Sonya Hendren didn’t want to be a helicopter mom to her son, Tomahawk. So, she let him play outside by himself. Unfortunately, because he was just four years old, neighbors freaked out and called the police.
Now Hendren was charged with felony child endangerment for letting her child play on a playground just 120 feet from the front door in their gated community.
Every day is a learning experience when you’re just 4-years-old. Tomahawk Hendren is a self proclaimed outdoor guy. But his explorations inside his gated Sacramento apartment complex has taught his mom a hard lesson about the law.
“He was outside and a neighbor called the cops on us,” said Tomahawk’s mother, Sonya Hendren.
“We have a CPS (Child Protective Service) case now and every time he’s not in my visual site we’re in violation,” Hendren said.
Though the charges have been reduced to misdemeanors Hendron has been fighting to get them dropped for several months.
“I thought she would just get a warning … and she wouldn’t let them be out alone again,” said Sonja Horrell, who reported Tomahawk to CPS. Horrell and her daughter said they were worried because Tomahawk was left unattended. They said they didn’t mean the family any harm.
Horrell’s daughter Brandi said, “I’m not mad that she has to do things now to teach her because what if somebody did take him away.”
Hendren’s attorney notes that if this was 20 years ago, the time frame when most adults grew up, this wouldn’t be a crime. No charges would have been filed.
Maybe, maybe not. Tomahawk is just four years old, after all.
However, it’s also not the only time a parent has been arrested for behavior many of us grew up with. In June, a Florida couple was arrested after a neighbor called to report the couple’s 11-year-old son playing in the back yard for 90 minutes without adult supervision. A year earlier, South Carolina woman found herself in handcuffs for letting her child, age nine, to play in a nearby park while she worked. In August of last year, another Florida parent was arrested for letting her son walk to the park by himself…while equipped with a cell phone.
The list goes on and on and on.
Folks, most of us grew up in a world where this was fairly normal. Maybe not at four, mind you, but you probably knew some kids who got to do that around that age. Most importantly, nothing happened to them.
Of course, some might argue that we live in a different world than we did back then. They’re right. It’s actually safer. The site Free Range Kids has compiled a lot of reports, all showing that children aren’t in any more danger than they were a generation ago.
What has changed, however, is perception. With 24 hours of news, broadcasters at CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News all have to find ways to fill the time. Stories about bad things happening to children are especially poignant, and really strike a cord with viewers, so they get airplay. Whereas the story might never have made it off of the local news in the days before 24-hour news, now it is seen throughout the nation. Enough of these, and there’s a perception of the world being less safe for children.
Not that it should matter. The world as a whole is irrelevant. What matters is that things like this should be up to the parent, not the police.