My Son Nearly Died Because I Took Him OUT of the Car

Here’s a handy-dandy post to whip out when someone screams at you for letting your kids wait in the car during an errand. (Did you know Free-Range Kids is a free app? That’s how you can whip this out):

Last week, my preschooler came literally within an inch of his death in a shopping center parking lot.

I don’t know what made that SUV driver stop backing out a split second in time–my blood-curdling scream or the God-sent invention of the back-up camera.

I just know that my kids would have been a lot safer if I’d just run into the store alone to get the milk.

Risk is complicated stuff requiring moment-by-moment discernment from parents.  Had it been a 90-degree day, the risk-benefit ratio would have favored me bringing the kids in with me.  But on a rainy day in a low-crime neighborhood, I’m certain that had I let them wait in the car–judgment from others be damned–I wouldn’t have found myself sobbing hysterically on the sidewalk and hugging my confused little boy.

The Rhode Island legislature wants to take away from parents the right to make their own safety assessments.  But after my son’s close call, I’m concerned that this legislation will end up taking more lives than it saves.

Anything that takes away a parent’s right to be rational and instead enforces hysteria is a law that should not exist. Turns out that yesterday the Rhode Island legislature only had a hearing on the bill to criminalize parents for letting their kids 6 and under wait in the car for more than 5 minutes, even if accompanied by someone age 13.  That means the bill is still pending. Please consider signing the petition that would keep the state from forcing parents to drag their kids out of the car only to satisfy some legislators’ incorrect assumption hat kids waiting a short time in the car are in immediate peril.

And by the way, here is a chart from KidsAndCars.org where you can see that four times more children die in rollovers and backovers, than from heatstroke in the car. (And those who DO die in the car have usually been forgotten there for hours, not left there for a few minutes while mom grabbed the milk.) Let rationality reign!- L.

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Four times more children die from rollovers and backovers than from heatstroke while in a parked car. (Source: KidsandCars.org )

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33 Responses to My Son Nearly Died Because I Took Him OUT of the Car

  1. BL February 8, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

    Legislators will probably still demand that the child be taken into the shopping center, but now the child will have to be equipped with flashing lights and a backup alarm.

  2. Jb February 8, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

    In addition there have been two mothers killed in the past couple years taking their kids out of their cars when they got hit by another driver.

  3. Gina February 8, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

    Just to play devil’s advocate…why was a preschooler walking without being held onto in a parking lot? I have no issue with someone leaving a little one in the car to run in to the store. But if you are going to take them out, then it is YOUR responsibility to watch them.

  4. Ms D February 8, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

    Last year I was walking alone through a parking lot going to the grocers when a car came racing into an open spot as I was crossing in front of it. I jumped out of the way and banged on her hood. If I had my grandson with me we likely would have been injured. Way too many drivers are not paying attention in parking lots.

  5. Andrea February 8, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

    @Gina

    I assuming you’re asking this from the perspective of someone who has never had, or has forgotten what it is like to have, a pre-schooler? There are many reasons why this could happen, few of which have to do with bad parenting or choosing not to hold onto said pre-schooler, which is what your post seems to suggest.

    Also, she was “watching” her kid — watching him almost get run over.

  6. Nicole February 8, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

    Ha @Gina,

    I think you mean “not to play judgmental Gina” – maybe instead of the law being proposed, there should be a leash law so kids can’t get away? Or can be pulled back? Would that be your suggestion? Why? It’s called an accident.

  7. Lyndsay February 8, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

    I needed this post yesterday. Someone posted on a local Facebook group about her mother in law finding a boy of about 6 outside the car at the library about to pee in the street. She took the boy inside and found his mother who was apparently not appropriately contrite so she wanted to call the police on the woman (1-2 days after the fact). I was then called, among other things, delusional for saying that she was right to bring the boy inside but calling the police was not necessary and for pointing out that the boy was at greater risk of harm walking across the parking lot than sitting in the car with his sleeping infant sister. Of course, I got the “what if it was your child?” comments. I agree, this mother made an error in judgement. The fact that the boy had gotten out of the car and dropped his pants on the side of the road shows he wasn’t ready to be left alone but these women were screaming about how this woman deserved to be punished and these children were in immediate peril because of their mother’s negligence.

  8. EricS February 8, 2017 at 2:02 pm #

    Sadly, it has been a difficult time for the Free Range movement (old school way of raising children) to bet back into the mainstream. Now I fear, with the new administration, who has clearly stated that Church and State should become ONE, and doing everything in it’s power to make it so, that the uphill battle we face will become much steeper and higher. We cannot give up. We as parents should not let our rights as parents be taken away. Do what must be done for the sake of our children. No one should be able to tell you what is best for your kids. We all already know what is best, even if some people have a hard time accepting it. Meaning, hard for them to get over their fears and paranoia. Which I have no doubt will be even more perpetuated by authorities in this new government. So many rights are being taken away, for the “Glory of God”.

  9. M February 8, 2017 at 2:14 pm #

    Gina, my kids were less than two years apart. I remember going to the grocery store for the first time with a infant and a child under the age of two. Just trying to get them both out of the car was a feat. Which do you take out first? How do you securely hold on to one while unbuckling the other? There is no easy way to do this.

    I finally got everyone out of the car and had my newborn in a front carrier. My older son (20 months) wanted to be picked up, something I couldn’t do with a newborn. He yanked himself away from me and threw himself on the ground in the parking lot in tantrum mode. It was one of the most frustrating moments of my life.

    Even if the mother in question had hold of the child’s hand, he could have still been hit. The child only needs to be a couple of inches behind the car. And toddlers can unexpected yank free and run.

    That’s what motherhood is like.

  10. EricS February 8, 2017 at 2:19 pm #

    @Lyndsay: lol! When you gotta go, you gotta go. This just tells me one thing, the boy knows what to do when he’s gotta go. Doesn’t need to rely on his parents to do something he can do on his own. I know kids that age that will just pee their pants because mommy or daddy wasn’t there to help them. Seriously. They are so spoiled and enabled, that they still need help going to the washroom. To me THAT would be more neglect than leaving a child in a car. This kid sounds completely potty trained, and has learned that when you gotta go, and no washroom in sight, pull over the side of the road and take a leak. lol C’mon, we’ve all done it more than once. For those that deny, either you’ve peed yourself, or your not very truthful. 😉

    And who grabs a little boy minding his own business, doing his business?? If I were the mother, I would have made the Police charge that woman with abduction. There is no law that says you can’t leave a child in a car. But there is law that you don’t take someone’s child by force. And I’m pretty sure this kid had no idea who this woman was that was grabbing him and taking him away from where he was feeling comfortable. Fight fire with fire I say.

    And people have asked me, “what if that were your child?”. To which I reply, “If that were my child, I’d be happy to learn that he’s thinking for himself, and not rely on us (parents). I’m raising my children to be successful adults. Not helpless children. So if they feel comfortable doing certain things on their own, and they’ve proven time and again that they can, I go ahead and let them. Children are smarter and more resilient than most parents give them credit for. Over protection and sheltering them only makes them weaker mentally and emotionally. And people like you, make it harder for children to learn what they need to. So you go and raise your kids the way you want. Don’t tell me how to raise mine. I don’t want insecure invalids as my children.”

    We should never shut up when people criticize us how we raise our children. As long as we are truly being neglectful, stay true to yourself. For your children’s sake. Remember, it’s not about us, or how we feel. It’s all about what is best for our children, their lives and their future (from the day they are born, to their adulthood when they are on their own).

  11. Jason February 8, 2017 at 2:24 pm #

    Gina’s question seems perfectly legitimate to me. Yes, there are many reasons why this could happen, and she’s asking for the specific reason that applies here. If someone told me they were nearly run over, I would ask for the details, not just say “good thing you weren’t!” and change the subject.

    If I nearly backed over a preschooler, I would be relieved that I had been able to stop, but I would be justifiably angry if the parent said they let their kid walk way ahead or behind, or play tag in the parking lot, versus some inadvertent loss of control.

    Most peoples’ idea of free range is not complete laissez-faire.

  12. David February 8, 2017 at 3:15 pm #

    @Gina – I was going to say that others have provided several reasons why a parent wouldn’t hold a preschooler’s hand in a parking lot, but aside from @M’s example, I see nothing (so far) but responses that seem to ignore you as #DevilsAdvocate in favor of you as #EvangelicalHelicopterParent. That was honestly my first inclination, but I re-read your post. So, in response, not to you, but to the Devil’s Advocate…

    I can think of a few reasons sliding all over the Scales of “Justifiability” and “Specificity”.

    Hands are full of other things, and I just can’t manage it all solo, so the kid needs to walk. No, I can’t wait to run this errand. No I have no one else right now to help me. Are you, rhetorical armchair parent, volunteering to grow up, pack away your judgmental sneer and actually, oh, I don’t know… HELP? Here’s a bag full of groceries. Have at!

    Preschooler he may be, my experience as the parent of this child has engendered in me a certain amount of trust that he will do the right thing and follow the parking lot rules I’ve set out (and against which have levied instant and undeniable punishment for breaking in the past). Along with that trust is the gradual granting of self-actualizing independence that will serve him far better in the long run than helicoptering will in the short run. This parenting thing isn’t about me and my piece of mind, after all, it’s about raising him to succeed, and us to be a healthy family – increasingly in spite of our culture.

    Child was holding parental hand but broke free to chase a bag/pet a skunk/pick up poop/stomp in a puddle.

    Child was helping out by carrying the 12-pack while I carried the case and handle. What’s the problem?! I’m teaching him to be a contributing member of the family!

    I’m sure there are countless other specific reasons, but that’s really not the point. To me, the point is that we need to challenge without prejudice those that aren’t willing to help, and would rather simply punish. Yes, it is my responsibility to watch my child and raise him to be a productive member of society. That’s being a parent. I also believe it is our responsibility as a community to empower parents to do so, rather than envelope them in fear of not doing so. An encounter that leaves one or the other party grieving does not serve any good, greater or otherwise.

    In short, still responding to the Devil’s Advocate: My responsibility is to watch out for them to the best of my human and imperfect ability. Your responsibility is treat your 2.5 ton projectile-with-a-steering-wheel with the responsibility it demands and slow the !@#$ down in a parking lot. He’s 4. What’s your excuse?

  13. Dan February 8, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

    >>Legislators will probably still demand that the child be taken into the shopping center, but now the child will have to be equipped with flashing lights and a backup alarm.

    I have a 3YO. The little wrecking crews should be equipped with this anyway 🙂

  14. common sense February 8, 2017 at 4:07 pm #

    david..what you said repeated to infinity.

  15. RebelMama February 8, 2017 at 4:35 pm #

    Please, please, please take the time not just to comment here but to comment on the R.I. legislators site! Telling stories there will hopefully make an impact on the pending bill.

  16. Anna February 8, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

    In reply to Gina (besides the other replies, regarding why the mom might not be holding the boy’s hand, which are valid too) – why do you assume she wasn’t? Holding an adult’s hand does not magically prevent a child from being hit by a careless driver who backs out without looking. I’ve had similar close calls, with my son either holding my hand or walking right beside me.

  17. elizabeth February 8, 2017 at 6:20 pm #

    I, myself, was nearly ran over in a parking lot of a gas station. I had the right of way, but the a**hat decided that where he/she was going was more important than a pedestrian. I literally felt the car zoom by as i jumped forward.

  18. Mya Greene February 9, 2017 at 12:34 am #

    I think a course titled “Risk Assessment and the Primal Instinct” should be taught in schools.

  19. Suzanne February 9, 2017 at 1:26 am #

    Gina, preschool kids are small and hard to see for a driver. Even if you have your little one by the hand, they only come up to your hip or so. The driver may see you, but not the child. You have to be super vigilant when squiring around a preschool child, never mind two! Any driver who is careless enough to even come close should get a good banging on their window or kick on their door. That’s who should be arrested, not the mom who is caring for little ones.

  20. Beth February 9, 2017 at 6:12 am #

    “I, myself, was nearly ran over in a parking lot of a gas station. I had the right of way, but the a**hat decided that where he/she was going was more important than a pedestrian. I literally felt the car zoom by as i jumped forward.”

    Clearly, you should have had someone holding you, or at least holding your hand and “watching” you. This never would have happened if you had.

  21. Katie G February 9, 2017 at 6:29 am #

    I taught my children to put their hands on the car while I was getting others out/in, and hold on to my coat or skirt (I often wear skirts but a pants pocket, belt loop, etc, works too) so my hands weren’t totally occupied. Now I’m at a point where my youngest (18 months) can hold my hand and the others can stay close or go ahead as the situation warrants.

  22. Abigail February 9, 2017 at 8:50 am #

    I taught all my children to touch the car upon exiting the vehicle, or, to touch my leg (which I’ve barred their path with by putting my foot on the tire of my car). My 20 month old waits patiently and even demands that I hold her hand while I carry her. Yesterday, my 3.5 yr old took her hands off the car while I got my reuseable bags out. She walked directly behind the car next to us, which was idling. She did this, knowing the rules and she was disciplined (and panickedly yelled at by me). It takes a village to raise a child safely to adulthood for many reasons – and an important one is that they are our future and thus we all benefit from keeping them alive. If we stop the blame game, we can start to work cooperatively to raise resilient people who solve problems.

  23. elizabeth February 9, 2017 at 9:04 am #

    @Beth, this was last year as i was coming home from work lol. But i get what youre saying. People seem to think that only magic protects people (especially kids). I will never understand the “mommy holding kid’s hand will magically make danger go away” mentality.

  24. Gina February 9, 2017 at 11:36 am #

    Laughing: I am not an armchair parent….I have 5 adult kids, four of whom are 2 years apart from each other. Two of them could absolutely NOT be trusted to obey rules, listen to directions, etc. until they were way older than 3. I am currently a nanny of two little boys, ages 4 & 2. I also taught 2’s in preschool for years.

    Now that we’ve established that I do know a bit about toddlers, I’ll respond to your comments.

    Yes, a small child could be hit by a backing car even holding the hand of a parent. That’s why the parent needs to be vigilant about backing cars in a parking lot.

    Andrea: please tell me the reasons why this can happen that are acceptable.
    Nicole; Not saying it wasn’t an accident. What do I propose? I don’t know exactly what happened…so I can’t propose an alternative.
    When I ran errands with little ones, safety was always first. If I couldn’t do it safely, I didn’t do it. No gallon of milk is worth the risk. The answer for me, especially with the two unpredictable ones, was a stroller. So simple.

    I am NOT implying that accidents never happen. It’s hard to say what I think about this particular situation because the details are so sketchy. The bottom line is that, even as free-range parents, we are responsible for the safety of our toddlers. Not allowing them to climb a high structure in a playground (I did and still do) is not the same as parking lot vigilance….

  25. Nicole February 9, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

    @Gina, I know, beating a dead horse. I still don’t know what the point of your question is, but playing devils advocate is a pet peeve of mine when it does not lead to anywhere so it’s my issue… the poster was not blaming the car, just giving a real-life example that fits in with statistics – children are more likely to come to harm walking through a parking lot versus leaving a child in the car. Who cares how it happened in this case – and if you’ve raised that many children and are a nanny it seems like you should know how it could have happened. If she wasn’t holding on to the child then what, her example doesn’t hold up? And I’m assuming some kids are perfectly capable of walking through a parking lot but not climbing a high structure – thought the point of this blog was we as parents get to decide what is safe for our child and not be blamed if accidents happen.

  26. Arwen February 9, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

    EricS – I don’t think you can accurately make broad judgements of a group like that. If I pause and classify people by religion and political stripe in my very liberal area, it’s the Christian homeschooling parents who tend to do more free-range parenting, while the liberal parents are the ones in general who are extremely paranoid about everything and willing to dox you over any parenting decisions they disagree with. But I hadn’t really thought to classify it that way until your post – I think busy body helicopter parents come in all religions, political views, nationalities and genders.

  27. James Pollock February 9, 2017 at 3:52 pm #

    “I will never understand the “mommy holding kid’s hand will magically make danger go away” mentality.”

    It’s not magic.
    Mommy (or daddy or some other adult) is more aware of the sources of possible danger and is less likely to be distracted by things that are not hazards. Holding hands means A) being where the child is, and therefore aware of the risks in that exact place, and B) being able to physically relocate the child on very short notice. This doesn’t eliminate risk, but it does substantially reduce both the risk and the severity of resultant injuries.

    Additionally, small children are harder to see than normal-sized adults, thus reducing the chance that a driver will proceed to move their vehicle under the incorrect belief that it is safe to do so, when in fact it is not. Holding hands with an adult in the parking lot does not “magically” make kids safe. It makes them safe(r) because of boring old non-supernatural reasons.

    Careful, attentive driving doesn’t remove all risk of being in an accident. That isn’t an argument not to drive attentively and carefully, and if and when an accident occurs, asking about how carefully and attentively the driver was operating their vehicle is not “magical thinking”, either.

  28. elizabeth February 9, 2017 at 5:14 pm #

    @James Pollock, apparently you didnt understand my first comment. Being visible does NOT mean a driver will think first, as my near death experience tells.

  29. James Pollock February 9, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

    “apparently you didnt understand my first comment. Being visible does NOT mean a driver will think first, as my near death experience tells.”

    Apparently, you didn’t understand my last comment. Being visible does not mean you won’t get run over, or nearly run over. But being INvisible substantially increases the odds. Being aware of your surroundings doesn’t mean you won’t get run over, or nearly run over. But being UNaware of your surroundings substantially increases the odds.
    Analogy:
    Being sober doesn’t mean that you won’t get into a car accident. But being intoxicated increases the odds substantially. So, if someone was in a car accident, and someone else was wondering if alcohol were involved, would you start complaining about how some people just go on and on about not drinking and driving, as if that magically prevented accidents?

    I “magically” brought my offspring through to majority without getting run over by a car. This is due to a variety of factors, including luck, the fact that for most of her early years my daughter wanted to be picked up and carried, and I generally obliged if my hands were free, the fact that I only had one offspring, and it’s much, MUCH easier to wrangle one tiny person than a litter of them, that my daughter was the observant type who quickly learned what the hazards were, and how to stay clear of them (see previous note about being picked up), that fact that my daughter wasn’t so distractable as to lose awareness of place and time, and did I mention luck?

  30. elizabeth February 9, 2017 at 7:45 pm #

    Well, james, since youre soooo smart, i had the right of way and was very aware and cautious, not to mention visible (im 5′ 8″). That did not lessen my chance of having that encounter. I did everything right, but the driver simply did everything wrong. I was in every bit of danger that a kid wouldve been in, with or without mom.

  31. James Pollock February 9, 2017 at 9:27 pm #

    “Well, james, since youre soooo smart”

    I choose to accept these words at face value, and ignore the 180-proof sarcasm they’re dipped in. I’ll also take note that you’ve chosen to attack me rather than the argument.

    “i had the right of way and was very aware and cautious”
    My kid had mastered, by the age of 3, that having the right-of-way only matters if the car’s driver is prepared to respect it… and that they frequently do not. It’s a good thing that you’ve now come to this realization, if a bit later in life.

    “I was in every bit of danger that a kid wouldve been in, with or without mom.”
    Really? Let’s review:
    ” I literally felt the car zoom by as i jumped forward.”
    That danger wouldn’t have been reduced by having someone help pull you out of the way? (I mean, technically true… a miss is a miss… but presumably you’d have preferred at least a slightly larger margin of safety.)

    Tell you what, I’ll meet you halfway… I’ll concede that maybe YOUR kids aren’t any safer crossing streets and parking lots holding your hand.

  32. LGB February 10, 2017 at 2:12 am #

    Oh for the love of all saints and angels. *I* am the mother who wrote this post. Far be it from me to address the out-of-control speculation that has become something of an Olympic sport on the Internet.

    But in a fit of generosity, I’ll divulge that we were not even IN the parking lot. We were on a wide, courtyard-style sidewalk at an outdoor shopping center, outside the grocery store. And no, when we are not in a street or parking lot, I do NOT hold his hand or leash him up. No amount of mommy-shaming is going to make me change this practice.

    I can assure you that every day, plenty of non-restrained children of all ages with loving, responsible parents walk, run, and toddle down that sidewalk without incident. Mine just happened to find something worth bolting after in the parking lot. He could have just as easily made a dash for a sidewalk street sweeper, coin fountain, hard-hat construction project, rabid stray pitbull, or trench coat pedophile holding out a lollipop. He could have been, God forbid, shot down by a crazed gunman in the store. Most notably, he could have died in the most statistically likely scenario—my getting in a car accident on the way to the store. But nobody’s clutching their pearls over me taking *that* risk, are they?

    Life is a whole series of “coulds” and “could haves.” Without crystal balls, we take the risks that we do even though we cannot have the degree of control that we so relentlessly pursue. Never mind that in my own case, the most imminent risk of leaving my children in the car was returning to smell pee in the carseat.

    Rhode Island politicians just want to micro-manage which set of risks and “coulds” we parents are allowed to take on, ironically forcing parents to assume a higher chance of danger by braving parking lots.

    But, but . . . this all has to be my fault *somehow,* right? Of course. Because all mothers must possess such super-natural talents as the eight arms of Ganesha to manage three kids, a cluster of eco-friendly canvas shopping bags, and all of that glass for recycling, not to mention the 180-degree peripheral vision of a barn owl.

    Keep digging. Keep interrogating. Keep cross-examining me in this bizarre, Internet Kangaroo Courtroom. Maybe you’ll get me to fess up that I had actually sent *him* to get the milk. (I mean, he’s four years old! It’s about time the ‘lil slacker started pulling his weight). Because bad things happen only to bad mommies, right? At least that is our cultural narrative.

    Our society has rejected the notion that children are autonomous individuals who make their own choices, choices like bolting off to chase a parking lot seagull. Instead, parents have become so dysfunctionally enmeshed with children that we feel compelled to take the credit for their successes, (“My little snowflake got straight-As/a participation trophy/a Nobel Prize!”), and the blame for their bad choices, (“It’s YOUR fault that your child made a split-second choice to run off into a parking lot while your head was turned for 20, shoe-tying seconds!”)

    I will not be indulging any interrogations or patronizing you-should-haves, but I needed to have my say. We all want to believe, however smugly, that a near-miss in the parking lot would *never* happen to our own little bumpkins. But try humbling yourselves instead. My child could have just as easily been one of yours.

  33. Abigail February 10, 2017 at 4:37 pm #

    @LGB *mike drop*

    That. Was. Totally. Awesome.