Let’s be honest: Who HASN’T left their kid in a bar? Show of hands, please.
Well, me, for one. But I’m not the Prime Minister of Britain. PM David Cameron was lunching at a pub with some family members recently, as is his prerogative. He and his wife went home in separate cars–and inadvertently left their 8-year-old daughter behind, triggering (go figure!) a debate on neglectful parenting, “drinking while parenting,” etc. etc.
Let’s start with the neglectful parenting bit. This seems like much ado about nothing to me. First of all, surely the children of England’s leader have Secret Service equivalents, right? I mean, I don’t really think it would be possible to leave Malia or Sasha Obama somewhere unattended (POTUS: “Where are my kids?” Secret Service Guy One: “Oh, CRAP. I knew I forgot something at the Olive Garden.”). So we don’t really have to worry for the poor Cameron kid’s safety–even “unattended” by her parents, I figure she’s probably got more people watching her back than our kids would.
And let’s admit it: miscommunications between parents, even non-world-leader parents, do happen. The PM said he thought his wife had taken their daughter home, whereas the wife thought that the daughter was going to go home with her father. I’ll argue that parents can get this way even when they don’t have worries like, “How the hell am I going to make sure Iran doesn’t bomb Israel?” on their mind.
I know this is true from personal experience. My mom, the ultimate super-parent, would always count the four of us siblings out loud whenever we got into a car: “One, Two, Three, Four.” And we all laughed at her, until the one day when she counted and said, “One, Two, Three….???”
It was a particularly unusual day not only because for the first time, we’d apparently lost one of our crew, but also because it was 1990 and we happened to be in St. Petersburg, Russia. My family had gone on a fruitless quest to find my Soviet bat mitzvah twin…but that’s not the point of the story I’m telling right now. The point of the story is that as our minivan was hurtling down a Russian street, my mother had discovered that one of us was, in fact, missing.
Well, so we burnt rubber–perhaps even driving backwards at one point–and found my 12-year-old brother on the sidewalk right where the van had left from. He hadn’t even noticed we’d left, because he was too busy watching some workers paint a crosswalk onto the street. To this day, I always ask my boys before we pull out of the driveway to check in the carseat and make sure I remembered to put the baby in it. Just to make sure.
So on to “drinking while parenting.” It’s important to note that there is no indication whatsoever that the Prime Minister or his wife were drunk at this lunch and that’s why they “forgot” their kid. (Maybe the kid is annoying and this was a deliberate plot? I’m just throwing that out there as an as-yet unexplored theory.)
This is just one of those stories where news organizations try to make one colorful incident into a jumping-off point for a “debate” about “parenting” and an excuse to find some parents “negligent” or “horrible” or “idiotic.” I find this tactic exasperating, but okay, I’ll play. Like basically anything else in the world, I generally err on the side of moderation. For example, I think a glass of wine/beer at a pub lunch while there is a kid in your care is okay, unless you have the tolerance of a chipmunk, in which case you should abstain. As an adult, you should know your capacity and never forget that it is your obligation to be responsible when you have children in your care. Sorry: them’s the breaks. Of course, drinking and driving is idiotic under any circumstances, and doing so with a kid in your care is a definite no-go.
But the Prime Minister didn’t drink and drive–and didn’t do so with a kid in the back of the car, apparently. So shall we let this one lie?