Recently, a New Canaan, Connecticut mother was arrested for leaving her thirteen-year old daughter in charge of watching her three younger siblings while she attended church.
According to , police arrested Rebecca Young, 39, of New Canaan, for leaving her children unattended at home and charged her with risk of injury to a minor.
Young told police that she left her house at 1:30 p.m. and had a babysitter due to arrive at 2 p.m. She left her 13-year old in charge for the half-hour between the time she left and the hired babysitter was expected.
Authorities became involved when a neighbor of Young's phoned police to report that a four-year old had wandered into her yard alone.
If it is criminal to leave a 13-year old alone to babysit children, then I am one guilty editor with a lot of guilty girlfriends. The summer I turned 12, I was working as a mother's helper for a woman who had two young girls. She would regularly leave me unattended to watch the girls while she ran errands. Most times she was gone for longer than a half-hour.
Being the days before cell phones, in her absence I was instructed that if I encountered any problems I could call on any of the neighbors for help. In fact, the neighbors would regularly check on me either by landline phone call or by knocking on the door to see if I was okay. That's what neighbors did back then.
Besides which, for my friends with younger siblings, it was a tradition to be anointed babysitter at an age that was often younger than 13.
Which is why I wonder if I'm the only one shocked that this particular neighbor called the police. What happened to taking the child back home to see if there was a greater problem? What happened to the common courtesy of checking in on our neighbors? Have we so isolated ourselves behind the glass curtains of our homes that we only look out, but never reach out?
And what if this was not a 4-year old, but an elderly parent with Alzheimer's who managed to walk out of the house? Would that also result in an arrest of the caretaker? With all stress of the demands placed on people today, particularly women who still shoulder the burden of being the primary caretakers of children and aging parents, wouldn't it be nice if our neighbors could lend us a hand, instead of handcuffs?
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