Leaving Kids in the Car?

Right.

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.

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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.

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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.

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I am Strap your Kids in the Car Mum

Most days we all see something silly or shocking on our roads.

Maybe it’s a close call.  Maybe it’s a near miss.  Maybe it’s someone speeding…

And usually, we tut, or we hold our breath, or we swear or gesture some form of WTF at the offending driver…

But there is ONE thing that is becoming more and more prevalent on our roads, and Mammy can not for the life of me get my head around it…

Driving with kids who are NOT STRAPPED IN.

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In the past fortnight, I have seen THREE cases of this.

One car swung around a busy roundabout in my town with two toddlers standing at the windows in the back seat.

One pulled in to a carpark beside me and the child, no more than 5 years old, jumped out of the front seat, having been already standing when the car came to a stop.

One had a three year old standing between between the front seats as she swung into a parking space this morning. And yes, I know the child is three, because I know the woman who was driving.

Can I say anything?

God no.

Because how do you say it? Why is it my business?  How do I have ANY idea what that parent has been through this morning? How can you possibly comment without turning into the one thing that I personally despise…a sanctimammy.

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Others will say “Oh there were no seatbelts when we were children”.  I know.  I am one of that generation.  But hey, guess what? There was a lot less traffic and the roads were very differnt. Also, in the 80’s we thought it was safe to smoke while pregnant and that it was OK for teachers to hit our children…

So, HOW is it possible that this is happening?

My kids have grown up thinking that my car won’t start until they have their seatbelts on.  Of course I have rows with them where one of them will refuse to get into the seat, or where one has planked so impressively that I can’t get their belly to buckle so I can buckle them in.  And we have been late many many times because of these stand-offs.

But guess what?

This is ONE battle of wills which this Mammy will ALWAYS WIN.

Because I don’t give a continental shite how late I am, or how much she is crying, or how much I want to scream and tear my hair out, there is NOTHING in this world which will make me put my children into the car without them being strapped in.

NOTHING.

(And trust me, I have put my back out trying!)

Because as difficult as kids can be and as much as we are “only going around the corner”, none of us know what or who is also coming around that corner and even strapped in, none of us are 100% safe on the roads.

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I hate to sound preachy.  I really do.  It goes against every fibre of my blogging-being.  But seriously, the one and only true thing of any value that we have, is our children.

And while none of us can guarantee their safety when we’re on the roads, we CAN guarantee it within our cars and thereby give them the best possible chance in the event of the unthinkable happening.

I’d rather put up with tantrums and fights than live with my self if anything happened my child while I am driving.  Because if you don’t strap them in, then it’s as much your fault as the other driver’s if they get hurt.

Stop it.

Strap them in and wise up.

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