"The facts in each case differ a little, but always there is the terrible moment when the parent realizes what he or she has done, often through a phone call from a spouse or caregiver. This is followed by a frantic sprint to the car. What awaits there is the worst thing in the world." - Gene Weingarten
I posted this last year but since the weather is heating up, I think it’s a good time to revisit it.
Leaving a child in a car is easier to do than the rational human brain is willing to comprehend. The people who have done it are shocked that they did. They said that they never thought it would be their mistake to make. It’s a tragic, terrible thing that any one of us could do or will do. 44 children died after being left in vehicles last year, but I’m willing to bet there were thousands upon thousands of close calls. The younger the child, the easier it is to get out of the car without a backwards glance. Infants are quiet and lethargic in the heat. They are probably asleep when you lock the door.
If you read my post last year, you’ll remember a moment when I locked the car door and began to walk away from it with Isobel still inside. That moment scared me more than anything else has ever frightened me in my life. It is the ultimate preventable tragedy and it is lurking so close to every parent. It’s just one distraction away. I don’t want to scare you, but I kind of want to scare you. There are a lot of irrational paranoias that come with parenthood. This is not one of them. This is worth being scared of.
Here are some things that I’ve read can help reduce your risk:
- Put your bag (handbag, diaper bag, whatever) in the backseat.
- If you (or especially dad) doesn’t carry a bag, put your wallet or suit jacket in the backseat.
- Set an alarm on your phone to go off at the approximate time you’ll reach your destination.
- Tape a piece of paper over your inside door handle.
- If your routine changes and your spouse or partner will be handling daycare drop-offs, etc., be sure to alert them before they leave (“Don’t forget to stop at daycare”) and give them a follow-up phone call. This works the other way too, obviously. If you are suddenly responsible for transporting your child and you haven’t been the one doing it often, ask someone to follow up with you.
And last, please read this article. It is one of the most important things I’ve read as a parent.