I am not a judgy parent. I live by and promote the ideas of ‘each to their own’ and ‘whatever works for you’. In fact I often call BS on Sanctimammies and their self righteousness. You know that.
The only one issue that I will happily criticize is that of traveling in cars with kids who are not strapped in. There is no excuse for that. None. Ever.
However, this week I was faced with something else, another car issue actually, that made me upset and angry and left me reeling with guilt if I’m honest. I posted about it on my stories last night and it seems from the hundreds of Mums who voted on my polls, that most of us are on the same page when it comes to it.
On Monday afternoon, I was in Aldi-everything in Letterkenny. I parked at the far end of the carpark as it was busy. As I left with my shopping, the car that was parked in the parent and child spot farthest from the door caught my eye.
There was movement in the back seat and as I passed, I realised it was a child. Not an eight or 9 year old child. I’d guess (and it is only a guess) that this little one was no more than 18 months old.
I looked around half expecting to see a Mum or Dad rushing back from returning a trolley, but there was no sign. I went on to my car, unloaded my trolley and returned the trolley to the bay; which probably took about 4 minutes as I was at the opposite end of the carpark.
On my return, the baby was still alone in the car; granted quite calm and dry and not a bit distressed, but nonetheless alone and unsupervised and therefore, unsafe.
I asked my followers what I should have done. The responses were mostly similar. Here are a few:
I’ve heard of people who take the child and go to find the parent, but that would distress the child more would it not? And technically, you’re lifting a child you don’t know…
I know some people who would ring the guards. In fact so many have told me that’s exactly what I should have done, but I wasn’t sure if that was the right thing to do. I also wasn’t able to hang around and wait for the guards to arrive as my own children were waiting for me to collect them and I couldn’t be late. So
I considered going in to try to find the parent, but let’s be honest, I had no idea who I’d be dealing with and while I’m not one to shy away from confrontation, I’m also not one to go looking for it. And there’s a good chance that if that parent didn’t think it was a bad idea to leave their child alone in a busy carpark in the first place, they weren’t going to want to hear a lecture from me.
I often write about how we don’t know what a parent has been through on a given day. So how could I, the preacher of this, be the one to chastise or challenge another Mum.
It doesn’t happen me often, but I genuinely had no idea what to do.
And so I went and sat in my car and watched, praying and willing the parent to come out and jump into the car. I waited over 5 minutes and then I had to leave. I’ve never felt so guilty leaving a carpark in my life.
I can still see that wee child in the back of the car. I hope she wasn’t sitting much longer. I have been racked with guilt that I should have done something since.
So I put it to my followers on Instagram Stories and the reaction was interesting. Hundreds of people voted and responded. Here are the replies after 24 hours.
It seems that the general consensus is that it very much depends on a few factors: the age of the child(ren), the proximity of the shop and the length of time you’re away.
For example, most people agreed that to pull up to your local filling station/shop and run in to pay for fuel or grab bin labels or milk, was acceptable as long as you could still see the car.
Some said that sometimes, ‘if a child is sleeping or unwell or the rain is pelting down’, they’ll pop in but never for more than a minute. And many of the mums who replied as
such said that they felt guilty about it and haven’t done it since.
Some said it depended on the age and number of kids. So leaving a young kid with older siblings is OK… for a few minutes.
ALL of them stressed that if they thought they’d be more than 2 minutes, the kids came in too.
ALL agreed that leaving your child unattended, 60 yards from the door, to go into a supermarket where let’s be honest, as fast as Jacinta-at-the-till is in Aldi-Everything, will ALWAYS take a minimum of 6 minutes even to run in for one item, was simply wrong.
I’m not judging Ladybelles. I’m really not. I have no idea what the circumstance was or who the parent was, but I do know that that child was alone in that car too long. I have no idea how long she had already been there before I came out.
As parents, we are all too aware that it only takes a split second for something to go wrong or for something bad to happen. Or indeed for the wrong person to come along. We might live in a lovely town, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ill-intentioned opportunists around, does it?
I just hope that the adult returned soon afterwards and that the little one wasn’t frightened. And I hope that if they read this and know it was them, that maybe they might reconsider next time.
Because our children are our most valuable possessions and they should be kept safe to the very best of our abilities at all times. That’s our job as parents.
Most of us wouldn’t leave our handbags in the car for the world to see; we hide it or take it with us, so I can’t understand why leaving a child is an option.
What’s your thoughts on this?
And please don’t be hateful towards the person. This is not about bashing another parent, but it’s a conversation worth having.