At a play date in a local park, one mother left her younger child to sleep in the car while her older child played and she chatted with the other moms. She could see the car at all times and checked on her sleeping child regularly, but her choice made some of the other moms uncomfortable.
This can be a hot issue. And there are situations where it is certainly tempting, like the time when our friend Kelly’s husband had been out of town for a week and she was down to her very last diaper for her twin girls. She braved terrible traffic in the pouring rain for 30 minutes. When she finally found parking in the local Target, both kids were fast asleep.
Fighting off her overwhelming frustration, Kelly quickly considered her options: (1) Drive back home in the rain empty handed. (2) Wake them both and endure their wrath (along with that of other shoppers) for dragging them unwittingly out of a peaceful slumber and thrusting them into a noisy, florescent lit surrounding. Or…. (3) Run in by yourself for 5 minutes and let them sleep in the locked car.
Kelly choose option #2 and it was arguably the worst shopping moment of her life. “As they screamed the whole way home — because of course once you wake them, they will never fall back asleep no matter how tired they are – I kept thinking I should have just left them in the car and run in the store without them.”
Sometimes parental exhaustion is so overwhelming that parents do leave their children in the car. We know a mom at the preschool who leaves the sleeping toddler in the car while she runs in to pick up the older child. Or our friend Martha who noticed an item she had not paid for when she was unloading the cart after the kids were safely strapped in the car. Not wanting to leave the premises with an item she hadn’t paid for, she locked the car with the kids safely strapped in their seats and ran into the store to hand it off to a sales clerk. When she returned to her vehicle another woman was waiting, threatening to call the police.
We know our friends would never intentionally put their children in harm’s way and have been surprised and sympathetic to the tongue lashings they have received from other parents. While we understand and appreciate that other people want to keep our children safe, we’d like to suggest some other tactics:
1. At preschool – if you see another leaving a sleeping child in the car, offer to walk their child out or wait with the child in the car once you come out. Chances are they would welcome the help.
2. In public – Instead of attacking or threatening, try just sharing your concern. Our friend Michelle says something like, “I am not trying to judge your choice, but I have seen some really scary things happen when kids are left alone in the car. If you can avoid leaving them alone in the car, I would really encourage that.”
3. In general – we are not advocating leaving children alone in cars, but we do not think it helps the situation to shame or humiliate another parent. If at all possible, try to think of ways you may help or improve the situation.
Have you ever been tempted to leave your child alone in the car? Any ideas?
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