Monday, July 21, 2014

PSA: Don't Leave Your Kid in the Hot Car

Let me take a break from piddlin’ to get to something serious.

I know, I get it. It’s tempting. You’re just going to run in to [the store, your friend’s house, the office, the nail salon, the job interview, whatever] for just a minute and you’ll be right out. And the baby’s sleep. And you had the air condition on so it’s still kinda cool, especially if you park over there in the shade. And you’ll be so much faster if you go it alone.  It’ll just be a minute.  And then there’s a really long line in the store because the lady up ahead doesn’t understand what “Express Lane 10 Items or Less” means and forgot her credit card, but not her coupons, and is paying in nickels.  Or your friend has just one more thing to tell you, this is a good one, and then she’ll let you go because she knows you left the baby outside, but it won’t take long.  And while you’re in the office, can you help fix the copier because no-one else has that special fix-it touch like you do. In the meantime, your baby’s out there in her own private, glass-enclosed sauna.  And if you are lucky, she’s just sweating and screaming at the top of her little vocal chords when you rush back and let a hot breeze into the car.

I know. I get it. I’ve got four kids and there were so many times I thought, “oh, but this will go so much quicker if I don’t have to unbuckle them and juggle a sleeping baby, my purse, my coffee, and shopping bags.”  In fact, the other day, I went to the grocery store and as I parked my 9-year old informed me that she didn’t have any pants to wear (we were coming from swimming practice.)  Ugh. Leave her in the car alone with the window open, let her walk around the grocery store in a bathing suit, or go home and come back later?  I just needed to pick up a couple things, it wouldn’t take more than a few minutes. I ended up going home, no eggs, no milk.  So, yes, I get it.

Recently, people have made various suggestions on how not to forget your kid in the car, since that seems to be a problem, too. And I get that one, too. Kinda. Because I've been there, too.  I've been in the grocery store, looked down into the empty plastic seat in the cart, and panicked, "Where's my kid?" Wondered if I left her in the car or if someone stole her out the cart while I was checking out the tomatoes, but then remembered that she was home with her dad.  And maybe because I do have this terrible fear that I will be the mom who leaves her kid at a rest-stop or home sleeping, I do check that my kid is somewhere near me when I go out.  I don't know how to advise you not to forget your kid.  Just really really try hard not to.  Put your shoes in the carseat when you're driving somewhere, tie a bungy chord across the door frame tied to the carseat, tie a bell to your kid's arm, post a picture of your kid on your car window, set a reminder on your phone. I don't know what will work for you, but do think of something so that you will never ever  forget your kid.  Note - this is in no way saying that I'm the perfect mom, but pretty lucky thus far.

As for that dad in Georgia who left his 22-month old to die?  He’s guilty. Yes, I’m sayin’ it, as a member of the jury of public opinion. And, I’m even thinking, bring that mom in, too.  I know some folks will be all “but he deserves his day in court” and “it was a mistake.”  Let’s set aside the “how-to” Google-ing about sweltering in a car, the question about insurance money, the debt, or even the sexting while at work.  Let’s just look at the parenting part.  An infant sits backwards in a carseat, the parent really has no visual contact with the baby, and when they aren’t screaming, babies are somewhat quiet.  Maybe, maybe on a really hectic, unfocused day you could forget he’s back there. Maybe.  Not a 22-month old.  They face forward.  They will see you get out of the car and most likely become alarmed if you slam the door and do not take them with you.  Which, it would be kinda hard not to see the person right behind you, staring you in the face.  Or hear them, because 22-month olds are babblers. They talk about everything – the bird over there, the sky, the song they learned at daycare, their feet. They are not very quiet creatures.  But let’s say somehow, a parent leaves a babbling, looking you in your face kid in the backseat.  Then said parent comes back to the car hours later at lunch break.  You don’t notice your sweaty, maybe crying, maybe sleep, maybe passed out kid in the backseat?  Tell me, you can go to your car, reach in for something and not notice a person in there, even a little one.  Then you slam the door and leave that little person again.  And when the daycare notifies the other parent that the kid didn’t make it to daycare, that parent’s response is “oh, dad must’ve left him in the car.”  Really?  Not, “hmm, what happened?” No, “that’s odd, I didn’t think it was take-your-kid-to-work day.”  Not even, “oh my gracious, my husband has run off and kidnapped my kid!”  It’s “he must’ve left him in the hot-a** car all day.”  Get them both, Mr. & Mrs.

In the meantime, don’t leave your baby in the car.  Stay safe and enjoy your summer.

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