This is a must read post if you have young children.
Okay, deep breath. This is something almost no one else knows.
I asked Trisha and Luke if I could share this guest post anonymously because I’m afraid of the eager-to-call-CPS-busy-bodies out there, but I feel strongly about sharing this story. It happened almost three years ago, and I’m just now brave enough to write it.
Here’s what you need to know about me:
I’m a helicopter mom, admittedly.
I own almost three dozen outlet protectors, 5 baby gates, and at least 5 child proof locks for our cupboards.
I had a doorwall put in for the express purpose of watching my children outside.
I have poison control’s number posted by the phone. I regularly review child CPR. I literally have life vests in the back of our van, just in case.
I limit my kids’ screen time and make them read before they can play on my Kindle.
Our Internet is protected like Fort Knox.
Three years ago on a cool fall day I forgot my baby in my mini-van.
It wasn’t on purpose. It would never be on purpose! I’m the type of mom who will sit in the car for an hour to let my children nap if they’ve fallen asleep. But for about 2 minutes, when I ran into the post office, I forgot my child. I literally forgot he was there sleeping peacefully.
Now, for those of you who may be thinking, “What type of a person can forget their child in the car?”
A person just like you. A person just like me. Anyone is at risk for leaving their child in the car. Don’t dismiss the tearful mother on television whose very human mistake cost the life of her child on a hot summer’s day. It could have been you.
The same way your brain can disassociate when you drive down a stretch of road, and realize you have no memory of driving the last few miles, is the same way your brain can literally forget you have a child in the back. (There’s a great explanation here)
When I forgot my son, I had just been thinking about a fond memory of a street I had driven by. My brain was so engrossed in the happy memory that when I got to the post office I just got out of the car (I didn’t even lock it!) and ran in to get my package. In addition, we had just switched from a car to a minivan, and I normally had more kids in the back seat. It was like three strikes against me.
It wasn’t until I came back out and saw my van sitting in the parking lot that I snapped out of it.
I felt like vomiting as I realized what I had done. Immediately I started sprinting to my van. He was sleeping peacefully. Not even aware his mother abandoned him for 120 seconds.
My mother-in-law can’t understand how anyone could forget their child in the car. Not knowing my story she asked me, after hearing about an incident in the news, if I ever thought I could forget one of my kids. I simply said, “Yes, because I’m human.”
Back when my mother-in-law had kids, there weren’t airbags in the front seat. The safest place for your baby was right next to you. Almost no children were forgotten in vehicles until the advent of airbags and front seats became unsafe for babies. I’m not saying airbags are a bad thing, just pointing out how the solution to one problem has caused another.
Please take my story as a cautionary tale. Throw your purse or cell phone in the back seat if you only have small children (especially just one or two) that might fall asleep. This will help you to remember to check the back seat.
Noisy toddlers and babies are hard to forget, but what happens if a normally noisy child falls asleep?
What if, like me, you only have one child with you when you normally have 3?
What happens if you don’t normally drop your kids off at daycare, and your routine gets changed?
What happens if you have a huge work project you can’t get your mind off of?
Or what happens if you’re mentally creating a grocery list?
Let’s dispel the myth that only horrible parents are capable of forgetting their kids in cars this summer. If you believe it can happen to you, it might just save your child’s life by simply throwing your purse or cell phone in the back seat.
It was a cool fall day and a 2-minute stop in the post office when I forgot my child. Had it been summer and an 8 hour day at work, this might have been an entirely different article.
Get into the habit, every time you buckle your kids in their car seat, leave your purse or cell phone back there too. Every time. Or check out this product. The point is, do something.