Are we at the point where parents should never leave their kids in the car for any amount of time, even when the weather is mild and they're just running into the store for a minute? That's the question at the center of this viral post from Reddit's "Am I the A-hole?"
"I was at the grocery store this evening and as I was getting out of my car, I saw a woman leaving her car and going into the store with a young toddler (one or two) still in the back seat," the poster writes. Remembering those news stories of parents accidentally leaving their children in the backs of hot cars, she stepped up to the woman and said, "Oh hey, ma'am, your kid is still in there."
But she knew! She replied, "Thanks for your concern, but it'll only be a minute," and continued to walk away. But the poster was really worried and wouldn't let it go. She ran up to her and told her she couldn't just leave her kid in the car. The mom responded with something like, "You're clearly young. You might think you know everything about parenting and raising a kid, but someday when you have a baby, you'll have a day like this and realize how ridiculous it is to take up a sleeping baby when you're just running in to buy one thing."
I understand where this mom is coming from. Why wake a baby, set up a stroller, and risk a meltdown just so you can get the loaf of bread you need for dinner? However, you just don't know what people's intentions are sometimes, and I don't fault the poster for being a bit concerned in the first place.
Eventually, the mom went into the store and left her kid asleep in the back seat. After two or three minutes of standing there worrying, the poster called the police. Just as the police arrived, the mom exited the store. "I spoke with the police and gave a statement," the poster writes, "but she was hysterically crying saying she was just in there for a minute and why was it a police matter, etc." Now, the poster is wondering whether they did the right thing.
Commenters were pretty divided on this one. Some believe there is never an excuse to leave a kid in a car alone ever, for any amount of time, in any weather. Others argued that, because it was likely mild outside and because the mom knew she'd only be a minute, it was fine, and the poster overstepped by almost immediately calling the cops.
Personally, when I was little, my mom would leave my siblings and me in the car while she ran into the store all the time. Now, as far as I remember, it was usually at least two of us, which might make a difference. But that was pretty standard back in the '90s.
Of course, there are several factors at play here. If it was, say, 90 degrees out, I'd say the mom was doing something dangerous and action should have been taken. As one commenter wrote, "It's important to look at these things rationally. You saw a child in a locked car, and the mom told you she was going to be back in a minute.
"You immediately began fearing for the child's safety, but what logical reason did you have to fear? The weather is nice out... Were you worried about abduction? That is so remote a possibility that it really shouldn't be a concern... If you think about it logically, the car was the safest place for the toddler. So why did you panic and call the cops?"
Another commenter wrote, "I respect where the OP is coming from and believe they meant well — but think that they (and unfortunately so so many other people) don’t understand how they’ve been influenced by this (unwarranted) mass hysteria around supposed child endangerment, perpetuated by social media (and the media in general).
"As a child therapist, I very much see that this unwarranted fear over children’s safety ‘nowadays’ is much more likely to be dangerous for their wellbeing than any of these perceived risks."
It's true that we've been conditioned to think children are neglected any time they're perceived to be alone. Cops have been called on parents whose kids were playing by themselves at the park near their house.
Incidents like this Reddit post, where neighbors or strangers make a snap judgment and get law enforcement involved, are on the rise. Often, it ends with kids facing more traumatic situations involving the police and CPS than if they were just allowed to play in the park, walk home, or sleep in the car themselves.
I'm not a parent, so it's hard to know how I would feel in any of these situations. But I think we're heading down a bad path if we're constantly calling the cops every time we see a kid alone.