What Can Happen if You DO Take Your Kids Out of the Car for Every Errand

Hi Readers! Just yesterday I was being interviewed by a reporter who admitted she had let her kids, ages 5 and 2, wait in the car while she ran into UPS to drop off a package. This took all of a minute or two, but when she told her husband about it, he said, “That was so dangerous! Promise me you’ll never do that again!”
Why was it “so dangerous”? Answer: It wasn’t. It was only dangerous if some very strange, unpredictable thing happened, like a predator passing by UPS at just that instant who was eagle-eyed, lightening quick, and desperate for two kids at once. Need I remind anyone here how rare — nay, almost unheard of that scenario is? (60,000,000 children age 15 and under in America, about 115 kidnapped by strangers/year.)  
As unlikely as that scenario is, it plays out in a lot of folks’ heads. So maybe  we should try to get them playing the FOLLOWING scenario instead. After all: Unpredictable is unpredicatble. — L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: Here in Auckland, NZ we had a tornado this week — nothing on the devastating scale in the US, but a very unusual thing here, and with no warning.  Tragically one man was killed, but this article is about the narrow escape of three small kids whose mum left them in the car for a moment while she popped into a shop…only to have a practically unheard of tornado strike that carpark at that moment, throw the car in the air and dump it on its roof!!  NOT in the realm of predictable risks  I would say!
Great thing — the kids, being secure in their carseats, were only scratched and shocked. Because of the way the car fell, if mum had been in the car with them she probably would have been killed. Second great thing – NO criticism of the mum in the article, just praise for her great use of secure carseats.  And it occurred to me, that given the extra time it would have taken for her to get all three out of the car, they would probably all have been standing by the car when the twister struck, and…probably not such a great outcome. — A Kiwi Mum
Let’s all try to remember that we can never predict an unpredictable occurrence. It’s pretty much up to fate, not “good parenting” what happens.  — L

We would be a less blame-obsessed society if we remembered the role of fate.

124 Responses

  1. This whole kids-left-in-cars (which is quite often the safest place for them) fear pandemic continues to boggle my mind. It should be patently illogical to all, but it persists so strongly — it’s so sad.

    On rare occasions kids are killed in school shootings, but we don’t see legions of parents (and nosey concerned-citizen non-parents) berating and psychologically torturing parents with: “How can you send your precious child into a SCHOOL every day and live with yourself? Don’t you care about your kids?”

    On rare occasions kids drown at the beach or in a swimming pool, but we don’t berate every parent who takes their child swimming.

    What is it about the also-rare car dangers that drives people to this insanity?

    If only we would put our concern to use in an area where it is truly needed, like doing something to help reduce the approximately 26,000 child deaths DAILY, around the world, due to lack of nutrition, lack of clean water, and preventable diseases. We ignore the cries of these REAL children, but we alter our behavior on behalf of the 115 (annually, as you mentioned – about 0.3 per day) or in response to some imagined danger.

    Shame on us all.

  2. Honestly, I would like to see a study of how many young children are injured, killed, lost, etc. after a decision to NOT leave them alone in the car during a short errand. It seems imperative to take both sides into account when society decides that leaving kids in cars should not be allowed.

    I have two relatively well-behaved preschoolers, and I’m not generally a negligent parent when we’re out & about, and yet I’ve had each of them wander into the path of a car at least once (thank goodness those particular drivers were watching for short wanderers). I’ve had each of them decide to wander off in a store without permission. Each of them has thought climbing on something in a store/mall was a good idea. Each of them still walks in the paths of other people fairly often.

    Besides that, especially when the kids were younger, it would take a long time to get in & out of the car, and that meant skipping some optional stops that would have been good for my kids. I also had to postpone some stops I really needed to make (e.g., buying milk or diapers in a bad storm). I’ve had myself, my kids, and all our purchases completely drenched during a walk through the parking lot. Even if my kids are sick, they have to brave every type of inclement weather if I need to stop for a quick purchase.

    That’s not to say I’d always leave my kids in the car if I had the option. I just think that if I’m responsible enough to be trusted to feed and clothe my kid, then maybe I have enough brains to decide when it’s safe or unsafe to leave my kids in the car.

  3. You can’t win for trying sometimes. I forgot my purse at church in the middle of the day the other day (people are always in church for some activity or rehersal or another, and I knew people were still there). I went back for it, but by then my 4 year old had fallen asleep. So I stayed in the car with him – don’t leave a child alone in the car! – and sent my 7 year old in for my purse, telling her where I left it. An adult came out with her to tell me kids were not permitted in the church alone.

    I did the same thing at a gas station recently – stayed with my 4 year old filling up the tank while my 7 year old ran into the gas station by herself b/c she really had to go to the bathroom. I got some frowny looks, but no verbal scolding.

    No wonder mothers these days feel motherhood is overwhelming. So much less was expected of mothers of past generations – you only had to be in one place at once, and you weren’t expected to drag three sleeping children with you to run a 90 second (now 5 minute) errand.

  4. The number cited in the article got me wondering, how does this compare with getting kids out of the car and their danger once in the parking lot. This is all I can find so far, which says 229/yr killed in driveways and parking lots.


    The answer is obvious. Parents who let their kids out of the car are twice as bad!

  5. Most of the problems with leaving kids alone in the car occur when the parent also leaves the KEYS alone in the car, there are plenty of opportunistic car thefts, such that you almost feel sorry for the poor schmuck who steals a car with the keys in the ignition, engine running and then goes “Oh CR*P” when he looks in the rearview and sees kids… what was just grand larceny is now child endangerment, kidnapping, and so on.

    There is something quite terribly wrong though, when a 7 year old can’t go into a church by himself. While I can see not wanting a group of children turning the sanctuary into a playground, one just in and out to the restroom and back minding his own business shouldn’t even raise an eyebrow. Zero tolerance has a very narrow place in a church.

  6. I had to run in a bakery the other day on a small side street in the suburb where I live. My five month-old son and I were on our way to a baby shower, and I was in charge of picking up the rolls for it. I parked right in front of the bakery door, rolled down the window slightly to be able to see him, and ran inside to pick up the order. The longest part was waiting for the person to help me! I kept turning around and checking to make sure he was fine. He was.

    Having said that, I am not sure I’d do that at a more crowded location (like a supermarket or post office), but for that scenario, I think I made the right decision. If I did it again in the future, I would gauge where I was and what I had to get, then I would make the call as to whether I’d take him out or not.

  7. Come on. Tornadoes are not lightning. The extra time it would have taken to get the kids out of the car is not so long; and a tornado could not have snuck up on them while it was happening. They sound like freight trains. This anecdote is useless.

  8. Hi this isn’t terribly relevant to the entry, but I wanted to contact you and couldn’t find another way.
    I was a free range kid, and I am now free range mom. I live in a safe town (I’ve checked the stats we are well below the national average for all types of crime, especially crimes against persons). I live on a street that has only 16 numbers, most of those are duplexes so there are less than 16 houses. Due to the shape of the street it is virtually impossible for anyone to go over 20mph on it (it is L shaped). I know my neighbors, they know me. I’ve shown my son the pictures of the registered sex offenders in our town and so he knows to run and scream for me if he sees them. He will be 4 in a few weeks. GASP I let him play outside alone. No, he isn’t walking to the corner store at this age, but he is allowed to play in our driveway and the street in front of our house. If he asks me he is allowed in the neighbors back yard. I check on him every 5-15 min. Well, I was just chastised by the police. They were driving around the neighborhood and they stopped to talk to them, he talked to them KNOWING That they were police and they told him to come in and get me. They tried to make me feel like a horrible parent and my son spent 20 min crying when I told him that the police said he can’t play outside anymore. I was not breaking any laws (I checked, my state doesn’t even have laws about ages you can leave a kid at home) I was less than 10 feet away and he was talking to police, in a police car. When I questioned him about it I asked if they were strangers and he said “NO they were police officers!”
    I’m furious. I want to fight back, but in truth I am terrified of loosing my children if I let him play outside now. Not to an abductor (less likely than a lightening bolt) but to the nanny state we live in.

  9. “No wonder mothers these days feel motherhood is overwhelming. So much less was expected of mothers of past generations – you only had to be in one place at once, and you weren’t expected to drag three sleeping children with you to run a 90 second (now 5 minute) errand.”

    A-foot stompin’-MEN!!!!!!!! I really think that’s what accounts for a lot of people thinking parenthood is soooooo hard — the ridiculous expectations put people on themselves and on others. Parenthood is a big and important and at times very difficult job, but it doesn’t need to be made near-impossible by strange societal expectations that there should be no limits to the inconvenience and impracticality incurred by any given parenting choice.

  10. While I fully support parents leaving kids in a car for a minute to run in to pay for gas or pick up dry cleaning, the sad fact is that children ARE left in cars unintentionally and they DO die from it. Granted, its not an epidemic or a plague, but at least 49 kids died last year from being left in a car. (http://ggweather.com/heat/)

    If I was truly worried about a child I saw left in a car – particularly a sleeping infant – I would probably stay by the car just to make sure the parent returned quickly and the child wasn’t accidentally forgotten. If the parent didn’t return to the car within the 5 minutes I was standing there, I would go into the store and ask the owner to be paged. I wouldn’t call the cops or tell the store why, or make a big issue of it, but just remind the parent they left a kid in the car.

    The inside of a parked car can rise 20 degrees F in 10 minutes even at 70 degrees outside.

    If this makes me a bad person or an anti-freeranger or member of the nanny state, I guess I can live with that. One of my aunt’s co workers forgot her sleeping infant in the back of the minivan one day – due to a schedule change, she was supposed to take the baby to day care instead of the husband – and the baby fell asleep and mom drove to work on auto pilot and left the baby in the back seat behind the driver’s seat with tinted rear windows. The baby died.

    In a situation where a parent is gone for longer than 5 minutes with a baby in a car, I would rather be safe and face a scolding from an annoyed parent than think that I could have prevented a baby’s death.

  11. as a PS to my post above – toddlers and kids who are active are a different situation. They can talk and chances are that they weren’t forgotten, and were left to be safely contained. And if you can clearly see them bouncing around a car and not looking distressed, they are totally fine.

    Its the sleeping infants who can overheat quickly and you really can’t tell if they are OK or not that would concern me.

  12. I leave my kids in the car all the time when I, say, pick up something at the PO box (unless I have to go in line & it’s long/slow-moving etc) or pay for gas etc. We leave them in the car all the time when we go to garage sales–taking them in & out every single time is just too aggravating. We park in the shade & roll down the windows if it’s sort of warm, and make a point to return within 3-4 minutes or so.

    It goes beyond cars, too: once in the grocery store I was in-line & remembered I forgot the beans, I left them in-line alone–they’re 2 & 4–telling them “don’t move, daddy will be right back,” i raced about 3 aisles over to grab a can of beans, and came back–with them still in-line where I left them.

    People looked at me like “I can’t believe you actually did that,” I shrugged it off as it to say “I can’t believe you think there’s something wrong with what I just did.”

    This whole idea nowadays that you can’t leave a child alone even for 2.5 nanoseconds is just ridiculous. Convenience for the parent does matter, and the kids aren’t in anywhere near as much danger as it’s made out to be, especially if due diligence is observed.


  13. Not a mother, but I live in Arizona and we see child death cases every year after being left in cars.

    When it’s 110 degrees outside, parents left the kiddo in the truck to run and get something, battery dies, truck is 130 degrees in a matter of minutes and a child dies. Car is off, errand takes fifteen minutes, the child needs to be taken to a hospital. Heat stroke sets in at 104 degrees and that’s nothing here 7 months out of the year.

    The danger isn’t from kidnapping. Free ranging is awesome. But it’s never a good idea to recommend leaving kids in cars. You don’t know where your readers live.

  14. I looked up a list of all the kids who died from being left in a car in 2010. (Very hard to read those stories – each one is separately heart-wrenching.) But the lowest temperature involved was 84 degrees, except for 3 cases (in the 70’s or 80) where the child was left for hours. Even most of the mid-80s cases were clearly cases of kids left for a long time (in some it was not clear either way). I did not read beyond 85 degrees – it is just too depressing. Now I think most parents have enough sense, without laws or threats of reports, to not leave their kids in cars for more than a minute when the temperature is 85 degrees or higher. Yes, it happens (usually by accident), but it is no more common than people leaving their tots/infants home alone, in the bathtub to drown, – you get the picture. Accidents are accidents, neglect is neglect – but deciding to leave a kid in a car for a moment on a normal day is a parenting choice.

    So it bugs me when they go on about “even on a cool day, your car could heat up like an oven in minutes.”

    OK, I’ve been getting in & out of cars for 44 years. I think I know by now under what conditions my car might get unbearably hot in “minutes.”

    Of course there are risks, but just like every other risk, it’s manageable, and most parents will manage it just fine without ridiculous laws.

  15. The fight against leaving kids in cars has reached epic vigilantism in Vegas. I can understand some of the fervor. It gets hot as hell here and you shouldn’t leave your kids in an unairconditioned car and leaving the keys in there so the engine can run the air isn’t the smartest move, either. What’s a mom to do? Turn her 7YO daughter into a minion. This week I stayed in the car with her 4YO brother and her take the dry cleaning into the shop. My car was parked in front of the shop’s door, handed it to her, told her that I wanted the clothes ready by Thursday and sent her in. Seconds later she bounced out, pleased as punch for being a big girl. I’m sure the dry cleaner thought I was nuts, but guess what? No one died and my kid now knows how to drop off dry cleaning. And, the sense of empowerment she gained was pretty cool, too.

  16. And even when we do take our kids with us, we can get scolded. I pulled my 3-month old’s car seat out and set it on the ground next to me while I reached in to grab a second bag. I was aware of a woman walking about twenty feet or so from me and looked up when I heard the footsteps stop near the end of my car. She glared at me and said, “Well if I wanted a baby, I could have just grabbed yours” and stomped off.

    Damned whatever you do!

  17. I once left my sleeping infant in the car in the middle of February w/ the sun out and in her snowsuit in the carseat while I took my toddler sledding right next to it. I checked on her every 10 min.s. I would never do it again. Even in the cold February day, the sun brought the humidity and temp up in the car and she was sweating and crying the 3rd time I checked on her. If you’re not in the car w/ them, you don’t really know the conditions and the sleeping infant obviously can’t tell you.

  18. I think that the people who make those laws about leaving a child in the car never had to lug a baby in a car seat/carrier in and out of stores or had to put a carrier with a sleeping baby back into the car. If they had to do that every day, they’d enact more sensible laws.

    A couple of days ago I got scolded for leaving my son in a hospital entrance by himself. That surprised me because Germany is normally so free-range. My son went to the emergency room for a sprained ankle. When we left the hospital, he had his ankle bandaged up and was on crutches. I had to park fairly far away, so I told him to wait in the entrance, where there is a bench, while I got the car. In the hospital entrance there is also a booth that’s manned by two volunteers. In this case, the volunteers were senior women. As my son sat down and I was walking out, one of the volunteers asked me if I was going to leave my son alone by the entrance. I explained to her that my son is 12 and was only going to be there for about 5-10 minutes. She told me it wasn’t good to leave a child alone. But to me having my son stay in the entrance was better than making him hobble a couple of blocks on crutches that he wasn’t yet used to using. There were also other people sitting on the bench with him, plus the two volunteers. Anyone planning to abduct my son would have to go through those formidable old ladies in the volunteer booth and wouldn’t get very far. When I went in to get my son after getting the car, he was right where I left him.

  19. Free range parenting and laziness are two diffeent things. “Lugging” your child around is what you signed up for when you became a parent. If it’s that inconvenient then stay home or get a sitter.

  20. Exhibit A to my point: cw. There is no burden too great to place on a parent, because “that’s what we signed up for.” Doesn’t matter that using common sense, the chances of anything bad happening are ridiculously tiny — no, you signed up to be a parent, so you’re not allowed to balance practicality against the smallest objection that could be offered in anything, at all, ever.

    In fact it would probably be better if we just never gave birth at all and carried our kids in our safe, warm wombs forever, but unfortunately medical technology hasn’t figured that one out yet.

  21. For a really weird twist on this line of thinking check out this tale. A friend of my wife was running outside to grab the mail from the end of her driveway. She was worried about leaving her young napping child alone in the house while she was outside for the 30 seconds to run to the mailbox.

    While she was returning to the house she spotted a bear 20, 50, 100 feet away (can’t remember the exact details) and quickly scurried inside.

    Her take on the incident. “I’m never leaving my child alone in the house again. What if I’d been mauled by the bear? Who would know that my child was inside the house all alone?”

    So, uhm, if you were mauled by a bear then you’d rather have your child with you, then asleep safely inside the house? Perhaps she’s planning to keep everyone safe and never check the mail again.


  22. And that everyone should be permitted to tell everyone else how to parent. (My mom thinks the problem is that “parent” has become a verb.)

  23. mj, that was on a sunny day. And you checked every 10 minutes. Makes sense to me. Now if it’s evening, or cloudy and raining, or . . . point being, I can look up in the sky and ask myself whether there’s a risk of greenhouse effect in my car.

    Not that I would leave my kids for 30 minutes in any case. I’m thinking 10 minutes (in a spot where I can visually check on them) is the max for me, until my kids are big enough to get themselves out and to a safe place should the need arise.

    I know that lugging my kids everywhere is “what I signed up for.” But did my kids sign up for idiotic logistics and schedule changes resulting from foolish laws? The time it takes me to complete my errands determines whether or not my kids have a chance to play at the park.

    Sometimes it seems society wants to punish us for having children. (As if our kids’ stubbornness isn’t punishment enough?)

  24. perica, your mom has an interesting point. My mom generally rolls her eyes when she hears that women are actually wasting time arguing about childrearing. It’s a good sanity check for me. However, when the law or some other authority gets involved, it’s a bit harder to laugh off.

  25. Mr. Shreck, on May 6, 2011 at 00:20:

    229 children/year killed and 2500 injured and taken to the ER from 2001-2003 – twenty times as bad as the kidnapping-by strangers risk!

    I once asked my company’s attorney if the law ever considered that a person’s injury might be due to mischance.

    “No such thing in the law”, he said, though he clearly believed it to be a valid proposition.

  26. David, that’s amazing.

    I admit there are times in the winter I contemplate taking my cell phone with me when I go to get the mail, but that’s because I’m a klutz and I don’t want to fall on the ice and freeze to death while my kids are happily doing their schoolwork inside. I usually don’t bother, though.

  27. Glad the kids are fine. Goes to show people, ANYTHING can happen at any given time. It’s by chance. And to live your life always trying to anticipate all possible scenarios, would drive ANYONE crazy, to the point where they become ineffective as parents.

    @SKL: True, when “authorities” get involved it’s almost a no win situation for the parent. They always pull their authority trump card. And most people take their side. Because after all, they are the “authority”. Which is pretty lame.

    @Jahn: “No such thing in the law”, he said, though he clearly believed it to be a valid proposition.
    lol. That’s pretty much saying, “your right, but due to legalities we can’t tell you that, otherwise we can’t get paid by those who are suing.”

  28. @delurking Maybe you are right – maybe a tornado gives so much warning that the Auckland mom might have managed to gather up 3 small kids (including toddler and baby) and make it to cover in time. Me I ‘m not sure – partly because tornados are a completely freaK occurrence here, so in the news reports it appears a lot of people just stared at the sky in puzzlement, thought the noise was a plane… Anyway the point of my posting was mainly to express pleasure that the mum was PRAISED (for great use of carseats) NOT castigated (for what, in my view, in Tuesday’s weather etc, was a perfectly good decision). And also, to point out, that you really cannot allow for everything that MIGHT go wrong, however unlikely! You just gotta do the best you can at the time.

    BTW, I think the kids-in-cars debates tend to blur 2 really different things – the conscious decision to leave child(ren) in the car for a few minutes for some reason, with all due thought and care for the circumstances , versus the appalling tragedies when people, usually stressed, actually think the kid is SOMEWHERE ELSE when they lock the car and, usually, go to work for the day. These are 2 utterly different events, and claiming we shouldn’t do the first because terrible things have happened in the 2nd scenario is illogical and unhelpful.

  29. I am on board with the general thought here on this subject… for the most part. I live in Florida, and I would never leave my son in the car due to the heat. Even with windows open the car is just plain uncomfortable even after a couple of minutes. Obviously, with the windows closed or even cracked it is downright dangerous. This is very sad, but I came across the link below on another blog just minutes after reading this post. I felt it was meant to share here:


  30. Debra, I do that all the time. I have a 7 month old and a 2 year old. I take my baby out first and place her car seat next to the car as I pull out my 2 year old. I figure it’s safer that way then to risk my 2 year old running off in the parking lot while my back is turned. I really wish people would just mind their own business.

  31. Becca, your final comment really is the wisest of all. What do people really expect moms of multiple kids to do? But if you ask that – “well maybe you shouldn’t have had so many kids if you can’t handle them” – ugh. MYOB is right.

  32. How does a passerby know when to act because a child was left in a car – either intentionally or unintentionally – and when to mind their own business?

    Should we just ignore all children in cars and assume that the parents made an informed and rational choice to leave them there?

  33. Elissa – I’ve mentioned here before, I think the best thing, if you are concerned, is to hang around at a discreet distance for a few minutes, during which time most likely the parent/s will return. If they don’t, it may be time to act. If they do, you walk away and say nothing. That way you can feel you have done your duty by the children, if it were needed, without harassing the parents for what may have been a totally reasonable decision.

    My daughter fell asleep in the car on the way home the other day and I parked about 10m from our home and had a bunch of groceries to take in, so I decided to take them in first before trying to move her – I am, after all, five months pregnant and dealing with a struggling toddler was not ideal.

    Nothing did happen, but I wondered if, should some busybody decide to, say, call the police rather than just hanging round for a second, would they have considered that there may be various factors to my decision (such as me being pretty pregnant, and only about 10m away) before making the call?

  34. My thing about leaving kids in the car is that after a certain age it is fine if they are trustworthy enough to not drive off or get out or could get out if the car got hot. My mom would leave me in the car with all the daycare babies while she ran into the store.

    I don’t think it is okay for little kids. Yes, likely with them strapped into their car seats nothing is going to happen. But never with the car running because cars do get stolen that way. Never if it is hot. That is my main reason for not doing it at this point. If for example something happened to me while I was in the store they could burn up in the car before someone noticed and got them out.

    I don’t feel comfortable taking that chance. They are not old enough to know how to get themselves out of the car yet should something like that happen. Mostly if you are going to do it with little kids you need to be able to have the car in your sight at all times. That is the only way I feel safe doing it like while I return a shopping cart.

    I admit I get a little annoyed when people pull up in the fire lane in front of the grocery store or pharmacy and leave the kids in the car. If I can park properly and get my kids out to go in to the store, what is your excuse? That is just for people that park in the fire lane though or with younger kids.

  35. I have and will leave my toddlers asleep in the car in the basement of our house. It always is cool down there and I roll the windows down and leave the door open so I can hear them when they wake up. I have done this since they were little. That is different though since no sun coming in, regulated temperature, no chance of someone messing with them. Otherwise I always take them out of the car if I go in somewhere.

  36. cw May I say–where is it written in your book of judgment that “lugging them is what you signed up to do when you had them.” Is your mother still lugging you? What is your cut-off point–and more to the point, who the fuck are YOU to dictate what that cut-off point is?

    I just came from the lake with my 2 & 4 year-olds, they proceeded to wander all over about 50-75 yards of the lakeside with me able to see them from afar. Was I obligated to shadow them to where I’m inches away? They did fine like that, and you know what? Other people, maybe 3-5 or so, saw me, and do you think for one minute I factored in their opinion in regards to whether or not I did it this way? I most certainly did not. Had you been there, I most certainly wouldn’t have given two shits what you thought of it either.

    No one died and made you Vice President in Charge of Parents, and it is not your place to decide what other parents have to do whether it involves lugging or anything else. For that matter, almost every morning I cook my children a fresh breakfast consisting of bacon or sausage, scrambled eggs, and biscuits. I don’t microwave anything, it’s all cooked on the stove. Other parents just give their kids cereal. Am I better than them? Do I have the right to say “cooking decent meals is what you signed up for, if you don’t like it, you shouldn’t have had them” just because they don’t do their own imitation of Aunt Jemima or Chef Boy-ar-dee every single morning?

    What is it your fucking business to judge other parents who don’t live up to your ridiculous standard? cw, it isn’t any of your God-damned business to say to me or anyone else “if you don’t like lugging them you shouldn’t have had them.” For one, this assumes that lugging them is supposed to be what we do. Who the hell are you or anyone else to say that it is?

    It has nothing to do with laziness, and just because you & your pee-sized brain says it is means nothing to me, and I am sure nothing to anyone else here.

    Go make your own kids and parent them however you so jolly well feel like it, I won’t be meddling in your business to tell you how to do it even if I don’t agree with it. You owe me & everyone else here the same courtesy. But let me tell you–if you or the likes of you come around & try to lecture me on parenting, you’re at serious risk of your nose meeting the end of my fist, or at the very least enduring a tongue-lashing the likes of which will make you blush as if you’re an 8 year old getting chewed out by a grouchy old man scary enough to make GROWN men cry.

    I will NOT tolerate a busy, nosy, judgmental, Pharisee-like jerk of the likes of you going around sticking your Pinocchio-sized nose into my affairs and get away with it. No playing nice with you, sir or ma’am, you don’t deserve nice. “Nice” ends when you think you have the right to judge me or someone else because we’re (thankfully) not a clone of yours.


  37. In CW’s defense lugging kids around is part of being a parent. I remember before I had kids running an errand was so easy. I just got into the car and went. Now it involves getting two kids ready to go and then putting them in the car seats and getting them out and going to do the errand, then back in the car seats. Adds so much more time to the errand. I even had twins which meant I was lugging two infant seats with me when I did errands and a huge double stroller and all their crap.

    The point is I did it. And yes, it is what I signed up for. I knew that having kids and most especially twins would make my life much harder. Just how that works. No more popping in and out of the post office. Now I get to park, get out the double stroller and the diaper bag, get out the infant seats and click them into the stroller and then do it all over backwards to get back in the car. Not easy or fun and it actually caused me to have very bad back problems from all the lugging. But again, part of what being a parent is. I did it and while it was hard, I would not have it any other way because that was what I wanted, to be a mom.

  38. @Dolly, I think its perfectly acceptable to park in the fire lane if you are seriously just going to be a minute. What’s going to happen – is the building going to burn down and the fire trucks need to arrive? That’s better in my opinion than parking in a lot where you can’t actually see your car. Then, if anything happens – like people getting distressed over kids in a car – you can see it and run right out before the cops get there.

  39. Dolly My point is this–if that is how you want to parent, to NEVER EVER EVER leave your kids in the car even for a nanosecond, I completely 100% support your choice to do it that way. But in the same measure, others of us don’t see the harm, and other than those 1 in a million stories of those who leave them in there all day accidentally & they die, odds are nothing bad is going to happen to them. And yes, it is WAY more convenient to just leave them in there for a minute.

    Besides my “lake” story, also today, prior to this I stopped at the post office box. The 2 year old was asleep. I went in there, checked the box, came right out. Yes, I left both of them, aged 2 & 4, in there–even left the door open for ventilation. They were in there maybe 60 seconds.

    What was the point in waking up the sleeping 2-year old, thus making him cranky, and lugging them across the street, for something that took me 60 seconds anyway? That would’ve been an unnecessary inconvenience–and yes, convenience DOES MATTER even if you are a parent. Besides that, though, it would’ve entailed crossing the street, and it’s not a street with very little traffic either. Odds would’ve been MUCH greater of one of them being hit by a car than of any harm coming from them being inside my car for 60 seconds.

    Most of all, though, that’s MY choice to make, not someone else’s. As that one person said, people need to mind their won business, and frankly it’s to the point that I’m starting to think that retaliation–of the legal type obviously–is justified against those who refuse to MYOB.


  40. I live in Colorado where there is no law against leaving a child in a car. I left my 6 and 5 year olds in the car while I ran into the PO to drop a package (didn’t even have to wait in line) and someone called the police who caught up to me at my next stop (where I did take the kids out of the car). Unbelievable!! They of course didn’t do anything, but the woman who called them followed them and made sure to let them know she was able to fill out a report if needed.

    I have never quite figured out how to pick up from the dry cleaner and walk back to the car with full hands and still hold hands with my 2 toddlers… If only I had 4 arms… My kids have never seen the inside of a dry cleaner.

  41. Larry, no need to be rude. In my opinion if you leave your child in the car because you don’t have the time or patience to take them with you then you are not acting responsibly as a parent. Again, my opinion. And it is your choice. But I wonder how any of you would feel when those “one in a million” chances happen to you. My opinion. It takes more time and effort to get them out of the car or to wake a sleeping child. But you have options. Like staying home. Or having the police called. Your choice.

  42. cw There most certainly IS a need to be rude. You’re passing judgment on how other people parent, and that isn’t your place. You are doing a LOT more than just stating an opinion when you say that people have options like staying home. (By the way, that isn’t the only option, you left one out–venture into the world like a normal human being, and yes, leave your kids in the car for 2-3 minutes if there’s no need to do otherwise.)

    And yes, people call the police–frankly, such people who can’t help themselves and can’t resist meddling in another’s affairs are the scum of the earth who deserve whatever happens to them. ANYTHING. Yes, ANYTHING–I said it, I meant it, and I will say it again–they deserve ANYTHING that happens to them.

    Yes, we could stay home, but why should we? We aren’t doing anything wrong. We get cooped up staying in the house all the time as much as someone who isn’t a parent would-be. Why should we be compelled to stay home simply because we don’t adhere to a ridiculous standard that says, even with a 1 in a million shot, we should lug our kids EVERYWHERE?

    How would we feel? Well, frankly, I feel just fine thank you, thanks for asking. Now go parent your own kids and leave the judging to God, because God you ain’t.


  43. To clarify, by “anything that happens to them,” what I mean is this: in the aftermath of the Alabama tornadoes 2-odd weeks ago, any of us with a decent heart etc could only feel compassion and sympathy for what those people went through, even if we disagreed with them about certain ideological principles. They’re human, they’re suffering, disagreements with them pale in comparison to what they’re going through.

    In other words, if any of my neighbors had this happen to them, I’d extend a hand, even if the neighbors had been a nuisance and a pain in the butt to me for whatever reason, I’d not be petty, I’d extend a helping hand to them just like anybody else. Such a tragedy would easily eclipse such pettiness.

    However, someone who is of the mind to call the police on someone who’s just letting their kids sleep in the car while they’re in the PO box for 60 seconds, or letting their kids play outdoors in the yard without them hovering over them every nanosecond, or correcting their child in public in a way that doesn’t count as abuse but just strong discipline, such people as that–it would be a totally different case. I would silently–maybe publicly–laugh at their disposition instead of having the sympathy for them I’d feel for practically anybody else. My attitude would be “right on, serves you right, that’s what you get for meddling in other people’s affairs.”

    Others may think this is indecent, and that’s fine, and even I might, when all is said & done, extend a hand of help to them too, but I think when someone is that aggressive towards not being able to mind their own business, I think payback’s a bitch, frankly. To wit: I have a family member who is very judgmental towards all of us as parents, and even prone to calling social services over absolutely nothing. She has been told time & time again to tone it down and be respectful, but she adamantly refuses.

    Well, turns out this person can’t have any children. Anybody else, I’d feel genuine sorrow at their plight, but not so in this case. I actually told this person I thought it was just GREAT that they couldn’t have any children, that it served them right–if they couldn’t be compassionate towards other parents & was just going to judge & meddle all the time, it served her RIGHT that she couldn’t have any of her own. Yes the others thought I was cruel to say that, but frankly I think she deserved hearing it.

    And so does anyone else that would call the police on someone & it wasn’t something of the magnitude of molestation, bruises/broken bones from beatings, drug abuse etc. I really find them that contemptible, in fact, I think they’re every bit as evil as Osama Bin Laden was. Yes, that Osama. (And yes I know he was responsible for 3-odd thousand deaths.)



  44. “BTW, I think the kids-in-cars debates tend to blur 2 really different things – the conscious decision to leave child(ren) in the car for a few minutes for some reason, with all due thought and care for the circumstances , versus the appalling tragedies when people, usually stressed, actually think the kid is SOMEWHERE ELSE when they lock the car and, usually, go to work for the day. These are 2 utterly different events, and claiming we shouldn’t do the first because terrible things have happened in the 2nd scenario is illogical and unhelpful.”

    This can’t be said often enough. It just can’t be.

    Actually, there’s a third scenario — truly brain dead parents who deliberately leave their kids in the car (or home alone, or somewhere else) to go into a bar or a casino for an extended period of time. This happens (and gets reported) occasionally also.

    But neither the bar scenario or the “completely forget about the kid” scenario are even remotely comparable to making a conscious, considered decision that it is safe to run into the post office for two minutes. They’re just not the same thing at all, in the same way having a glass of wine with dinner is not like falling into a drunken stupor even though both involve alcohol.

    And no, when I had kids, I did not sign up to “lug them everywhere.” I signed up to do everything necessary to make sure they’re safe and properly cared for, which *sometimes* requires lugging them around, and *sometimes does not.* That’s the point.

    If it’s your choice to do your best to ensure their safety by lugging them everywhere, then great, you are fulfilling your responsibility as you understand it. But other people assess it differently.

  45. @cw I’m sorry, I’m going to call you on that “how would any of you feel” comment. A lot of that got aimed at Lenore back in the day of the original “9 year old on subway” story. Well, here’s the thing – of course if something terrible accidentally happened to one of our kids we would feel beyond devastated. Why on earth would you ask? How would I feel if my husband’s plane crashed today on the way home from the conference he is at? Well, also very devastated. Does that mean I should have forbidden him to go? No? I just don’t think “how would you feel if…” something terrible happened by some incalculable mischance is a good test of what I should do. And its a daft (and, can I say, rather rude), question to ask another parent. For goodness sake, any human being would know (and weep) for how they would “feel”.

  46. “In CW’s defense lugging kids around is part of being a parent.”

    In YOUR opinion. In my opinion, I signed up for lugging my kid around when necessary and letting her stay in the car when it’s not just like my parents did to me, my grandparents did to my parents and my great grandparents … well they didn’t have cars. I’m 41 years old with an advance degree. I’ve been managing to coexist with cars in many different states in many different climates for longer than I can remember. I figure that I’m capable of making an intelligent determination as to when it’s safe to let my child stay in the car and when it is not. It’s not even a difficult thought process – if I believe, based on my VAST years of experience sitting in cars waiting for people, that I could comfortably sit in the car for however long I’m likely to be gone, she can as well, and if it would be too hot/cold for me, it’s probably too hot/cold for her.

    You and cw are more than welcome to your opinions about the necessity of endlessly lugging children around. And are more than welcome to adhere for it for your own children. And I’m more than welcome to adhere to my opinion for my own. As long as you keep out of my business, I have no problem with your choice.

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  48. I’m happy that ignorant people like you have DCF to care for your children. I won’t be checking back so no need to reply.

  49. DCS. Oh yeah. I said it. Some people should get fixed before they have the opportunity to procreate.

  50. Elissa: No parking in the fire lane is not okay. First of all it is against the law. Secondly yes, that is why there is a fire lane in the first place. So that if there is a fire or any other kind of emergency they can park in the fire lane but they can’t if there is a car parked there with or without kids in it. I can’t believe you are defending parking in a fire lane!

    Not to mention I have seen them not only park in the fire lane but also block and park on top of the handicapped ramp and leave the kids in the car. The kids in the car were not as much the issue as the ridiculous parking.

    If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your kids in the car without parking in the fire lane, then take your kids in with you. Parking in the fire lane is not an acceptable option.

  51. Great story. I always leave my kids in the car making the UPS drop off. The store has a huge glass window, i park in front. But then again, I also solicit strangers to keep an eye on my kids in the library while I run to the bathroom and I regularly offer to hold a baby for a parent with their hands full. If we could all just relax a little bit – and take some responsibility to help out whoever we can – life and parenthood would probably go a lot smoother.

  52. Larry: I take great offense to what you posted above about delighting in someone’s infertility. I don’t care how horrible that person is, it is never okay to delight over someone having infertility. I am sure when I suffered from infertility and lost two babies to miscarriage my enemies laughed about it and said I had it coming, but that does not make them a horrible excuse for a human being. That is the same as wishing cancer on someone. Its not okay. As a matter of fact studies show that infertility causes the same level of depression as having cancer. I can provide links if you don’t believe me. No matter what point you are trying to make, please refrain from insulting infertile people. National Infertility Awareness week was recently and well it just proves we still have quite a fight ahead of us.

  53. I just had this arguement with my husband this morning. Ineeded to drop papers off at the main office for work. I lock my children (2 & 5 in 5 pt. harnesseS) in the car, run in the front door, put papers into file, and back out. If I check the mail it takes a whole minute. for once however my husband was concerned with how fast one of them could get out of the car, not that it’s a crazy unheard of scene for me to leave them in the car. I’m too “free range” for his lking. I let my son last week go around the back of the house and bring me a garbage can to the front (house is on two streets) and heaven-forbid I let him out of my site. So I had to promie never to do it again. Lord help him if he knew I let them ride their bikes on the sidewalk while I do gardening and don’t watch them every second they are on their bikes.

  54. Well, I think the point has been brought up that more kids get hurt by being brought out of the car than by being left in the car. So that’s my response to the “how would you feel” question. I was disappointed with myself the couple of times my kids wandered into the path of slow-moving cars in parking lots while I was distracted (probably taking care of the other kid). I have never been disappointed with myself for any results of leaving the kids in the car – because nothing even remotely dangerous ever happened at such times.

  55. The only reason I don’t leave my son in the car too often is because here in Colorado Springs, the unpredictable did happen, and two little kids were alone in a van when a guy stole it while their mom was in Walgreens. They were okay (the guy hadn’t realized they were in there and dumped the car), but people have been extra cautious around here since then. Last thing I want is CPS called on me while I run into the gas station or something!

  56. I agree with Dolly on the fire lane and on infertility.

    Re the fire lane, if you are leaving your kids in the car there, you have apparently decided it’s not safe to leave them in the car in the parking lot. So then, bring them in. Parking in the fire line may seem harmless until you ask: what if everyone did that? Plus, I would rather not break the law in front of my kids.

  57. I think people think I am against leaving kids in cars. I said no such thing. I don’t leave mine in the car except in my basement to sleep. That is my choice. When they are old enough I will leave them in there. I don’t care what you do about leaving your kids in the car. Just please don’t do it when it is too hot so that they die and please don’t leave the keys in the car because of car thefts and your child does not need to be involved in that. Otherwise, it is not my business. I also ask you don’t park in the dang fire lane when you leave your kids in the car. I have a lot of fire men friends and you should hear what they do to cars that park in fire lanes. Ramming them, busting out windows to run hoses right through the middle of the car. They will and legally can do both of those.

  58. Not reading all of the responses, but I do find it amusing in PA that if I do run to the post office it is legally okay for me to leave my 5 yr. old and 3 1/2 yr. old at home alone, but not okay (even illegal) to leave them in the car outside the bay window of the post office, in 5 pt. harnesses, in a locked car, with no keys. I opt for leaving them in the car for the minute or two while I watch them rather than leave them at home alone.

  59. Well I think cw showed her colors, eh? People who don’t do as she thinks (I’m assuming she’s a woman, I could be wrong) should not even be allowed to have children at all. Typical “parenting Pharisee.”

    And of course this person thinks DFC or DCS or whatever the hell that they exist to care for children who don’t see things her way, I say–they exist to rescue children subject to molestation, beatings to the point of broken bones etc, drug abuse etc–otherwise they are also to mind their own business.

    Donna–you nailed it. If such people want to lug kids around all they want, that is absolutely their right and their choice, as much as we may disagree with it. Like you said “as long as you keep out my business I have no problem with your choice.” That is exactly 100% dead-on.

    pentamom I loved your rational response too, and Kiwimum exactly right. I mean, if my wife flew in a plane to go see family and I was against her going (in terms of I didn’t want to be home alone while she was gone etc) and her plane crashed, does that mean I was wrong to not want her to go, that my fighting with her somehow caused the plane to crash? Conversely, does it mean I should reply to our surviving family “see, I knew she shouldn’t have taken that trip?” No on both counts. Just because something happens, especially if it truly is a million to one deal, doesn’t mean the action itself was wrong and irresponsible.

    And if I offended anyone, I’m sorry, sometimes I can go over the top a little. But to clarify–the likes of cw are not someone I’d dance in the streets over something bad happening to them, so long as she’s only expressing her opinion, even if she did so in an offensive manner. I’m referring to those who pick up the phone & call the police over everything & hence are now downright meddling in parenting affairs.


  60. Dolly I hear what you are saying, and somewhat agree. In almost any case, someone being infertile, I sympathize with them. It’s not their fault. I understand that in times past baroness (if I spelled that right), that is, a woman who had no children, was considered a shameful thing in society, and I have always said I think that’s ridiculous. A woman can’t help it that she can’t have children, and shouldn’t feel any shame over it at all.

    On all of those counts, I am with you 100%.

    However, I am saying this–this particular family member is extremely judgmental with regards to lecturing others about how to parent their kids, and has even called social services on a couple of occasions. In a way, I think it’s justice that she can’t have children, in this way–one might could suggest (yes I know this may sound offensive) that God is doing this to her ON PURPOSE because of her attitude. To wit: I’m not going to allow you to become a mother until your attitude changes.

    In other words, it’s all about humility. She thinks she has the right to tell everyone else how to parent, so as long as she is that way, maybe God or karma or whatever is disallowing her the chance to be a parent until she gets her attitude straight.

    Where it regards any other typical situation, Dolly, I am totally 100% in agreement with you. Infertility is a very painful thing for a woman to have to deal with, and they deserve our sympathy. Just don’t expect me to give any to THIS person until her attitude changes.


  61. @Dolly, I don’t know about cars with kids, but I’ve seen firefighters forcibly remove cars from the fire lane by shoving them with the truck. The sustained no small amount of damage, so my guess would be they wouldn’t do it if kids were in it, but I bet they sure wouldn’t hesitate to have the police remove the children and then move the car.

    I also wonder what the liability would be from the store owner? If you park in a fire lane and your vehicle delays the fire department, the fire would likely cause more damage during that time. I’m curious if the owner could sue the person who owned the car. They probably wouldn’t because, especially if it were a corporation, they would look like jerks and bullies suing a regular person but it would an interesting case if they did/could.

    Personally, I don’t leave my kids in the car very often. Now that they are 5 and 9, I’ll do it occasionally at home. Usually, in the morning when I forget something and know that if we all troop back in the house, we may never leave again but not at other places. When they were little, I just planned my errands around times that would be convenient to get them in and out and limited the number of errands I did at one time.

  62. Larry: I appreciate your apology towards me personally but I still say that it is NEVER okay to wish infertility on someone, even someone YOU consider horrible. I am sure many others love this woman. If she is married I am sure her husband loves her and he is suffering from infertility too.

    I have my fair share of enemies and people who don’t like me. When I was going through infertility they said the SAME things you are saying about your relative about me. I am sure they felt justified too but they weren’t. Well guess what? Those people are not allowed to see my kids once I finally had them. They are not really a part of our lives because of how they behaved toward me during my infertility. So think about that. If she ever does have kids, you might get left out of their lives and that will be your own fault.

    If you don’t like her, don’t like her. What does her infertility have to do with it? I understand wanting to feel like it was karma, but I really don’t want to believe in a God who would punish me by killing my babies inside me for some sin I may have committed. How sick is that?! So no, I don’t feel infertility is karma or justice no matter what.

    In the future, you would be better off keeping such thoughts to yourself because it can really offend and hurt people. I would actually be way more outraged right now if I was still childless and suffering from infertility than I am now since I have kids. You would not have wanted to say something like that to me back then.

  63. Larry: ps Most of my mom friends were infertile before becoming moms. Guess what? They are all the most amazing mothers! So think about that.

  64. Um, am I nuts, or is it crazy to leave the windows open while the kids are in the car waiting for me to run an errand? That’s how I was left in the car back in the day. My mom always asked me (and sometimes a friend who’d ridden along), “You want to come into the store, or stay in the car?” If there was a chance of a treat, we’d come in. If it was a boring place like the department store, we’d stay in the car. In the summer. With the windows rolled down.

    Well, it was a calculated risk, and I guess it paid off. Where are the stats on strangers who see kids in the car and go after the kids? I mean, I hear these stories about the inadvertent kidnappings that occur when someone is after the CAR, but who has attempted to abduct kids from a car in a parking lot outside a dry cleaner’s? If it worked so well, then we’d be hearing a lot of stories like that, huh?

    The only child who ever came to harm at the hands of a stranger in my town in Ohio in the 70s and 80s was a young girl of 9 or 10 who had been attacked in a wooded ravine. It was an isolated incident, and we all still walked home after school, and our parents still left us in cars when they ran errands.

    So. Show me the stats of how many kids are getting plucked from parked cars outside of strip malls, and I’ll probably say, “Oh, once one time in one place on one day in the last 50 years?” and shrug my shoulders and say, “Yeah, whatever.”

    I give my kids the choice. They’re grade-school age. When they were lugging age, I usually left them, but with trepidation that CPS would be called, damned hysterical people these days. The threat to the family i not negligence on the part of Free-Range Parents, the threat to the family is the intervening of punitive authority in cases where children are in no immediate danger.

    Ah, I love this blog.

  65. When I have to run into the convenience store for just a minute I typically leave the car running, especially in the summer. I’m usually parked right in front of the big glass doors so I can see.

    I’m fairly certain no one wants to steal my beat up Corolla with a rowdy 2 year old boy in the back. My biggest fear is someone is going to call CPS

  66. DollyI appreciate how your friends have turned out to be good mothers after fertility struggles, that is good, but with my particular situation I stand by what I said & am most certainly NOT going to keep my thoughts to myself. I think this person most certainly deserves what she’s getting until she can soften her heart to other parents. It’s as if her condition fits her offensive behavior, it’s too appropriate. As for not being able to see her kids if-when she has any, that’s exactly what we’ve done to her for her behavior. We let others watch-spend time with our kids but not her because of her attitude. I never would’ve said any of this regarding you because you’ve never done any of this behavior to us.

    You tamper in my family like that as she has, nice & respectful from me goes out the window.


  67. CW is a troll. Don’t feed the trolls.

  68. I’ve recently been reading my daughter’s Little House on the Prairie books. If they had CPS back then surely Ma and Pa would have been at the top of their most wanted list 🙂 I just got done reading when they left 3 daughters home alone (in a tiny claim shanty) on a farm for a whole week while they took the oldest off to college for the blind. The girls left home were 14, 11, and 4. We sure have come a long way in past hundred years, unfortunately it’s been in the wrong direction.

  69. Back in 1974 I, a California girl, married an Englishman and moved to the south of England. A year later our first son was born. Since most moms, walked to the stores and put their babies in prams (baby buggies) that had room to hold your shopping in the handy basket beneath, it was not uncommon to see several prams parked in the store by the front window, babies asleep, while we went down the aisles with our shopping carts to get the necessary groceries.

    Once when I heard mine start to cry (we all know our own child’s distinctive mewls) I headed to the front to tend to him. There stood a little old lady rocking him in an effort to calm him down. I expressed my gratitude for her assistance.

    No babies were taken, no mothers were scolded for leaving their children and no police/social workers were ever called.

  70. We only lug our kids around because we are no longer able to simply let them be kids anymore. They MUST be supervised at all times. They are no longer allowed to go on long, exploratory walks or be able to roam. We are required to know where they are and what they are doing at all times.

    We really should go back to the apprenticeships at 12. Kids remain infantile for far too long these days.

  71. Re: the fire lane — it is SO not okay to park there “even for a minute” unless you are driving an emergency vehicle responding to an emergency. That’s why they’re there. Use the loading zone if you can’t bring yourself to park in the lot.

    Re: all this talk about people calling the police or Child & Family Services — anyone have any actual stats about how often that actually happens? I know of nobody who has ever been called upon or has called…granted my social circle isn’t representative of the entire population, but this just doesn’t even cross our minds. Could fear of CFS be just another bogeyman, up there with stranger danger?

    Re Little House on the Prairie: they did that because they had no other choice, not because they thought it was an ideal thing to do. We shouldn’t romanticize the “good old days”…some things really weren’t so good.

  72. The “danger” of leaving kids unattended like this in a car comes from the busy bodies who thinks they are doing the world a favor by trying to correct every “act of negligence” they see in the world which, in turn, results in the police being called and parents being given a hard time by the cop that shows up and then being harassed by social services because people have been brainwashed into leaving a child under some arbitrary age alone in the car for more than 15 seconds is neglect and it puts kids in danger of whatever bad things their mind conjures up.

  73. I remember an incident not so long ago in Melbourne, Australia where two young men decided to steal a car, in broad daylight, from an open air carpark of a supermarket.

    They were so engrossed in what they were doing, they didn’t notice a small baby, sound asleep in the car seat at the back. They were so horrified that they drove straight to the police station and gave up the car!

    They don’t want our babies, they just want the car:)

  74. I think a huge part of the aggression towards parents these days is embedded in the “wisdom” of thinking: “They did it like that back then, because they had no other choice, not because they thought it was an ideal thing to do”.

    This implies that today we do have a choice and, therefore, will always do the ideal thing. And the ideal thing is pretty hard, make that – impossible, to come by.

  75. Damned hippies. Thought you all died off when the 80’s rolled around.

  76. I hesitate to get into another round of “they’re all out to get me because I’m a parent” after the swing discussion, but I can’t resist putting forward one more theory.
    I think there is an epidemic of busybodiness and self-righteousness going on at the moment and, one reason for this is, ironically, because of all of the media reports about how society is going to hell in a handcart because everyone is too scared to “get involved” these days if they see someone doing something wrong (or something they think is wrong as the case may be). We hear that time and time again: people just turn their faces and pretend it isn’t happening

    People are eager to show that they are making a stand against this trend. Of, it is much easier and safter to go for easy targets, such as mothers with small children. They’re not so keen to confront the six foot guy spitting in the street, or the group of teenagers beating up another teenager.

  77. And hello Kiwimum (from another Kiwi). I saw some great pictures in the Christchurch Press of children playing in a big crack in the ground left by the first, non-fatal earthquake. I couldn’t help thinking that that picture (whether staged or not) would not have gone down well in England, where I am now.

  78. I’ve realised that one major issue with parenting and people being judgemental is that everyone seems very quick to use the language of child protection. On a parenting forum the other day someone used the terms ‘endangerment’ and ‘neglect’ about some parents who were, admittedly, doing something I and most posters felt to be ill-advised.

    But I posted in reply that I would not use those words of other parents when I know nothing of the context of their parenting. Other people and other parents need to think very carefully before deciding something is ‘endangerment’ or ‘neglect’ or even ‘abuse’ – if we see a child alone in a car, playing unsupervised during the day etc, we must accept that we know *nothing* of how they are parented and why the parent made their decision and the amount of consideration they gave to it.

    We must think about how we would feel if someone, knowing nothing at all about us, confronted us with accusations of neglect etc, or even called the police because of a considered decision that we have made as a parent. We must not make the assumption that a person ‘can’t be bothered with their kid’ and if, for example, the child is asleep, or happily reading a book or playing in the car and it’s not a hot day, we should use our common sense and assume the parent had good reason to leave them and/or has thought about the decision.

    We need some empathy for parents as well as children, and we need to stop using child protection language so lightly.

  79. I agree with Claudia. The only time I would get involved if I saw a kid alone in the car is if it was a child too little to get out of the car on their own and it was a hot day and the windows were up. In that situation I would get involved because yes, kids do die that way. One of the cases where the parent left the kid in the car and they died was in my town. It was the old forgot he was there. That child sat out in the parking lot of his work all day long. The alarm in the car even went off and no one noticed.

    I am sorry but it makes me sick that no one noticed or got involved. I would like to think that nobody saw the child. Because the alternative that someone saw the child and did nothing is even more horrendous to think about. It took hours before they think he finally died and before that he screamed and cried and suffered. I know these are different situations since this was unintentional but like I said if I am not sure if it was a case like this or not, I would get involved to make sure another tragedy did not happen by standing by the car a few minutes and if no parent returned I would call the cops. It doesn’t make me a busybody. It makes me someone who doesn’t want to see a child die.

  80. Frances-when my son was 2 someone called CPS to report us for child neglect. It was a little bizarre-the allegations were that we did not change his diapers frequently enough (he was toilet training, wearing cloth training pants not diapers), that he had very bad diaper rash when he hadn’t had diaper rash in about a year and that he was dirty. Well, the last one is certainly possible-I know he started out the day clean. It’s terrifying. Someone shows up to tour your home, you don’t really know how much power they have or whether or not they can simply take your child. It wasn’t something I had ever given much thought to before. You do not know who made the allegations which meant I was very paranoid for a while about mom’s day out and church for a while since those were the only places he was staying without us. We did learn that making calls to CPS as a form of revenge, etc. is not uncommon which is sad to me.

  81. Dolly, of course people should be aware of what is going on around them – that does not make you a busybody.

  82. “Re Little House on the Prairie: they did that because they had no other choice, not because they thought it was an ideal thing to do. We shouldn’t romanticize the “good old days”…some things really weren’t so good.”

    Oh, but they did have another choice — just not take Mary to the school far away. That’s what a modern parent would do if leaving two teenagers and a preschooler home alone for a week was the only other option. “We just can’t do it.”

    However, they judged the choice to be, if less than ideal, possible to make.

    It’s arguable that conditions nowadays are sufficiently different as to make that a less-wise choice now than it would have been back then (although I’d take a lot of convincing on that one) but there is ALWAYS the choice of forgoing something entirely because you can’t leave the kids, which is unthinkingly done all the time.

  83. Constantly waking a sleeping baby to take it out of the car when you need to drop something off is not good for the baby’s brain and sleep development. Neither is bringing a baby into crowded, germ-filled places.

  84. Also people say a child might be ‘in danger’ in a locked car or a non-hot day in a busy place… but might they also be in danger, say, in a car park, with a pregnant mum/parent who has an injury or back problems, who has stuff to carry to or from the shop and can’t easily run or grab them if they decide to make a break for it?

    You can be paralysed by fear and ‘stay home’ or you can go forth and make a judgement call as a responsible adult.

  85. Just to add, and that decision may be to leave them in the car, or to take them with you – that is *your* choice, subject to your needs and circumstances, not a subject for *my* summary judgement.

  86. Lenore — I’m a big fan of the free-range concept and greatly appreciate your book and your blog.

    However, speaking as an urban cyclist, I can assure you that there are contexts in which we are far from being a “blame-obsessed society”. Specifically: Collisions and near-collisions between cyclists and motorists happen all the time, yet no one seems interested in determining whose fault they are.

    Because if we accepted that someone was responsible for the collisions, the next step would be for the responsible party (motorist, cyclist, whoever) to *change*, and change is hard. It’s easier to just keep letting cyclists die and calling it an accident. (In the process, tons and tons of people are discouraged from cycling because it isn’t considered safe.)

    The assigning of blame is a tool. Tools are not inherently good or bad; it’s a question of when and how you use them.

    If a parent leaves their child unattended, on the grounds that a one-in-a-billion chance of abduction is a reasonable risk, and by an extraordinary coincidence the child does in fact get abducted, and the parent is blamed, that doesn’t mean our society is blame-obsessed; rather, it means we don’t understand risk. (Sigh) That’s not as well-stated as I’d like, but I’m out of time…

  87. F SR, interesting you should bring that up. I don’t know what’s going on nowadays, but TWICE in the past week, I’ve had an adult cyclist ride out in front of me from a driveway, unexpectedly, so close in front of me that I had to brake. If I’d been distracted or was going at a higher speed, there could easily have been a collision. My sister used to be an avid cyclist, so I know some cyclists would say it’s my responsibility and my fault if I hit a guy on a bike. But blaming me isn’t going to bring a dead guy back to life. What say you?

  88. And my husband, who frequently bikes to work in the summer, reports the opposite — motorists who ignore bike right of way at places like traffic lights where they really SHOULD be aware.

    I always see these “cyclists vs. motorists” wars and the tendency for one side to blame the other as being “the problem.” Me, I think the problem is some number of motorists who are stupid and some number of cyclists who are stupid. Same goes for the motorcycle wars. The unfortunate thing is when one population’s bad encounter with a stupid member of the other population causes him to write off the other population as “the problem,” rather than stupidity as the problem.

  89. pentamom: You nailed it on the cyclists versus motorists thing. They had an ONGOING debate on my town’s opinion articles about it that went on for months. It was like “Hey both of you sides shut up already! There are buttholes who drive bicycles and buttholes who drive motorcycles and buttholes who drive cars. So you are going to have occasional problems with all of the above. Big whoop.”

  90. Did any of you hear the amazing NPR interview with the family in the tornados over here? The family had 3 kids, the adults were going to get the kids when the the tornado struck. They were in the kids’ bedroom and holding on to them and praying for thier lives. The mom had the baby, and the dad had hold of two older kids. The tornado struck, and pulled one boy out of the dad’s grasp and sucked him out of the house. Later, the boy was able to walk back home with only a few scratches.

    Me, and I bet if you asked that dad, I would rather have had all my kids in the same place, buckled in the car than to have the thought that perhaps if I had just been able to hang on a little better….

    Having 3 kids myself, getting them in and out of those seats was not an easy task and took time. Also in general, there is the factor that one of my kids is somewhat special needs and prone to running away while I got the toddler out. HE was NOT safer outside when I was distracted by another child. Him doing what I said was also not something that he was capable of doing.

  91. I am certainly happy to share the road with cyclists. But they have to use a little forethought before they zip into traffic. A car doing the same thing would also be wrong. The difference is that if I hit a dumbass in a car, he’d get a fender bender. If I hit a dumbass on a bicycle, he could get a funeral.

    It just struck me as odd that this happened twice in such a short time period, because it isn’t that common around here. Wonder if it was the same dumbass both times.

  92. @delurking – Not true. First, tornadoes are not always immediately visible. Second, some of them form FAST and dissipate nearly as quickly as they form. If you don’t know tornadoes and are in an area not prone to them, you are not necessarily going to know what the suddenly cloudy weather portends. Third, if you are in the area where it’s actually forming, you aren’t going to hear that freight train. While I lived a large portion of my youth in Texas (tornado alley) and can attest to that freight train sound, the tornado that came closest to flattening my house was actually in Westchester County, NY. Weather went from gorgeous to crap to gorgeous again in a breathtakingly short amount of time. And then the power went out. One of the main streets in Sleepy Hollow had just gotten slammed with a tornado. None of the indicators I knew from Texas were present. Had the mom in NZ been getting her kids out of the car, there is every possibility it would have been on top of her before she even knew what was happening.

  93. So we’re now diverting down the topic of cyclists & motorists, huh? Okay, I will bite.

    When I lived in Tucson AZ I used to cycle a lot and would get a lot of hostility from people who couldn’t seem to accept that the roads were for cyclists, too. Never mind that I road on the right side of the road and stopped at stop-lights, and that I was in the lane in such a way as to have a very minimal impact in terms of slowing anyone down. I didn’t just zip around & about, I stayed far-righ in a lane reserved basically for just that.

    Part of it was jealousy, too, in terms of that being in a bicycle enabled me to get to the front of the line at stop lights. Understand this–doing so is appropriate and legal. I was not obligated to remain at the back of the line, I had every ability and RIGHT to jockey to the front of the line and did just that. My response–if you want my advantage, do the work & get out and bicycle too, otherwise–tough. But I wasn’t going to be politically correct & worry at how was offended, it was an advantage and I utilized it.


  94. SKL, I agree with what you’re saying. It’s just that so often when this subject comes up, it devolves into an “us vs. them” war, when it’s really about individuals being really stupid. And yes, cyclists acting like right of way means they don’t have to look out for 2+ tons of moving steel is stupid, as well.

  95. Since we got on the topic of bikes, I was also a little disconcerted when a little boy came whizzing down his driveway and wiped out at the bottom when he was trying to turn onto the sidewalk. Thank goodness he realized it was better to wipe out on the driveway than to whiz into the busy street. Since my kids are just learning to ride bikes and we live at the top of a hill, I wonder when I can trust them to take their bikes out for real (right now we’ve kept them on the back patio). Funny, I hardly remember any of our neighbors riding bikes, so I can’t refer to what they do. Do hill-dwellers not ride bikes? (Mine has been broken for decades or I’d ride it.) For that matter, what about skates?

  96. SKL: I was a hill dweller. I would push the bike while I walked beside it till I got to a flat part to ride. I had to push them up the hills they were so steep and then if it was too steep to ride down then I walked it down.

  97. […] Range Kids: What can happen if you DO take your kids out of the car Photo courtesy of jrrodrigueaIV’s photostream   If you enjoyed this […]

  98. It goes with the fear that children can never ever be left alone to do anything. I have memories of my mom leaving us in the car. I was like 8 or 9 maybe a little younger. I would sometimes ask to stay in the car.

    My kids are still young enough I only leave them if I can still see them from the place I am going. I figure it will remind me to hurry up.

  99. @Elissa, on May 6, 2011 at 05:44 said:

    [i]”How does a passerby know when to act because a child was left in a car – either intentionally or unintentionally – and when to mind their own business?

    Should we just ignore all children in cars and assume that the parents made an informed and rational choice to leave them there?”[/i]

    Claudia Conway had a really good response to this question, and I would just point out that motive has SOOO much to do with it. If you really are genuinely concerned about the kid, then you will tend to follow Claudia’s suggestion. I have done so myself on more than one occasion. If I see a kid in a situation I’m not comfortable with, I hang around discretely until some one shows up to take charge. That way, if I’m just an overprotective helicopter, no harm done, and if my instincts were spot on, still no harm done to the kid 🙂

    One time I did say something (not to the parent) was at daycare. A parent left the sleeping infant buckled in the closed up car on a hot day. I waited until they showed up, then I went to the director and suggested a reminder to parents in the newsletter that hot weather can get dangerous really fast might be in order. Daycare is one of those iffy places, you only mean to be a minute retrieving the toddler, but what if the toddler just had an accident and need a clothing change and then it’s ten minutes before you know it (been there, done that ;0 )

    On the other hand though, if your motive is to slap a lesson down on someone who isn’t conforming to your standards of parenting, then you jump at any opportunity to call the police, confront the parent and make a huge fuss. Kids be darned (cause nothing bad ever happens to kids in foster care. Not really slamming foster care, just saying the rates of damage to a child in foster care are probably much higher than the damage from a 2 minute errand).

    Ah, would that cars came with crank windows again. Then as soon as the kid is old enough to operate the window crank, you could leave them as long as you want.

  100. […] What Can Happen if You DO Take Your Kids Out of the Car for Every Errand Hi Readers! Just yesterday I was being interviewed by a reporter who admitted she had let her kids, ages 5 and 2, […] […]

  101. “Do hill-dwellers not ride bikes?”

    Sure we do. We just ride them faster. And, yeah, we push UP hills.

  102. I’m just glad my minivan has tinted windows in the back, so lookie-lou’s don’t have get nosey.

    With today’s society, I don’t even trust the public with noticing that my 9 year old is unattended for a few terrible minutes.

    I’d leave my 5 year old in there too, b/c he begs to stay with big brother. But I can’t risk the disruption of public interference in my personal family business.

    Basically, I trust my 5 year old loads more than the average overprotective, well-meaning citizen.

  103. I *want* my kids to run out in teh neighbourhood and play and they do too, desperately, but I’m so afraid of others’ reactions and calling CPS. It’s happened a few times in our city and I’m so afraid of that happening that I feel like I have to hold my kids back 😦

    Does anyone else have this issue?

  104. ManalK Yes–I face this everyday, but my advice–do what you think is right, and live with the consequences. To paraphrase a popular expression–parent like no one’s watching.

    This is one area where I disagree with Lenore, very respectfully–to me, having them with you doesn’t trump free-range. In other words, if it comes down to parenting the “wrong” way to keep them vs parenting them how you think is right but losing them because others disagree–I would actually vote for #2. What is the point of being a parent if you can’t do it as you feel is right? To me that’s the whole point of being a parent. Parenting is about leadership. If you’re hindered in how you can lead, you’re frankly not the parent. You might be mommy & daddy to your kid, but you’re not the parent.

    Yes I would miss my kids if someone took them because of such, and I’d fight like hades to prevent that–but at the end of the day, I sure wouldn’t blame myself for not “playing the game” as it were. I’d sleep soundly that night, the only disturbance would be my outrage that society wouldn’t leave me the hell alone so I could actually be the leader I’m supposed to be. I sure wouldn’t blame myself for failing to kiss their ass.


  105. “What is the point of being a parent if you can’t do it as you feel is right?”

    Likewise, what is the point of being a parent if it loses you the ability to be a parent and puts your kids into a situation where they are even more overprotected?

    Each situation is a judgment call. You can do as you choose in this situation but you will make no headway arguing a universal principle that people shouldn’t care if we lose the ability to parent our kids *at all* in the name of the right to use no judgment whatsoever about the possible consequences of *particular choices.*

  106. IOW, it’s NOT all about your freedom, it’s all about raising your kids as you see fit, and that includes having them in your home instead of losing them. It’s very, very important to preserve your freedom but that’s not exactly accomplished by *losing it entirely.*

  107. pentamom, Dolly: I agree that there are stupid motorists AND stupid cyclists. There’s no point in saying “It’s all the bikes’ fault” or “It’s all the cars’ fault”.

    There is, however, a point in saying, “A lot of cyclists do X, and a lot of motorists do Y. These actions have a track record of causing deaths and injuries, so we have to find a way to get cyclists to do less X and motorists to do less Y.” Yes, it’s a very big whoop.

    And a lot of people who do X and Y really aren’t buttholes. I have a friend who is a wonderful, considerate, and intelligent person and a perfectly good car driver as well, except that she thinks her responsibility is merely to LOOK for cyclists. But the law doesn’t say to yield to the person on your right IF you see them; it says to yield to the person on your right, period. Which makes it the responsibility of the person on the left to SEE the person on the right. Whatever that takes.

    Meanwhile, the person on the right has their own responsibilities, e.g. using certain lights, stopping for stop signs, and stopping when pulling out of a driveway onto the street.

    SKL: Is it your fault if you hit a guy on a bike? Depends on the situation. Will blaming you bring the dead guy back to life? Obviously not. So what good does assigning blame do? As I said in my first comment, assigning blame tells us who needs to change what they’re doing. If we can actually find a way to get people who are doing X and Y to change, there will be fewer deaths and injuries and the streets will be safer for everyone. Free-range kids included.

  108. (I probably shouldn’t have used “pulling out of a driveway onto the street” as an example in that particular context. Because usually when someone pulls out of a driveway onto the street, they are legally required to yield to *everyone* else.)

  109. “And a lot of people who do X and Y really aren’t buttholes. I have a friend who is a wonderful, considerate, and intelligent person and a perfectly good car driver as well, except that she thinks her responsibility is merely to LOOK for cyclists. But the law doesn’t say to yield to the person on your right IF you see them; it says to yield to the person on your right, period. Which makes it the responsibility of the person on the left to SEE the person on the right. Whatever that takes.”

    Could you explain this better? I don’t understand the distinction you’re making between the responsibility to “look” for someone and the responsibility to “see” them. If you’re just trying to add emphasis to the fact that yes, you really do need to make sure you see the cyclist, fine, but otherwise, looking for something is the *way* you see something, it’s not less than seeing it.

    I don’t disagree with the point you’re making about how talking about whose fault a given situation is teaches people what their obligations are, but my point is that you can do this until you’re blue in the face, and the guy who pulls out of the driveway without looking is still being a jerk, and the motorist who thinks that bikes don’t belong on the road or need to get out of his way in every case is still being a jerk, and talking about “motorists” or “cyclists” doesn’t change the behavior of jerks. Responsible people will take responsibility, irresponsible people will be irresponsible, and beyond educating people about their responsibilities, there’s not much that can be done — and the dead cyclist in the road will still be dead either because he was being foolish or because the motorist was being foolish, or both.

  110. pentamom: Thanks for asking for clarification.

    Looking is less than seeing because when you look for something, you don’t necessarily see it.

    Suppose I’m driving a car, and I’m looking around but somehow I don’t see this other car that I’m legally supposed to yield to. And I crash into them. If they weren’t breaking any laws, the collision is almost certainly my fault. I might say, “But I was looking for other cars!”, but that doesn’t matter — it’s still my fault. (My responsibility was to see the other car and to stop for it, not just to look.)

    You say, “beyond educating people about their responsibilities, there’s not much that can be done”. So, fine, let’s do a better job of educating people about their responsibilities.

    In the above scenario, where I caused a collision, the police (or whoever) could try to figure out why I didn’t see the other car. Maybe the sun was in my eyes. In which case I could be required to take classes on (1) how to drive safely when the sun is in your eyes and (2) understanding that when circumstances prevent you from driving in reasonable safely, it’s your responsibility not to drive at all.

    Because there are so many injuries and deaths from motor vehicle collisions, we really should take bigger steps to prevent them. We should educate more. (It’s been 16 years since I was last required to take a driving test of any kind!) We should take away people’s licenses faster when they cause collisions, and if they insist on driving anyway we should find some way to keep them from doing so. We should require trucks to have better mirrors or cameras so they don’t have massive blind spots.

    Back to my original point… when there’s something bad that’s happening all the time, we should investigate it, determine the cause(s), and address them. That’s why assigning blame is sometimes a good and important thing.

  111. I agree with pentamom that you have to draw the line somewhere. I am very big on parental rights as long as the parent is doing a good job and not hurting the child. For example, the school system suggested I put my special needs child in Head Start daycare/preschool 5 days a week all day to help with his speech delay. I declined this. I felt that is totally too much time away from me and his other family members and he would probably withdraw into himself over such a radical change. That was my parental call there. I made my choice even though the government wanted something else.

    However, if they had been all “Either you put him in Head Start or we take him away from you” I would have fought it in court while he was in Head Start because getting him taken away from me is even worse than full day daycare, now isn’t it? Then I really would never see him.

    My point being, you have a right to parent and it is good to feel invested in your beliefs. However losing your kids over pride is not okay and would actually be a bad parenting decision.

  112. @ Sue — The Prev-Mongers are coming, the Prev-Mongers are coming . . . to Germany.

    When I read your comment about about the ladies chiding you for leaving your son, I wanted to say, I have the feeling the paranoia is starting here, too. But was the paranoia my own? Well, the proof arrived in today’s papers.

    The leading story in the local section: “Men under general suspicion”. The article is about men working as child carers, and the problems they face as the fear of child abuse grows. The article covered some of the same issues that have been post topics on this website; male carers feeling afraid to have close physical contact with young children (esp. girls), people increasing concerned with the subject of abuse in childcare, majority of people admitting it has crossed their mind to be suspicious of male childcare workers, men not wanting to be left alone in a room with napping children. It even turns out that Bremen Kitas (early childcare centers) have already discussed banning men from the changing tables as a preventative measure to steer clear of any misunderstandings.

    And it gets worse. In yet another article (different paper!): The Green Party in Bremen wants to make police checks mandatory for all those working in sports, youth, and church affiliated clubs.

    So I guess that was my Mother’s Day present:
    To make me feel more at home.

  113. “I might say, “But I was looking for other cars!”, but that doesn’t matter — it’s still my fault. (My responsibility was to see the other car and to stop for it, not just to look.)”

    Okay, maybe this is just semantics, but I would say, “You don’t just have to say you looked, or look half-heartedly, you actually have to look well enough to make sure you see.”

    Because there is nothing more you can actually *do* than look. “Seeing” is something you can only control by looking.

  114. […] reading here: What Can Happen if You DO Take Your Kids Out of the Car for Every Errand Share and […]

  115. I believe that there are times when it is not unsafe to leave children in the car for short times and I think that many (but far from all) parents have the cognitive abilities to make appropriate judgements about the safety of a particular scenario.

    However, I don’t agree with your argument that leaving small children in cars is safe because of the 60,000,000 children age 15 and under in America, only about 115 kidnapped by strangers/year.

    Only about 2/3 of these children would be, say, 10 or under (an age more likely to be kidnapped) . Only a small proportion of these younger children would ever be left alone in a vehicle and most for only a short amounts of time. Thus, the opportunity for kidnapping from vehicles is much smaller than the population of 60 million children (in which case the odds of a child being kidnapped when alone in a car is much higher than 115/60 000 000 (though still relatively low).

    So perhaps kidnapping by strangers is so rare only because the opportunity (in this case, young children alone in cars) is infrequent.

  116. I thought of this post this past weekend as I left my 9 year old in the car (windows open) while I ran into the grocery to pick up a pre-ordered party order. He did his homework. I got my errand done. Evyeryone happy.

  117. “Only about 2/3 of these children would be, say, 10 or under (an age more likely to be kidnapped) .”

    Actually, the most common age for kidnapping by strangers is 12 and over, not 10 and under.

  118. Tornadoes aren’t the only things that can kill kids in a parking lot. Parking lots are very dangerous places for small people.

  119. “Thus, the opportunity for kidnapping from vehicles is much smaller than the population of 60 million children (in which case the odds of a child being kidnapped when alone in a car is much higher than 115/60 000 000 (though still relatively low).”

    Besides what Donna said, if you’re going to start narrowing things down that way, then you’re also going to need to find out what percentage of kids who are randomly kidnapped, are randomly kidnapped *from cars.*

    And I suspect it’s very, very low. So that drives the numbers right back up again.

  120. I’d like to find a good site that has all of the state laws on leaving your kids in the car and at home on their own.

    In Missouri, there is no law that says you can’t leave your child alone in the car. However, you can be prosecuted if leaving your child alone in the car leads to injury or damage (of child, someone else, or someone’s property). That’s a law that actually makes sense!

  121. 1 week after having my youngest son, my oldest son was returning to preschool following their Christmas break. It was snowing that day and my middle child was sick. So rather than take her and the 1 week old out of the car, I pulled up to the curb, got my oldest out, locked all the doors and walked my son up to the glass doors. This was a distance of 15 feet. A teacher met me at the door and took my son the rest of the way in. I got back in the car and went to the pharmacy to pick up my daughter’s Rx. I brought the kids in and while waiting in line I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and another mom from the preschool was there. She whispered to me “The cops are waiting for you back at the school”. Apparently, another mother saw me ‘leave’ my kids in the car while I walked the 15 feet to the door. And, she called the police and turned me in. I returned to the school and sure enough, there were two police officers. In tears (thanks hormones) with my daughter in tears, I approach the police and tell them, “Its me your looking for”. They asked me why I left my kids in the car to go to the bank (located next to the preschool). I told them that I wasn’t in the bank, but rather dropping my son off at the preschool. They looked dumbfounded for a moment and then apologized for upsetting me and left. I confronted the other mother, because I knew without anyone telling me who it was who had called. She tried to tell me it is dangerous to leave kids all alone. I stuck to my guns though and told her they weren’t in any danger, they were 15 feet away in a locked car that I could see the entire time. But what is a story without karma? The preschool staff couldn’t believe what she had done and decided that they would walk out to my car and walk my son into the building so that I didn’t have to remove my other two kids or risk having the police called again. The other mom was not happy with that arrangement as she felt it indicated favoritism. The director told her that the only reason I was receiving the red carpet treatment was because of her. AND, 1 year later, I’m at a birthday party at a chuck e. cheese-like play center watching my son on the center play area when I feel a tugging on my shirt. I look down and its this mom’s daughter and she is lost. I tell her to stay right with me, her mom would find her if she stayed in one place. Her mom ‘found’ us over 45 minutes later.

  122. I am so frustrated by this issue! I have 3 young children and it is very time-consuming to get them all in and out of our van just to run up to the library to return some books. The sad thing is the only reason I drag the kids with me is due to my fear of legal retaliation if I left them in the car.

    My college roommate is currently a lawyer; when I broached the subject with her, she adamantly stressed that I should NEVER leave my kids in the car by themselves for any length of time. Her reasoning was based on her own experience of having the police called on her mom for doing this with my friend’s young son, and also the cases of parental negligence that go through the court system all the time.

    I don’t like it, but I’ll keep bringing my children with me. Until the system changes, it is not safe to leave my children in the car. Safe from the government that is.

  123. I agree with the above post. If i know I am only going to be out of the car for around 5 minutes and it is below 70 out, I logically see no reason I can’t leave my 15 month old in the car. I rarely do, however, because I am terrified that someone will decide they need to stick their nose in my business and call the police.

    I will, in my very small town, run into the post office and occasionally leave her in the car alone, but only if I know that it’s a time of day when not many people will be out. Obviously I’m not going to leave her there if it’s even warm out (warm enough not to wear a jacket) or if I’m going to be gone longer than 5 minutes or so. I think about her safety constantly; It is the #1 thing on my mind all day every day, so I don’t do anything that I know will endanger her. Yeah, there are stupid people out there who will leave their kids in a hot car on the basis that that’s what their parents did and they are fine; There are people who do it on accident and suffer the tragic consequences. But I know the difference if I see a kid in a car outside the gas pump (where the parent will likely be back right away) and if I see a kid locked in a car at the grocery store or an office building. If I ever saw a kid I was worried about I would treat the situation the same as when I see a very small child alone in a store. I will stand near the kid until I see their parents. If after so long I didnt see the parents I would help the kid find them or get help, but that never happens. Same way I would probably stand outside a car for 5 minutes only for the parents to come running out looking around to make sure no one noticed the baby in the car and take off.

    I know the law is in place for good reason, but I think it could be revised. I dont feel that I should have to wake my child up, get her out, carry her in screaming, stand at the counter twice as long listening to someone talking to her or asking me 10 dozen questions about her (how old is she? is she walking? can she talk? etc etc etc) and then have to carry her back out, strap her back in (making her scream and cry even more!) . Then I have to listen to her scream all the way to our next stop, at which point she calms down right before we get parked, and then we start the whole process over! *sigh* It’s exhausting! And then on top of all that you have to remember everything you had to do (which I never do anymore), you have to come home, put things away, clean the house, cook, and tend to the baby. So yeah, 5 minutes of convenience is pretty important. Yeah, she’s my kid and I did sign up for more responsibility, but leaving my kid in a secure environment for a short period of time should not be an issue.

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