On June 21, Dear Abby published a question from a reader who identified as “first-time mom in New Jersey.” The mom asked how she can ask other parents whether they had guns in their homes before allowing her child to visit for playdates.
Dear Abby suggested that bringing up the topic was “off-putting.”
Well that advice apparently went over like a lead balloon. Dear Abby received a large number of responses to her advice on this matter, with a significant number of the comments criticizing her response.
One reader wrote: “I’m concerned your response will encourage other mothers to buy into the incorrect assumption that it’s “impolite” to ask questions that ensure their child’s safety.”
Here was part of Abby’s response:
Of course you are right. The woman’s question wasn’t about etiquette. It was about child safety. A large number of readers besides you agreed my perspective was off. I have heard all of you loud and clear, and I apologize.
I should have advised: “You are responsible for your child’s welfare. Part of assuring her safety involves asking whether weapons are on the premises and, if so, what safety precautions have been taken. (The same is true for prescription drugs, swimming pools, caustic chemicals and foods to which your child is allergic.) You should also ask if the children will be under parental supervision at all times. If anyone feels concern for your child’s safety is presumptuous, do not allow your child to play there. Suggest instead that the children play at your house.”
Here’s another reader comment: “Your advice to “First-Time Mom” about gun safety runs counter to the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as numerous gun violence protection groups.”
And here’s one more reader comment: “All of the major national health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have defined gun violence as a public health epidemic. The protocol for health care providers is to teach parents to ask about guns when children are going to another home to visit. Please educate your readers that asking is critical. This is a public health issue, not a political one!”
I am not a regular reader of Dear Abby; in fact I probably have not read one of her columns in over 10 years. The story about the guns just happened to pop up in my email today, and so I decided to take a look into it, and the above is what I found.
I’ve always considered the willingness to admit you’ve made a mistake and to apologize for doing so one of the best attributes a person can have.
But it also seems like it is a trait that is in short supply.
Of the many things I dislike about President Trump, I would put his unwillingness to admit that he was wrong about something along with his inability to then apologize for such an error, right at the top of the list.
We all make mistakes; why is it so hard for many of us to recognize that fact? And I’m sure it is even harder for those who are in the public eye.
That’s why I was so impressed with Dear Abby’s apology.
Maybe others (hint, hint) can follow her lead…