Opinion: Rather Than Legislate a Parenting Choice, Grin and 'Bare' It

Filed under: Divorce & Custody, In The News, Opinions

police tape

Are your parenting choices a crime? Trying to legislate lifestyle decisions is a slippery slope. Credit: alancleaver 2000, Flickr

An Arizona couple locked in a custody battle over their two sons is prompting a debate about whether or not parenting styles and choices can -- or should -- be subject to legislation.

The case in question heated up when the kids, ages 13 and 11, reported that their mother and stepfather walked around the house naked and engaged in a nudist lifestyle. The Jacksonville Observer reports that the boys' father learned that his ex-wife had made several visits to a nudist resort, and then questioned his sons about life in their mother's house.

When the 13-year-old revealed that his mom and stepfather sometimes walked around nude, the man contacted the authorities. Police investigated the complaint -- and then recommended the parents be charged with a crime and urged the county's attorney to find a way to make that happen.
But it turns out that nudism isn't against the law, even if your sons don't approve. The recommendation from law-enforcement officials was less the result of any real harm being done to the children (child services declined to intervene) and more a knee-jerk reaction to an alternative lifestyle they found unseemly.

And that just isn't right.

There are so many choices that we make as parents, and they start before a child is even born. Have the baby, abort or put up for adoption? Vaginal or surgical birth? Breast milk or formula? Crib or family bed? Stroller or sling? Organic homemade baby food or the stuff in the glass jars? The list of decisions mothers and fathers make on a daily basis is endless -- and extremely personal.

While we may not like everyone's parenting choices, trying to find a way to charge people for a crime when we simply don't like their lifestyle is a very slippery slope. What's next? Arresting people for giving babies a pacifier? Arresting people for putting their infants to sleep on their bellies? Or how about arresting people for their religion? Wait, we've heard that one before, haven't we?

No child should ever be left in the care of a parent who makes reckless choices about his or her upbringing. Exposing kids to drugs, violence or abuse, whether sexual or physical, are all reasons for government and law-enforcement agencies to intervene. But if we start making up reasons to separate children from their parents, it won't be long, my friends, before they come for you and me. There isn't a parent out there who hasn't made a decision that someone, somewhere, could find fault with.

The custody battle in Arizona between two parents is a dispute over how and when two divorcing parents will arrange to spend time with their children. It should be handled by the appropriate authorities, without intervention, unless the children are in danger. Kudos to those in the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for recognizing that getting naked now and then doesn't constitute a criminal offense.

As for the officers who said it should be criminalized, they should take a long look at the skeletons in their own parental closets.

Related: Mom Tells Court: Parents Should Not Have To Pay For Kid's Crime

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.