Ever since Nat’s birth, I have had one terrifying fear. It’s a fear that I didn’t have when I became a mother to Em, when she was 5. That fear is of forgetting that he is in the back seat of the car. As you can imagine, this hasn’t been a concern of mine with Em, as she would greatly protest if I did something like that. She even gets after me if I start the car (just to get the AC or heat going) and she hasn’t yet buckled herself in. The girl certainly keeps me on my toes, now, at the age of 7, but Nat is a different story.
Nat turned 16 mos in June, and is a very quiet toddler. He often times doesn’t make a peep in the back seat and loves to fall asleep during long car rides. This has definitely been a blessing when we’ve had to take a 2 or 3 hour trip somewhere, but that fear has always been in the back of my mind, especially with so many stories about it in the news.
We all do it. We all forget things as our busy days go by. I sometimes wonder if I’m more connected to my phone and yet, still, I forget that in the car sometimes. Only after ripping apart my purse and house, do I ever go out and check the car, only to find it in the console, frozen or warm depending on the time of the year.
But Nat should be different. He’s a person. He’s my baby. How could I forget him? How could anyone be so neglectful?
On the surface, that is my first thought. How could you forget your child, because of course, they are living, breathing human-being. My first thought is harsh, judgmental, and made by someone who has never made such a mistake. When I step back, I’m disgusted with myself. It’s like blaming the parent who accidentally hits their child with a vehicle. They thought the child was inside, didn’t see that they had gotten behind the car. It is a horrible tragic accident. The Washington Post recently did an article about some of the families who have lost a child as a result of this mistake (Warning: obviously heart-wrenching).
I remember reading something a few summers ago on the subject, how a wealthy, educated woman (it was like they chose this to show it could happen to ANYONE – as if people thought that only the poor and stupid could make such a mistake) didn’t typically ever take just one child to daycare. But it happened that one of the children had stayed home sick, the older one, the one that was talkative and noisy and surely would never let you forget about him. The younger child had fallen asleep, and in her hurry to get to work on time, she forgot the sleeping tyke who asphyxiated while she was at work. She didn’t realize that he was still in the back, until after work, when she went to the daycare and was told that she had never dropped him off. Only then did she realize he had been in the back seat the entire time.
And so this is my biggest fear. It terrifies me. I always try to think, what can I do, to make sure, I never make this mistake?
I love that, everyday, I hear the public service announcement on the radio. This, I think is very helpful. One of the suggestions they mention is to put your purse in the backseat when you put your child in the backseat. That way, even if the child falls asleep, there is that reminder to grab something from the back. So whatever it is, your briefcase, phone (which will keep you off it while driving), lunch, purse, whatever, use it as a reminder.
Create a habit or routine: one of the major events that cause someone to forget that they have their child in the car is that whatever has happened has disrupted their normal routine. Maybe you don’t typically bring your child to daycare in the morning. Make it part of your routine to check your back seat. Or try the shoe trick.
Another thing to remember is to never ever leave your child in the car, even if you are just going to “run” in. This is something I have been guilty of. Getting my son all locked up into his car seat, only to remember, I left my badge or wallet inside. It’ll only take a moment. I’ll leave the car running with the AC on. This goes with pets as well. Something could happen. Maybe you run into someone you haven’t seen in a while or get sidetracked. There is no guarantee that you will only be a few minutes. Things happen. Should we live in fear? No. 99% of the time is something going to happen to your child? No. However, keep in mind two recent articles: One where a woman ran into a store to get a soda, leaving her newborn in the car. No, nothing happened in regards to the child suffocating due to the heat, however, her car was stolen, and the child was left out in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully, a jogger came across the baby. Another article I read recently was about a woman who ran in real quick to grab something, her child was fine and she wasn’t in there for a long period of time, however, a by-stander reported the event to the police. This has led to a slew of legal problems for the mother. See also: Christina Moon.
The last two articles state that the parents wish that someone had realized what they would have to go through when they called the police/911. That being said, and understanding that maybe this was “innocent”, if you see a child alone in a car, I would call the police or 911. Stay with the vehicle, and if someone else is with you, have them go into the store and page the parent. I would much rather deal with all the repercussions of this than have to deal with the fact that I forgot my son, and he passed away because of it.
I am not looking to make anyone the villain here, only to say, this is my biggest fear. Nat is 16 months old now, and still this scares me. I’ve checked behind me in a panic half way to work, knowing, that I left him at daycare. Create a routine. Make this a priority. Be aware that this can happen to anyone.