Saturday, June 5, 2010

Leaving Kids in the Car

Thought I'd try something new here at MommyBrain.  Mainly because I like new, shiny things ... but also because I find myself pondering some of life's big questions ... often through internal dialogue that rather closely resembles "crazy-mumbling-to-myself."  Makes me wonder if my lips are moving during those conversations?  Am I the only mama talking to myself?  Please tell me I am not alone! Anyway, sometimes there are these trivial quandaries that pop into my head and I can't help but wonder ... What do YOU, fellow mamas, fellow bloggers, friends near and far, SAY?  What's your opinion?  How do you handle this situation or that predicament?  Or even, what could I have done differently?  If the question/situation inspires you, please leave a comment :)

Do you ever leave your kids in the car?  I fear this is a controversial topic, but I am asking this in a very benign way - promise!  Perhaps I'll first explain what I am NOT talking about ...

Someone recently told me a story of a gambling addict who left a very young baby in a car for 12 hours while she was inside a casino ... ummm, gambling would be my guess.  I don't know the outcome of that particular story, however I've heard horrific stories of little ones left in cars - accidentally or otherwise - and those scenarios did not end well.  But for my purposes and peace of mind,  I am going to assume that no one reading my blog would knowingly put a child in a life-threatening situation.

What I am talking about ... 
Today it was raining - big surprise - and I made a late afternoon trip to the market with both girls.  After doing our shopping, I brought my cartload of groceries and both girls through the raindrops and the puddles to my car and unloaded everything.  I didn't want the girls to be sitting in the rain while I put bags of groceries in the back, so I put them in their carseats first.  In my experience wet groceries are easier to deal with than soggy kids.  But then I am standing there with my empty cart and few options: 
  • Load the girls back in the cart to walk back to the store to then carry CJV while holding NHV's hand all the way back to the car.
  • Lock the doors and leave both girls in the car while I run the cart back.
  • Stand in the rain, wait for someone to pass by, and offer him my cart.
I went with the second option, but I felt kind of funny about it.  I double checked to make sure the doors were locked.  I looked back over my shoulder a dozen times and kept the car in sight as best I could.  But I just felt like ... should I leave my kids in the car ... even for a minute?

I have one more example for you.  A few months ago, I needed to run into the local nail salon to grab a gift certificate for a friend.  I had both girls with me, but I didn't want to unload them for such a short errand ... and I really didn't want CJV (a newborn at the time) to be exposed to the fumes.  So I parked my car right out front and went inside.  The gentleman behind the counter helped me immediately.  I told him what I needed and explained that I had small children in the car.  I went back to the car to check on the girls, and then returned to sign the credit card slip and grab the certificate.  But I still felt unsure about leaving my kids in the car.

So ... what do YOU say?


BJ_Mama said...

WOW! We are SOUL-SISTAS! I have this convo with myself all the time!
The cart situation happened to me too...and I did the same thing, except I SPRINTED back to my car! (can we say OUT OF SHAPE?!?!) EXHAUSTED! But, there Sam was all happy like...unharmed, safe.
Those little errands are tough too! It's going to be much harder with 2, I know that FOR SURE. Now, I guilt myself into ALWAYS taking Sam with me....
I sometimes think that the media has put all these HORROR stories in our fragile,easily guilted, "MommyBrains" (hehe) and we question our good judgement. I have friends/relatives that leave their kiddos in the car for short errands and never bat an eye...of course they have 3+ kiddos (perhaps they're just better adjusted) WHO KNOWS?!?!
GEEZ, I coulda wrote this post for ya! ;)

BJ_Mama said...

P.S. I Like this "What do YOU say?" Saturday thingy!

Jessica {Team Rasler} said...

I've definitely had the cart conundrum, and made the same choice you did. Now that I'm single parenting for the weekend, I'm finding myself wondering the same thing about those stupid small errands. So much easier to do them when munchkins are home with the daddy! So maybe my internal rule is that it's ok as long as I'm really close to the car (not just in eyesight, but that I'd probably be the first adult to reach it in most scenarios) and it's going to be under 5 minutes. This will all get easier as they get older!

Shell said...

Oooh, brave topic, girl! I've seen moms almost come to blows over this.

I do leave mine in the car for things like returning the shopping cart.

I also left my youngest in the car at preschool drop-off/pick-up this year. I could park right in front of the school- a narrow sidewalk separating my front bumper and the glass door. I just had to walk my other two inside that door and say bye and then turn and walk out.

If I brought in my little one, he would have a fit b/c he didn't want to leave.

Other moms brought their little ones in with them, though.

CJ Sime said...

I know of many moms who leave their kid in the car while they take the other into preschool. One mom in particular goes in after almost everyone has cleared out so the kid is in the car by themself for as little as possible. I don't see anything wrong with it. I always watch her car carefully to make sure he is happy as I walk by and I would most definitely say something if a stranger approached the car.

I don't recall leaving my kid in the car for more than a shopping cart returns time -in fact I think it would endanger the child MORE having them walk back from returning the cart- I don't trust other drivers ESPECIALLY in parking lots.

Shell is right, moms nearly come to blows over this topic.

Oliver'sMom said...

I'm of the opinion that schlepping both your girls back into a rained on wet cart and the going back through the parking lot with both in tow has way more potential for disaster than the quick run to drop off the cart while they wait safe, dry, and locked in your car! I'm with BJ Mama, I think we've all had this mental debate about this one! If the weather isn't anywhere near hot and I'll have the car in eyesight, Ive left Ollie in the car. Can we just say that I love that Jimmy Johns is lightening fast?!?! LOL!

Miss. Candy said...

We live in a very SMALL town and in our town I could get my gas and walk in pay for it with my kids in the car, BECAUSE the pump was 4 feet from the door and the register was just inside with picture window looking out at my car. I was five feet from my car. In the city, I would NEVER have done that! Now that we have pre-pays every where I don't have to worry. There was no way I wanted to drag a new born and toddler out in the snow, rain, etc. to pay for gas.

The media has played up the parents who have gone to the extreme that we are afraid as parents to do anything now. Parking lots are also scary places for little people!!

Procrasti-Mom said...

D, I've totally had these arguments in my head too, just like all of you. So here are a couple of examples of what I've done ...

Subway, in the "hood", they have a glass front, I parked right in front of it. Called in my order and had the guy wave at me when it was done (he was nice to work w/ me when I explained I had sleeping kiddos in the car). Ran in paid and ran back out.

Grocery store scenario. I agree, way more dangerous to bring kiddos back and forth. I try to park next to or very near the shopping cart returns if at all possible to cut down on my time of finding a cart and returning the cart.

ATM, parked nearby and kept watching the car, but was totally scared more that someone would call the police on me, even though I was right there .. try to opt for ATM drive through when I can.

Oh and no matter the weather, unless it is a torrential (sp?)down pour, I leave the windows cracked & sunroof open if possible. Heard one of "those" stories about a mom who left the kiddo in the car on a really hot day. I can't even relate the rest of the story ... awful.

Anyway, not sure if any of that is helpful or not, but know that you are not alone. I think it is a bit dependent on the scenario, location, visibility, weather, and mostly your comfort level. :)

Procrasti-Mom said...

Oh yea, and I too make sure that the doors are LOCKED!

Joy said...

So far I've only had to leave my kids in my driveway while I run back in to get my phone. And even then, I run. I agree that the horrific stories we've all heard have scared us. But I guess that's a good thing because it's obviously made us more cautious and we now think of situations ahead of time. There have only been a few times where I've considered leaving them in the car to run in, but I'm more scared that someone will call the police and report me. So, I've never had to leave them yet, but it's been helpful to read everyone's answers.

Elaina said...

Dana, I have to tell you that when I worked for Volvo, we had a partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. My friend and contact at NCMEC told me that the exact scenario you described of leaving your kid in the car for just a second is the #1 way kids are taken. She said this happens even when the car is in front of the person's house and the parent quickly runs in. I would leave the cart in the rain in between the cars in the parking lot, and don't leave the girlies unattended.

I even have my own memory of being locked in the car with my friend ( we were in Kindergarten I think)while her mom ran in a store quickly, and a man came up to the window and was banging on the window trying to get us to open the door, which we didn't.

♥Cari♥ said...

I would do the exact same thing.. I've never been away from the car for more than a few minutes, I always have the emergency button on my keyless entry at the tip of my finger, and I can always see the car. I agree with everyone else, the media is always telling these horror stories (not saying they shouldn't be brought up) but it's made us so that we question every single little thing that we do.

Jessica said...

In theory, I would never leave my kids alone in the car. In reality, I have done this before and kept the door locked. I have done it for the shopping cart return and also to drop off dry cleaning. The cleaners has parking right out front with a big window.

There was a news story here a few years ago where some kids were left in the car during a similar "quick" errand. Someone called the police and I think the mom was arrested for child endangerment (or something similar).

Chi-town momma said...

I too have this debate. Nothing sucks more than living on the third floor of a condo, and after schleping us down the stairs and strapping everyone into their seats realizing I forgot ____!!! That is when I totally wish Mommy Brain was not a real ailment! I do live in the city so I typically just say "F-it, I can live without ___ for this errand" or I scratch that particular errand off my list. I did one time forget my wallet and luckily, two nuns who live in a neighboring house were getting into their car. I asked them to please watch my kids, locked my car, ran as fast as my legs could carry me and got it. I figured, nuns? must be a sign from God right? ;)
I too park right next to the cart return, we get enough dings in our car from street parking that who cares about a bump from a cart! I feel no guilt about returning my cart.
I have not gone into a store or gas station while my kids are in the car. I just can't do it. This fear has probably saved me a ton of money since I would REALLY love to run into Starbucks and get a coffee some days but the thought of loading and unloading is more than I can handle!
I am a wimp though with the whole thing - I still struggle with leaving the kids to go down the three flights to the car while the kids are napping to unload items from the store! But I do think I was more relaxed about it when we lived in the burbs than now in the city.
Interesting posting series. Look forward to next week.

Mira said...

This happened to me just this morning. I realized I will no longer judge the people who leave their carts in annoying places other than the drop offs. I couldn't get parking next to the drop zone and so I decided to be bad and leave the cart as out of the way as possible but not where it was supposed to go. I am more afraid of someone else calling the police on me honestly. They wouldn't know I'd only been gone a second. Oh the number of times I've wanted to quickly run in to get a coffee for just a min with the triplets in the car...

Just can't do it. But don't judge you for doing so.

Erin said...

That's a hard one. I have left mine in the car in the driveway to run back in the house for something or like you in the grocery parking lot to bring my cart to the store. It scares me to death to do it though!

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