Utne Blogs > Literature

Encounters with the Nanny State

 by Julie Hanus


Tags: Great writing, essay writing, first person, child welfare, parenting, prosecution, Bridget Kevane, Brain, Child,

Brain, ChildA mother drops off her 12-year-old daughter and her friend—with ground rules in place—at the mall in Bozeman, Montana, with three younger children in tow. Within an hour, mall security calls her back. She returns. Two police offices are waiting there to tell her that she’s going to be arrested for endangering the welfare of her children.

In “Guilty as Charged: Her biggest crime? Trusting her own parenting,” Bridget Kevane patiently recalls the details of that day and the ones that would follow, plumbing her confusion, frustration, and guilt for the readers of Brain, Child. “During the months between my arrest and the deferred prosecution agreement that my lawyer eventually worked out, I began to feel that I was being reprimanded for allowing my daughter to develop [a] sense of responsibility,” she writes. What emerges is a courageously unadorned examination of her family’s ordeal, and an opportunity to reflect on the shrinking space available for parents to simply trust their instincts.

Source: Brain, Child

julia jones
7/11/2009 9:02:55 AM

The story of Bridget Kevane’s arrest for “endangering the welfare of her children” by dropping them off at a small town shopping mall is a classic depiction of two social rules in this country. First, the young male arresting officer told Kevane to be quiet or be handcuffed when she tried to defend her action. Women have been raised to be quiet and submissive, yet Kevane did not adhere to this traditional requirement for females. Second, the prosecuting attorney, a mother herself, wanted a full admission of motherly guilt and shame from Kevane for acting within her rights as a mother. Women can be their own worst enemies, and in the case of a mother who disagrees with another mother’s actions, this became an obsession to prosecute. Would this lady prosecutor have sought a case against the father for dropping his kids off at the local mall? That is highly doubtful. Judith Warner's New York Times commentary is correct about the “simmering resentment” of certain women in this country that is “spiraling out of control.” Educated and affluent women are the target for many critics, and the subject of Warner’s blog, but the same can be said of any woman who strives to be anything more than “ordinary.” Society, including the political, religious, and business sectors, accepts and praises the “ordinary” woman, who is educated (not super-educated), works hard, raises children, and supports the male in her life unquestioningly and unconditionally. And most women fall into the “ordinary” category out of necessity as much as choice. The case can be made that women striving to be more than “ordinary” are in defiance of the acceptable social order. As such, they must be taken down a notch or two unless they remain humble, secondary figures, and never claim a higher status. Earning doctorates or achieving political or business success without humility or an acceptance of a secondary status indicates a privileged elitist attitude. Women who crash the stained glass ce


vernon from colroado_2
7/10/2009 9:21:54 PM

This is a case of breathtaking ignorance on the part of the parent. Leaving a 3-year-old in the care of a couple of careless 12-year-olds at a public mall while the mother goes home to "rest" is as stupid as stupid gets.


tamara sm
7/9/2009 12:20:20 PM

Criminal, MAYBE not? Utterly not, I would say. I'm a staunch liberal, but I think I would rather have the police paying attention to children who are truly endangered--by poverty, genuine neglect, domestic violence--and leave parents and children who are trying to develop a sense of their limits to do so.


valerie_3
7/6/2009 2:08:51 PM

Yeah, but what you neglect to mention is that then the 12-year-olds leave the little kids alone in the purse department while they go to try on clothes. Two 12-year-old trained babysitters at home with young kids? YES. At the mall? I don't think so. Criminal, maybe not. But not so bright? Yeah, not so bright.