Friday, August 24, 2018

If you saw an 8-year-old walking a dog, would you a) go "awww" or b) call the cops?

2004: Police intervention not necessary
Marshmallow, the terror of Wilmette
      When my older son was 8, he wanted a dog. I refused. “You’re not asking for a dog,” I’d say. “You’re asking me to pick up dog crap twice a day and I’m not gonna do it.”
     My father grew up in the Bronx. He never had a dog. I never had a dog, had no experience with dogs, and sincerely believed a dog would ruin our lives. No dogs.
     Besides, I argued: Who’d care for it? Not me. I’m a busy man. He, a small child, couldn’t be relied upon to help.
     I thought this sealed my argument. But the future law student saw an opening. He would prove me wrong. He could take care of dogs. He would show me by starting a dog-walking business.
     “Go ahead,” I said, thinking that would be the end of it.
     To my vast surprise, he went ahead. Next thing I knew, he was rushing out at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning in July to call on his first customer, a family down the block.
     I drifted to the street in time to see him arrive, leading Lady, a black-and-white spaniel, his little brother marching behind. They proceeded to walk Lady up and down the block for half an hour.
     Nobody called the police. Which is more than Ted and Corey Widen of Wilmette can say after allowing their 8-year-old daughter to walk Marshmallow, their Maltese puppy, around their block. A neighbor called the cops.

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  1. People aint what they used to be...

  2. When I was 5, I was staying with my Aunt in Woodlawn, who let me play outside, but cautioned me not to cross any streets by myself. One day, their dog Sean, who like me was born in 1942, and I went for a walk and when I came back, an angry Aunt Peg confronted me, "I thought I told you not to cross the street by yourself!" I weakly replied, "But, but, but...Sean took me."


  3. This may not be exactly on point, but there's something about this I don't get...

    In your column you refer to "Ted and Corey Widen" and quote them both, making them sound like a couple. But in her Facebook post, the woman goes by "Corey Sprindis" and says she's a single mother. ?????

    1. People often assume noms du plume on Facebook. They are divorced, but both obviously are involved in the raising of the children, and, with 719 words to tell my story, I didn't feel the divorce was germane. Maybe that was a mistake. I talked to the father because I reached him first, and he directed me to her.

  4. I don’t understand. What are the parents supposed to have done wrong that they have to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend themselves? Is it that an eight-year-old shouldn’t be allowed to walk down the street without supervision?

    I’m also wondering if the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is required to investigate absolutely anything that’s brought to their attention.

    Sorry -- I don’t mean to be dense.

  5. Sounds like maybe there IS more going on than meets the eye (child custody ammunition?)

  6. This sad story made me furious when I saw it on NBC, and I was not surprised it happened in Wilmette. Paranoid yuppie suburbanites with nothing better to do than attacking neighbors they probably don't even know. The concept of neighborhood and neighborliness, in too many places, has gone the way of the Edsel and the ten-cent phone call.

    Does she know who made the call? I am assuming it was a female who did not like her parenting methods. So I will say that "she" had summoned the cops at least once before, when the child was seen alone. in a parking lot. And the cops didn't take her away in handcuffs, so this witch (excuse the typo) sicced DCFS on the mother. Now she has been traumatized by the police and has had to hire an attorney. Worst of all, the story has gone viral (I saw it on the BBC) and she has been shamed before the whole world.

    This sounds like more than a free-range child vs. helicopter-parenting issue. Sounds like a vindictive and nosy neighbor who needs to get a life and stop spying on others. Were this my child, I would make that neighbor's life a living hell for years to come, and I would neither forgive nor forget. But maybe that's just me.

    Some years ago, parties unknown brought the cops into my house because they reported to 911 that I was "beating my wife"...I was outside in my front yard, shouting at (and chasing) a wayward kitty who'd gotten through the front door. Five squads showed up. The officers pushed their way into my living room in full ass-kicking mode, especially the two female cops. One of them refused to believe my wife was asleep on the porch, and demanded to see her and to "check for bruises." Today I would probably face bodily harm before the misunderstanding was cleared up. Maybe worse than that. Stuff happens. You hear about it every day.

    People living on my street ignore one another unless there's an accident or police activity or a weather event. We are neighbors only by proximity. I never found out who made the call. Could have been almost anybody. Did they do it out of fear for my wife's safety, or because they hated my guts? I will never know and am better off not knowing. So are they.

  7. Read a story recently about an 11 or 12-year old boy sitting in the car waiting while his mom ran in the store. Peacefully sitting there with, at least, windows open - maybe AC on - playing with his tablet or reading, minding his own business. Someone called the cops.

    We're talking the 50's here, but I was a latch-key kid when I was 9 or 10. Parents owned a business and couldn't be home when I got out of school. We thought we were big shit when our parents let us go to Riverview alone on the bus when we were 12, and that required something like 6 transfers from the Southside. Starting at 6 or 7, we played outside, just had to stay close to home. I could go 8 hours without seeing my mom. At 9 or 10, a bunch of us would go trick or treating - gasp - without parents.

    I used to see a boy, maybe 10, in a private-school uniform commuting to school each day on the Metra Electric. His mom would be probably be in jail now.

    Is this fear of danger, or that that these are bad parents who aren't sufficiently heliocopter-ing over their kids constantly.

  8. Mr S...this story really hit a nerve with me. Probably because I'm a geezer who went trick-or-treating at three, with a gang of neighbor kids and NO adults. On the West Side yet, East Garfield Park. We're talking 1950 here. Could have been sliced and diced by a Green Hornet streetcar. And I rode a bike unsupervised in the suburbs at seven and attempted a "bike hike" to Wisconsin at fifteen (didn't make it). Unfortunately, the Sun-Times refuses to allow me to read your column on this ridiculous incident. Go figure, huh? Of all the times to get blocked.

    I'm not a's not about the money...I already read several news sources a day. I haven't had a problem with clicking on your column in ages. Must be a glitch on my end. Is there a quick fix?

  9. If a neighbor thought the child too young, why not just walk along? If the police were disinterested, why call DCS? As you say, deeper than the surface facts.
    I called police on a child once. He looked ten or maybe 8. Hard to tell as I was driving by at 50mph. He was walking on the ledge of an abutment on a bridge over 355. I was coming off 55 at 79th Street. Got to work 55minutes later, called the local PD. There was really nowhere the kid could have been reasonably going. Hodgekins? The nearest house some miles away. PD informed me later they found the boy. I sincerely thought he could be in danger. And hope I did the right thing. Cars and trucks were always lane changing, weaving this way and that to break onto Archer, 79th, 355. Here he is balanced on the cement traffic dividers.

  10. This story is really striking a chord. It's been written up in the Washington Post, People, and the Daily Mail (!). Oddly, the "concerned" neighbor seems not to have come forward.


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