It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Misplaced children

There was an incident here in Ottawa last month. Parents dropped kids off with a caregiver and headed out for their adults-only date day — at Home Depot.

Oooooo, romantic, huh? A “date” spent choosing ceiling tiles and switchplates at Home Depot. Or maybe it was insulation and plumbing fixtures. It doesn’t much matter.

Can we relate? We can relate.

At this point, I’ve heard a couple of different versions. Either they heard their license plate called over the store’s intercom, or they had actually left the store to see the window of their car being smashed in by police. Why? They had left their baby in the car.

Their three-week-old baby. In a car in a sunny parking lot when the temperatures were about 30 degrees.

What kind of parents would do a thing like that?

Well… In this case, regular, normal, loving parents. Who had made a mistake.

Each thought the other had handed him over to the caregiver, you see. For her part, I’m guessing the caregiver figured that since the baby was asleep, they’d decided not to disturb him. Baby was in the seat behind, in a rear-facing car seat, sound asleep. Easy to miss, particularly if you honestly believed the seat was empty? I’d say so.

They went out to find that police had smashed in the window of their car, the Children’s Aid had been alerted, and they were the centre of a whole lot of nasty attention. (Lest any of you faint before the end of this post, I’ll tell you now that the baby was fine! He was taken to hospital to be checked over, of course, but he was fine.)

Attention which only got worse when, after appropriate investigation, Ottawa Police Services decided that it wasn’t a criminal matter. Suddenly the righteous everywhere were outraged. Outraged and leaping to judgment — because that’s what the righteous do best.

“Those people deserve to have that child taken away!!!”

Wait. They did not knowingly leave the child in the car. They didn’t decide, “Oh, it’s too much trouble to wake him up. We won’t be long, let’s leave him there.” No. They had made arrangements for their children to be cared for by a loving relative. Each thought that’s where the child was.

This wasn’t a bad decision, this was an accident. A miscommunication at worst. An accident which could have had tragic consequences, of course, and had that happened, who would have suffered most? Not the righteous, with all their frothing and fulminating, but those poor parents, blaming themselves for the rest of their lives.

I was talking about this with another couple over the weekend, a couple whose children are all adults, some with families of their own. They shared how they’d been part of a social group not too long ago where the conversation had moved on to just this topic: Forgetting/misplacing your child.

It seems bizarre, just writing that down. Misplacing a child???

And yet, in the rather large group of parents-of-adults, there were quite a few stories of forgetting a child and/or misplacing one for a few terrifying seconds/moments/hours. At gas stations on long car trips, at gramma’s house, at school, and, most bizarrely by me, a baby in a car seat left behind in a cab.

All these stories had happy endings. Parents and children were reunited, nobody hurt (except a few ulcers born, perhaps).

How often, we wondered, does this happen to young parents, and you’re just too scared to tell anyone? Because who loses their baby??? Only loser parents do that, parents who just don’t deserve to have kids, right?


People get distracted. People lose count. People assume the other parent has the child. Parents of young children are often distracted and sleep-deprived.

It happens. Not too often, and not to all of us, but it does happen.

I had a friend whose wife left him with their then 6-week-old daughter so she could go out with a friend. First time since the child’s birth. Dad was in his workshop in the basement, baby was sleeping in her room. Partway through his project, dad realized he needed something from the Hardware Store a couple of blocks away, so off he went.

It was only when he was in line at the checkout that it hit him like a ton of bricks — the baby!!! The baby he was in charge of! The baby he had totally forgotten he even had.

The baby was fine. He got home and she was still sleeping. The marriage survived, too, helped in part by his decision not to tell his wife. (Oh, he did eventually, but I think he waited a good three years…)

But I wonder if more of this happens than we realize. I wonder if we only feel safe to talk about it when years have gone by, when, by virtue of producing healthy, happy adults, we have earned sufficient parenting cred to feel safe to admit to the “time we almost lost one”.

Soooo… How about you? Any ‘baby left behind’ stories in your lives?

August 16, 2011 - Posted by | controversy, health and safety, Ottawa, parenting | , , ,


  1. We were camping with a group of people (15 families, 70+ people) at an amusement park camp ground. DH thought I had our youngest, he thought I had him. In reality, he was playing with his buddy back at the campground. Thankfully his friends’ parents (friends of ours, too) took him with when they went to the amusement park and we were reunited! But man, how easily it can happen. We were both paranoid for a while after that!!

    Exactly. I’m betting that scenario — each parent thinks the other has the child — is a common cause of this sort of mis-placing! And yes, it would make you paranoid, which is not necessarily a bad thing, so long as you weren’t wracked with guilt as well.

    Comment by Lisa | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  2. There was the time this last spring I went to pick up my two older kids from a church event. (And had a toddler & newborn I “got” to talk with me). I got them home, directed the older two to get ready for bed, got the toddler into bed, supervised teeth brushing, read the story, tucked them in and said good-night to the boys. I sat down, thinking “Whew!” and realized I’d totally forgotten the baby in the van. It was only about 15-20 minutes and it was NOTHING like some of those other stories, but it still made me feel bad! At least he was safe & asleep in the garage, van door still open, waiting for me to get him.

    The other thing not talked about until kids are older is stupid things like letting your toddler jump on your bed and watching as they go to the other side and fall off and bonk their heads on the hardwood floor before you can get to them. Not that I’ve ever done that! *ahem* 🙂 Good thing kids are tough!

    Throw in an extra child or two to make things unfamiliar, and it gets even easier to lose track. This family had a newborn, you had extra children. It throws you out of your usual patterns, and makes something like this more likely.

    Toddlers bonk their heads? Really? Can’t imagine why those uncoordinated, impulsive little pumpkinheads would be doing that…

    Comment by Tina | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  3. Those poor parents. Thank goodness the baby was alright.

    No, I haven’t left one behind – yet – but I did manage to lock my 9 month old in the car one afternoon… in a creepy underground parking garage… with my cell phone and purse inside the car as well…

    Fortunately a couple of cops on their beat came along after just a couple of minutes. They let me use their phone to call my hubby – his office was only a couple of blocks away – and stayed with me until he came.

    I still get butterflies in my stomach when I remember how terrified I was that day.

    I hear you. I’ve misplaced children on two occasions, both when they ran ahead and hid for fun. (One under a clothing rack in a department store, one in a divot in a hedge.) We were separated for a matter of seconds only, I’m sure, even though it seemed like much longer, and I *still* remember how terrified I was — over twenty years later! These things just don’t leave you. And if something tragic had happened, somehow, in those few seconds, do I think there would be people ready to blame me? You betcha.

    How nice that the police showed up when they did! And you know? Given the really, truly, absolutely rotten parenting they must see in their job sometimes, I’m betting they weren’t giving you stupid lectures about “making sure that didn’t happen again”, but were just nice about it.

    Comment by hodgepodge | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  4. I’ve done it! Described it here:

    You’ve done it, I know at least three others who’ve done something similar. It happens. Now you’re adding another potential factor: Post-Partum Depression. If it wasn’t the result of a deliberate decision, and not an ongoing pattern, I think a mis-step like this deserves commiseration, not condemnation.

    Comment by L. | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  5. I think the guilt is enough punishment. This is bad, as the child could have died in the heat of the car BUT he didn’t and his life will likely be fine if the parents learned from the incident and I am sure they have from what I have read. However take him away from his parents and will he have a better life? Statistically it is a 60/40 split. I would suggest they leave the child with the parent and monitor them for a while if there is a pattern of carelessness then consider placing he child in foster-care, but no don’t simply take the child away as Mary pointed out this may be just a horrible “accident. A miscommunication at worst.” My worry is as always that the parents may be typical Ottawa-ites and I have said it before many of us are so self absorbed that we focus on ourselves and what we are dong to the exclusion of everything else. I have never lived in a place where people seem to behave like race horses heading for the finish line and ignoring the small and very important things in life (and I am not talking about the child here). The last thing I do when I drop my wife off at work is give her a kiss. This sort of little detail ensures that she knows I love her and all is well. A simple kiss on the child’s forehead might have prevented this. You know you really miss the small things when you make them important.

    I agree with your idea of kissing goodbye. My husband and I almost always do. Indeed, I have a long-ingrained practice of hugging my children whenever they leave the house… but you know what? Sometimes I don’t. It really bugs me when I realize I haven’t, but even though I enjoy, even need those good-bye hugs, they don’t always happen. For all we know this family had the same pattern of goodbyes, but on this particularly busy morning with that particular child, it didn’t happen.

    You seriously considered the possibility of having this child removed from its parents care? For this? Seriously? There is absolutely no reason to take a child away from his parents for this sort of miscommunication, the kind that happens to all of us — a few times most weeks, I’m sure. The miscommunications may not involve our children, but they happen ALL.THE.TIME. I don’t even think the parents need to ‘learn a lesson’. It’s not like they didn’t know this in advance. It is simply one of those things that can happen, to anyone.

    I disagree with your claim that Ottawa is particularly filled with oblivious, self-absorbed people. It’s a city like any other, filled with people of all stripes. Some are lovely, some not so much. Like any other city, town, and village in the country.

    Comment by Me | August 16, 2011 | Reply

    • “You seriously considered the possibility of having this child removed from its parents care?” No of course not ! but It seems that a lot of others did I read the rants on it (most utterly stupid and I definitely don’t agree with any of them) As I said I totally agree with you this was likely a horrible “accident. A miscommunication at worst.” I didn’t say they needed to learn a lesson I did say I hope they learned one much like almost dropping your ring down the sink helps you remember not to do it again. I did not say it was neglect just an accident. I was only suggesting a cool solution that would help to avoid such an accident and hey public displays of affection are awesome. Working with Cubs I only know one family (this past year) that gives their kids a kiss when they drop them off. Yes you might forget but hey like you said “it really bugs me when I realize I haven’t,” thus it works.

      As for the self absorbed nature of Ottawa-ites well we disagree no big deal. I still think you’re cool and definitely not self absorbed 🙂

      Comment by Me | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  6. I forgot my nephew in the car once, for two hours. He’d fallen asleep, and because I didn’t normally drive anywhere with him, I just wasn’t thinking about him when I got home. He was in the car for two hours…before he woke up, unbuckled himself, and came inside. See, Nephew was six years old! I am still so thankful that it was a very cool day (outside temps in the 60’s, Fahrenheit.)

    When I worked child protective services (in the U.S.), I was surprised at how many cases of children-left-in-cars that we had…or rather, how many people were racked with guilt and self-reported. A parent would forget they had a child in the car for twenty minutes or so, race back out, and bring the child to the ER regardless of actual physical condition. The ER would have to call us because of regulations, and I would go to the ER to discover a perfectly healthy child enjoying a popsicle or hot chocolate (dependent on season) while the parent lost their minds with guilt, convinced their child had irreparable brain damage or frostbite. I never had to process an actual tragedy, thank God – my supervisor said that since the state started running a public awareness campaign year round, the number of car deaths was down to nearly zero.

    “Me”, I think you’re being very harsh on the poor parents – sounds like you’re thinking they didn’t think their baby important. My interpretation is that they had a set routine with the older kids, and since the baby was still new, things hadn’t quite adjusted to accommodate the child yet.

    I agree. A new baby, still not quite ‘real’ in the family, the adjustment to the family patterns not quite made — and sleep deprivation. Let’s never discount the effects of sleep deprivation on memory! Lordy, it’s vast.

    Thanks for sharing your experience of guilt-ridden parents self-reporting. I would be willing to bet those types are the majority of such cases that come to public awareness. And if you’re going to stand in the ER and look at those people with superior condemnation rather than compassion? There’s something lacking in your soul.

    Comment by Becka | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  7. Did the righteous ever watch Home Alone and laugh, I wonder? No, I didn’t ever leave a child behind, but I forgot it was my turn to pick them up from school once in a while. As did my mother sometimes, it was a dismal experience and you’d think I’d have borne that in mind forever.

    I guess you weren’t scarred quite enough by your mother’s most shocking negligence!

    I’ve never lost one of mine either, but I did, on two occasions that I can recall, have them hide from me in public places. (I didn’t know they were hiding. They just thought it would be a fun game!!) The terror I felt on those occasions was sufficient to give me compassion for those who genuinely leave a child behind and then must pass those seconds or minutes before finding the child, terrified out of their minds that the child isn’t safe. Ghastly.

    Comment by Z | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  8. I work in an attorneys office that defends parents who are dealing with child protective services. Some of the stories I could tell you about the bureaucratic boondoggles these (mostly) good parents find themselves stuck in because of just such “accidents”! I feel so sorry for these parents who now have to convince an authority who is predisposed to thinking they are bad parents, that it really was just a mistake. On the other hand, we DO want those same bureaucrats there to help protect the children from abusive situations. The problem is finding the fine line between knee jerk and actual protection. I am glad the baby is ok, and I agree with “Me” @5…the guilt (and embarassment) is punishment enough and it will virtually guarantee this will NEVER happen again in this family and hopefully the media attention will be a reminder for other parents too.

    As I gather from the news reports, the police didn’t press criminal charges (because it wasn’t intentional), and the CAS has decided to monitor the family for a few weeks, but, in the absence of further incriminating events, they will close the file by the end of the summer. All’s well that ends well, it seems.

    Comment by Lynn | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  9. I’ve had a somewhat similar experience. My son was 2-3 and I took him with me to a routine chiropractor appt. I go every two weeks and he always went with me. I would bring books for him and he would play on the floor during my adjustment and then he would run between me and the water cooler while I made my next appt and paid. The Last time he came with me was the time that I handed my credit card to the receptionist, made my appt and suddenly noticed I didn’t hear him lumbering down the hall. The receptionist and I both went down the hall into the physical therapy section looking for him, then into the bathrooms, then into all of the patient rooms. We couldn’t find him. By this time I was losing my mind. Finally I ran outside (through two HEAVY metal doors) and found him in the parking lot happily splashing in puddles.
    When I think of what could have happened? It’s a busy parking lot but I swear it was only a moment and I am still shocked that neither of us heard either of the doors. (It’s a short hallway and a small building). It still gives me the shivers to this day.

    My two incidents of losing track of my kids still give me shivers — over twenty years later!! Two heavy metal doors. How do they manage this stuff? You could quite reasonably have assumed that he couldn’t get past them. Wow.

    Comment by Dani | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  10. Forgot to add. I think that sometimes we get so wound up being judgmental that we forget that sometimes, despite our best intentions. We just make a mistake. Thank goodness this wasn’t a tragic ending and just one of the blips on the road.

    I think a lot of the judgment stems from the person’s desire to believe this would never happen to them, and so they look for ways to assure themselves it was completely avoidable. The next logical step is to assume, since it was completely avoidable, that the person who didn’t avoid it is to blame. But really, it’s about reassuring themselves that scary-bad things will never happen to them.

    Comment by Dani | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  11. I still remember forgetting I had a baby in the house with my first. I never left, but it was close. In my defense the brat was up every two hours for about the first four or five months and I was a basket case. Lost my daughter in the mall once, too. She took off to see the Easter Bunny again. By the time we found her security was involved and she had the nerve to accuse me of leaving her, even though she was the one who left the store. We all survived their childhoods but there were times it wasn’t a sure thing. I agree. Sometimes things just happen. There seems to be the general feeling that blame has to be involved in everything and that bothers me.

    I agree. There isn’t always a place or a need for blame. The attraction of blame it that it presumes the possibility of control… and who doesn’t want to feel that they have 100% control to prevent awful things from happening? Now, these parents did have control, true, but they made a very simple, very easy-to-make mistake. The kind of mistake that happens so often we don’t much notice it — except when the consequences are dire, or potentially dire.

    Comment by jwg | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  12. I’ve never forgotten one of mine or anyone else’s children but I do realize that it can happen to the best-of-intentioned parent/caregiver/relative.

    When Sophie was in kindergarten, Pete and I both needed to be at an appointment together at a time when she would just be getting off the bus. Couldn’t change the appointment so I asked my very reliable and trustworthy neighbor if she could see her off the bus and keep her for a while. She agreed and we all went about our business. As we were pulling into our neighborhood, I noticed the neighbor’s car just ahead of us and I thought, “Hmm. I wonder if Sue took the kids to lunch or the park or something?” And then as we got close to our house, I saw Sophie, tiny little six-year-old Sophie, sitting on our front porch. Alone. It had been four hours since the bus dropped her off. I practically jumped out of the moving car and she said, “Where were you, Mommy? I’ve been waiting for you!” And then Sue came running across the street, tears streaming down her face. She had forgotten about our arrangement and Sophie had been alone outside for four hours! She did what she was supposed to do: tried all the neighbors houses on our side of the street (the ones she knew, anyway), and then went across the street to see if anyone else was home. No one was home! She even tried the back doors on our house and tried knocking on the windows. I asked her if she was okay and she said, “When I knew that no one was home anywhere, I cried a little but I was okay!”

    I wasn’t angry with Sue, though I’m sure I would have been beyond help if anything had happened to Sophie.

    Good for Sophie! What a great kid, to do the exact right thing… for four hours. Poor kid. My heart goes out to her. (Even though it was years ago now.) My heart also goes out to Sue, who must have been horrified!

    Still, I’m impressed that you weren’t angry. I think I would have been. I doubt I’d have burdened Sue with my anger, not if I trusted her as you obviously do, and understood that it was a traumatic event for her, too… but I’d have felt anger! Probably rooted in that Momma Bear instinct: “You scared my BABY!!!”

    Comment by Candace | August 16, 2011 | Reply

    • Yeah, it is kind of weird that I never felt anger toward her. I really, really didn’t. And I’m usually quite capable of experiencing anger, at the drop of a hat! 😉 Sue did end up treating us to dinner about three times that week and I’m sure she still feels badly about it (they moved away a few years ago and we lost touch).

      Comment by Candace | August 17, 2011 | Reply

  13. We haven’t forgotten a kid in the car, but my husband did once forget that it was his turn to pick our daughter up from daycare. I worked part-time at that point and he only had to pick her up once or twice a week, so it wasn’t a daily habit. He showed up at home one Friday evening without her… and the thing was her daycare was close to his work, and about half an hour in traffic from our house, so it was nearly an hour round-trip extra for him to have to go back for her. I was so annoyed, but she was fine and he never made that mistake again ;-).

    I think these things are more likely when they’re not routine. Get out of the usual pattern, and things slip between the cracks. I’m sure the extra hour in traffic at the end of a long day was a good deterrent. Nothing like those natural consequences for learning lessons!

    Comment by Anita | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  14. I saw a woman on a talk show relatively recently, whose husband always took the baby to daycare. One morning, for a change, she had to take the baby on her way to work, and forgot the child was in the car. It was summer, and the baby died. (The whole program made me sob and sob, watching it!) The woman was beyond devastated.

    The talk show’s advice? To get into the habit of putting your handbag or briefcase or wallet beside the baby in the back seat, so when you get out of the car, and automatically reach for that essential accessory, you see the baby. It makes a lot of sense to me! Bess is four months old next week, and twice in that four months I’ve startled myself while running errands, as I suddenly realized I’d forgotten she was in the car with me. I keep my wallet and cell phone in her diaper bag (no reason to carry a diaper bag and a handbag!) and the diaper bag rides beside her car seat in the back, always.

    Oh, that poor, poor woman. I cannot imagine the devastation. Did their marriage survive, I wonder?

    Leaving something important beside the car seat is a brilliant idea. Now, several commenters have already mentioned forgetting keys in their car with their child, so even this excellent idea isn’t foolproof, but it’s still well worth getting into that habit. Thanks for passing along the tip!

    Comment by Carolie | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  15. I can’t help but think that this has been happening since the beginning of time. Even one of the christian gospels has the story of Mary and Joseph forgetting Jesus at the temple on a high holy day because they thought he was with someone else (Jesus’ response was pure child – you should have known I would be here!) I wish I could remember the verses.

    That’s a great comment. I particularly like your remark that his response was “pure child” — because it absolutely was, and I hadn’t thought of it before. (I recall being told he was likely 12-ish at this time. A tween! So yes, just exactly how they think!)

    Comment by Chinook | August 16, 2011 | Reply

    • I thought of this only because it would make a good come back to some of the self righteous out there, not because I am some religious nut.

      Not to worry! The thought didn’t even cross my mind. You don’t have to be a religious nut to be familiar with the Bible. It is, after all, part of the cultural heritage of many people on this continent.

      Comment by Chinook | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  16. I haven’t left a child anywhere, but I did manage to lock them, along with my car keys, in our car on a hot, sunny day. Then I had to leave them there while I ran back into the grocery store to use their phone to call my husband to bring extra keys. It only took about 15 minutes for the whole episode, but they were hot, red and sweaty by the time we got the door open.

    Oh, those must have been a terrifying few minutes! I’m so glad it had a happy ending. I would suggest, though, that calling 911 would have been an even better response. Depending on the weather, the age of the child, how hydrated they happen to be, etc., 15 minutes could be too long. 911 is faster.

    My mother-in-law had her twin 3 year olds (one of whom is now my husband) manage to get themselves on a hotel elevator right as the doors shut. That was a panicky moment for her, as she had no idea where or when they were going to get off the elevator. And I can’t remember the specifics right now, but there was also an incident (this time with my father-in-law) when one child either missed getting on or off of the subway with him, leaving the dad to figure out if the son was going to follow him on the next train or if he should go back once the train stopped.

    All heart-stopping moments, and yet we are all loving and attentive parents.

    And everyone is alive and happy. It’s not that anyone was being foolish and putting their child at unnecessary risk. They were just the sorts of things that do happen, that you try very hard to prevent… but which sometimes, despite your best efforts, happen anyway.

    Comment by karyn | August 16, 2011 | Reply

    • Calling my husband was as good as calling 911, because he is a police officer and was working nearby at the time! It was slightly awkward having a marked police car show up in the parking lot, but at least my hero looked good in his uniform! hee

      Comment by Tuesy | August 17, 2011 | Reply

      • Whoops, I put Tuesy by mistake, it’s still karyn!

        Comment by karyn | August 17, 2011

  17. I recently was viewing one of those “fail” sites and they had a picture of a car where they parents had taped to the front dashboard a sign that said “Is the baby in the car” I thought it was wonderful. I think we are hearing about this happening more and more because there is less routine in our lives. Mom drops off today dad does tomorrow, grandma the next day.

    I think the people who would call that a parenting “fail” are people who don’t have kids. I think it’s brilliant, and probably put there by a parent who forgot once — or who knows how absent-minded they are. 😀

    I agree: when we don’t have a routine, these incidents are more likely. When we’re doing something out of the routine (as this family was), they’re more likely. (And they had a newborn, which throws routine right out the window!!!) You can be as alert as humanly possible, but humans are not perfect. The phrase “as well as humanly possible” acknowledges that mistakes can still be made, despite best efforts.

    Comment by heather | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  18. Thank heavens the baby was ok. Stories like this break my heart. There was one I read which I would BURN from my brain if I could – a courtroom description of a guilt-stricken father’s reaction to his child’s post mortem being read in court… ARGH. That one keeps me up, nights.

    I have often made the conscious decision to NOT watch, read, or listen to things like that. Too tragic, too horrifying. When there’s nothing I could do to make it better, or could learn from it… no, I don’t, as you say, want those images in my brain. (Sometimes they take you by surprise and you can’t avoid them. But where I can, I just don’t.)

    We have one of those mirrors you can buy for, like, 5 bucks at the drugstore that reflects the baby’s face into your rearview mirror, so every time you look up, you see your baby…

    Another good tip. Between you and Carolie, we won’t lose any babies in carseats on this blog! Thank you.

    Comment by IfByYes | August 16, 2011 | Reply

  19. A baby died from hyperthermia in a car here in St. Louis a few years back–same thing. Mom thought Dad took baby to care, and vice versa. Dad got to work and baby was in the car. No criminal charges were sought, and I think the community was ok with it. It was so sad. Not at all what they planned. And in Southern Missouri this week two 2 year old twin girls climbed into grandma’s car while grandma was napping and got locked in and died from the heat. Fuzzier, maybe, but still. Awful. Thank God that baby was ok. I would have died from the guilt.

    The tragedies just make you sick to your stomach, don’t they? I always feel a gut-wrenching empathy for the parents… and you know, even if they’d done something obviously foolish (one can certainly argue napping while the kids are awake, particularly if you’re a sound sleeper falls in that category), that doesn’t change my response. You’re right, that one’s fuzzier, and there might be blame to toss around… but does that help anyone? Can you imagine that grandmother’s guilt? What happens to her relationship with her child, the twins’ parent? I think I’d want to die, myself. Truly.

    Comment by Bridgett | August 17, 2011 | Reply

  20. We lost Grace at the swimming pool when she was about 15 months – we lost the car keys, and I emptied out my bag over and over on the floor, while my husband went to ask at reception. Both thought the other had grace, and actually she was just wandering about. We were even with another friend, but she was attending to her son – so three adults to two children. We searched for her for 15 mins in the building, thinking that she couldn’t possibly have got out, before we realised that both sets of reception doors were automatic. She had wandered into the car park (just at car bumper height). Thankfully someone was walking her back in as we realised and were racing out terrified. Add in some stress or unusual circumstances and I think most parents can understand this kind of thing happening. We try not to feel too guilty about it, but suffice to say, Grace is *very* aware of car park safety now, and won’t enter a car park unless she is holding an adult’s hand!

    I’m sure the emotional voltage coming off her parents, even if you were trying not to alarm her, would have been enough to sear that awareness into her! She wouldn’t understand exactly what risks she was running, but she would know, from the terror you would be radiating, that something VERY BAD can happen in car parks! As for you, it’s one of those times when you shudder at the thought of what could have happened, and breathe a sigh of heart-felt relief that it didn’t. And gives you compassion for those who had a similar experience, but with tragic consequences.

    Comment by Angie | August 17, 2011 | Reply

  21. Another comment. Something I’ve learned since becoming a parent and my biggest piece of advice to new parents has always been to never say “I would never…” I have a friend who constantly, while out with me and my children, would remark that “you or your children would never…have a tantrum, yell in a store, run into the parking lot, etc.” And I have always remarked back “Of course they will. They’re children, I’m human. Don’t slap me with these unattainable goals.”

    Now, instead of feeling contempt and irritation with the woman in the grocery store who has a child in mid-meltdown, I just feel bad and wish that I could help out. I have totally been there and I hate that half of the frustration you feel is with the adults that are walking around judging you.

    Your friend is complementing you, of course, and expressing her respect for your parenting. But you’re right: “never” and “always” are, um, never accurate, at least not in the realm of human behaviour. No one is perfect, no one is 100% consistent.

    I do get annoyed with parents of kids in mid-meltdown… but only when I see that it’s parental mishandling of the situation that has created and maintains it. Sometimes, though, kids just do what they do, and all you can do is damage control!

    Comment by Dani | August 17, 2011 | Reply

  22. When my daughter was 18 months old, we went for a weekend to the seashore with some friends, and on the last day, while I was cleaning and my husband was packing the car, we both thought the other person had their eye on her and she wandered off. Something went “ping!” in my brain and I went to ask my husband if he had her, then when we realized neither of us had her, nor was she with our friends (whose daughters were, of course, close by their parents), we went frantically running around trying to find her. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life. My husband’s friend found her – she had crossed the (thankfully quiet) street and was halfway through a field, heading in the direction of the sea. I have never been so terrified in my entire life, nor so relieved to see someone. When I told my mom what had happened, she laughed and said “she has your genes!” Because when I was 2 and a half, I went missing for about an hour. My parents thought I had drowned in our pond or had wandered into the woods, but luckily, I had followed the family dog up the road about a mile, and ended up at a neighbor’s house. I guess my daughter was continuing a family tradition, but for everyone’s sake I hope it stops with her.

    You’ve reminded me of a story in my ex-husband’s family whereby 4-year-old son went missing for long enough that the police were called in.He was found, a couple of miles from home, walking alongside a very busy street. He’d found a nickel while playing in his front yard, and had decided to walk into town (several miles away) to spend it!

    Usually, having two parents to care for a child is a good thing, but sometimes it just helps lose track of them!

    Comment by Kiera | August 17, 2011 | Reply

  23. When my daughter went to rainbows a neighbour and I took it it turns to pick up the girls and they would often play together for a few minutes, one day the other mum just forgot my daughter and the first thing I knew was the group leader calling me to see if anyone was picking up my daughter! That arrangement ended that day!

    When Jon and I had to take a 60 mile round trip for a hospital appointment for Jack, we asked my mum to pick up and Jude and his friend who I looked after after school. At 4pm the school rang to say no one had picked them up and they were playing in the after school club, my mum had gone down the garden and lost track of time completely! My brother took the call from me as the school had rung her but no one had answered the call, I could hear her crying in the background as she realized and ran past him to the car to drive to the school!

    So as yet I havnt left my kids anywhere but other people have…

    Comment by jenny uk | August 18, 2011 | Reply

  24. As a child passenger safety technician in the US, I tend to hear about most of these stories (at least the ones that end badly). I’ve given it much, much thought over the past few years. Honestly, I think that anyone who has the “*I* would never do that!” mentality is simply naive and not a little bit self-righteous.

    Comment by BookMama | August 28, 2011 | Reply

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