They were coming home from a park, on this gorgeous, blossoming weekend, after playing.
And for this, a 10-year-old and his 6-year-old sister ended up in the back of a squad car. Again. For hours this time.
In the bizarre, nationwide culture war over how much freedom children should have to play outside alone, the youngest combatants — Rafi and Dvora Meitiv – are the ones being damaged the most.
This is all getting pretty ridiculous. Somehow, we’ve morphed from being a village that helps raise children to a parenting police state.
The Silver Spring, Maryland., siblings were about 21/2 blocks from their home Sunday when Montgomery County police got a call reporting them — gasp — playing alone.
“The police coerced our children into the back of a patrol car and kept them trapped there for three hours, without notifying us, before bringing them to the Crisis Center, and holding them there without dinner for another two and a half hours,” their mom, Danielle Meitiv, said to her Facebook friends. “We finally got home at 11 p.m., and the kids slept in our room because we were all exhausted and terrified.”
What a pathetic way to fight about parenting styles. Because the kids are the biggest victims in all this.
Imagine the cops telling two young children to get into the car as they argue that they know their way home, they know where they are going and that their dad said they could walk home. This is what happened in December. And Rafi and Dvora had nightmares about police snatching them that time, their mom told me.
Mom and Dad were dragged into court for that incident, and the nation debated whether they are good or bad parents. Montgomery County ruled that they were guilty of unsubstantiated child neglect. Which means no one could decide who was right.
This time, police were called again by an adult worried about these kids playing outside alone.
Capt. Paul Starks, the county police spokesman, told The Washington Post that the children were taken into custody at a county park about 5 p.m. and turned over to Child Protective Services. They were released to their parents at 10:30 p.m., said Starks, who added that the matter remains under investigation.
Danielle Meitiv, a climate-science consultant, offered a scarier account of what happened to her children. “The cops said they would drive them home, then kept the kids in the patrol car for three hours,” she told me on Monday. “Wouldn’t even let them out to use the bathroom.”
Imagine the message our society is sending the Meitiv kids by holding them in the back of a squad car and in a crisis center for nearly six hours because they were playing alone outside. And if what Danielle said is true — that police initially told the kids they were going to just drive them home — how is this not a kidnapping?
It’s outrageous, really.
If that adult who called police was worried about the kids, why not talk to them? Ask them where their parents were? Walk them home?
Or maybe it was someone who recognized the Meitiv kids, hated their parents’ very public free-range advocacy campaign — multiple television appearances included — and decided to get back at them.
If this is how we respond to children playing alone, my kids and I would’ve been locked up multiple times. Walking the dog around the block? Call the Capitol Police! Getting a popsicle at the corner store? Alert the social workers! Getting me the cheese I ran out of while making dinner? Book ’em!
We need to get a grip. I get that it’s a scary thing to let kids go. But it is absolutely necessary for them to become normal, functioning adults.
My kids play basketball and lacrockey (a made-up hockey/lacrosse thing) in our alley on Capitol Hill in Washington. It’s not a suburban cul-de-sac, believe me. The other day, a motorcycle cop rode up to them and asked if they had seen a man running past them.
This was the search that ended on H Street in Northeast Washington, with the capture of a man suspected of killing a security guard at the U.S. Census Bureau.
Did I let them play in the alley again the next day? You bet.
Because when I drove past the fatal accident on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway earlier this year, I did not stop driving, either. There are risks in living, no matter what.
Our rapid march toward police-state parenting has got to end.
Today, when you look at the readiness checklists for first grade, you’ll find that we are concerned only with their academic performance, being able to “expand sight words” or “read a graph” or “locate the seven continents and four oceans.” Really.
But take a look at the first-grade readiness checklist from a 1979 book, “Your Six-Year-Old — Loving and Defiant.”
Back then, your child was ready for first grade if he or she had two to five permanent teeth, was at least 6 years and 6 months old and these:
▪ Can your child tell, in such a way that his speech is understood by a school crossing guard or police, where he lives?
▪ Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?
▪ Can he be away from you all day without being upset?
Yeah. Life skills, social development. Becoming actual people, not just little graph readers. We’ve kind of forgotten about that, haven’t we?
© 2015, The Washington Post