A Mom Worries: Am I Bad? Friends, Family Say “YES!”

Hi kaendsnffd
Readers — Here’s a dilemma almost every “good” parent will face at some point. Does it take just one, normal, harried parenting decision with ZERO consequences to make others find us BAD? Sometimes it seems the parenting path is narrow indeed.

Dear Lenore: I am currently reading your book, am only about halfway, but I have to write and tell you my story.
Even now, in relating this, I fear your judgment of my decisions. A part of me is thinking that you will read this and say “I’m all for Free-Range, but that was just plain dangerous of her to do!” This is what my friends and family have done.

What did I do? I left my kids in the car. My 5- and 2- and two-year-old girls. For, like 10 or 15 minutes. And I almost got the police called on me for it. Here’s hat happened:

I came home from work and the babysitter told me my dog was bleeding. Somehow he had obtained a large gash in his head–one that clearly needed stitches. He actually bit me in pain when I probed it and this dog has never bitten me in 12 years. The babysitter had worked a full, long day so, although she offered to stay with the kids, I sent her home and took the kids along with me to the vet. My husband, by the way, was out of town.

The vet is in a small retirement town (read: full of old people and extremely low crime rate) 30  minutes away from my own small town. I got the kids into the office,set them down in the waiting area by the fish tank (ooh, look!) and went back out to get the dog. So far so good. Except that the 2-year-old had fallen asleep in the car on the way there and was none to happy to find herself at a vet’s office, fishes or no. So she started scream-crying. And continued to do so to everyone’s dismay and discomfort throughout the visit. The vet affirmed the need for stitches and asked me to leave the dog there for an hour. Fine. Meantime, I took the girls to McDonalds.

When I went back, it was five minutes to closing time for the vet. I had already given them my credit card and signed for the charges. All I needed to do was get the dog and any medicine. The girls had already shown that they did not tolerate the vet’s office well. They were happily drawing in their car seats. The temp was a pleasant 68 degrees. Did I mention this was on a side street from main street in a very small retirement town? Not wishing to handle screaming children and a dog that has just come out of anesthesia with stitches and a cone over his head, I cracked the windows and left the girls in the car.

As I was waiting inside for them to bring the dog out, I poked my head out the door every two or three minutes to check on the kids. My inquiries were starting to annoy my 5-year-old. “We’re fine!” she said. Finally, the vet was ready to give me instructions. I was in the examining room for all of five or six minutes.

As I was half-dragging my dog out the door, I noticed a well-dressed man in a black Audi parked perpendicular to my car. He was talking on his cell phone. When he looked up and saw me, he slammed the cell phone shut and sped away. I checked on the girls, who were still happily drawing in their car seats, I put the dog in the car, and we went home.

Later, as I was relaying the story to my husband,  I said “I think that guy might have been calling the police on me!” His response was not, as I expected “Wow, what a lousy situation. That must have been hard.” His response was “Well, I would have done the same thing!” He meant he would have called the police, too.

So I told my mom about it. Her response: “Well, he should have called the police on you. That was dangerous of you to do!”

So I told a friend about how no one had any sympathy for me and didn’t that stink and you know what she said? “Of course you know that man was probably a kidnapper.” And proceeded to lecture me about how I had learned my lesson and would never do that again.

Despite all of that, I still think I would have done the same thing given the same situation. I don’t think I am a bad mom at all. It was 68 degrees out. It is a small town. It was five in the afternoon. They were without my watchful eye on them for no longer than 5 or 6 minutes. They were okay!

Anyway, that’s one of my stories. I keep thinking of more as I read your book. Thank you for writing it, for standing up for reasonableness in parenting. And for helping me to realize I am not a bad mom for what I did.

That’s exactly right: This women is not a bad mom, she is a mom, period. Everyone who has kids or works with them finds some point in the day less than optimal and that is NORMAL. If children needed absolutely perfect, doting, hands-on care every second of every day, there would not be a human species, because that is impossible for any parent to provide. So here’s to a very responsible lady and a movement that refuses to castigate her for living life on the fly, as we all must do. Good  luck to her, her family and, of course, her dog! — Lenore


127 Responses to A Mom Worries: Am I Bad? Friends, Family Say “YES!”

  1. Lola October 9, 2009 at 7:37 pm #

    I feel so sorry for this lady. I find myself in similar situations all the time, and handle them as well as I can, as she did. Fortunately, I always encounter people willing to help. There´s always a kind lady who just goes “step in, dear, I will keep an eye on them” or something.
    As for the guy in the car… Normally, when you find young kids alone, you check around for the responsible adult. If you DO care that much for their “safety”(???), you pull over and poke your head in the surrounding stores, asking if those kids are with someone. But if you can´t be bothered to get off your fat ass, then ask the KIDS!!! They can talk, and normally they can think, too! They will tell you Mummy is in there, and we´re fine, thank you very much. No, we are not allowed to leave the car, so don´t ask, kind stranger.
    Unles you can hire Mary Poppins 24/7, a mum will be faced with decisions like this all the time. And not one of them is going to be 100% correct, because neither the mum, or the kids, or the world is 100% correct. So choose the lesser wrong and cross your fingers…

  2. Mrs Embers October 9, 2009 at 8:06 pm #

    Ugh. Some situations are just impossible. Actually, I would have done the exact same thing in this situation- my youngest is 1 1/2 years old, and I have to carry him in and out of places so he doesn’t take off to “explore”… tell me how I’d have carried him AND the dog back to the car?

    On a similar note, my little bundle of energy freaks out every time we drop his big brother off at “play school” and he’s not allowed to stay. As much as I’d love to let him stay in the car- in cool weather, just outside the door, surrounded by OTHER PARENTS AND KIDS- for the 2 minutes it takes me to get his brother in and his jacket off, I can’t.

    Why? Because I’m scared of this same thing happening. Nobody else leaves younger siblings in the car- they all get unbuckled, hauled in and hauled out 4 times a week. To do otherwise would earn me serious dirty looks and whispers, if not necessarily calls to the police.

    Yeah, I’m a wuss. But I’m trying to make friends here… Maybe after I get to know some moms, we can keep an eye on each other’s kids in the car. Unless, you know, they think I’m a cleverly disguised kidnapper…

  3. Mrs Embers October 9, 2009 at 8:10 pm #

    OH- sorry to take up so much space with my comments, I just wanted to mention this, even though it’s slightly off-topic:

    On the opposite end of the scale from fear-mongering TV shows and such, I had a great time reading a “Calvin and Hobbes” book I got from the library the other day. Talk about free-range parenting! The kid, at 6 years old, is constantly outside, supervised only by a stuffed tiger. He uses his imagination. It’s lovely. 🙂

  4. Kari October 9, 2009 at 8:16 pm #

    This is hard. In our city, what she did was illegal. It was. So, whether she thought it was a good idea, whether we thought it was a good idea, it was against the law. And, I personally wouldn’t ever leave a child in a car that I didn’t have total view of (remember, that guy did stop and we don’t know WHO he was. Thankfully he was just calling the cops, what if he hadn’t been?). You know, I am all for a lot of free-range. But come on. There are SOME bad people out there and usually those safe small towns are rocked to their core by a murder, kidnapping, drug use, whatever and it hits the news with people that “never thought it would happen in our town, it’s such a safe place to live. The cops never had to investigate anything like this before.”

    I don’t think she’s a bad mom, not at all. I personally think she made a mistake in this situation. If she gave them her CC, they could have brought the dog to the car or just outside the door and helped her get him into the car (goodness, that would have been nice of them anyway since he was hurt). But I am sure I am in the minority. At that young age, I wouldn’t have left them where I couldn’t see them when parked on a street.

  5. Lynne October 9, 2009 at 8:17 pm #

    Sorry you had to experience that, especially your husband not understanding. Mine used to insist I never leave the girls alone anywhere even for a minute, going so far as to dictate I take all three in with me, including unbuckling the sleeping cranky, colicky babe in the car seat, while running in to pay for gas at the convenience store. (Oh, the irony.) That mandate was scrapped after the first time he had to juggle all three while filling up.

    What is disturbing about this story was the man’s reliance on the police to solve his supposed problem. If there was that much concern, how about a little personal involvement?

  6. Lynne October 9, 2009 at 8:22 pm #

    Re: My above comment: I am only assuming the man was calling the authorities (and not alerting a client that he had found the client’s custom-ordered kid.)

  7. sara October 9, 2009 at 8:27 pm #

    I feel really badly for this mom. She did what she thought best with what life was throwing at her at that moment and got nothing but grief. Statistically, her children were at more risk from getting hit by a car while walking in the parking lot than from anything that could have happened to them while leaving them in the car. I have a friend who will not leave her child in the car unattended at all. So, when he’s with her and getting gas, he has to get out of the car while she’s pumping it. Any attempt I made to tell her that what she is doing is actually more risky than leaving him in the car was, of course, met with resistance so I let it go. I have left my kids in the car unattended while paying for gas or picking up something in a variety store (and would in the situation this mom found herself in). My biggest fear while doing that was not coming back and finding my kids gone but coming back and finding a police officer there to arrest me and take my kids away. My solution? Dark tinted windows.

  8. WorkingMom October 9, 2009 at 8:36 pm #

    THIS is why our society has become so suspicious, so guarded. The village that it takes has turned on all of us, and simple things like running into a store have become situations where the authorities could be called on you. If instead of criticizing, we all realized that we could all work together for the sake of these kids and reached out to help, we’d ALL be better off!

    That said, the next time something like this happens, this woman needs to call her husband, demand he leave work and come deal with the dog, and call her mother and demand she come over to watch her grandchildren so that she can go to the doctor’s office and have her bite checked out. Put your money where your mouth is, folks!

  9. liz October 9, 2009 at 8:39 pm #

    this makes me realize that things must have changed significantly even since my kids were little (they are now 13 and 16). i would – and DID – do this, the same way this mom did, many times throughout their young childhood. leaving them where i could peek out and check on them, in a locked, not-too-hot car… at the time, it certainly didn’t feel like an edgy thing to do, and i would have been shocked to find myself considered a “bad mom” for doing so.

  10. Andy in Germany October 9, 2009 at 8:51 pm #

    In Germany no-one would have looked twice: kids in cars are common- heck, babies in a stroller are a common sight outside shops. I leave my kids in the Bakfiets (a sort of big, child carrying bike) for a couple of minutes at a time when I need to go in a shop or somewhere. It’s legal and normal.

  11. Harmony October 9, 2009 at 9:09 pm #

    “If children needed absolutely perfect, doting, hands-on care every second of every day, there would not be a human species, because that is impossible for any parent to provide. “

    My husband and I were wondering yesterday why it’s okay to leave a baby in its own room all night long, but it’s not okay to leave a school-aged child in a car for 10 minutes. If the first is safe,certainly the second must be!

  12. Jen Eyer October 9, 2009 at 9:24 pm #

    As a mother of two young children and two BIG dogs, I can totally identify with this! I would have done exactly the same thing.

  13. Ellen October 9, 2009 at 9:29 pm #

    I’d have done the same thing, and my vet’s office is on a busy corner of a seedy neighborhood.

    I think everyone who criticized this poor woman ought to give a moment’s thought to how THEY’D be able to juggle a screaming toddler, a tired small child, and a doped-up, stitched-up, cone-wearing dog.

  14. Ed October 9, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    I know it’s cliche to say it, but: With friends like these, who needs enemies?

  15. beanie October 9, 2009 at 9:42 pm #

    Dear “Mom”,

    Next time, tell your mother and husband that THEY can juggle two small kids and a bleeding dog — without taking their eyes off any of them for a second. Then see how quick they are to judge.

    You were fine. Tell them to put a sock in it.

  16. bc9njw9 October 9, 2009 at 9:43 pm #

    I guess I’m in the minority with Kari but 5 is way to young in my opinion…with 2 year olds no less. Her husband and own mother felt it was a poor decision as well and I assume they know the 5 year olds level of maturity. We can’t put everything under the guise of free range parenting. The babysitter had offered to stay, this was not a desperate situation where she had no choice but to flee the house with the kids and a bleeding dog. I truly think most people on this site probably would have been alarmed at the sight of these kids and called the police as well.

    @ Harmony…one is in your private home vs. a public street????

  17. Mike October 9, 2009 at 9:46 pm #

    I can’t believe all of the anxiety this women had over ten or fifteen minutes in her life and her kids life. Yes, we should care about our kids. It is ok to review decisions we make when we are in charge of their safety, but what is all of the worry about here. The kids are fine and I’m guessing it was a non-event for them. There needs to be more sympathy for the dog in this story. I hope he is doing alright.

  18. Harmony October 9, 2009 at 10:00 pm #

    @ bc9njw9: I get what you’re saying the kids’ maturity levels. That should certainly be taken into consideration. But that was the point I was trying to make. You can’t leave a five-year-old in a car for 10 minutes in a nice neighborhood on a cool day, but you can leave a baby alone for hours while you’re asleep in another room? The risk seems about the same to me.

    By the way, I understand that many state laws say that you can leave a child alone in a car for 5 to 10 minutes, so I think the lady was probably within her legal rights.

  19. Nicole October 9, 2009 at 10:05 pm #

    I don’t see what the big deal is. The car was locked, right? If it had been a 10 year old in the car, what difference would it have made? If a grown man looking to abduct a 10 year old stumbled upon this, broke into the car and kidnapped the kid, would a 10 yr old have been able to do anything about it? NO! Ditto for a 16 year old girl (and some boys) and a grown man. Adults get kidnapped (hijacked, I guess) in their own cars. So, its really not a matter of age, even though that’s what many people make it out to be.

    I think the only true danger (as in you should always consider it no matter the circumstance) is heat. If its hot out, don’t leave anyone in the car – dog, kid, teenager. Other than that, lock the doors and make it snappy.

  20. Tana October 9, 2009 at 10:20 pm #

    I hope the dog healed nicely. I hope the woman and her husband didn’t argue too much or harbor ill-feeling over the situation. i hope they don’t eat at mcdonald’s too often, because that’s more dangerous on a regular basis than leaving your kids in the car! I agree that 5 and 2 are too young to be left in the car alone for more than a minute or two, even if you’re checking regularly. That said, there were no consequences to the kids. They were fine. Why couldn’t her family and friends have been mild about it? “Honey, that makes me uncomfortable, next time please call me so I can help or pay the babysitter overtime, please.” I understand the stress- bleeding dog, cranky kids, end of the day- anyone can make a mistake, especially under these circumstances. I wonder why her family isn’t more understanding and constructive. as for the stranger- if he was that concerned, why didn’t he look for the mom? if he was too lazy for that, why not park his car normally and listen to the radio for a few minutes until the mom came out? then if someone had bothered the children, he would have been on hand to intervene or call the police.

    @bc9njw9- re: harmony’s question- private homes get broken into fairly often, as crimes go. the only difference i see is that a baby in a car is clearly visible and therefore more likely to inspire a spontaneous crime.

  21. Helen October 9, 2009 at 10:24 pm #

    I would be interested to know what could happen to kids buckled into a safely parked car that was more likely than an injury crash on a hundred mile car journey.

    The reason you look for a parent when kids are left alone like that isn’t because awful things are likely to happen to the kids – it’s in case something incapacitating has happened to the adult. Because that’s when those kids would actually be in a poor situation.

  22. kori October 9, 2009 at 10:32 pm #

    If the 5yo is trustworthy then I don’t see what the big deal is. Now….I wouldn’t do it with *my* almost 5yo, but I’d be constantly afraid he would be up in the driver’s seat playing with the gearshift etc. because he has proven that he cannot be left alone in such a situation. BUT – I let my 4yo and my 3yo play in our yard (mostly) unsupervised for hours at a time and I KNOW that most people would string me up for it. They know not to leave the yard and I can hear them if they cry or fight and can intervene fairly quickly.

  23. Greg October 9, 2009 at 10:50 pm #

    First off, I’ve been in that same kind of position and did exactly the same thing. The people in this Mom’s life need to find copies of Lenore’s book, strategically placed where they can find them.

    But more importantly I think WorkingMom got it right when she said: “THIS is why our society has become so suspicious, so guarded. ” In another time the Mom could have asked a total stranger to watch her kids for a few minutes. Old timers will tell us that in the “old days” before the world became such a scary place this happened all the time. But not now. Why? Is it because children are in more danger? No! It’s because we are led by the media into an utter lack of perspective on crime. This is one of the essential points that Lenore is making. The world has not become more dangerous. In fact it is safer. It is our culture that has changed. We have become less trusting. And in this case they very fact that we cannot trust a stranger to watch our kids leads to situations where they are left alone, which in turn makes people uncomfortable.

    We need to stand up against these baseless fears because they are undermining the very essence of community. If we don’t curb this now our legacy as parents will be for our children to grow up in a cold world ruled by fear and suspicion. What a sad legacy that would be!

  24. Tracey R October 9, 2009 at 10:51 pm #

    I feel badly for her. I would have done the same thing. I grew up in a small town myself. My town had a Christian university where it seemed like everyone was everyone’s big brother or sister–in the past something like 60 years (my parents had gone to school there, too) there has not been even ONE incidence of murder or stranger abduction; no incidences of sexual preditors, etc. Only two rapes; both at the college and both date rape type things–no lurking in dark alleys.

    I now live in the suburbs of a major city. My neighborhood is safe enough that we’ve accidentally left our front door wide open (not just unlocked) for three days while we were out of town, with not a single problem.

    Even then, last year a UPS man almost called the police on me. I had my then-12, 9, and almost 4-year-old in the car with me, when the 9-year-old suddenly felt sick to her stomach, just a few stoplights from home (home, literally in the middle of cornfields and woods). There was a fastfood place close by, so I quickly pulled in and walked her to the bathroom, which was just inside the glass front door, which I was parked right in front of. I was in the bathroom with her for all of 30 seconds, checking to see that she made it ok.

    When I came back out, planning to stand in front of the door where I could see both the car and the restroom, the UPS driver confronted me and said “I should call CPS on you! You left a preschooler unattended in the car!” He apparently didn’t see my son–short kid in a large car. I said “I just had to take my other child to have diarrhea [I was scared enough I just blurted it out] in the bathroom. My son’s in the car and he’s 12. All I did was make sure she made it into the stall.” Another guy broke in “But that was so dangerous! You should never do that!” My daughter came out then, and we rushed to the car and left, lest they actually call. I was in a cold sweat all the way home.

    I think the UPS driver thought that my 4-year-old was alone in the car and that I’d gone into the restroom by myself to use it, and left her in there with the car running (it was cold out), thinking I might have been in there for several minutes. Which I would never, ever do, and would never happen anyhow, because we homeschool and I usually have at least one of the older kids with me.

  25. Rich Wilson October 9, 2009 at 11:17 pm #

    I am reminded of Richard Dawkins’s open letter to his daughter http://insidecredulity.blogspot.com/2008/04/richard-dawkins-open-letter-to-his.html

    Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself: “Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority, or revelation?”

  26. lemontree October 9, 2009 at 11:18 pm #

    We talk about Free Range KIDS but I think a bigger issue is letting go of the guilt we harbor as parents. It seems to me the issue stated above is very subjective. Some people say she made a mistake. Some say she did the best she could under less than ideal circumstances. To me, the issue is less whether what she did was good or bad, but rather that we as a group of adults don’t want to allow others to make their own parenting decisions. Maybe you wouldn’t have done what she did, but can you really say she harmed her children? That what she did really put them in mortal harm?

    I admit a lot of my parenting decisions are figuring out 1. what other parents would judge me for and 2. whether those judgements really have merit– which is much more difficult. If you judge other parents harshly, only do it on the actual harm they cause there children, not on all the what ifs.

    For the record, I have only left my young children in the car a couple of times and felt horribly guilty, not for having done anything wrong but for what others would think. They were never hurt. My one year old, however, did get hurt (and needed stitches) while I took a SHOWER, with her 4 year old and 7 year old sisters looking on. I felt horribly guilty– for taking a SHOWER. For the longest time after, I would not use the toilet without the child in the same room for fear something would happen.

    We really need to tone down the fear-mongering. I see no benefit to making other parents feel guilty for decisions that were the best for them at the time and had little chance for real harm to the children involved.

    As for the babysitter who offered to stay, I would have felt really guilty for taking her up on the offer. She had been there all day. She was tired. She really did need to go home and spend time with her own family and recharge after spending the day with somebody else’s children. I would have felt horrible to ask her to stay a few more hours.

  27. Lori October 9, 2009 at 11:22 pm #

    I’ll bet Elizabeth Smart’s parents would be glad to tell you just hour safe your home it.

    I think the car is perfectly safe if you are nearby and you know your children won’t put the car into neutral while you are gone.

  28. Nicole October 9, 2009 at 11:33 pm #

    Since Lenore is so big on stats, I found an interesting study (albeit from 10 years ago, but still) that did some research on kidnapping statistics:

    So, there were 58,000 kidnappings in 1999 by non-family members. Of those, only 115 were “stereotypical” kidnapping which they define as “a non-family abduction perpetrated by a stranger or slight acquaintance in which a child is detained overnight, transported more than 50 miles, held for ransom or abducted with the intent to keep the child permanently, or killed.”

    So, 115 abductions, children 0-17 years old. How many of those were kidnapped from a car? 40 or less. The category of whereabouts at time of abduction was “street, car or other vehicle.” So, the odds of someone random person taking your kid from your car are BEYOND slim. To give this some context, about 2000 children DIE in cars each year because of a crash. Another 250,000 are injured. So which is more dangerous – leaving them in the car quickly ONCE or driving them around every single day?

  29. gramomster October 9, 2009 at 11:40 pm #

    There is nothing wrong with this. It’s 10ish minutes. Like lemontree said, kids get hurt in the house, with a parent present, or showering, or peeing, or cooking… I’d much rather have my 3 yo grandson playing with his trains in the other room than be hanging out in the kitchen when I’m toting a pot of boiling pasta across the room. And, just an assumption, but most 5yos are still in booster seats, so probably climbing into the front seat is not a real concern. In my state, they have to be in boosters now until they are 4’9″ or 80 pounds, which is often at least 8 or so. My youngest would have been in a booster in 8th grade.
    On another note, I wonder how many parents here, and being all helicopery, have actually forgotten that a kid was with them on a grocery store trip. I will admit to having done this at least once with each kid and my grandson. My oldest son I know his dad forgot he had him with when he was an infant, and I forgot he was with when he was 3. He was having a vary rare quiet moment, and I was with an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. We were yakking, went in the store, came out… there he was, still quiet, just waiting.
    The other two of mine, and my grandson, got forgotten when they were tiny infants, and fell asleep. Just completely not used to having a tiny baby to remember… I can COMPLETELY understand how a harried parent can forget that they have a kid in the car, forget to stop at daycare, go to work…
    And I doubt highly that I’m the only one who has experienced this. Nobody wants to admit to doing it, though, and I COMPLETELY understand that too.
    We need that village, man.

  30. KarenW October 9, 2009 at 11:40 pm #

    Dear Not-A-Bad-Mom,
    I must respond before reading the comments. You will probably find that even on this website there will be one or two people who might chastise you; but as far as I’m concerned you did not do a damn thing wrong. Sure, your kids are very young, but they were where you could clearly see them, and you were checking on them constantly. As soon as there WAS some strange person around, you noticed right away (and I would say 99.999% he was a police caller, 0.001% chance he was a kidnapper). Want to hear a REALLY bad mom story? The other day I left my 6 year old son home ALL BY HIMSELF! For about 7-10 minutes! I had to pick up his sister at a meeting, it was only 8:00 p.m. but he had fallen asleep, and I could not wake him up (believe me, I tried), and he is too big for me to carry. So I made the trip as fast as I could, and guess what – nothing terrible happened. Of course. my husband, mother, and friends would also have a fit if they knew I had done this, so this must remain my dirty little secret unless a reader here decides to turn me in. Good luck!

  31. gramomster October 9, 2009 at 11:41 pm #

    And I meant both types… the ‘here’ type and the helicoptery types… not that those here are also helicoptery.
    Just to clarify.

  32. James House-Lantto October 10, 2009 at 12:01 am #

    Wow. I mean really. it’s like a witch hunt!!.
    okay first off, it doesn’t matter if you agree with her actions or not, as a husband, it is your JOB to be at least a little bit supportive. as a mother you should be kind to your children.

    the kids weren’t, hurt, nothing bad happened.

  33. Karen October 10, 2009 at 12:04 am #

    When I lived in the rainy Northwest and my kids were little I used to: push grocery cart to car, put baby in car seat to get her out of the rain, unload groceries into trunk, get baby back out of car seat and haul her with me to put the grocery cart back in the cart return place. Did I do this because I thought she would truly be unsafe during the 90 seconds it took me to take the cart back? NO. I did this because there was a news story while I was pregnant about a Mom who got into trouble with the police for leaving her infant alone in the Fred Meyer parking lot while she returned her cart. Nuts.

  34. Jessie October 10, 2009 at 12:15 am #

    I’m with Harmony. Our culture expects us to leave a newborn in their crib alone for 12 hours every day, but it’s illegal to leave a 5-year-old in a locked, 68-degree car for 10 minutes? This is madness. Besides home invaders — SIDS, anyone??

    Perhaps we are overly cautious with our older children because we’re compensating for leaving them alone and vulnerable so often when they are younger.

  35. indosungod October 10, 2009 at 12:21 am #

    I am really confused. In America/or more broadly the West where people want to be left alone and don’t really care about what is going on in other people’s lives – are so very eager to find fault, judge and call the authorities for anything and everything. I really don’t get it.

    As opposed to my home country where everybody is in everybody’s business nobody ever views normal everyday human occurences as criminal. The nosy neighbor/friend/relative actually help.

  36. Bernadette Noll October 10, 2009 at 12:28 am #

    Hysterical that the man sped away. He was so concerned about the children’s safety that when the offending mom returned, he left? Bullshit. He was just nosing around in some situation he didn’t understand. He wasn’t concerned about the kids because if he was, he would have stayed to make sure they were okay. When we involve the authorities before we talk to people about our issue, we create a police state. What’s happening is we’re losing our human connection. We’ve got to hang in there and make sure we maintain it in any way we can and we can begin by talking to each other.

  37. Kelly October 10, 2009 at 12:29 am #

    Dear “Mom”,

    Just let me be another voice of unequivocal support. I don’t think you did anything wrong. In any way whatsoever.

    I truly hope you continue to explore letting your kids be raised in joy, not in fear, and don’t listen to the paranoia!

    On a side note – FRK and reading here has helped me realize that in the very unlikely event someone calls the cops on me for this or that Free Ranging lifestyle choice, I am not going to let it get to me as much as I would have in the past. FRK has helped me have me a voice of my own.

    I hope your dog is doing OK!

  38. Jacqui October 10, 2009 at 12:39 am #

    The other day I was talking to my mom about the difference between stuff you can learn from and prevent, and stuff you can in no way plan for, prepare for, or blame yourself for. We defined these as “life lesson moments” vs. “shit happens moments”. My mom (and I, as well) are classic worrywarts. We prepare for every worst-case scenario and do our best to keep it from becoming real. This is valuable at times–we’re always the ones with gum, bandaids, disinfectant wipes, Tide pens, pepper spray, and two extra sweaters when things go awry. Other times, we’re wracked with guilt, agonizing over what we could have done differently when life doesn’t turn out perfectly 100% of the time. We got into this conversation because my mom was trying to find the root cause for a car accident that she got into years ago, when the car hit a pot hole on a lonely desert road with her sober boyfriend at the wheel, which left her with several injuries, which to this day still hurt. Finally she said, “I wish I had never gone out with that guy.”

    Trying to put a life-lesson into everything ends up making us superstitious–we attach significance to things where there is none, just so we won’t feel helpless. But we are helpless sometimes. Not all of the time and not even most of the time. But sometimes. Sometimes life hands you a “shit happens moment”, and you don’t even have the privilege of hindsight to tell you what you should have done, because it’s so senseless.

  39. Brian October 10, 2009 at 12:42 am #

    I have been the guy who pulled up next to a car with kids in it. But it was a hot sunny California day. And the car was parked just in the sun, in front of a nail salon.

    So I dawdled by my car for a minute or two, I looked in at the sleeping kids to see if they seemed sweaty or hot. Then the mom came running out of the nearby video store looking worried about why I was looking in her car at her kids. I said “I didn’t see you around I just wanted to look in on them and make sure they were OK.”

    I don’t know how long I would have waited before looking for the mom or calling the cops. But I would not have left those kids in that car on that day without doing something.

  40. Dragonwolf October 10, 2009 at 12:46 am #

    bc9njw9 — While a home is *technically* “private,” it’s really not much safer than a car. In both cases, if someone wants in, they’re going to get in, whether the doors are locked or no. As someone else mentioned, dark tinted windows can help keep prying eyes (no matter the intent) out, as well.

    Also, from the way the story was told, it seems leaving the kids in the car was an unforeseen decision. Her original plan was to take the kids into the vet’s office with her (as she had originally done), but that backfired. Had she tried that again, this would likely have ended up a story not unlike the “Woman With Crying Toddler Kicked Off Bus” story from a couple weeks ago. So she decided to park the car where she could see it from the building, pick up the dog quick, and be done with it.

    Kari — She could see her kids, though, and was going out every couple of minutes to check on them. She did it so much that she was annoying them.

  41. Uly October 10, 2009 at 12:52 am #

    I’ll bet Elizabeth Smart’s parents would be glad to tell you just how safe your home it.

    Can we NOT do this? Abductions of that sort are already pretty rare. Abductions in the middle of the night from your own home are so rare that… I don’t even think they’re tracked. I can only think of one case like that, and that *is* Elizabeth Smart’s case.

    Leaving your child in her room in your own home is typically as safe as you think. And when it’s not, it’s almost *never* because of abductions. Freak accidents? Yes. Abductions? Not so much.

    As far as a 68 F car… well, in 68 degree weather, the inside of a car (even with the windows cracked) heats up a lot faster than you realize. That’s why people *do* notice unattended children in cars, because we think of those cases where children overheat and die in cars. However, those cases are even rarer than stranger abductions (less than 50 a year), and those parents generally didn’t intentionally leave their child in the car. They *forgot* their child in the car. (That’s just an unfortunate side effect of how the human brain works. Or doesn’t. There are a few things you can do to reduce the likelihood of this happening to you, mostly revolving around making SURE you check the backseat of the car every time you get in or out, even if you don’t think you have the kid with you, but at any rate, if you left the kid in the car on purpose this isn’t nearly as likely to be a problem. Strangers on the street don’t know that, of course.)

    As far as stranger abductions from cars go, I don’t think they’re that common. I can think of a few that happened within my adulthood (so fairly recently), but all of them were cases of people aiming to steal the *car* and go on a joyride and finding the kid by mistake… and the kids all ended up returned safe and sound as soon as the would-be car thief realized the situation. (One of them had a seven year old girl who was playing video games in the back. When her teenaged “abductors” realized what happened, they panicked and took her home and let her use their playstation while they continued to panic. When they finally calmed down a few hours later, they brought her home. Commentary when I read about it was all “OMG, what were her parents thinking, something could have happened!” and totally ignored the fact that, in real-world terms, nothing DID happen. She got to spend a day playing on somebody else’s game system. Whoopee.)

  42. lemontree October 10, 2009 at 12:52 am #

    I want to clear up something I tried to say before. I think the issue with free range kids is less about consciously giving kids freedom and more about empowering parents to to parent without the guilt society more and more places on us. Once we get rid of the guilt, we will allow our children to be free range. The biggest step is to overcome (for ourselves) inducing this guilt in others. Just because somebody makes a parenting decision that you or I would not make does NOT make them bad parents, just different. We really need to get over our judgmental attitudes, because it’s no fun being measured by the same yardstick.

  43. Jenne October 10, 2009 at 12:58 am #

    I don’t think you did anything wrong, and I agree with those who said, tell your husband that next time you’ll have him rush home and handle it.

  44. sylvia_rachel October 10, 2009 at 1:00 am #

    Dear Not-a-Bad-Mom,

    I’d have done exactly what you did.

    I mean, technically I wouldn’t, because I don’t drive and we have no car, so I wouldn’t ever be alone with a car, two kids and a dog. But I would, for instance, leave my seven-year-old waiting at the bus stop in front of our building while I run back upstairs to get the forgotten transit pass, instead of shlepping her with me unnecessarily. I did that just last week, in fact.

    When you’re a parent, there’s never any shortage of people to tell you loudly that UR DOIN IT RONG. If you’d hauled the kids in with you I’d bet any money someone would have given you dirty looks for subjecting them to a tired, cranky toddler.

    I hope your dog is feeling better now!

  45. Uly October 10, 2009 at 1:02 am #

    Sylvia, you’re nice. In my house, *I* wait at the bus stop and the KID runs up to get the bus pass! Kids play fetch and carry, grown-ups don’t 🙂

  46. Kari October 10, 2009 at 1:08 am #

    @Dragonwolf, right or wrong, she did not say she could see her children the entire time. In fact, she DIDN’T see a car pull up and a man there until she left the building. It seems that from the letter she couldn’t see them and that’s why she popped her head out every 2 – 3 minutes, except for the 5 or 6 where she was talking to the doctor, to check on them.

    Of course, with all the talk about how horrible men are and are out to molest children, I would have sped off if I was him. =) Nothing like a Mom hysterical because you might harm her children when you were trying to protect them.

  47. The Nerd October 10, 2009 at 1:10 am #

    Bring the screaming child in, and everyone thinks you’re a bad mother for subjecting the pubic to such noise. Leave the kid in the car for only 5 minutes, and you’re a bad mother for neglecting your child. Businesses (such as banks) are only open for so many hours during the day, and you gotta do what you gotta do!

  48. Epiphany Alone October 10, 2009 at 1:11 am #

    Also call bullshit on the man, because I can see being concerned about an unattended car with kids inside. But you’d call the police rather than see if a parent is nearby, possibly needing some kind of assistance?

    It’s sorta terrible that no one else in the situation was able to help the OP out – I mean, the vet could’ve explained the post-surgical instructions outside, and/or helped her get the groggy dog into the car, no? Are we only a village when we’re narc-ing on someone else?

  49. Greg October 10, 2009 at 1:16 am #

    Uly said, “Can we NOT do this? Abductions of that sort are already pretty rare.”

    I think you missed the irony in the original statement: kids aren’t even 100% safe from bad things happening even when they are home in bed. …or with their step father watching as they get off the school bus.

  50. swa101 October 10, 2009 at 1:21 am #

    @Uly – I am convinced that my dad had kids for the sole purpose of getting him beer from the fridge. It’s just one of the benefits of having kids. That, plus they’re short enough to crawl under your bed to get your slippers that were kicked way under the day before.

    And weird. I posted earlier and it came up as sara and now I’m swa101. I am the same person with the dark tinted windows on the car to keep prying eyes off of my kids – one is just my no-longer secret identity I guess.

    Oh, funny story about leaving my kids in the car time! Just a couple of months ago, I was running errands with 9year old and 7year old. I told them to just stay in the car while I ran into the butcher’s. I said “I’ll be right there, K?” and pointed to the store. 9year old smart mouth replied with “And will be right here, K?” and pointed to the inside of the car. So, yeah, I get it, she knows where the butcher’s is but really, did she have to be so sarcastic?

  51. kherbert October 10, 2009 at 1:25 am #

    My sister’s neighbor told her I shouldn’t babysit because I “left the kids sitting in the car, in 90+ weather.”

    1. Kids were both zonked out
    2. Front Door was locked, I was bringing them back from the zoo.
    3. I have a messed up shoulder from HS, and lack of feeling in my fingers, so I can’t hold a kid and unlock a door.

    I pulled in parked the car. Opened all 4 doors to the car (I was worried about how fast a car can heat up in 90+ weather). Ran up and unlocked and cracked the front door. Went back to the car, unbuckled the 18 month old. I told the groggy 4 yo I was putting her brother in the bed.

    I put him down, went back hauled our picnic stuff to the front door. The 4 yo was half asleep, so I got her out of the car locked the doors. Took her to her room to either sleep or decide to wake up. I brought the picnic stuff inside.

    Sis asked the nosy neighbor, “how would you haul two sleeping kids, a cooler, and picnic basket into the house in one trip?” then she walked off.

  52. Heather Q. October 10, 2009 at 1:29 am #

    Mom did nothing wrong. People need to get a life. I agree with all the people who suggest that dad and g-mom and friend walk a mile in her shoes with a screaming kid and bleeding dog and see how well they fare!

  53. Ryan October 10, 2009 at 1:53 am #

    Only leave the child in a car if they are smart enough to get out / roll the windows down. It does not need to be hot outside for a car to get TOO hot inside. The sun will heat up a car right quick even with the windows ‘cracked.’

    I saw somewhere that GM had some experiments about how hot a car can get given different conditions. If you are going to say it is OK to leave someone in a car give some guidelines into how to be safe.

  54. trw October 10, 2009 at 1:58 am #

    It seems to me that the children were *safer* buckled in their carseats and happy than they would be upset and unbuckled in the vet’s office. Due to human anatomy, meaning the mom unfortunately only had arms, they’re going to be without mommy in one place or the other for a few minutes.

  55. trw October 10, 2009 at 1:59 am #

    *two arms*

  56. Au Pair October 10, 2009 at 2:03 am #

    I used to work as an au pair in the US, one of the (many, many) regulations regarding doing that is attending a childcare training week in the US before you start work (it’s very basic stuff but mandatory regardless of previous experience/qualifications). One of the first things they told us, and kept repeating, was never leave a child alone in a car even for a second.

    I then went to work for a family in a very cold part of the country and would, on occasion, leave the children (aged 3 and 7) in the car while I ran in to the gas station to pay so I didn’t have to drag them out into the cold. I would drive the car away from the pump and park it in the spaces next to the door so I could see them the whole 2 minutes I was in there.

    Even then I used to feel guilty doing it, like if I got caught I’d get deported or something! At the same time it felt so ridiculous, my parents never thought twice about leaving me and my two younger brothers in the car for what seemed to me as a kid to be hours!

  57. ejly October 10, 2009 at 2:28 am #

    I give my kids a lot of freedom, and generally like the free-range attitude. But I can’t agree with you here. (ButI do hope all is well and the dog is recovering.)

    This is about choices – she could have asked the babysitter to stay with the kids, she could have asked the vet tech to bring the dog to the car and the vet to give her aftercare instructions curbside like @Epiphany Alone says. Likely there were other options – and none of these options would have been perfect – but wouldn’t one of them been less bad than leaving a 2 year old in the car? Even when the 2 year old is supervised by a 5 year old. I wouldn’t worry so much about abduction (as noted, that risk seems overstated) but about experimentation with car controls, and having a 2 or 5 year old popping a car out of park or releasing the brake is an expensive proposition, even if no one gets hurt.

    I find it interesting that fellow posters are referencing 7 year olds and the fictional 6 year old Calvin – none of whom are as young as 2. There has to be some logical limit as to what age is suitable for free ranging – an age that would vary based on the child. Under what circumstances could a 2 year old free-range? And should the free range experience for a 2 year old include being left in a car?

  58. lunzy October 10, 2009 at 2:38 am #

    add me to the “would have done the same thing” club. I poked around to see where it’s actually illegal to do so:

    Fourteen states have laws protecting children left unattended in cars. The states with this legislation are: California , Connecticut , Hawaii (new in 2008), Florida , Illinois , Louisiana , Maryland , Nebraska , Nevada, Oklahoma (new in 2008), Pennsylvania , Tennessee, Texas , and Washington. (according to http://www.harrisonshope.org/faq.html )

    Interesting, this site promotes not leaving kids unattended ever and lists stats, but more of the accidents and deaths are due to adults leaving children in the car in extreme heat or backing up over kids.

    from the site: More than 80 percent of these fatalities result from hot weather or back over accidents.

  59. Karp October 10, 2009 at 2:38 am #

    I’m expecting my third child next month, and we just moved into a house with an attached garage for convenience and for my piece of mind about the “don’t leave a child alone in a car for even a second” issue. It can be physically impossible to bring a toddler and a baby into one’s home at the same time. Decisions get made about who’s safest where for two minutes.

    In our last apartment I would sometimes leave the then toddler and baby in the car with the doors open on a quiet street in a “safe” neighborhood while I carried in groceries, coming back and forth every minute for more bags. They were strapped in, within hearing distance (our unit had it’s own private entrance), _safer_ in my opinion than the not 100% baby proofed apartment. (100% baby proofed would involve perhaps separate padded rooms for each child). Of course, my behavior shifted when the oldest child learned to unbuckle himself; the balance of safety then tipping toward taking them first into the apartment.

    I was always paranoid about the neighbors calling CPS on me, as if I was incapable of making a safety call about the potential of a bad stranger taking them from the car silently (I wish my son could be quiet let alone silent!) in the 60 seconds I was out of eyeshot versus a bad stranger noticing that I was walking back and forth to my car alone or versus my young kids breaking the glass pickle jar trying to put it away while I was getting the rest of the groceries.

    Thank goodness we can afford the attached garage right now. And my new neighbors had better not have anything to say about my kids playing alone in the completely fenced backyard.

  60. Random October 10, 2009 at 3:05 am #

    As a mother to three, who have amazingly enough survived to date, I feel the need to say Poop Happens. Sometimes unusual circumstances get thrown at you and you have to make that decision. And sometimes its poop no matter what you do. Had she hauled the kids in, they would have tantrumed, screamed, annoyed the other people, scared the dog and it would have turned into some serious poop. Possibly even chaotic poop that involved said unhappy dog biting a stranger and poof the police get called anyway, and every one thinks she sucks.

    People seem more than happy, gleeful even, to report faults of others. They report the most inane offenses on the news, forums, true confessions sites and the like. Anything to make themselves feel superior to another. What would have happened if just ONE person had just stood by her car with the intent of keeping an eye on the kids (and they might have even seen her pop her head out to check on them!) and offer a HAND in protecting the kids from “danger”?

    It would be nice on occasion if people put more than a seconds thought into their reactions to other peoples actions/inactions.

    I would love it if my downstairs neighbors had used their collective brains before calling child protective services and the police on us.
    Did I leave my kids alone? Nope, my husband was home and my brother was also present.
    Did I beat them? Nope, I was at work.
    They called the police to report that a suspicious looking stranger (my brother) and two suspicious teenaged males were spending an awful lot of time at my house and they were concerned about what was going on.

    These people have lived under us for FIVE years. Our kids have gone to the same school. The police were QUITE upset over teenage boys hanging out at our house so often, often enough that the neighbors noticed them coming and going … daily. Those boys have been like furniture at my house for over 2 years mind you.
    When the officer demanded to know WHY two boys would come to our house several times a day, my husband laughed.

    We have a 14 yr old daughter, a fact that the neighbors left out when they called the police with their suspicions regarding possible abuse or drugs. The boys are brothers and her best friends- the children of my best friend and co-worker. THE HORRORS!

    We need a Free Range neighborhood, with a big communal yard.

  61. DJSparkles October 10, 2009 at 3:41 am #

    When I was about 6-7 and my sister was 8-9, my mom left us home alone for about 10 minutes to run to Burger King. My dad was out of town and she didn’t feel like cooking that night. Burger King was no more than 1/4 a mile from our house, and my sister and I were used to staying home alone for short amounts of time. (And I was in the bathtub alone, no less, and lived to tell the tale!)

    While she was gone, our Labrador got excited and ran straight through the sliding glass door, shattering it. And guess what happened? WE WERE FINE. My sister came and got me out of the tub to help her. I held the dog and held a paper towel over the cut on her head (luckily, that was the only injury she got) while my sister swept up the glass. Then we took the dog downstairs to watch out the door for our mom to get home.

    And no one died, and no one was kidnapped, and no one is in therapy now about the horrible tragedy that occurred when our mom went to Burger King and abandoned us. My mom felt guilty for awhile for leaving us, but of course she realized there was no way to prevent it and that we were fine.

  62. Emily October 10, 2009 at 3:50 am #

    I’m expecting my first in January and so won’t be in this position for a few years, but I can see doing exactly as you did.

    I know that growing up my sister and I were left in the car many times and we survived just fine. The worst that ever happened? She and I got into a fight and were yelling at each other when my mom got back.

    You did the right thing. The next right thing: make your husband read the book. And I totally second Calvin and Hobbes.

  63. swa101 October 10, 2009 at 3:52 am #

    @ejly – I believe that children were buckled, right? Anyway, as to your question what age it’s OK to leave kids in the car, I did it from when they were infants. If I was running in to pick up a sick dog, yes I would have left an infant in the car in decent weather temperatures. Even if, as you suggested, she went in and got the vet to bring the dog out, wouldn’t the kids still be in the car unsupervised?

    I would leave any of my kids in the car but my neighbour, who is as free range as they come, won’t leave her six year old son in the car alone because he is not the type who can just sit still. He is the type who would put the car in reverse and cause an accident (I once caught him sitting on the roof of our car – he’s that kind of kid). I didn’t read anyone here saying people *should* leave their kids in the car, but that people should be able to without the fear of the police being called or being labelled a bad mom. Certainly the age of the child comes into play as does their disposition. I wouldn’t leave a two year old in the car if he was going to scream the entire time I was gone.

  64. Kenny Felder October 10, 2009 at 3:52 am #

    What could have gone wrong? Obviously, the answers include: a kidnapper might have stumbled across the car at just this moment, and seen the opportunity he had been looking for all these years. Or, the kids could have run out of the car and into the street. Or, the weather could suddenly have gotten freakishly hot. Or an asteroid could have hit the car.

    Why bring up the asteroid? Because I want to make the point I always want to make, which is that PROBABILITY MATTERS. An asteroid is so unlikely that no one worries about it, even though it would be really terrible if it happened, right? Well, guess what. A random kidnapper is also incredibly, incredibly unlikely. How unlikely? Unlikely enough that the chance is completely insignificant compared to the very real risk of a car accident happening ON THE WAY to the vet.

    Let he who never takes his kids in a car for any reason, cast the first stone.

  65. dahozho October 10, 2009 at 3:55 am #

    Ok, I’m thinking in this situation, I’d probably have asked the sitter to stay an additional hour or so & get the dog to the vet.

    Well, she didn’t, and this mom handled the situation the best way she could. Personally, I may have left the kids in the car to bring the dog in to an exam room, ESPECIALLY as the dog had either bit or tried to bite its pack leader. A dog injured, in pain, and biting is NOT an animal to be around children. I hope she had the dog in a muzzle, for everyone’s sake. Perhaps call the husband while the dog was being seen to, to take the girls or pick up the dog? We don’t know if that was an option.

    But calm kids coloring in their carseats while mom checked on them every few minutes in cool weather… not as bad as the two wandering toddlers in a hotel we stayed in earlier this year, who wandered out the front (automatic) doors all by themselves (about 3 & 2 yrs old). Mom & I were supervising when their mom appeared, didn’t say a word to us, just grabbed the older kid and started spanking.

    So there are worse things going on in the world than this lady’s situation.

  66. pentamom October 10, 2009 at 3:59 am #

    “I wouldn’t worry so much about abduction (as noted, that risk seems overstated) but about experimentation with car controls, and having a 2 or 5 year old popping a car out of park or releasing the brake is an expensive proposition, even if no one gets hurt.”

    And I wouldn’t have worried a bit about those things. No five year old I had would have done that, and no two year old was strong enough.

    I’m not saying my kids are perfect, I’m saying I KNOW them and none of them would have done something like that at five, had they been told to sit quietly and wait just a few minutes. If she knew her kids well enough to know they would also have complied, then she wasn’t taking the risk that they would do something that she could be quite confident they WOULDN’T do.

    I don’t know what I would have done in this situation. I probably would have dragged the kids into the vet’s office and let them scream while I tried to cope. Of course even then, I would have had to leave them (gasp) alone in the vet’s office while I took the dog to the car. (Stuff like this is one reason I never tried to have a dog while raising five kids.) But I can’t say that would have been a better choice, or that this mom was wrong. I think she made the best of things and NOTHING BAD HAPPENED NOR WAS LIKELY TO HAPPEN.

  67. Dragonwolf October 10, 2009 at 4:00 am #

    Kari — Isn’t that the point of free-ranging? That you don’t HAVE to have your kids in your sight at every waking second?

    You’re right, she didn’t see the car pull up, but neither would she have seen it pull up if her back was turned to, say, put the younger one in a stroller. Or while she was busy talking to the doctor about the dog and keeping a hold of the dog (even if she was facing the car).

    My point was, though, was that all she had to do was open the door to the vet’s office and see the car. No, she couldn’t see the car from the inside (my guess is because the office didn’t have many windows, if any at all; my experience is that many vet’s offices don’t have giant picture windows for walls).

    Frankly, the guy sounded like a busybody, to me. Perhaps he pulled up to keep an eye on the kids, but was talking to a friend or something about how some careless bitch left her kids alone in the car. When he saw her coming out with her stitched-up dog, he probably felt like a jerk, but was too proud to confront her and so stormed off in a huff. (Geez, that sounds more like what a helicopter mom would do, not a guy, but I guess it could go both ways…)

    I think the two biggest dangers in a situation like that are a) the kids overheating from the car getting too hot and b) one of them playing with the controls and getting the car moving somehow. The second depends pretty much entirely on the kid(s) in question, and from what I’ve seen, the first typically happens more often when infants are forgotten in the car and left there for HOURS, not minutes (infants haven’t developed their “thermostats” yet and so overheat very easily, too).

  68. pentamom October 10, 2009 at 4:01 am #

    BTW, when I said “Stuff like this is one reason I never tried to have a dog while raising five kids” I didn’t mean to suggest that it’s dumb to do so. I just meant I cope a lot better when I keep life simple. Other people operate differently.

  69. Dragonwolf October 10, 2009 at 4:05 am #

    dahozho — Just to clarify, calling her husband wasn’t an option. The letter Lenore posted states that he was out of town for work.

  70. Heather K October 10, 2009 at 4:07 am #

    It seems to me that, as parents, we need to believe what we are telling our free-range children – that it is okay to ask a stranger for help. I dealt with this on a five-hour road trip to visit my parents, with an infant and a 1 1/2 year old. How to manage if only I need to go to the bathroom? I figured out that Sonic Drive-ins have outdoor bathrooms, so I pulled into the spot right in front of the bathroom and ordered my milkshake. When the carhop delivered it, I asked if he (yes! – a MAN!) wouldn’t mind standing there for a minute, while I used the bathroom. No problem! It can be uncomfortable to ask for help, but it’s not like some kid took a job at Sonic hoping for that one day when he would have two minutes of access to a couple of babies strapped in their carseats.

    Not being afraid of other adults will help you out time and again. We often need just a minute or two of help. Look for other parents to ask – we’re all in the same boat! You would be willing to help, right? I mean, don’t we Free-Rangers tell our kids to look for a mommy or daddy to ask for help? And don’t be afraid to accept offers of help, either! In this case, the OP could have avoided everything by just accepting the babysitter’s offer to stay. This is someone she employs. I’ve had bosses that never gave a second thought to making me work late for much lamer reasons. Anyone at the vet’s office would have been happy to help, too. This situation isn’t about a failure to do the right thing, it is about having the courage to ask for a little assistance.

    And we don’t know that the man was calling the police. My guess is, he was calling his wife to find out what to do. She probably told him to stay and watch the kids and make sure they were okay, until someone showed up. Which is all that we know that he did. He’s not the bad guy in this scenario any more than the OP is a bad mom. I wouldn’t be able to just pass a car with kids inside without figuring out what’s going on. If mom ran out and said she was checking on them, or if I went in, and she acknowledged that she had left them, and would be five more minutes, I wouldn’t think anything of it. But you can’t stumble upon that scene and assume that the parent didn’t just forget (which does happen). Too much at stake.

    I would say, that if you do feel like you would occasionally like to leave your kids in the car, have two keys, so you can leave the A/C on and lock the doors (obviously the second key is so you don’t lock yourself out). Cars heat up FAST, even with the windows cracked. There is a 100% chance that the car will heat up. There is almost no chance that a car thief or child abductor will stumble upon your car, so given the choice, keep it running with the doors unlocked.

  71. Stacy October 10, 2009 at 4:09 am #

    I would have done the exact same thing (except for owning a dog…) but unfortunately I live in CA where it’s just not legal… So infuriating!

  72. Alexicographer October 10, 2009 at 4:24 am #

    Heather K makes a great point … if we don’t model asking for help (in stressful situations no less) how will our kids learn to do it?

  73. Layne October 10, 2009 at 4:46 am #

    I’ve done the same thing myself, when my kids were small. I remember literally standing in the doorway of whatever business I was at, with my foot holding the door open, and leaning out to keep an eye on a sleeping child. I honestly believe that moms have super powers, and if anything had happened, I could have gotten to my child.

  74. Steve October 10, 2009 at 5:01 am #


    Maybe it’s been said before, but…

    How about having a homepage link to a page of REAL high ranking dangers…but include “Irrational Parental Fears” to show how UNLIKELY, silly, and anti-intellectual they really are. Maybe there should be 2 lists – one starting with The Most Irrational Fears and one that begins with those based in Truth.

  75. librarymama October 10, 2009 at 5:23 am #

    If I had a nickel for every minute I spent in the car as a kid, I’d never have to work a day in my adult life.

    I got chastised by the head of the after school program where my niece went for leaving my 4 year old niece in the car for the 5-8 minutes it took to grab the older one’s backpack and sign her out. The woman told me that several parents had actually complained and threatened to call CPS but she said she’d talk to me first. She said she knew it wasn’t really a big deal but she had gotten in trouble for the same thing for leaving her 7 year old in the car for 10 minutes and had to go through MONTHS of investigation and told me it just wasn’t worth it.

    I mean, I can see if it’s 80+ degrees outside and there’s the danger of the child getting too hot but barring that..this is ridiculous. I think a couple of really irresponsible parents have screwed it up for the rest of us.

  76. Brian October 10, 2009 at 5:58 am #


    On all the blogs in the world, this is probably the one where “. Thankfully he was just calling the cops, what if he hadn’t been?” is probably the LEAST appropriate. Obviously, you are still not entirely comfortable with the concepts of free range. the biggest danger to kids in a car is getting frozen or cooked in extreme temperatures.

    Are all the people that drive by hour house when your kids play potential kidnappers?

  77. Pamela October 10, 2009 at 6:04 am #

    This poor woman has my sympathy. My advice? The next time the dog needs urgent care, insist that her unsupportive spouse or mother take care of it!

    Seriously, I wonder how much of the age-old quick and hostile judgment of mothers arises out of the two very obvious facts: mothers are women, and the care of young children is an challenging activity that is grossly devalued and portrayed as far easier than it actually is.

    Why do we so rarely hear about fathers being arrested, or nearly arrested, for errors of judgment in their parenting? Sure, occasionally, but not nearly as often as we hear about women–because women still do the bulk of child-rearing.

    The age old formulation returns: If not women, but men…cared for children, would people be so quick to finger-point? Assume it’s easy? Give childcare so little respect? Refuse to pay for it (or pay a pittance)?

    I don’t know about others, but I have never, and I mean NEVER seen a guy lug an toddler, a kid, and a bleeding, biting dog into a vet’s office.

    And don’t thing I ever will.

  78. Kristen October 10, 2009 at 6:29 am #

    I was just thinking about how I feel like a hostage in my own home with three under 4 years old. It is major planning and energy to run any errand, the post office is like an all day trip. I think this lady was fine. You do the best you can with what you have. And if people arent willing to be helpful then they should stay quiet.

  79. neener October 10, 2009 at 7:02 am #

    Seconding (thirding? fourthing?) Heather K’s point about adults asking other adults for help, so that kids can see it in action, and maybe afterward they can both discuss why the adult felt comfortable asking who they did for help.

    We do this at home – I’ve started randomly asking my 9yo daughter to go ask someone what time it is. The first time she was really hesitant, but now she’s more relaxed, and we always follow it up with a mini-talk about who she chose and why, what made her think that person would be okay, why not that other person, what “vibe” did she get, etc.

  80. HeatherJ October 10, 2009 at 7:11 am #

    Bravo to this mom! She has guts! I wouldn’t have been able to leave my two in the car for fear that I would be arrested. I shouldn’t have to have this fear. I, as a mother, she know what it best for my children not some random stranger. She did what she had to do in the sitiuation. Next time, let the husband or mother try doing this chore and see what they do!

  81. MITBeta October 10, 2009 at 7:28 am #


    I can’t believe it took 75 comments to say what you say. Right on, brother!

  82. Rich Wilson October 10, 2009 at 7:31 am #


    It’s certainly true that women do the bulk of child rearing. But I don’t think we’ll make much progress dividing into female and male camps. Or conservative and liberal camps. Or any other kinds of camps.

    My wife and I haven’t had many cases of people criticizing how we raise our son, but what we have had has come from women. I don’t think that matters, it just is what it is.

  83. sylvia_rachel October 10, 2009 at 8:03 am #

    @Uly — LOL! Except it was my bus pass, not hers, and anyway the kid really hasn’t got the hang of opening the (very heavy) front door of our building yet.

  84. allison October 10, 2009 at 8:24 am #

    When I was growing up, we had a word for someone who criticized the way Mom did something: “volunteer.”

  85. Molly Santa Croce October 10, 2009 at 9:46 am #

    Lenore, I love this story! I would have done the same thing. With young kids and an emergency type situation, it comes down to common sense and making the best decision you can. I just wish we as Moms could support each other and maybe, help each other instead of pointing fingers and judging. Why do we think that every minute of every day a parent will make perfect decisions or always be able to do the “optimal” thing???? Who decided that this is what a parent’s job is??? And when was the decision made?? Thats what I want to know.

  86. s.d. October 10, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    I leave my kids in the car ALLL the time, whether to run into the gas station or the bank. Doors are locked and they know to not open the door for anyone but me or Daddy.

    People are INSANE. That mom is NOT bad mom, just a mom trying to handle a pretty scary situation, and if the kids were clearly doing fine then obviously no reason whatsoever to call police or make her feel lousy. And her own mom too! The same mom who PROBABLY drove her around in no seat belts, no car seats, probably left her in car when she herself was young too. TSK.

    I feel bad for her.

  87. s.d. October 10, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    *when one submits one’s email, it should be automatic that one will get email notifications. I keep forgetting to click that dang box lol*

  88. Mary Mac October 10, 2009 at 11:30 am #

    About a week after our then 2 year old was placed in our house for adoption, she fell down a whole flight of stairs. Her 1 year old sister, who would be placed with us in a months time, was visiting that day as well. Though she seemed OK (I think I was actually worse off!) I thought she should get checked out. As the hospital is only 3 blocks away – and finding parking there is nearly impossible anyway – I strapped both of them into their stroller and headed for the Emergency Room.

    At one point we had to go into the x-ray room and I needed to hold my daughter still so they could try and get a head x-ray. The youngest could not come in due to the radiation. Several people had been waiting with us at x-ray and 2 of the women said they’d keep an eye on the 1 year old.

    I thought about it for a second or two and then figured what were the odds that one of the 4 people in the waiting room would turn out to be a crazed child-napper. Besides, everyone else in the waiting room knew what was going on and you would hope at least one of them would prevent the “crazed child napper” from leaving with the 1 year old.

    Unless, of course, they were all in cahoots and hung out in the waiting room at x-ray hoping for just such an opportunity!

    So, I left her alone in her stroller for all of 10 minutes right outside the x-ray room. When we came out, she was busy charming the pants off everyone in the waiting room and the people waiting for their x-rays had a bit of entertainment.

    On the other hand, now that both girls are living with us full-time, I take the youngest into the daycare with me when I drop her sister of, despite the fact that I park right out in front, can see her the whole time that I drop her sister off and it takes me longer to get her into and out of the car than it does to atually drop her sister off.

    In fact, given that the daycare is located on a busy street, it is probably way more risky for her to be out of the car BUT I’ve never seen anyone yet leave a child in the car while dropping off another. SIGH – 40 years old and still giving in to peer pressure!

  89. North of 49 October 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm #

    our kids, all but the youngest, know how to undo the car seat and the others will do it for her. There have been times where we have wanted them to stay in the car for their safety and instead, one, two or all three of them have gotten out. We’ve pulled hair out about their safety and about not undoing their seat belts unless we say so.

    On a side note: our 7yo son can’t walk home from school anymore. Why? Two reasons: 1: something scared him and 2: there is an RCMP notice from the schools about an “attempted abduction” by a “male 20-35, dark skinned and haired” on, specifically, a 10yo boy. DS himself has decided not to walk home anymore so he has a choice: wait for us to come and either walk with him or drive him home or walk with two other mothers who walk to near where we live.

    I feel a loss of childhood…

  90. Helen October 10, 2009 at 3:59 pm #

    I’m all for asking for help when you need it (and I love neener’s way of getting her girl to learn how) – but in this situation I don’t see the need.

    Leaving the kids in the car while you nip into the vets for 10 minutes is fine. They don’t need someone with them if the mother knows they can behave themselves.

    I disagree with the idea that the mother could have made a better decision in the circumstances. She could have made a different one – whatever works for her. But there isn’t any reason to think that she could have made her kids lives significantly better (or less risky) by doing things differently.

  91. Tracy Lucas October 10, 2009 at 4:09 pm #

    I fall in the minority on this one, too.

    NO, this woman should not be belittled and castigated for her decision; the kids were fine, she made a choice, it’s over, her family can move on.

    That said, I disagree strongly with the idea of “trusting a five-year-old” as the eldest left in a car.

    Could decide to “help” and be the big brother/sister by attempting to drive, crossing a street to a gas station to get the younger child something to drink, etc.

    (And yes, before you yell that it’s a random risk that never really happens, I, myself, HAVE personally been struck by a toddler driving a van when his father ran into a shop for a second!)

    It’s not that the five-year-old can’t be trusted.

    It’s that a five-year-old has only five-year-old judgment.

    Too young, waaay, too young, IMHO.

    Does NOT mean bad motherhood. Means different than mine, maybe, but hey, I’m sure I do a ton of things that would draw gasps from the same woman in the story.

    Just chiming in since you asked for consensus, that’s all.

  92. Frances Bean October 10, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    I wouldn’t have left them alone. Why? For the same reason she is writing in. Nosy people who can’t leave well enough alone.

  93. Andrea October 10, 2009 at 10:03 pm #

    Well, call me a bad parent because I’ve done this too. Although, I had a cat involved with a big akward crate to carry along with the baby car-seat, so I left the kids in the car while I picked up the cat. I guess we’re supposed to be super-heroes or something able to carry large, akward bundles in a single trip. And I’ve pumped gas and left the kids in the car while I ran inside to pay for it. I’ve also left them in the car for a couple of minutes while I ran into the post office to check on my PO Box. We live in very cold, snowy country and I’m not going to drag my kids with me in sub-zero temperatures with their infinite layers of clothing on, especially when they may have a cold, when the car is in full-view and I’m only gone maybe 5 minutes if that. Honestly, it’s not the fear of crazy pedophiles and child abductions that make me think twice about leaving my kids in the car for 5 minutes, it’s “well-intentioned” neighbors that are going to call the cops on me. This mom did nothing wrong and it is really sad that she had to have so much guilt heaped on her. It’s bad enough that modern moms have enough guilt and expectations placed on them by society – family and friends should be there for support. Even if they thought she was in the wrong, have they never made a mistake before? She needs to find some new friends.

  94. Laura October 10, 2009 at 11:12 pm #

    Mom did the right thing to keep her kids safe. How would we feel as a society if mom had tried to juggle two kids and an injured (unpredictable) dog. The same people who are calling her a bad mom now would still be calling her a bad mom for exposing the kids to a dog that could become unexpectedly aggressive, not to mention the germ factor from the wound. Sometimes you can’t win for losing.

  95. momof2 October 10, 2009 at 11:34 pm #

    If I could only have back all the HOURS I spent locked in the car with my sisters while my mom “picked up a couple of things” at the store – and talk with any friends or neighbors she encountered. Wow, I bet I’d have at least a month of my childhood back to ride my bike down the steep hill a few blocks from my house, roller skate on the cracked sidewalks two feet from the busy street, or jump off the sings at asphalt playground without any adults present. We were probably safer in the car.

    I feel sorry for this mom because no one close to her has shown her any support or sympathy. I hope she can let the situation with her family and friends go and trust in her own instincts that she did not do anything wrong.

  96. NJMom October 11, 2009 at 12:09 am #

    It irks me to no end that taking care of her children and dog the best this mother could would ever be criticized.

    What is interesting is…It took me a number of times to find the right way to respond to this post. I kept typing things like, “this mom did nothing wrong” “she is not a bad mom” “she should not feel guilty about…” and decided that I didn’t even want to MENTION the words “wrong” “bad” “guilty” in responding to her story. Because that would mean she COULD have been so…I am simply sick to death of society doing its best to undermine and unempower women. We’ve heard it all before…women who work full time couldn’t possibly be good enough parents because “they are never there”, women who stay home full time to take care of children are fools because they (obviously) sharply curtail their monetary earning power and are not intellectually stimulated, women should have perfectly clean homes, women should have “successful” children, women should have quiet well-behaved children…and so on.

    The Freerange Kids movement is not just about kids; it’s also about empowering women. For every overscheduled, trapped inside with video games to stay safe, homework swamped, pressurized kid, there is the mother who “should” be constantly doing something for their kids, with their kids, and because of their kids. And here’s the kicker: woe to her if she messes up. And I’m just sick of it.

    The FreeRange Kid movement is really a feminist movement and women must start supporting each other NOW. Real support, as in band together to get some sanity back in our lives. So screw that man with the Audi, that husband, and that mother. I support this mom all the way.

  97. Liona October 11, 2009 at 4:06 am #

    Bravo, NJMom. I also see it as power grab situation. We (moms) are taken for a ride by all politicos who try whip up more laws, and want to *control* us. Honestly, I was called in by police when my kid went to a public library, asking to pick him up, because he is too small to walk alone. He was 7, first grader, and the library was 3 blocks away, with police station in the middle. I did nothing wrong, my kid did nothing wrong, yet he was stopped by police like he was a criminal. Isn’t it control and an intimidation of my mothering style? I am a mom, and I am responsible for my child. I really don’t like my 7-year old being stopped by police for walking to a library!

  98. Ali October 11, 2009 at 4:29 am #

    My DS is only 3 and he is forever begging to stay in the car while I walk into my DD’s school to pick her up. We’re gone for 5-7 mins and it’s about as safe as it gets with parents swarming by…have I left him yet? No. Mainly because there *are* parents swarming by and it only takes one to be overly concerned and call the police on me.

    Maybe I should I be more stand-up -ish and just leave him while I pick up DD. But I won’t take the chance. Not because he’s not safe, but because of the horror stories inflicted on the parents.

    I completely empathize with this mom. Completely.

  99. bc9njw9 October 11, 2009 at 4:31 am #

    You know after thinking about it my biggest concern would be the gearshift thing…

  100. Jennifer October 11, 2009 at 4:47 am #

    NOTHING wrong with what this mom did. I’ve done it myself, numerous times in numerous situations. My only concern as well is that someone else will see me and report me. Once I even ran up to the corner Walgreens while my 2 & 3 year olds were napping. That’s my dirtiest little secret. My kids are now 2 & 4, and if they’re all strapped in their carseats and we’re loaded up to go somewhere, and I realize I’ve forgotten something in the house, I see nothing wrong with locking the car and leaving them in it on our urban, residential street while I go back in to get whatever I’ve forgotten. If it’s excessively hot or cold, I’ll leave the car running and take my extra remote with me.

    I’ve also made a run to the grocery with my 2 year old, and then had further stops to make. So rather than unstrap him, corral him into the house, carry in all the bags, then get him back in the car and restrapped in, I’ll leave him be, run the bags in (and even put away the frozen items!) and then go back out so we can be on our merry way.

    I’m PROUD of the way I parent!

  101. Glenn October 11, 2009 at 5:36 am #

    I would have copied his license plate number and reported HIM. Then he may learn a lesson in poking his nose where it is not wanted.

    I have had the same trouble with my dog in the car. I have been called to the front of the store with the comments “your dog wants you.” What I have never said is: “why, is Timmy in a well? Is there a earthquake on the way? What disaster do you need to tell me?”

  102. Chris October 11, 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    I think you all are misconstruing the man with the cellphone’s concern that the children were in the car. He was really concerned about the most likely danger that they were in being in that car…you know…getting in a car accident on the way home…

  103. Owen Allen October 11, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

    It’s interesting how so much changes in a generation. When I was a child growing up on a farm, my parents took us to town, other farms, and we either walked around with the adults or sat in the car (for what seemed like hours). My mother left my sistet in a pram in a dress shop and, in a day dream went off window shopping for half hour before clicking that she didn’t have the baby. When she went back to the dress shop, the attendants were just cheerfully looking after the baby waiting for her to return. Recently a friend left her baby asleep in a car while she collected lunch from a shop, and came out five minutes later finding people had rung the police. The baby was fine. The police officers came but were completely understanding. The people who got so upset could have just stayed in attendance for a while. It is more example of how much more we are removed from community life, now.

  104. Kimberly October 11, 2009 at 5:13 pm #

    My son was 6 months old and I went on a trip to visit my Aunt while she was staying a few hours away. On the way there, I had to go to the restroom. It was hot, and in South Carolina, and during the summer. My son was asleep in the back, and I (I don’t remember my thought process) but I left the car running, windows rolled up, A/C on high, and took what I thought was the spare key to run inside and go potty. About 2 minutes later, I ran back to the car, and tried to get in, only to realise that the key I had grabbed, was my housekey and NOT the spare key to my car.

    So, there I am, HOT summer day, watching my baby sleep, in a Mc Donalds Parking Lot, with no phone, and no keys, and no money, and watching the needle go down on gas.

    Frantically I ran inside and found someone with a Cell Phone, they dialed AAA and the Police. The Police showed up first, jimmied my car door, and made a few jokes about stopping at Mc Donalds, and off I went. No warning, no bad mom comments.. And that I was truly amazed. However I never really forgave myself, and the scare it gave me to have done that.

  105. Lisa October 11, 2009 at 9:17 pm #

    A few years ago I found myself in a similar situation. I was at my daughter’s preschool for the Halloween parade. My daughter was 3 at the time and my son was 1. Over the course of the day, we had aqquired candy, a pretty big pumpkin, art work that needed to come home, and the other normal school stuff, lunch box, a change of clothes and so on. I had to park pretty far away and I knew I couldn’t get all of that stuff and my kids to the car at once. I left all the stuff in the front office area (which opened directly into the front parking area) and got the kids into the car. I pulled the car right in front of the office and went in and got my stuff. The car was running and I could see my kids the entire time. While I was picking up the stuff, a teacher stopped me and chastized me for leaving the kids in the car! I was so irritated that I said, “I didn’t see you offering to help when I was loaded down with this stuff so I did what I had to do”.

  106. Doug Bock October 11, 2009 at 10:10 pm #

    There is ZERO common sense in the whole car saftey thing. Take they keys with you, roll down the windows enough that they don’t roast, and you child is more safe wating for you in the car than at recess in school each and every day. Kids die in hot cars. Cars get stolen with kids in the seat. These are two real dangers. You took care of both. The saftey of the area, the outside temp were fine. You are a GREAT MOM! Tell your husband to grow some balls and some common sense.

  107. s.d. October 11, 2009 at 10:24 pm #

    Owen, you said “It is more example of how much more we are removed from community life, now.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I am a member of the Deaf community, and it is VERY real here that it truly “takes a village to raise a child”. We help keep an eye on each others kids, make sure they are safe, even chastise them if they need correction.

  108. s.d. October 11, 2009 at 10:26 pm #

    *I wasn’t finished lol*

    Partly to blame is the media, and certainly shows on TV like CSI, LAW AND ORDER, the list goes on. People see a situation they fail to understand, and go to extremes rather than just get the facts themselves before reacting.

    Sad, sad state of the world we belong in now.

  109. Rich Wilson October 11, 2009 at 11:09 pm #

    Some great advice from PBS:


  110. RadiantLux October 12, 2009 at 5:25 am #

    After reading the posts and the comments, I am really overwhelmed. This post sounds like those kinds of logic puzzles with a sheep, wolf and rowboat.

  111. Veronica Hayes October 12, 2009 at 5:47 am #

    It suck as a parent (esp. as a single parent w/chronic condition that tends to make everyday errands into complicated excursions) that even though I feel perfectly comfortable leaving my kids in the car (ages 4 & 7) for a few minutes, I almost never do so for fear of some uptight heli-mom or off-duty cop “catching” me in the act & then ringing the police to have me arrested & my kids carted off to foster care. Not unfounded fear on my part, that is exactly what happened to me once. Thankfully I returned to my car whilst the undercover was still on the phone w/his cop buddies, & he called off the impending legal intervention, yelled at me a little, then drove off. Of course, heli-mom got her word in, screaming at me in shrill, “Are you CRAZY” & so on.
    As someone commented above, I was shaking the whole way as I drove home, terrified at the thought of what nearly happened (if the cops had come, had I been arrested, my kids taken from me…). Did it make me reconsider my actions & decision to leave them alone for 10 min.? Yes, but not b/c I think it was reckless parenting to do so. Now, however, I’m far less likely to do that again b/c I’ve learned firsthand that there are paranoid people everywhere who will judge me & “snitch” on me.
    In the comment above listing the states where it is illegal to leave kids in cars alone, my state was not amongst them. I wonder, then, does this mean that the cop was out of line?

  112. Sean October 12, 2009 at 6:18 am #

    I’ll bet the odds are greater of getting hit by a car walking to the vets front door than sitting in the car in a parking lot in a town full of old people. Just a thought.

  113. pentamom October 12, 2009 at 9:44 pm #

    Wait — you CAN’T take an automatic transmission car out of park without the keys in the ignition, can you? So the “kid could have put the car into gear and crashed it scenario” probably didn’t even exist as a possibility. Anyway, someone up above mentioned that you can’t always trust a five year old not to do something like that. I agree, but the point I made up above is that I could trust MY five year olds not to do that (again not because they’re special but because I just had a sense of how well they listened and followed instructions and knew their limits) so we can’t assume that the mom in the story was making a bad judgment — chances are she knew what she could and couldn’t trust them on, too. People don’t always make good judgments about their kids, but you can’t just assume that the mom here was clueless and didn’t know the dangers — maybe she just ASSESSED them.

  114. Tracy Lucas October 12, 2009 at 10:09 pm #

    AC on = keys in ignition.

    And yeah, I got hit by a two-year-old boy in a parking lot a few years ago, and he was moving at about twenty miles and hour. Damaged my van pretty well… thankfully, I was parked at the time, or there would have been added force involved. His five- or six-year-old sibling was in the back, too.

    It was quite weird to see it coming… I saw the vehicle veering closer and closer to me, and then coming right at me, I laid on the horn, and then looked through the other windshield only to realize that I saw the TOP of a small head, not a face on a big one, LOL!

    NOT saying, “Oh, this happens everyday and everytime a child is alone in a car for ten seconds and we should all live in fear of driving preschoolers”…..

    But yes, it’s very possible.

  115. Uly October 13, 2009 at 1:02 am #

    And yeah, I got hit by a two-year-old boy in a parking lot a few years ago, and he was moving at about twenty miles and hour. Damaged my van pretty well… thankfully, I was parked at the time, or there would have been added force involved. His five- or six-year-old sibling was in the back, too.

    Every year I read one or two articles about kids who drive their parents’ car someplace absurd – school, grandma’s, the all night cookie store. And every year I go “At least this is one unlikely thing I don’t have to worry about!”, not having a car at all 😛

  116. Dragonwolf October 13, 2009 at 2:48 am #

    Tracy Lucas — While your situation included AC, the original one didn’t. So, while it can be an issue, it’s not always.

    I think people generalize things too much, instead of looking at a situation for what it is.

  117. Tracy Lucas October 13, 2009 at 3:02 am #

    Yeah, like I said, very unlikely, statistically speaking.

    But someone above said impossible, so I had to throw it in.

  118. Tracy Lucas October 13, 2009 at 3:54 am #

    Again, I want to say that I never claimed this woman was a “bad mom” — I just said I wouldn’t do what she did. No biggie.

    I’m back because, having been in this conversation the past couple of days, I did find it weird when I opened my Inbox a minute ago to get THIS from my newspaper, listed right below a FreeRangeKids update:

    Woman steals car with baby inside

    Again, improbable, but you gotta admit, the timing’s ironic!

  119. pentamom October 13, 2009 at 7:18 am #

    No, I said impossible IF the car was an automatic with the keys out. And since the mom knew whether the car was automatic and the keys were out, and we don’t, we really shouldn’t be judging the situation as though we know MORE about the risk factors than she did. She may have known full well that there was no way one of the kids could get the car moving, so talking about it as though her choice involved that risk is illogical. It may not have, with her full awareness that it didn’t.

  120. Tracy Lucas October 13, 2009 at 9:27 am #

    Gotcha — I misunderstood your statement then.

    HOWEVER… I am *not* judging her. I’m just saying I would choose otherwise, because those are MY fears, not HER circumstances.

    Two different things.

    I think we mostly agree, here. 🙂

  121. wackyvorlon October 14, 2009 at 12:49 pm #

    As long as the car was locked, I see no problem with leaving the kids there. Think about it: They’re locked in a collision-proof steel container weighing no less than a thousand pounds. The locks are very difficult to pick, and in fact of far higher security than the average home door lock.

    Just remind the kids to keep the car locked. In fact, the rear doors on most cars have child-proof locks so it’s nearly impossible for the kids to unlock the car.

  122. Claire October 15, 2009 at 3:17 am #

    I do leave my kids in the car from time to time. They’re 4, 3, and 1, and I’m pregnant again. I have no guilt about it, and nobody has ever lectured me about it; not that it would matter to me if they did.

    I got into the habit while living in Alaska, where NOBODY wants to haul a sleeping baby out of a warm carseat into subzero temperatures for a three-minute errand.

    Since it was such common practice there (and nobody died from it!) I haven’t bothered to unlearn it.

    Frankly, it’s handy sometimes to be able to run into a school building or an office to drop something off and not have to deal with five-point harnesses times four kids times two buckling sessions in less than five minutes.

    The hassle involved in all THAT dwarfs the actual errand by a factor of twenty. 😉

    Admittedly, I don’t get out much in the first place these days, but in that situation, I’d have done exactly the same thing.

    And, what’s more! I’d bet you fifty dollars the OP’s husband would have done the same thing, too. LOL. She should leave the kids with him for a week or two, see how he changes his stance on certain “issues.”

  123. Claire October 15, 2009 at 3:23 am #

    And hey, you know what y’all need? Remote Start!

    Then you can just hit the button, and the engine comes on (along with wondrous heat or A/C) but the car can’t be driven without the key in the ignition. 😀 As soon as your foot hits the brake to shift it out of Park, the engine kills.

    You can get it installed on just about any ol’ car, so long as it has an automatic transmission.

  124. Kelly October 15, 2009 at 3:27 am #

    @Claire – I like your 3:17 comment, particularly:

    “And, what’s more! I’d bet you fifty dollars the OP’s husband would have done the same thing, too. LOL. She should leave the kids with him for a week or two, see how he changes his stance on certain ‘issues.'”

  125. Into The Wild! October 17, 2009 at 12:36 am #

    My daughter has always been way too independent and self sufficient to let anyone even try to take her where she didn’t want to go. As a youngster (about 6 yrs old) her brother was just 4 and was, like other children mentioned here, not enthusiastic about getting out of his carseat in the middle of a nap, so she took it upon herself to be “backup mom” when she knew I needed help. A few times I had to drop off things at church or pump gas or whatever took less than 5 minutes, she’d put on her mom hat and take charge. My husband had a cell phone installed in the car (tells you how long ago this was) when I was first pregnant, so he’d know I could contact him at any time (think it was more for his benefit and piece of mind), and he taught her how to use the phone in case of emergency. Talk about power! It was like giving her the keys to the castle. She also learned to lock the doors when I had to run my short errands, and only once did we have an incident. Someone came close and looked in the car. At first she ignore them (well, Mom, I WAS working on my coloring book) then she held up the phone and yelled “My Mom’s coming back and I’M CALLING 911!” A little overkill, but effective.

  126. Rebecca April 21, 2010 at 2:18 am #

    I really think that humans will not continue to evolve into smarter, more complex beings until they stop watching T.V. (particularly the news) because the aim of media is to create fear and thus divide and isolate us. This is ridiculous that close friends and family were freaking out! I do this all the time too (I don’t tell anyone, though) with my kids 5, and 2. I lock the door of course, and there’s no way they would open it for anyone, so where the heck are they going to go? I recently took a plane ride with them (my husband was not with me) and had to use the bathroom. I of course left them in their seats because seriously, where could they possibly go, and how could anyone manage to kidnap them? And anyhow, how could 3 people possibly fit into an airplane’s bathroom? I’m sure people worried about my parenting habits though.


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