It’s a Mad World

This story is a sad one: “A North Augusta mother is in jail after witnesses say she left her nine-year-old daughter at a nearby park, for hours at a time, more than once. . . . The girl is in the custody of the Department of Social Services.”

I have two reactions to the story. On the one hand, I remember growing up in Manhattan and my mother allowing me to travel to the school yard a couple of blocks away when I was in fourth grade (age 9-10) for “hours at a time.” She did not believe I was in danger, nor do I in retrospect think I was.

And so my reaction to jailing the mother, not to mention possibly taking away her child, is outrage.

On the other hand, I have to admit that I would not have let my children go to the park on their own and stay there for hours. How do I reconcile the inconsistency? I don’t know. I just down feel comfortable doing it.

I think the explanation is that social norms have changed. Children are simply not generally permitted to travel on their own as they once were. And that has an effect on us.

In a way, this story reminds me of my initial reaction to watching Mad Men. The initial description of that world – where, for example, the secretaries were called “the girl” – seemed both realistic and shocking. So much has changed.