Thursday, September 10, 2009

Leaving Kids In Cars: Not Okay

When the topic of leaving children in cars comes up in playgroups, my friends roll their eyes in my direction. I'm the mom who stands on the soapbox yelling about kids left in vehicles. On a site I belong to for Northern Michigan moms, this was a recent post. Do you do it? I couldn't believe the number of parents who said it's "no big deal" and "the kids are happier in the car." I was in the minority, and I was shocked at what many of the women said in their replies. They lamented busy-bodies who give them a hard time for leaving their children, they said it's so much faster and easier to shop without little ones (obviously, but WHATEVER).

And today, I watched a police officer take a mother's children away from her, for leaving one of them in the car.

I had a few minutes to kill before heading back home, so I swung into downtown Petoskey to hang out with the kids. We walked into the toy store, where they have a little table set up with "guys" and trucks and animals, and the kids got to work playing while I pretended like I might buy something.

We had been there a few minutes when another mom with her two kids came in. They looked to be doing the same thing, and after the children had all migrated to the side of the store to inspect the dolls, we started chatting. She seemed a lot like me -- ponytail, practical purse, shorts and a t-shirt, interacting with her children in a loving way. She asked my girls' ages and I asked hers, and she said, "My oldest is four, this one just turned two, and I have another baby who's sleeping in the car."

Um... alone? "Yeah, shhh!" (Conspiratory lean-in.)

I started having the girls wrap things up, because now I felt as if I needed to stand guard OUTSIDE, watching this woman's car in the 80-degree heat. We said goodbye and left the store, and what do you know? There's a police car pulled right up next to an SUV several spaces away from the toy store. As in, she wouldn't have even been able to see her car from the store's window.

I walked back to the store and flagged her down. She thought I was signaling that her baby was awake, and waved and started rounding up her other children, but when I told her THE POLICE HAD HER BABY, she moved so quickly she forgot about her oldest. She went back in for the oldest and loaded the two older children into the side of the car, as the police officer already had her baby strapped into his car and was on the far side of his car, looking in at the child who was a teensy, tiny newborn with little fists punching the air. Then he walked over to the woman and told her what he was about to do (I couldn't hear because we were in my car, loading up to leave), and she burst into tears and was fairly stressed out. We left then, but as I drove away I saw him herding the children into one car and physically showing her that no, she wouldn't be taking them home.

I nearly threw up. I couldn't even call Trevor, I was so disturbed. My throat was caving in just thinking about how she must have felt, and yet, I was so pleased that someone had DONE something about this and now she'd never do it again. Such a shame that she had to pay what must be terrible consequences. Can you even imagine watching your little children and your newborn baby riding away from you and knowing that you would now be subject to an investigation?

And once again I soapbox. Can it possibly be worth it?

1 comment:

Candace said...

I am 150% behind you on this. Easier? Yes. Is parenting all about doing what is easiest for you? NO. Kidnapping, hyperthermia,...I can't believe with the stories on the new the last couple of years of tragic events from kids/babies being left in cars that anyone in their right mind would do it.