An Empty Car Seat Where My Daughter Should Have Been Sitting – And What It Taught Me

car-seat-mistake-newI heard a thud before the crying began. Adrenaline immediately starting pumping through my veins. I looked in my rear-view mirror desperately trying to figure out what was going on. I nearly drove my car into a ditch when I saw it – an empty car seat where my daughter should have been sitting! It took me a few seconds to figure out what had happened. I knew that my six month old didn’t have the strength to unclip the harness herself. It had to be me. It was my fault. I had forgotten to strap her in!

The light in front of me turned green and I was forced to start driving again. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to safely rescue my daughter and put her in back in her car seat without putting us both in risk of getting hit by another car in the process. We were in the middle lane. Amelia’s face was soaked with tears. She was fighting for her life the only way she knew how – by crying hysterically. It was loud and heartbreaking. Every moment I was stuck in that car and unable to help her, made my heart beat even faster.  I scanned the road for the nearest opportunity to pull over. The YMCA was on my right and not even a block down the road. Resisting the urge to floor it all the way there, I carefully accelerated and gently turned into the parking lot. My eyes constantly jumping from my rear-view mirror to the road. She was still back there, terrified, but seemingly unharmed.

I put the car in park and unbuckled my seat belt at the same time. Panicked and hurried I flung the driver’s side door open and stumbled to the back of my Rav4. I quickly, but carefully, opened the back hatch. As soon as I laid eyes on her, I scooped her up and into my arms. I kissed her all over before gently inspecting her for any injuries. She seemed scared, but okay. I couldn’t find any cuts or bruises. I breathed a sigh of relief. Not knowing what else to do, I climbed into the front seat of my car and began nursing her. Within a few minutes her breathing had slowed and her tense body relaxed. I tried to do the same.

I had a hard time forgiving myself. It took months. But, eventually I forgave myself for making such a terrible and potentially fatal parenting mistake. And, when I tried to find any good in what had happened I was surprised by what I found.

I had a hard time forgiving myself. It took months. But, eventually I forgave myself for making such a terrible and potentially fatal parenting mistake. And, when I tried to find any good in what had happened I was surprised by what I found.

I realized that mindfulness is an important parenting skill. It is even more important than patience or compassion. I learned that without it, otherwise well-meaning and cautious parents can make deadly mistakes. It is not just uncaring people who let bad things happen to their babies – it’s people who are tired or frustrated or just not paying attention. You can do it without even meaning to.

Whether we are at the pool or the mall, I know that I am a more mindful parent than I would have been had this experience never happened to me. Whenever I begin to feel guilty about the parenting mistake I made that day, I remind myself that the lesson I learned from it could have saved my daughter’s life by now – and for that, I am eternally grateful. 

What parenting mistakes have you learned the most from? 

What do you think?

An Empty Car Seat Where My Daughter Should Have Been Sitting – And What It Taught Me

Samantha Chase is math major turned elementary school teacher turned stay at home mom extraordinaire. She spent three years studying mathematics at the University of Southern Florida before deciding it was time to make a change. She switched her major to Elementary Education and became a teacher. After graduation, Samantha spent 6 years (and a lot of sleepless nights) working in a high poverty school in the heart of St.Petersburg, Florida. She taught the first, fourth and fifth grades and lear ... More

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8 comments

  1. Profile photo of Aubrey Aubrey says:

    Not long after my hubs and I had our 3rd boy, we went shopping. Now this was the first shopping trip with the hubby since the baby. Get to the store, I jump out and start walking in. Hubs goes, um dear, aren’t you forgetting something? I had forgotten our son was with us! He had fallen asleep, and before him trips with the hubs during the day were just us two since the older boys were in school! I was horrified that I didn’t remember my 2 month old. He’s almost 4 now, and it never happened again, but omg did I bawl when I got home.

  2. Profile photo of Lauren Lauren says:

    My daughter at 8 months rolled off her changing table. I had turned my face away and took my hand off her to toss a dirty diaper and grab a clean one- less than 30 sec. It happened so fast! I think I cried more than she did. I haven’t used the changing table since then and she’ll be a year in 10 days.

  3. Profile photo of LIZ says:

    we try to do our best, we dont come with a book of parenting

  4. Profile photo of Phammom Phammom says:

    I’m sure reading this will help me be more mindful as well

  5. Profile photo of sayhola sayhola says:

    I am an EXTREMELY mindful and detail-oriented parent, but am glad to know I’m not the only one – one time I got home and brought my son inside, to find that his straps were around his arms and blanket over him, but the buckle was not done. I felt horrible, but grateful that nothing had happened, and just took it as a reminder to be more careful next time. Not that I wasn’t to begin with!

  6. Profile photo of EbyMom EbyMom says:

    Parents should be extra careful when it comes to their kids. We should not be in a hurry. Always cross check things before going ahead to take action.

    • Profile photo of Meagan Meagan says:

      moms are human and humans make mistakes no one is perfect not even u i can see u must not be a mom as if u were when u wrote this u would see the mistakes u had made also 🙂

    • Profile photo of Kalene Kalene says:

      We all try to be extra careful and cross check but moms are human and we make mistakes. If you are a mom you would know that.

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