This is not easy for me to write but knowing I can help raise awareness, I know that I have to. This is also not easy for me to think about. I have never, ever, considered myself to be a perfect parent. I have made plenty of mistakes in my life to be well assured that I am fully capable of them. This well-intentioned imperfection is why I want to tell you my story.
Just a normally-abnormal day.
My older kids had jumped in the car with their aunt. She was in town visiting and they could not wait to ride with her. My toddler daughter was in the car with me. We pulled up to a family member’s house and parked across the street from each other. The kids and their aunt were jamming to music and dancing in the car. It was such a fun moment that I wanted to catch it on video so I turned my car off and jumped out to do so. It lasted about 30-45 seconds and then they all jumped out too. I ran over to make sure my kids didn’t run into the street in the midst of all their excitement. Once they were safe, we all ran inside. Just like that. Three adults, several kids. We all ran inside. My daughter, not yet two, was still in her rear-facing carseat, patiently waiting for me to take her out.
Not just plans. Divine Plans.
Once inside, we stood around for about five minutes talking about our next plans. Somewhere in those plans, by the hand of Grace, it was determined that i needed to run home. I grabbed my keys and headed to the car. When I got there, and this is the worst part of the story for me, only then did I realize my daughter was still inside. I threw the door open and jumped inside screaming through tears and grabbing her. She was crying too, but mostly because she was mad at me. I sat there holding her and sobbing. After some time, I pulled myself together, made the quick trip home and went back to join the family. When I walked inside, the first person I saw was my sister-in-law. I burst into tears and told her everything that happened. She understood the horror of it all, but she listened well, let me cry, and sat with me while I tried to recover.
She told me that day, “I wondered where she was, but I figured she was somewhere else in the house” and I have to imagine that could have been everyone’s thought. The truth is, I could comfort myself all day by noting that it was only May. It could have been even hotter. I could tell myself all day it was only about five minutes, surely someone would have noticed very quickly. I could assure myself that I would have noticed. But the most terrifying part of the whole story is that I didn’t notice. I only walked to the car because I needed to run home. So rather than comfort myself, all I can think is –
HOW LONG WOULD IT HAVE TAKEN FOR SOMEONE TO NOTICE?????
I can tell myself that all of these things make it ok. They make it “just a close call.” And we have close calls everyday, right? But my friends, this day haunts me. I do not buy into the idea that a good parent does not make dangerous or deadly mistakes. I buy into the idea that we do our very best. But the only thing we are perfect at is being human and humans make mistakes. One well intentioned but distracted moment could have changed my life forever. I was capable of mistakes before that day and I am capable today and tomorrow. So the only thing I know to do is listen to the inner voice that tells me when I should count my children, check on them, say a prayer for them …
So how do I prevent? I take a deep breath every time I think of this story. It terrifies me still how dangerous it was. It terrifies me how many people who love her – are OBSESSED with her- didn’t notice in that five minutes that she was missing. So first, I do everything I had already been doing. I teach my children how to get out of a car in an emergency. I teach them how to unlock doors, honk the horn, bang on windows and scream for help. I teach them to look out for each other. I call people who are transporting her for any reason and ensure they got her where they were going. Just like all the statistics claim, these things happen when the daily routine is distracted. I am keenly aware of distractions in our routine now and make an extra phone call or take an extra glance in the back seat.
Another thing I do, every day of my life as hard rule, when I strap her in the car seat I leave my keys in the back seat. I have to retrieve my keys to lock the car, to get in my house, to continue the routine … Everyday, I show her I love her by leaving my keys in the backseat. Every person has to decide what works for them, but in my car, my keys are the key to always remembering her.
Lastly, I write this. I already know what you’re thinking. Some of you are thinking, “yeah right, I could NEVER forget my child ANYWHERE. This lady is just too busy or distracted or has too many kids or not enough caution, etc., etc. … “ And let’s be honest, it will hurt my feelings a little. It will sting and I will want to defend how incredibly cautious and diligent I truly am. Not only as a parent, but as a person in general. It will hurt, but I will be ok, because the good thing is you cannot tell me anything I haven’t already told myself. I have already doubted every bit of my parenting and questioned every way that I could be different so that this never happens again.
But then there are those of you who will realize this really can happen to anyone. For those I will breathe a sigh of relief. At the end of the day, I write this for both of you. I can write this because I have processed, healed and forgiven myself for this mistake. I am more aware, even more than I was before, and I cannot fail to give you one more story, one more example, one more reminder, that this can happen. It does happen. And for me, it did happen.
I cannot imgine how you must have felt. This had to be a terrifying story to write. You are a brave human for sharing this with us. It is true that everyone is capable of making this type of mistake. I appreciate your willingness to share this and you will help someone out there that is reading this. Kudos to you and I am so happy your family is safe.
This story is so needed! Thank you for sharing and helping to raise awareness! ??????
Thank you so much for sharing! You are truly so wonderful for sharing this story and awareness!
I couldn’t have written this if I had done it! I’m so glad you did though. I love the idea of giving her the keys. Thank you for sharing this.
I changed my routine. I usually went and ran errands before I picked my daughter up from daycare. But I got off early, picked her up and ran a few errands. Needed to run into the bank. She apparently fell asleep. Went into the bank and did a few transactions and came out to grab something in the back seat and found my beautiful sweet sleeping baby. Thank God we were in October. I immediately started crying and became inconsolable. I forgot my daughter. Thank God she was sleeping and it was October but unfortunately how easily it can happen. No need to judge me cuz I have judged myself and it’s been over 18 years ago. You never forget.
I was out of town and had to drive my moms car to run an errand. I only got a few steps away from the car in the parking lot when I remembered my baby in the backseat. He was wide awake, but just sitting so sweetly and quietly. It was less than a minute but horrifying to know I could forget. I think about it every time I get out of the car now. In a way I’m thankful it happened so I know to be extra vigilant.