NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission. All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.
Boy, 7, Wanted To See Dad; Charged With Unlawful Use of Motor Vehicle
The saga continues and gets more outrageous the more information comes in. This first article comes to us from up in the "thumb" of Michigan (Detroit Free Press, 6/21/11). There a seven-year-old boy had spent Fathers Day at his dad's house in Filion and, upon being returned to his mother and stepfather became unhappy and wanted to go back to Dad. So he did what any enterprising youngster would do; he got in the car and went. Specifically, his stepfather was at work and his mother was asleep having worked a night shift the previous night. That left no one to look after the little boy who wanted his father. He took his stepfather's Pontiac Sunbird and headed for Dad's place some 12 miles distant. Now there were several problems with that, chief among them being that he couldn't see over the dashboard. That might daunt some, but the boy was on a mission, so he simply stood on the floorboard so he could see, steered with his hands and operated the accelerator and brakes with his feet as best he could. That was none too well. A passing motorist spotted him and called 911 saying the kid was swerving and going pretty fast. Early reports had him hitting 50; later ones upped the ante to 70. The police finally managed to get him to stop and when they did they discovered a seven-year-old boy, barefoot, still in his pajamas crying piteously. All he wanted was to see his dad. The police and prosecutors had other ideas. This article tells us that he's been charged with joy riding and unlawful use of a motor vehicle (Huron Daily Tribune, 6/22/11). No kidding. Their idea of how to handle this is to throw criminal charges at a kid who can barely read and write. It's true of course that a child of that age driving a car is dangerous to himself and others. So in future his parents will want to keep a closer eye on him, but charging the boy criminally just makes the prosecutors look like fools. The real issue of course is parental supervision. Obviously there was a hole in that supervision at Mom's house. Stepdad was at work while Mom was asleep; that's an accident waiting to happen when it leaves a seven-year-old unattended. Of course maybe it was a one-time thing; maybe Mom had been called to work a night shift for the first time ever and she and the stepfather didn't have the few hours covered when she was asleep and he was at work. Or maybe they do this every day. I suspect we'll find out. So what's the situation at Dad's house that the boy finds preferable? The press hasn't inquired into that as yet and I hope someone does. After all, if this is status quo at the mother's house, it's a powerful argument for a change of custody. My guess is that it'll all be papered over and Mom will keep the child and Dad will get whatever visitation he's allotted by the courts. We'll see, but in the meantime, someone hide the keys.