Friday, August 28, 2015
Gilbert resident Cherish Peterson is making national news for accidentally leaving her infant in a shopping cart outside a grocery store and driving away. She returned 40 minutes later, immediately turning around once she'd realized her mistake. In the meantime, the baby was found by an off-duty officer and taken to a nearby hair salon. He was examined and found to be perfectly fine. Reports say through the entire ordeal, the baby never even cried.
You can watch the news story and read the transcript here.
This is a mistake in the vein of many others which parents of all types frequently make. As a parent or child care provider, have you ever accidentally forgotten to buckle a child into their car seat and drove around like that? Have you ever lost your child in a store or forgotten to pick them up from school? Has your baby ever rolled off a bed, couch or changing table on your watch? Have you ever left a baby or toddler in the bathtub for "just a second" to retrieve your phone or quickly aid another child? Has your child ever escaped from the house and run into the street?
Each of these common scenarios -- and yes, they happen OFTEN -- could end very badly, sometimes even in death. But most of the time, we don't think to involve law enforcement when our friend or sister's child takes a nasty spill off of a changing table. Instead, we are the first to offer words of consolation and comfort, saying, "It happens to the best of us."
"Don't beat yourself up about it."
"You learned your lesson and I bet you'll never let that happen again."
Not the case for Cherish Peterson. She's taking a LOT of vitriol for her mistake, most of it public scrutiny from people who don't know her at all. And although reports initially said she wouldn't be charged with any crimes, she is now facing a misdemeanor for child endangerment.
Don't get me wrong -- leaving your baby behind in a parking lot is a terrible misdeed. I'm not trying to excuse this mother's grave error. But it is no worse than the many misjudgments parents make on a daily basis, some even intentionally! Is this particular situation only important because the mother got caught?
I'm particularly incensed that Cherish Peterson is being charged with a crime. It's not difficult to see she already feels deeply sorry for what she did. Just watch the video. She is completely distraught over it. And Cherish clearly loves her children; she knows she made an awful mistake, she feels horribly, she's being crucified in the public square -- regardless of a criminal charge, she is never, ever going to forget another child anywhere, ever again.
If, after watching her emotional apology and reading the reports, you still feel Cherish Peterson is a bad mother deserving of a criminal conviction, put yourself in her shoes. If you did the same thing, how would you feel? I can only imagine myself in this situation. I have left my purse in the shopping cart a few times and as I drove back to the store to find it, I was in a complete panic. Over a purse. If it were my own baby ... I'd be livid with myself. I would cry myself senseless and probably wouldn't leave the house. I would probably never forgive myself.
But would I call the cops on myself and demand to be charged with a misdemeanor? No. And, be honest -- neither would you.
Would Cherish Peterson be prosecuted if her story hadn't gone viral, if bystanders hadn't blasted pictures of the infant all over the Internet, if the judge and jury that is social media hadn't shamed her so mercilessly? I don't know. Makes me wonder.
If you dare to throw stones at Cherish Peterson, you better NEVER make a mistake like she did. All those things we talked about before -- children darting into streets, babies not buckled into their car seats, babies rolling off furniture, parents leaving their children unattended in the bathtub -- you better be SO vigilant. You better never take your eyes or hands off your kid because if you do, something bad will eventually happen. And when it does, you better pray no one ever witnesses your indiscretion, lest you end up the target of scorn for all of social media and a convicted criminal to boot.
"[S]he who is without sin, let [her] cast the first stone." We all know that statement means no one is perfect. So, let's have some mercy on this poor mother. Her whole life has been forever damaged -- not only because she made a mistake, but also because others couldn't resist hurling their rocks in her direction.
Cherish, if you're reading this ... I'm crying with you. You're a good mom who made a terrible mistake. But, you've learned your lesson. I bet it will never happen again. Don't beat yourself up about it. It happens to the best of us.
Go, and sin no more.