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Posted: August 17, 2011 12:00 a.m.

What will it take?

When I wrote last week's column venting about the fruits of irresponsible parenting, I didn't plan to write a second installment. Even after getting more emails and feedback than any other column I've written-all in agreement with what I said - I didn't think of adding to my tirade.

But then little "Bart" reminded me of a topic I didn't even touch on. And that's parents who openly defend their children's illegal behavior. And as I type that sentence, all I can think of is, "Why? Why should I even have to write about this?"

My toddler had been napping for approximately 10 minutes when I heard the motorcycle zipping down our street. There are quite a few motorcyclists in this neighborhood; it's not an unusual sound to hear. It's always annoying, mind you, particularly at nap time. Do any companies make a cycle with a quiet engine? Or would motorcyclists even buy a machine that didn't emit an obnoxiously loud roar?

Regardless, after it bellowed by a couple of times, I looked out the window and saw that it wasn't one of the neighborhood adults out for an afternoon ride. It was Bart, a 10-year-old who has absolutely no business flying around on city streets on a dirt bike at speeds about double the legal limit. Unfortunately for him, he chose to turn around on our front lawn just as my husband was stepping out of his car.

Donnie is a retired Army sergeant, and "Sarge" took over with his firm, no-nonsense manner. He told Bart not to ride through our grass again, and that it was illegal for a kid his age to be driving on the streets anyway. Donnie suggested that he ride his bike around his own ample yard, but Bart whined that it wasn't big enough. Then my husband mentioned that other neighbors have complained about Bart's zooming around on that thing. He warned the boy that if he didn't knock it off, somebody was going to call the sheriff and let him take care of it.

So, Bart went home. Soon after, the boy's father drove down to our end of the neighborhood. But instead of knocking on our door, he yelled at the other kids that his son had every right to ride on the street because he was wearing a helmet. And - cue the banjos - he made sure to give these young kids a thorough education in all current and classic profanity. I don't think he left a single expletive out, from what I hear.

Hey, this is America. We have free speech, even for cretins vile enough to curse at little kids. And if someone loves broken bones and ER visits enough to let their extremely ADHD child drive a motorcycle around their private property, they have the right to do it. But when said parent lets his offspring drive on public streets, putting my kids, their friends, the retired folks who walk around here and all our beloved pets at risk - yeah, they're going to get called on it.
Because honestly, is it hard to understand that the DMV has really good reasons for not giving 10-year-olds drivers' licenses?

I'd hate for it to take something tragic to make Bart's parents wake up to the reality of their irresponsibility, but I wonder if anything less would do. Would a visit from the authorities be enough for a family that shows pretty blatant disregard for the law? A physician friend of mine says they call motorcycles "donor cycles" in the ER, for good reason. Does Bart have to accidentally kill someone or become a quadriplegic to make his parents understand why it's illegal for a young boy to drive a motorcycle on the street? I sincerely hope not.

Unfortunately, irresponsible parenting seems to be something I'm encountering a lot lately. But I'm out of room before I can share about the man who brought half a dozen little kids to a public event where I was face painting, and just left them there. Maybe I'll tell you about it next week - if I'm not too tired of venting.


Kari Apted may be reached at kari@kariapted.com.

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