So, here it is:
I have five children at home. I understand, completely how much of a hassle it can be to drag wee ones in and out of stores. I do. I get it. I get how it can take longer to get everyone unpacked, into the store, and all packed back into the vehicle than it takes to run the errand. I get how waking up a sleeping baby or toddler is risking the wrath of the howling, shrieking tyrant that emits such noise that you expect small animals to fall down dead in its wake, for ear drums to rupture in every being in a five-mile radius, and for someone to accuse you of torturing the kid with red-hot pokers.
I get it.
I do it anyways. Or, more likely, we bypass the store, head home, and run the errand later.
There is just simply no way I could, or would, be able to leave my child, unattended in a vehicle. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Just won’t do it.
I can understand going into the gas station, and paying for your gas. Your kid is right there, you can keep a visual on them. Going into a store, however, is a completely different animal. You cannot accurately predict how long a ‘quick run’ into the store can take. Long line ups, a new cashier, the self check out freezing…all of these things, and God only knows how many others, can result in what you thought was a five-minute, in and out trip being fifteen.
I can understand an emergency. You witness a stranger collapse on the sidewalk, you rush over, leave your child in the car, and call 9-1-1 before starting CPR. But, the examples listed in the article? A roast chicken, toilet paper, head phones, a baby gate? None of those were emergencies. None of those couldn’t have happened later, on a second trip. Yeah, I get that it’s a hassle, but you know what? A lot of parenting is. I don’t want to get up at odd hours of the night, walk the floors with a baby shrieking with an ear infection, or teething, change dirty diapers, or potty train. Parenting isn’t a glamour job, and it’s not an easy gig, that’s the nature of the beast.
Much has been made of bystanders calling the police, rather than sticking by the car til the parent came out.
I have a few problems with that. One, you’re asking that a stranger take responsibility for someone else’s child. Isn’t calling the police doing just that? Two: You’re asking, or expecting, a concerned stranger to do what the parent hasn’t: not leave the child unattended. Why is a stranger being held to a higher standard than the child’s actual parent? Three: Too many times, we read or hear of tragic news stories of a child being abused, and wail, “Why didn’t someone do something? Why didn’t someone call the police for this child?” How can a stranger be expected to know the difference between a child that has been left unattended for five minutes, and twenty? Where IS the line? Is five minutes ok, but fifteen isn’t? How about twenty? Thirty minutes?
You can’t have it both ways, folks. A stranger, happening upon your vehicle, has zero clue how long you’ve been gone. They have no idea your history, your parenting, your anything. All they see is a child, alone in a vehicle, abandoned.
Yes, I said abandoned. I’m pretty sure that leaving a child in a vehicle, with no supervision, falls under the category of abandonment. If it didn’t, there wouldn’t be criminal charges involved.
And what really kills me is that I doubt anyone would just leave their wallet in open view in their car. I know Wolf won’t even leave his phone in the truck, for fear of it being stolen.
So, are people actually more protective of their wallets and phones than their children? Does that make any sense?
I’m by no means a perfect parent. Nooooope. I don’t even pretend to be one online.
I know folks argue that driving your child around is more dangerous than leaving them in the car. Here’s the thing: there are a LOT of things more dangerous than something else. That doesn’t make the lesser statistical danger any less illegal. It may be one chance in 10,000 that someone steals your vehicle with your child in it. Or simply steals your child. Not a MASSIVE risk, to be sure…but why take that risk for toilet paper?
The idea, put forth by the author of the article, that she, and other parents like her, are being legally harassed is ridiculous. THEY BROKE THE LAW. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. They made a crappy (in my opinion) decision, left their young child in a vehicle without supervision (in one case, there was an older sibling, who was still too young for the law to be able to supervise), because they just couldn’t wait to run their errands. Really, isn’t that what it truly boils down to? They didn’t want to wait. They didn’t want to make a return trip. They didn’t want the hassle of dragging a child into the store for such a quick errand.
I know that folks also will point at the years gone by, and say, “Well, we were left in vehicles!” Yep, I was too.
But here’s the thing, folks:
I also used to pile in the back of a station wagon, with several other kids. No seat belts, nada.
Car seats weren’t used.
Formula was thought superior to breast milk.
Babies slept always on their tummies.
Hitting a child with a belt was considered acceptable punishment.
As we know better, we do better. Just because it USED to happen, doesn’t mean that it was a good idea.
We’re heading towards spring and summer here. Every freaking year, there’s at LEAST one story in the news about a child dying because they’ve been left in a vehicle.
Some think that a passerby calling the police to report a child unattended in a vehicle is the ultimate in stranger interference.
I think it’s a stranger being concerned about the health and well-being of a child. More so, it would seem, than the child’s parents are, at that moment in time.