As the weather gets warmer we start seeing those sad stories of children inadvertently left in cars for too long. These are terrible stories. I can’t even bring myself to write about what these poor children go through. I can’t imagine what pain the parents have to live with for the rest of their lives. But I do feel compelled to write something about it.
This sort of thing scares me so much. You know why? Because it can happen to anyone. Oh, I know. There are tons of people out there who read these stories and think, ‘Nope, not me. I could never forget my kid.’ I don’t think I could forget my child. But then I think about times that I have driven home and can’t quite remember the drive exactly. You know what I mean. You are so deep in thought that you kind of go on auto pilot. I know I have set out to go somewhere and ended up steering to the office out of habit. Say you have something major on your mind. A big presentation, an illness in the family, or just the chronic tiredness that can come with having small children. It makes sense that someone could go about their routine and miss the step of dropping off their child. Our brains can fail us, and it can lead to tragedy.
I have my children with me every day, I am used to loading them in and out of the car. Okay, so maybe I am less likely to forget them. What about if someone else has them? If you aren’t accustomed to getting a child in and out of the car it could be easy to forget they are even there. You aren’t used to getting a baby out of the car, and that baby is sound asleep. It can be easy to forget. Why would you look in your backseat if you don’t on a regular basis? In this case habit works against us. I am happy that Ben is now old and big enough to stay awake through most car rides. He likes to talk to me and I know he is back there. The girls are still rear facing and often doze off during car rides, which could make it easy to forget they are back there. I’ve forgotten my phone, my purse, books, etc in the car. I am not infallible. I make an effort to not forget my children are in the car with me. Honestly with three to load in and out it is a bit harder. And as I said, the kids are always with me. In fact in the rare instances I am out without them I find myself climbing in the back to unload anyway. But that isn’t to say I couldn’t make a tragic mistake. I always try to put something in the back I will need at my destination, just to be safe.
There are so many ways to help prevent this. Leave your phone in the backseat. You shouldn’t be on it while driving anyway. Put a shoe in the back. You will notice walking around with one shoe. Make a plan to have your childcare provider call you if your child doesn’t show up on time. Call the person who has your child to make sure they got the child out of the car. Do whatever it takes to keep your family safe.
An acronym to help is ACT.
A: Avoid– never intentionally leave your child unattended in a car. Don’t leave cars unlocked for kids to get into. Don’t leave keys out where children can play with them.
C: Create reminders– leave something in the back you need.
T: Take action– if you see a child alone in a hot car do something! Call 911 for help.
I hope whoever takes care of Ben, Ali, and Sammy understands if I call to make sure they are all safe. As I said, this could happen to anyone. And I hope anyone who worries (like Pat) calls me to check on the safety of our children. It isn’t worth the risk to put my pride first and take offense to someone checking in.
Here are some links for additional information.
I also want to mention that if you accidentally lock your child in the car and can’t get them out, call 911! Accidents happen. Kids grab keys and push lock buttons. You will not get in trouble for saving your child. Emergency personnel are trained to know what to do in this sort of situation. They just want your child to be safe too.
I know there are many dangers that face our children in the world today. This is one that everyone can take steps to prevent though. I hope we all take that extra caution to try to make it so no family has to suffer through this sort of tragedy.