This morning, my cheeks literally hurt from smiling so much at Baby J. She was entertaining me at 6:30 a.m., bouncing around the room with the clown toy she got from Gan as a gift, and singing along with the music. I took a break from making DH his breakfast and lunch, sat down at the kitchen table, and just soaked it all in. I couldn’t help but think just how much joy Baby J. brings to my life. Even when I have to discipline her, which I hate to do but I know is necessary, I do it with such happiness in my heart that I even have her in my life to discipline.
I feel this happiness whether she is making me sing the Daughters of Tritan song 50 times in a row (like this morning) or when she is running around the house, grabbing at toys and shouting “Sheli” (mine in Hebrew).
I assume that every parent feels this joy when they interact with their children, and I can just imagine the happiness is amplified when you have more than one child.
So, you can imagine how absolutely horrified I was when I passed a parked car on Monday, and found a sleeping toddler strapped into her car seat. No parent in sight. I was walking home from gan pick up, with Baby J. strapped into her Bugaboo, all warm and cozy against the rainy weather. We were a couple of houses away from our apartment when I noticed the parked car. I don’t know why I gave it a second glance, but when I did I realized there was a little girl fast asleep in her car seat. I looked around as parents hustled around me, on their way to or having already picked up their own children at the various daycares that are located on, near and around our block.
I tried the door handle and it was locked. I looked into the front seat and saw a purse on the driver’s side seat, which as a New Yorker was also pretty shocking. It wasn’t bad enough that there was a sleeping child in the backseat, but an actual handbag on the front seat as well? Why not just unlock the doors and put a big sign on the car that says, please steal my wallet AND my child!
I decided to wait by the car and watch the child, but not before I took photos of both the sleeping child and the license plate number. I was going to give this parent 10 minutes and then I was going to call the police. At that moment, my neighbor walked down the block and I asked him if he knew who the car belonged to. He was shocked to see the sleeping child and also tried the handle. He then told me how he is so surprised when he sees parents driving around with children not strapped into car seats, or when he sees parents smoking while driving – children in their car – with all the windows rolled up.
Ten minutes passed quickly and then, finally, a woman emerged carrying an infant in one hand and a steaming bowl of soup in the other. A six year old girl walked silently next to her and we asked if she was the owner of the car. My neighbor then took the soup out of her hand to help as she struggled with her keys.
It wasn’t that she was Anglo, which really surprised me, but that she wasn’t that apologetic. She said that the child refused to leave the car, and that she tried to ask other people passing on the street to just stay with the child and the car while she ran inside to get her daughter. I was silent, and my neighbor basically said that she should thank me for watching her sleeping daughter, and I just turned around and headed towards our apartment.
At first, I felt sympathy. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to juggle all your children when it comes time for daycare pickup, since right now I have just one toddler to think about. It’s unfortunate that everyone she asked for help turned her down. I know people are in a rush at the end of the day, but maybe someone could have just waited 5 minutes for her to get her child. I waited 10 minutes, but then again I was already almost home, and my child was with me. The only thing waiting for us was an after school snack and an hour of cartoons.
But then, I thought about what she said, and I felt anger. The child wasn’t asleep when she parked, she just didn’t want to get out of her carseat and come inside to fetch her older sister. Obviously, she was very tired since she was fast asleep by the time I got to the car. But, as parents, isn’t is our responsibility to sometimes force our children to do something they might not want to do? It was much more convenient for this Mother to just let her kid stay happily in her car seat, than to fight her obviously exhausted child and force her inside. That, and the fact that she could only hold one child at a time and clearly the infant couldn’t walk herself inside, thus freeing Mommy up to carry the tired toddler.
So, I get what this Mother was thinking. It’s tiring to fight with our children, but why take the risk? You read horror stories of children who are forgotten in car seats who died, and those stories stay with you.
My Mother’s motto, which was something our neighbor Gilda (may she rest in peace) used to tell her as a young Mother: “better your child should cry now, than you should cry later.” It’s clearly not an uplifting motto, but it gets the point across well. I think about that myself when I’m wrestling small items out of Baby J’s hands because I don’t want her to swallow them, or when she cries bitterly because I won’t let her climb on the couch and try to scale over the back of it onto the floor because she could really hurt herself if she fell.
Does it break my heart to have to say no to her? Absolutely. Do I have to do it for her safety and because it’s my responsibility as her parent? Absolutely.
At the end of the day, I wonder if I should be judging this woman. What would I have done in her shoes? I hope that I would figure out a solution that didn’t include leaving a child in the car, unsupervised. But knowing myself, I would have forced the child inside and just figured out a way to deal with the meltdown. Since I’m a pretty planned person, I would have made sure to have a baby carrier in the car, so I could strap the infant in and then have two hands available to deal with the toddler. The older child, I would hope, would be more cooperative.
I can also say with 100% certainty that I would never have left my purse on the front seat (you can take the girl out of New York but you cannot take the New York out of the girl). Nor would I have carried a plastic bowl of steaming hot soup in one hand, while carrying an infant in the other hand. But hey, that’s just me.
Would you leave a sleeping child in the car seat to run inside and pick another child up from daycare? Do you have sympathy for this woman or do you think what she did was negligent?
Let me know!