simply pining away for good old days that never really existed. It’s an occupational hazard.

  2. Meezer says:

    The fact that people appear “more loving” does not mean that they love more or that parents in the past loved less. “Spare the Rod” was believed to be the best way to ensure children’s and society’s future happiness and welfare. We believe that was wrong. 100 years from now, the parents then (assuming Huxley wasn’t correct) will be horrified at what we “have done” to our [by inference] unloved children.

    My evidence that we do not “love” our children as much as those from the past: we are willing to enslave them financially for our own comfort’s sake. I refuse to join AARP and other such groups for that reason.

  3. jen says:

    Malkin, like so many conservatives, is simply pining away for good old days that never really existed. It’s an occupational hazard.

    I’m happy to say that I do pine away for the good old days. I lived them – and I’m only 36 – so it wasn’t that long ago.

    I was fortunate to be brought up in a home where my parents not only managed to stay together, but to stay in love with each other, with a lot of hard work. And they loved my sister and me enough to give us solid boundaries, disciplined us when we misbehaved (including spanking), took the time to teach us manners, and modelled for us what a good marriage and excellent parenting can be.

    My mother rarely worked, and when she did it was only when we were in school and part time. And they managed to raise us on my Dad’s moderate military salary – we never lacked for shelter, food, clothes, other necessities (glasses, braces), or extras (music lessons, toys, books, games). It can be done, happily and with well-adjusted kids.

    And my parents would never, never, never have left us strapped in our car seats in a hot car on a summer day because they “forgot” about us.

  4. I am not outraged that Michelle Malkin is outraged at parents who leave their children to die in vans. I was outraged that she used these tragedies to impugn day care centers in general and the parents who entrust their children to them.

    I’d hesitate to pillory any parent of such a victim who is likely doing a better job of that him/herself (for all I know from the anecdotes Malkin lists). Moreover, several of Malkin’s examples were not about parents leaving the child alone, but day care workers. I thought at least those children’s parents didn’t deserve their anguish to be turned into a spectacle for Malkin’s cheap points. So I got steamed, and wrote in CAPS. Sorry.

    Malkin is trying to equate the mere act of employing day care with leaving babies in the trash etcetera. It was an outrageous point. There may be some valid discussion to be had about the issues she raises, but not with her.

  5. Michael says:

    Malkin’s story stopped way short of pointing a finger at the REAL problem here. It’s conservative economic policy that’s forced the working class family to require two incomes to make ends meet. Raising the minimum wage up to about $7.50 an hour would be a good start towards putting these families in a position where one parent could play the role of bread winner and the other the role of full time care giver. Not a snowball’s chance in Hades of that happening anytime soon. We have billions for war and billions to give the wealthy a tax cut but not one penny for the families who need it most. And don’t even go into that “trickle-down” nonsense. I’ve never seen it trickle any way but up under a Republican administration.

  6. Anyone who is still making minimum wage and has a child–much less “children”–is behaving irresponsibly. (Put it this way: one could be an accident, and can be cared for if both parents work. More than one–with both parents still making minimum wage–looks a lot like thoughtlessness.)

    Suddenly, we’re discussing how economic policy affects family life . . . . How about the fact that we are now taxed at such a high rate (compared with the first half of the last century) that many, many families are forced into the dual-income scenario, thereby creating the need for day care among middle-class parents who otherwise wouldn’t have to resort to it.

    I know plenty of loving parents whose kids are in day care. But parenting as a profession–like teaching–has suffered a brain drain ever since the woman’s movement seduced us away from homes and schools. We haven’t really solved either problem yet in a satisfactory way. This is the new world: smart women have more options.

    But someone still has to raise the kids, and it’s truly a worthwhile endeavor.

  7. Kevin, I’m not sure “childhood death statistics” tell us jack about family life. They say a lot about scientific/medical progress, but that’s it.

  8. Kathy K says:

    Well, I’ve got a couple of books written back in the twenties (non-fiction) that mention babies being forgotten and left in a buggy for hours. The writers thought it funny.

    I actually think it’s probably just about the same percentage incidence of such things nowadays with two differences.
    1) An open buggy is much less dangerous than a closed-up car in the sun.
    2) Back then people didn’t hear about such things except in a book, or possible a humorous story in a small-town paper.