I Left My Kids Alone in the Car and THIS is What Happened
I pull into the gas station, making sure to get a spot in direct sight line of the door. I pump my gas, lock the car doors, and power walk into the gas station, grabbing a bag of almond M&Ms on the fly, and skid into the checkout line, praying I don't get behind one of those scratch-off lottery tickets. As soon as it's my turn, I'm throwing my stuff up on the counter, card in hand ready to swipe. No, thank you, I don't need a receipt, and I breathe a sigh of relief as I head out the door. Why so worried?
I left my kids alone in the car.
Now you're probably having one of two reactions right now. You either now think I'm a terrible mother who's going to wind up on the news one day (if this sounds familiar just go ahead and skip to the end) or you're thinking, “Why are you paranoid? Do you really think someone's going to take them?” The answer is no, I don’t. I'm paranoid that one of you first kinds of people are going to be there and act ridiculous.
It Happened to Me
My kids were 2 and 5. I was going into a certain fast-food restaurant for subs because said children had been fighting and screaming like banshees all day, and if I had to so much as heat up a French fry, I was going to lose it. I parked right in front of the huge glass storefront where I could see them all the time. It was 60-something degrees that day, so I didn't need to leave the windows cracked. I locked the car up, leaving both kids strapped into seats they couldn't get out of, and went into order. I repeat: It was not hot (or cold), and I could see them the ENTIRE time.
So, of course, by the laws of Mom's-having-a-bad-day, I get behind this woman who's ordering at least six complicated subs. She can't get her subs straight, so she has to keep going back and changing things. I’m getting a bit irritated, but whatever. This is my chance to get a few minutes free of anyone asking me why green is green and what the letter nine means. I've been looking at my kids the whole time, but since it's been a bit, I decide to wave. Seems like a good idea, right? WRONG.
The I-don’t-know-what-I-want lady sees me wave, turns, and demands, “Are those your children?” I claim them with a curt “Yes.” Because I already know what's coming. She lays into me, telling me I should be ashamed of myself, reminding me of all the horrible things that could happen to my kids (ya know, while they're in a locked car where I can see them in full view constantly). And she tells me she's calling the police. Somewhere about this time, the poor sandwich maker has this lady ready to check out and my subs waiting. She pays and walks out the door. I throw $30 at the worker telling him to keep the change and I run out the door. The lady comes back to tell me what a horrible mother I am.
I still don't know if she ever called the cops. But I did. I called and asked the local police department whether I had done something wrong and what the police response would have been. Guess what? They told me everything was fine. That it sounded like I hadn't done anything wrong. And that there were no official laws on the books. It was handled on a case-by-case basis and not to worry.
Now, this may not be true for every area. And sure, there are definitely times, places, and temperatures when you shouldn't leave your kids alone in the car. We've all seen the horror stories on the news. But most of the time, a parent has just gone for a few minutes and all is well.
If You're One of Those People
I know you're operating from a good place. I know you think you're doing what's best and are appalled that I could put my kids in such “danger.” But you're actually helping to create a culture where people are more terrified of do-gooders than they are of actual dangerous situations. So how about everyone tries to be a nice person instead of adding more stress to each other's lives? Instead of berating parents or threatening them with calls to the police or CPS, how about just hanging out for a few minutes and waiting to see if the parents come back? Cause 99 times out of 100, everything is fine. For those of you who already do this: Virtual high five. I appreciate you looking out for my (and everyone else's) kids.