“I Endangered My Children!”

Hi Readers — I am hearing so much about “Can I ever EVER leave my child in the car?” lately that I thought I’d share this note that just came in from a sane and loving mom. Voila:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I thought of you today as I was standing in Papa Murphy’s waiting for my pizza.  You see I had left my 8-year-old son and his 4-year-old brother in our van.  I had the keys.  They were about 20 feet from me and I could clearly see them through the big Papa Murphy’s windows.  You came to mind as a lady walked in asking who had left two children alone in that van.  I calmly took responsibility and she began to paint a picture of kidnap and murder!

I stayed calm, because I didn’t want her calling the police, and thanked her for her concern but assured her that I could clearly see my children and that I felt they were safe.  She continued on about how children are abducted in plain sight in front of parents.  At this point I kept silent but what I really wanted to say was that maybe they should have never cut the cord. Then I would have them attached to me at all times and then I would know they are safe!  I also decided not to tell her that my 9-year-old was waiting for us at home all by himself!

The good news is the other customer and the Papa Murphy’s staff all laughed after she left.  It was pretty ridiculous!

66 Responses

  1. Even if you don’t cut the cord it falls off by itself after a while😉

  2. Wait…what if you brought them in while you ordered pizza and someone came in to rob the place and they were shot?

    I guess you will have to confine yourselves to the house and order in pizza to keep them safe.

    wait…what if there was a gas leak at your house?

    LOL – too much!

    I leave my son in the car all the time if i can see him. He prefers it.

  3. What if you ordered pizza to be delivered and the driver lost control and crashed into your house?

    Hee.

    I may have said something like, “I used to be that scared, until I learned the true statistics of that happening. May I suggest reading “Free Range Kids”? It sure helped calm my fears!”

  4. I’d be tempted to say, “My kids are in the car because I am protecting them from crazy people like you.”

  5. I let my kids (6&8) stay in the car while I run in quick places. About 2 years ago I went in to return a pan at a small cake decorating place, a quick 2-3 minute stop. When I got back the kids were laughing and told me 2 ladies had come up to the car and looked inside at them and were discussing what a bad mom I must be to leave my kids in the car. The kids thought it was pretty funny and the ladies were gone by the time I came out, at least I didn’t see them. 2 years later my kids are both still alive and well and being left in the car. the other day as we were putting up a tent in the backyard for my daughter (8) to have a sleepover she told me she’s glad I’m not like other moms. I asked what she meant, I think I’m a pretty typical mom. She said most other moms are always afraid of everything and think bad things are going to happen!!!

  6. I’m just waiting for someone to challenge me with that so I can tell them there’s no need to worry about a kidnapping, I keep a loaded handgun under the seat for protection.

  7. I left my 1.5 year-old in the car while I ran into a gas station. Locked doors, I had the keys, she was parked RIGHT outside the door.
    As I was ringing up my purchase, I looked out and noticed a lady really looking at her, and hanging out instead of getting in her car. I figured I was about to get chewed, but when I went outside she just yelled, “She’s really cute!” and then drove away. YEAH!

    I also help my husband with his courier business by making the occasional delivery. When this happens, I usually need to bring my daughter. Since I’m just going in the (usually glass) door to drop off a box, I usually leave her out. No one has every said anything until 2 days ago when the guy asked, “Is your kid OK out there?” I said, “Yup,” and that was the end of it.

  8. Our local police definitely frown on kids being left alone in cars– not because they fear kidnapping, but because auto break-ins are relatively common and they’d just as soon not have the kids experience it from the inside.

    They’ve told me, however, that if they respond to a call for an “abandoned” child in a car and the parent promptly appears (indicating that he/she was watching the car) that they probably won’t do anything.

    The whole thing seems ridiculous, as I remember many hours (well, probably not, but it sure seemed like it!) of being left alone in the car waiting while my mom did some errand or other. Unfortunately, the panicking of others may bring the police in– plan on what you’ll say and how you’ll handle it beforehand.

    — Steve

  9. “I also decided not to tell her that my 9-year-old was waiting for us at home all by himself!”

    That was so funny!😛

  10. On top of being left in the car as a kid, my mom once left my step-brother and me at a Pizza Hut for “collateral” when we were 5 or 6 while she made the 10-15 minute trip home and back to get her forgotten cash (this was loooong before debit cards). I’m sure she cleared it with management. We stayed at our table drinking our sodas, talking, etc. until she got back. We were neither kidnapped nor molested on-site.

  11. Maybe it’s time for a “Leave Your Kids in the Car” day?

    I remember being left in the car all the time as a kid. It was fun. Mom would leave the radio on, we’d hang out. Sometimes we’d slip behind the wheel–me steering, my little sister on the pedals–and we’d drive around the parking lot.

    Okay, not that last bit.

  12. Order pizza?? You mean give someone your ADDRESS? What if they see you have kids, and they know your address. Gasp! What sort of police check have these pizza delivery people have. Notice they are more likely to be men, so almost definitely they are paedophiles.

    Moral outrage etc

    I remember the butcher looking out the window at me and my cousins in the car, waving and holding up saveloys, popping one each in for us for free, so we could eat them cold. (This was the station wagon where one of us would have to sit in the open boot because there weren’t enough seats for us all.)

    Anyway, I leave my kids in the car when I go to the post office or dash into the shops. I also leave the front door open on summer nights. I leave the car in our driveway unlocked with the keys in the ignition and it’s never been stolen.

    Also we don’t use the child lock on the seven year old’s side of the car anymore, so she can get herself out of the car. My four year old, when we stop, will take her own safety belt off (she’s in a booster with a child harness) and climb over to her sister’s side to let herself out. A man saw this happen the other day at her creche and he said to her as she was getting out ‘is your mummy here?’ I stood up out of the driver’s seat and he saw me.
    ‘Don’t you have a childlock?’
    ‘We don’t use it on that side.’
    ‘Oh, cause she let herself out.’
    ‘Yes.’
    ‘Some kids get out and run around the carpark.’
    Withering stare. ‘My children would never do that. It’s amazing how much responsibility a bit of trust engenders.’

    (Actually I didn’t say that last sentence, but I wish I had. By the way, we’ve been using this creche for one and a half years, and as it’s about 30km, we have to drive. I have parked in that carpark twice a year day, three days a week for nearly 2 years. I have never once seen a child break themselves out of a car and run around the carpark. I suspect he was speaking out of his derriere.)

  13. (sometimes it’s only after you hit submit you realise how ridiculously long your comment is. Sorry.)

  14. I left my kids in the car for 10 minutes at Bed, Bath and Beyond. They didn’t want to come in. I blogged about it and actually, the whole Free Range thing came to my attention as a result of this incident. The police came.
    http://armyhousewifery.blogspot.com/2010/04/when-police-show-up.html

  15. People tend to frown at kids being left alone in cars out here, just because we get alot of car theft and people leaving them there for hours on end.

    Actually, about the leaving kids in the park. I am not against it just you gotta habe common sense, someone let their 3 kids play alone in a part at 9 pm, by 9:30 the youngest, a 5 year old girl, was lured and sexually assaulted. The park was in a crappy neighbhourhood too. Had nothing to do with Leave you kid in the park day, just saying .

  16. Well, I’m a pretty laid-back mom and agree with a lot of what’s being said on this blog about letting kids be and not over-parenting them, etc. But not when it comes to leaving kids alone in the car, even if you can see them clearly and even if you’re only gone for a second. Two reasons why:

    When we lived in Daytona Beach, we had several cases when cars were stolen from gas stations with (usually sleeping) babies in them while moms (and once – a dad) were inside paying for gas or purchasing a lottery ticket or a drink.

    Now we live in NC. A few days ago we were driving home when a mini-van rolled out of the driveway, across 2 lanes of traffic and ended up stuck in the median. There were 2 small kids inside (the oldest looked like she was about 6years old). Aparently, parents were loading the mini-van (which was parked at their front-door and no keys were inside). The kids were playing in the van and might’ve hit or kicked the gear shift. Or maybe the brakes weren’t all that to begin with (the driveway had an incline). Noone got hurt in this one, but everyone got pretty scared. So I guess the lesson here is if you do leave the kids in the car for a few minutes, put the parking break on for added safety.

  17. I’d love to be able to leave my daughter(5 months) in the car when I get gas in but I’m a little nervous about it. A few years ago in my city, a lady got out of her car with her child & left the baby inside. The car was locked & they just jumped out to put money in a Salvation army bucket-but she was arrested. I don’t remember the outcome but it’s had me worried enough to not want to leave her alone in the car!

  18. Has anyone ever told you about the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts? Our daughter went there from the age of seven and a half to the age of eighteen. There are two hundred kids there aged four through nineteen and they are free to range anywhere they want to range, all day, on the ten acres. The situation has been thus since 1968. You can, I am sure, believe the untold untoward crap they have been through over the years from anyone who noticed, who was not a part and parcel of the school. The school was inspired by A.S. Neill’s school in England, Summerhill, but went further than that model by offering no curriculum at all (you might as well believe me), and just offering unlimited learning opportunities. The Sudbury Valley School is explained by Dan Greenburg’s little book, Free At Last. The school is world famous, but little known in its own town. People there think it is a school for special needs kids. All the ‘lifers’ are especially well adjusted and successful, and are eternally thankful for being allowed to have a childhood.

  19. I have never seen anyone take their kids OUT of the car when getting petrol (gas) in australia. Kids arent allowed around the pumps etc. Kids are left in cars all the time while parents pay, in all the times I have seen. I have never taken my kids out when i go to pay for petrol and I have four.

  20. that being said, I never leave my keys in the car, and I dont think I have ever heard of a car stealing from a gas station in australia.. maybe we are lucky here.

  21. How appropriate that I read this tonight! I also went and picked up pizza and left my kids in the car. I left my 14 year old son in charge of his 8 and 6 year old brothers with strict instructions for the 4 minutes I would be gone. I also left the keys in the car so the air conditioning would keep running – it was 90 degrees. Anyone could have just jumped in and taken all 3.
    And I wonder all the time what people would think!

  22. SO reassuring. I don’t do it often, but I absolutely refuse to herd my kids out of the car and in the station and out and back in the car to pay for gas. I have told people when this subject comes up in conversation: “Are you kidding? Five kids are the BEST car theft deterrent EVER!”

    Also had a ‘free-range’ toddler experience lately. Oy.

    http://tinyurl.com/areservationforsix

  23. Hi, I’m not sure how to contact you guys so this is a little unrelated to the current blog post. However, I thought you guys might want to know about a book called rash by Pete Hautman. It’s a young adult book set in the future where everything is super safe to the extreme, outrageously so. It’s an interesting read, I recommend it highly.

  24. I second what This girl loves to talk says above. Paying for petrol in Australia? Kids stay in car unless they are actively involved (ie sometimes mine come in with me if part of the reason is to let them choose an ice-cream or something). Never have I heard a comment or a experienced a problem with this. It is ubiquitous.

    (Though, that said, there was an incident really recently where a car was stolen from a shopping centre carpark with 2 kids inside it – the elder kid, think he was around 6 or 7, talked to the two thieves saying stop, no, you’re scaring my sister, and the two thought better of it and abandoned the car at the carpark entrance. So I guess it does happen – however occasionally – even when the timeframe is small and parents have line-of-sight to the car.)

  25. Ahh the stranger who thinks they care about your children more than you – aren’t they just the best! I leave my kids in their buggy outside stores all the time but haven’t had any comments yet. It’s good to know the customers at the pizza place saw through the hysteria. gives me more confidence.

    Rachel – Thought your blog post was very good. So glad someone found Sylvie. I’m hoping I’m lucky enough to get through the early years without that sort of scare – I can imagine the way you felt after you shut the door.

  26. @Kathy, if that was the case I’m thinking of (Northland Preston), the mum was loading the shopping into the boot when the thieves grabbed the car, so the kids weren’t alone in the car.

  27. These moments are wonderful opportunities for evangalism. “Did your parents keep you close by their side every minute? Do you know that the world is safer today than it was then? Do you know that the odds of being kidnapped out of your car are much, much lower than the odds of getting in a fatal car crash on the way? Have you heard of a Web site called ‘Free Range Kids’ or a book by the same name?” It’s possible, but unlikely, that you will make a convert. But your attacker will certainly be quite surprised to be put on the defensive. And–as with any political argument–your real objective is not to convert your antagonist, but the bystanders.

  28. First comment is that there sure are a lot of people going into places to pay for gas on this blog. I don’t think I’ve done that since pay-at-the-pump gas pumps were invented.

    Second, we’ve now had police and child services involvement in situations where kids were left in the car twice in the last month in my town. The first involved a grandmother who was babysitting (a rarity for her) and she accidently left the baby in the car for 5 minutes. She did show up almost immediately after the police – they hadn’t yet opened the door. It didn’t appear that grandma had been charged at the time that the article was written (although it wouldn’t surprise me if she has been now) but the kid was definitely taken away from the grandmother by child services until the parents could come get him (and I’m sure that a condition of child services returning the child to the parents was the grandma not babysit). In the second incident, mom picked the kids up from the babysitter, took them out to the car, turned the car on and then went back inside to pay the babysitter. One of the kids started playing with the electric window and managed to catch his neck in it. He was seriously injured. Kids are in foster care and mom is in jail charged with felony cruelty to children (a count for each kid, even the one that was not injured, so it’s a clear statement that the act of leaving them in the car alone was the crime).

    I’m definitely free range but I would never leave my child in the car alone (in a public place – I do it all the time in the driveway). I don’t have a problem with it from a safety standpoint. I’m not worried about her being kidnapped or my car being snatched. But this is one free range practice that seems to be leading to arrest and child services involvement, at least in my town. I’d also look at the laws in your area. They’re are several states where it is illegal to leave DOGS in a car alone so I can’t imagine that children being left in a car alone would be looked at favorably in those states (and, interestingly, it’s not the states so consumed with heat and humidity that such a law would make sense).

  29. My first thought was if kids are kidnapped right in front of their parents all the time then what difference does it make if they are in the car or standing in the store…they could still be snatched. Crazy lady.

    I don’t leave my kids in the car but not because I don’t think they can handle it and won’t be safe. I don’t do it because of the crazy, busy-bodies in the world looking out to call the cops on unsuspecting families just because they can. They seem to get quite the enjoyment out of it.

    In the pizza situation mentioned I probably would have done it. Why drag 4 kids out of my car (one buckled into a carseat) just to pick up a freaking pizza. Maybe that’s why we always get ours delivered, lol.

  30. When I was a kid in the early 90s, sometimes my mom would leave me in the car WITH the keys in it so I could use the radio and air conditioner. I never ever got abducted, but once or twice I got bored with waiting so I went inside to find my mom, locked the doors to be responsible, but forgot the bring the keys with me so we were locked out of the car.

    There is a legitimate concern with leaving children in a car during the summer when it can get dangerously hot, and the same thing for leaving animals in a car. If you’re running in to pick up a pizza or deliver a package or pay for gas it’s probably fine but I wouldn’t leave them for longer than 5 minutes.

  31. This is such a controversial situation and account for so many differing opinions! I linked your post to my recent post on my blog,
    http://www.candace-mixedupmom.blogspot.com, and I would love for you to read and leave a comment.
    I love the idea of free-range children because it truly is learning how to balance safety of our kids but allowing them to be just that….kids.
    It’s amazing that people feel they have such authority when it comes to children and parenting skills. I think it’s important that as moms, we can stand up for one another, regardless of our agreement or disagreement on child-rearing.
    It’s extremely important to remember that our children learn from action and also from watching how their parents react in situations that are uncomfortable.
    Part of the joy of childhood is having the freedom to explore and learn….part of the task of parenthood is enabling that freedom in a way that is safe for our children, but also realistic.

  32. Jen nails it. As some of us say over and over here, I worry a LOT more about busybodies than actual “dangers.” Yes, I’m aware of the potential dangers of an overheated car or a kid doing something dumb with the gearshift, but you take those things into account and don’t do it when it’s hot, when you could conceivably be detained very long, and you take the keys. I WOULD actually hesitate to leave the kids in with the keys, even in my pretty low-crime area, because car thieves WILL look for any opportunity, and I don’t want my car stolen with or without kids, and of course even moreso with kids. But not because “oh noes, someone might steal my kids” but because “everybody knows that leaving a car running is asking for it,” and yes, some thieves who aren’t intentional abductors ARE dumb enough to take cars with kids in them.

    But yeah, if someone is going to drive off with my kids in the car while I can see them just because I’m not there to — what? Fight them off? I’m 5′ 3″, 120 pounds, 44 years old and not very strong — so if someone’s going to do that, it doesn’t much matter whether I’m within five feet of the car or not.

  33. Hey Lenore, got good story for ya!

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/06/04/mb-dauphin-foiled-abduction-1064.html#socialcomments

    A girl prevented an abduction by asking for a ‘password.” Her family taught her to ask for a password they thought up for whenever someone claims to be sent to pick her up. Not a bad idea.

  34. I’ve been steaming about this for 25 years: I did the same as you did when I got a paper, and when I got back to the car my two boys were sobbing hysterically. Second and first graders.

    It seems their school had an assembly, and a hired-gun presenter told the kids that if their parents ever left them alone they would be grabbed by bad people and never see them again. Apparently the assembly achieved the desired level of terror.

    I talked with (yelled at) the principal and insisted that I be notified if there were to be any other attempt at terror, so that I could take my kids out to meet strangers.

    I don’t think I was ever madder.

  35. I grew up having a password, though I never had to use it. I have one set up for my kids too. I think it works because it aims at foiling the abductions done by those that know the kids (which is most common anyway). This way, even if they know the person, the password will tell them if something is off.

  36. I leave my four kids in the car all the time to mail packages, buy beer, pick up pizza, get gas etc – doors locked of course but I’m just waiting to get arrested. As someone mentioned above, NO ONE is going to steal a car with four obnoxious kids!!

  37. My neighbors had a password for their kids. But the day they left 1 sick child and 1 well toddler with my mom, while they rushed sicker child to the ER they forgot to give us the password. So afterschool when I went to pick up the 4th child from school – she refused to get in my car, even though I had her toddler cousin with me.

    It took the principal, secretary, and teacher to persuade her to get in the car.

  38. @Penni Russon Nope, not that case. It was at my local shops, Central Square (Altona Meadows). Mum definitely wasn’t in the car, although had line of sight to the vehicle – had raced in to the fish & chippy to pick up a phone order (gone maybe 3 mins when thieves hit it.

  39. Why is it that every time I see the title of this post:

    “I Endangered My Children!”

    the next line pops irresistibly into my mind as:

    “And you can, too!”
    🙂

  40. How the scene at the pizza place should have ended . . .

    Parent: Thank you for sharing your concerns, Ma’am. Does that sort of thing happen often around here?

    Busybody: What do you mean?

    Parent: You know . . . Abductions, child murders . . . When was the last one you remember in our town?

    Busybody: Well . . . I don’t know, but . . .

    Parent: I guess it’s true then.

    Busybody: What’s true?

    Parent: I’ve been reading and hearing a lot lately about crimes against children — all crime, really — being much lower than it used to be. Must be true. Say, do you remember when the last auto accident was in our town?

    Busybody: Probably yesterday! And ten last week! Don’t you read the paper?

    Parent: Hmm. Seems like kids are far more likely to be hurt in a car accident than abducted. 40 times more likely, actually. I think I’d better get them home and out of that vehicle right away! And I think you’d better get to work spreading the word that kids don’t belong in cars AT ALL, with or without their parents! That’s a far more real threat to warn people about. Have a nice day. Gotta run. Thanks!

  41. Lafe – Love that little mock dialogue. I’ve never gotten a dressing down for leaving kids in the car but I did get one once from some busybody at a drugstore for taking my eyes off the baby in stroller. I was getting help from the clerk and I left him at the end of the aisle while we went around the corner for a second. I just said “thank you for your concern” in a polite but dismissive tone. This was my second baby and I’d had it with interfering strangers by then. The clerk, who didn’t have children yet, was absolutely shocked so I had to fill her in on how often this sort of thing happens to parents these days. Poor woman, I hope I didn’t completely turn her off having children!

  42. Hey Lenore,

    I am a writing from Estonia, it’s a small country in Europe. I came a cross your blog through babble.com and a quick flip through your posts left me a bit astonished. I mean, you seem to be sane and a thoughtful lady, but has rest of the america gone insane?:)

    Around here, we have no problems children playing in the parks by themselves, going to school alone using public transport, having fun on the beaches, taking country trips, being home alone. Without no adult supervision whatsoever. I would not imagine anyone calling the cops here for leaving children in the car. The emergency service people would probably laugh their asses off or consider it a prank call.

    I wish you all the best and strength in voicing common sense in that strange country USA appears to be.

  43. I’m moving to Estonia if the homeschooling doesn’t get the government off my back.

  44. I left my 2 year old son buckled in his carseat, windows down in 65 degree weather, car off, right outside my house on an army base while I ran inside to grab a water bottle. I saw the MPs pull up behind my car from the window of my house, so I immediately ran back outside to let them know I was watching. I received a long lecture about the hazards of leaving my child in a car unattended, which I responded to apologetically because I didn’t want to be written up for child neglect. The officer responded by saying “don’t apologize to me, apologize to your son.” I did get off with a “warning” but it was still difficult to swallow when common sense was so clearly lacking.

  45. With 5 children aged 7 and under, leaving them in the car has at times become a more and more attractive option!

    The law in NSW, Australia states: “A person who leaves any child or young person in the person’s care in a motor vehicle without proper supervision for such period or in such circumstances that:

    (a) the child or young person becomes or is likely to become emotionally distressed, or

    (b) the child’s or young person’s health becomes or is likely to become permanently or temporarily impaired,

    is guilty of an offence.”

    Seems to me it’s a judgement call. I figure that if I get back to the car and hear the sound of hysterical laughter, no-one is emotionally distressed.

  46. All I can do is shake my head. I used to teach and the lack of self sufficiency was staggering. Do parents really not understand the detrimental effects of constantly supervising their children?

  47. Last summer, I left my 10 year old daughter in a mini van along with one of the toddler twins I was taking care of at the time while I took the other twin with me inside the local bookstore to pick up a book I had recently ordered. I could see the van and the kids through the plate glass window while waiting to purchase my book. They were fine. Nobody attempted to kidnap them, nobody berated me for leaving kids in a locked car on a sunny day. I was in and out of the bookstore in five minutes. The book I purchased, “Free Range Kids.”

  48. Eating Papa Murphy’s pizza is probably more dangerous to your kids than leaving them in the car for a few minutes.🙂

  49. I’m all for leaving the kids in the car when necessary. However, I do have to point out that once, when I was a Big Brother (of Big Brothers Little Brothers) I left my Little Brother in the car while I ran inside the house to grab a frisbee. As I was coming out of the door, I see my car slowly rolling across the street and into a parked car.

    Fortunately, no injuries, no damage.

    My car was a stick shift, the parking brake wasn’t string enough for that hill, and LB decided to shift the gears while he waited for me. His mom drove an automatic, so this was a new thing for him.

    I point this out just as a reminder that if the little ones aren’t strapped in and haven’t been educated about what to do and not do, bad stuff can happen.

  50. @BrianJ, that’s a great point. As ever, TEACH your children well (their father’s hell will slowly go by….).

  51. I would have just said…Thank you for your concern, but the chances of my children getting abducted by a total stranger, in a public lot with the doors locked, and I can see them without obstruction, is less likely than another car hitting mine as they are leaving their spot. Plus, even in a remote chance that someone did try to take my kids, my 8 year old would no more of what to do in that situation than most adults. You should talk to him, he’ll give you some pointers so YOU don’t get abducted by a total stranger.

    Different story if it was very hot out. Never a good idea to leave children in a car that’s like an oven (even with the windows down). But that doesn’t sound to be the case here.

    I would have loved to educate her. She could call the cops all she wants, I doubt in that situation they would have done anything. Maybe tell her she’s wasting tax payers’ money.

  52. hmm. why did you left your 9 year old son alone?

  53. I had fun reading all those comments. I am the one who e-mailed Lenore last Friday about what happened at Papa Murphy’s. I also posted it on my FB status and got lots of support. It really is amazing how fearful people are these days. Thanks for all of your support!!

  54. I just opened my Wall Street Journal (6-8-10 edition). In the Personal Journal section – a huge 1/2 page article about THE DANGERS OF SUMMER! Yup, summer is officially DANGEROUS, especially for kids. Of course you get drownings, bike injuries, sunburns, and boating accidents. But heaven forbid you forget about that mosquito bite that gets infected and leads to a life-threatening condition. Yea, that is covered in there too.

  55. One other thought. I never left my 2 oldest children in the car until they were around age 6. Now my youngest I starting leaving at age 3 but it was because he had 7&9 year old brothers with him. I don’t think it is OK to leave babies/toddlers in the car alone but kids a little older – YES! I also never leave the car running or leave the keys in the car. I also take notice of the weather and if I will be out of sight of the car for more than 5 minutes I take them with me. Just wanted to clarify that being a Free Range Parent doesn’t mean you are being irresponsible.

  56. Just to warn people, there are some states (generally the hotter ones) where it is illegal to leave your kids in the car by themselves. I’m not sure what the age limit is on that. We lived in SC for a few years, and that was a state where it was illegal. I often left my daughter in the driveway with windows open, while I ran into the house for whatever it is I forgot (ADD). I was taking a risk by doing that in front of my house, but I never would have risked it in public. You can bet the CPS would have gotten involved.

  57. I don’t know if I should confess this, but I leave my nephew in the car while I go into the grocery store, because there are some days he doesn’t want to go in and there are some days I just don’t want to put up with the I’m bored, can I get this, why aren’t you done yet? routine. The doors are locked and he is comfortable and he knows not to let anyone talk him into opening the doors. We also let him play outside by himself, with minimal supervision, which I must say I was a bit nervous about when we started doing it, but he’s occupied, he’s outside and getting some of that excercise and fresh air he really needs.

  58. OMG! I’ve been waiting for this subject to appear on FreeRange! I was left in the car ALL THE TIME as a child, for quick things like a Post Office run, gas station, even bread/milk grocery runs. Never kidnapped or molested. I think the major safety concern down here in sou h Alabama is the heat. The temperature in a car can increase by 20 degrees in 4 or 5 min.
    Once I left my 5, 3 and 2 year old in the van to run in the store and get bread for lunch. I had the keys, windows cracked, it was fall..so only about 70 degrees out. I came back to the store manager standing behind my van trying to block me in. She said she had called the police and that they would be here shortly. I told her then she “better move from behind my van because then they really would have something to talk to me about”. She acted like she wasn’t going to, but when I persisted to back out she moved. I was so furious the whole day. Now every time I see this lady in the store, I like to remind her that it’s STILL not against the law in Alabama to leave your kids in the car.

  59. Paige, I’m in California, and it’s dangerous to leave any living thing in the car for over half the year because of the temperature problems. Of course, the answer to this is if your child is old enough to unstrap and get out of the car when the temperature goes up (and has the ability to, let’s not forget the child locks), it’s different than if you have a toddler. Like many of you, I was left in the car when young and nobody had an issue.

    In fact, when I was eleven or twelve, my brother and I were left in the car OUT OF SIGHT of my mother as she went in somewhere we weren’t interested in visiting. It got boring after a while but she brought ice cream out as an apology for taking longer than she’d though, so all was well. Two kids in (and around) a car in a parking lot! Horrors!

  60. This reminds me of an experience I had as a child. My father left my younger sister and I in the car while he ran in to pick up a pizza, in fact. He was only twenty feet away at most. I was up front, buckled in. My younger sister was in the back of the car. I was about six or seven, my sister a year and a half younger. Okay, so no one kidnapped us or raped us, BUT I did something that could have gotten us both killed. I knew better, I had been told not to touch anything… but I grabbed the gear and put us in reverse. We rolled back out of the parking lot, which was on a little hill. I panicked and quickly put it back in place before we were t-boned by oncoming cars, thankfully. So, there is more to consider than just kidnappers. Even if my dad saw me reaching for the gear he would never have been able to run fast enough to stop me. Kids do dumb things. They really should be supervised. My parents definitely were NOT “helicopter” by any means, yet I ended up with serious anxiety issues. We were left to roam all day alone. I think my time could have been better spent if i had been given some direction and guidance. Hell, attention would have been nice!

  61. earlier today..i had a rescue dog that had just left the vet’s office and a very tired and grumpy 8.5 year old in the car and it was hot and muggy.. so i left the car running, ac on, doors locked and went in a subway restaurant. (normally she goes everywhere with me) i was literally less than 20′ from the car and i had a clear view through the window. there was no one around and it wasn’t in a bad neighborhood. a police officer pulled up and walked in and i said, “i have a question for you.” he snapped around and he said really loud for everyone to hear, “i have a question for you too. why would you think it’s okay to leave your kid in the car alone? do you know how irresponsible that is? do you know how easy it would be for someone to break out the window and take the car?”

    just as easy for them to do it with me in the car, i suppose? i mean seriously.. this is a small town. there aren’t car thieves lurking around every corner. there was no one outside the building. no one on the sidewalks around the place. and i’m just not buying into this crap that i should be deathly afraid of everything all the time. and i sure as hell don’t know why that cop thought it was his place to talk to me like that. i’m going to the police department TODAY and i am going to get an apology. i did not break any law. i made a decision based on observing the situation and knowing the maturity of my child. and honestly, i wouldn’t have minded him expressing his feelings to me but to blast it all over the store to try to shame me was garbage!

    on the plus side.. it brought me here..

  62. This post reminds me of something that happened to a good friend. She went to CostCo and left her large dogs in the car. It was 54 degrees Farenheit (sweater or jacket weather) and she left the windows rolled down while she went in to buy dog food.

    When she came out, a policeman started following her. When he saw which car she went to, he asked, “Ma’am, is this your vehicle?” She said yes. He said, “Just act like I’m talking to you.” And a woman in a car nearby starts yelling at her, calling her a dog-killer. Because she left her dogs in the car. On a 54F degree day with the windows rolled down.

    The cop had to tell the other lady to leave and that he’d handle it. So he makes it clear to my friend that this woman’s concern is ridiculous, but he had to check out the call. Then the Animal Control truck shows up. The cop tells him what’s going on, and the Animal Control guy is PISSED that he got called out for that.

    Not the same kind of situation, but yet it is. Common sense seems so subjective.

  63. When it comes to children left alone in cars, I’m much more worried about temperature than kidnappers and car thieves. My mom left me and my sister alone in the car plenty of times when we were little- but only after we were out of carseats, and with the windows cracked and the doors unlocked, so we could get out if it got too hot. We were never bothered by anyone and never got into trouble, but mom did come back a couple times to find me sitting on the hood of the car complaining about the heat. I’m from California, and summers can be scorching. On such occasions, I often got ice cream as an apology. And look, here I am, all grown up (I just graduated college and am on my way into a career), and perfectly fine.

  64. The SAME thing happened to me outside of a Papa Murphy’s last fall! I wonder if there is some crazed lady waving a cell-phone on Papa Murphy patrol. My kids were 11 and 6 and the lady was ranting about how my kids could suffocate in my car (the windows were up). My 11 year old was humiliated that she thought he was too stupid to open the car door if he got hot.

  65. I left my sisters two kids in my car, because her son is out of control. He throws fits and cries whenever he can’t get his way. Only his mom can barely control him. Well I was not going to take him in DHR to get some paper work while he was throwing a fit kicking hitting and spitting all over his self. His mom told me she has left him in the car plenty of times. Well it was a dumb move on my part, because I was at DHR and security saw the kids and I got into trouble. They did not call the police but put me in the system and said if something else happens later I will be in trouble. I explained to them that he gets out of control and I did not want to bring him into the building with me while I picked up paper work. They were like the kids could have been kidnapped. I’m thinking that’s true, but why would someone snatch them at DHR? They are covered with security. I honestly did not see what a big deal it was. My car has body damage so I was thinking who would car jack it. The worker at DHR told me someone could have kidnapped them I’m thinking as soon as the oldest throws a fit they’d bring them right back. My mom left me and my siblings alone in the car for an hour or two with the air on and she gave us snacks and juice. We were given instructions not to open the doors or let anyone in, we were even left at home alone while mom went to work I was 8 years old. The oldest and mom made sure dinner was already cooked. we were instructed not to touch the microwave or oven. Since I could tell time I had to help my siblings get to the table and un wrap our plates at dinner time. We then had to go sit on the couch and watch vhs cartoon movies till mom got back. She was a single parent of 3. If anyone called we told then she was busy. She told us not to answer the door to anyone. She forgot her keys this one time and was banging on the front door shouting it’s me kids. She called my name, but we did not move off of that couch it sounded like mom, but we all agreed if it was really her she’d have a key and we were told not to look out the window or open the door. She had to go to the apartment complex office to get the rent lady to open the door for her. It was so funny she got us ice cream for not opening the door and told us even though it was her she was glad that we listened.🙂 Now I take the kids in with me every where. I have two kids and if I have my sisters kids that makes 4. It’s terrible, but to protect myself and the children I have to do so. My sisters son still throws fits so I have to carry my baby in my arms watch my six year old as well as my 1 year old niece and drag him out of the store kicking and screaming while spitting on his self. People look at me like I’m an idiot and I have almost dropped my infant trying to keep him under control. My six year old has even tried to help me control him and he punched her in the stomach. If I could leave them in the car this would make trips to the store a lot quicker and easier. That damn law.

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