Over the weekend, someone in a Facebook group I belong to posted a link to an article with helpful tips to keep you from accidentally leaving your baby in a hot car. It suggested putting your laptop bag, purse, or cellphone in the backseat so that you're forced to open the back door and look in the back seat.
Unfortunately, the poster added this comment: "What kind of idiot leaves their kid in the car?"
"A drug addict, probably," added another commenter.
"If you have to put your cellphone in the backseat to keep from forgetting your child, you've got major problems," another chimed in.
Then one brave woman spoke up. She talked about the day she had a big meeting at work, and a problem at home that weighed heavily on her mind. She drove straight to work instead of dropping her child at her mother's. She was walking into the office when her mother called to ask what time she was dropping the baby off. She rushed back to her car, feeling like the worst Mother in the world. Luckily, the baby was only alone for a minute or two, but it taught her to double-check from that day on.
She got attacked by another woman, who assured her that she would never, ever be capable of forgetting her child. But another woman shared the story of her friend, a loving, attentive mother who lost a child to just such a situation. A few others shared their near-miss stories, including one woman who left the baby in a hot car in her own driveway, finding him covered in sweat and lethargic, but thankfully without lasting harm.
The skeptical woman could not be swayed: no good parent could ever do that, as far as she was concerned. And it would never happen to her.
I hope she's right about that last sentence. And I hope she someday grows some empathy.
I once believed I could never do such a thing, either, but one hot July day when my daughter was two, this was nearly my tragic memory.
She had a summer cold and was up most of the night before. I was pregnant with her brother and exhausted. Her father normally made the morning drop at daycare at that time, but he had an early meeting that day. With her sleeping soundly in her car seat, and a forty-five minute commute (her daycare was near my office) it was too easy for my tired, pregnancy-fogged brain to drive me straight to work.
Thank God, she woke up enough to sleepily call out "Mommy?" as I was closing the door and preparing to walk away. I immediately yanked that door open, threw my arms around her in the car seat and sobbed hysterically, realizing just how close I came to killing the child I loved more than anything in the world.
I drove with my purse in the back seat until my kids were out of booster seats.
Don't think for a moment this can't be you. In this time of a thousand distractions, a preoccupied mind can come after an unexpected text, a rotten commute, a bad morning, or a sleepless night. Even the most attentive, loving parent can make a momentary mistake that can cost them everything.
A public service announcement from a mom who is still choking up over this, fifteen years later.