Last week I dropped my kids (10, 8 and 5) at the local library to change their books. I scooted to the supermarket – around the corner – to get a few things. As instructed, they were waiting out the front 20 minutes later. I had bread and toilet paper and they had new books. I congratulated myself on extremely efficient use of time. Bravo me. Until I mentioned it to my friend Fiona, who was horrified, on three levels:
1. What if a predator had been lurking in the children’s section of the library?
2. What if one of my kids had become sick, or injured?
3. It’s a library, not a childcare centre. It is not the librarian’s job to look after your kids.
I dismissed points one and two, but her third made me think. Is that what I had done? Left my kids in the care of others without even asking?
I have enormous respect for librarians. Not for a second did I expect them to be ‘looking after’ my kids.
It was interesting to think about, because there’s been a lot in the media recently about the increasing incidence of people ‘dumping’ their kids in toy shops, public pools, computer stores and at play centres while they take themselves to lunch, play the pokies, or go shopping child-free. This, from the Herald Sun:
Police have been called in to deal with parents dumping children unsupervised at indoor play centres while they go shopping, or to avoid soaring day care costs.
A Herald Sun investigation found children were being left unsupervised at play areas across Victoria every week by irresponsible parents.
Centre staff revealed terrifying stories of toddlers and children being put at risk.
“I would say one in five parents try to sneak off,” Docklands Monkey Mania centre supervisor Lesley Salazar said.
The library is different, I told myself – and Fiona. It’s a public place; my kids know it well and they know how to behave. I like that it’s busy and the kids feel comfortable and confident there. And I really like being able to go to Coles on my own.
Kate Hunter is an advertising copywriter with 20 years experience and hundreds of ads under her belt. She’s also written two novels for young readers: Mosquito Advertising, The Parfizz Pitch and Mosquito Advertising, The Blade Brief. You can visit Kate’s website here or follow her on twitter here.
What do you think – is it okay to leave kids to their own devices while you run some errands? Do we have a responsibility as a community to keep an eye out for other people’s kids?