Post 14: My Moral Dilemma About A Child Left Alone In The Car

To the lady who left her son alone in the car,

I don’t know you. I only know that I was angry when I saw your little boy alone in the blue minivan that was parked next to mine this morning.

At first, I didn’t even realize that he was there. I had just dropped off my four-year old son at summer camp. It’s his third day of camp with a new group of kids and he’s still adjusting. So when I walked back to the parking lot, pushing my daughter in her stroller, all of my thoughts were with my son.

As I carried my daughter from the stroller to the parking lot, I glanced over my shoulder. I saw a pair of large brown eyes peering at me from inside the blue minivan parked next to ours. I didn’t really think about it. This school is populated with helicopter parents. I assumed that there was an adult in the car with him. I buckled my daughter into her car seat, before closing the sliding door and turning around. And that’s when I realized that the little boy was alone in the blue minivan.

Your little boy looks like he’s close to my son’s age. Maybe one year younger. All of the tinted windows in your van were rolled down 2-3 inches. You obviously know that today is going to be a hot summer day. It was after 9 A.M. when I saw your son. I could already feel the sun beating down on me as I stood between our two minivans.

Your boy was also standing up. He poked his nose out the window. Maybe he was hot. I didn’t know how long he had been left alone in the car, so I asked him, “Where are your mommy and daddy?”

He didn’t answer me. I found it ironic that you’ve probably taught your son not to speak with strangers. I tried again. “Are they inside the school?”

He hesitated, and nodded. “My mommy is in there.”

Slightly relieved, but irritated, I asked one more question. “Is she dropping someone off ?”

He said something I couldn’t quite make out, but I was under the impression that you, Fellow Mommy, were there for the same reason I was. To drop off an older child at camp.

I told your little boy that I would be in the car right next to him if he needed something, and he nodded again. Then I slipped into the driver’s seat of my minivan and turned on the air conditioning for my own daughter. Because it was already getting that warm.

I admit it. I was pissed off at you. Who would leave a little kid unattended in the car like that? He wasn’t even buckled into his car seat. He was climbing over the front seats like a jungle gym. My knee-jerk reaction was to call the school’s security office and let them handle it.

Yeah, it’s hard having more than one kid at pick-up and drop-off time. I get it. It would be a lot easier if I could just leave my one-year old daughter in the car by herself for a few minutes while I drop her four-year old brother off at camp. And I admit that I’ve thought about it during milder weather. But I wouldn’t do that. Because even though the likelihood of something bad happening is small, it still exists. And I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to my daughter the one time I took the easy way out.

But that’s my choice. And this morning, you, Fellow Mommy, made yours.

So there I sat, in judgment of what I should do about your choice. And that’s the core of what bothered me. Why did you put me in this position? I didn’t want to judge you, but I did. I thought that you did something incredibly stupid. I thought that you took an unnecessary risk. I get that you’re tired and you want one thing to be easy in your incredibly difficult day. Believe me, I understand. But this isn’t the thing that you should make easier on yourself. Get fast food for lunch today. Turn on the TV a little longer this afternoon. But, for God’s sake, don’t leave your kid in the car unattended.

Fellow Mommy, I was torn. The easy thing for me to do would have been to just call campus security and wash my hands of this whole situation. But I didn’t want to do that to you. Because what if you’re actually a really great mother?  What if you would normally never do this?  What if today you just felt tired and overwhelmed? What if you were so close to the breaking point that you made this incredibly stupid decision? Do you deserve to have your children taken away from you by the CPS for one stupid decision? Because these days, something like that could happen.

After ten minutes of waiting and watching, I didn’t think so. You don’t deserve to lose your children. But you do need a warning. So I picked up the phone and called the front desk of the school. After explaining the situation, I told the front desk assistant that I didn’t want you, Fellow Mommy, to get in trouble with the authorities.  The school should warn you not to do this again.

While I was speaking with the front desk, you, Fellow Mommy, approached your minivan, quickly got in without a glance in my direction and drove away. I didn’t get the chance to talk with you, but I did report what you looked like.

Should I have minded my own business and just left your little boy alone? Some people may think so, but it didn’t feel right to just drive away. Did I do the wrong thing by not calling the police? I hope not. Only time will tell. I hope that when the school contacts you and gives you a warning, you’ll do better next time.

MY COMMENTS:

This piece was rejected by both Scary Mommy (Rejection #7) and The Mid (Rejection #8).  The lady who rejected it at Scary Mommy called it “thought provoking” but said she didn’t have a place for it.  The person at The Mid just rejected it.  I’m not sure where to go from here.

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5 thoughts on “Post 14: My Moral Dilemma About A Child Left Alone In The Car

  1. M. Talmage Moorehead says:

    When I read this, I thought you did the right thing by sitting there and keeping an eye on the kid until his Mom came back. To me, that is the objective focal point of the story, the thing that makes you the hero in my thought process. When I think about the emotional focus of the story, for me, I want it to be the perspective of the kid… the things that you imagine are going through his head, frightening him, worrying him. The things that show me exactly how this boy suffered in this situation, even though no bad guys came and kidnapped him and the sun didn’t seem to damage his health as far as we can tell. It sounds like this approach may not be possible because he was climbing over the seats having fun.

    The way the story reads now, the emotional focal point is your personal anger and sense of outrage at the boy’s mother. While that’s understandable, and in my opinion helpful to society, there is a knee-jerk emotional reaction in many readers against anyone who dares make a value judgement against another person. Of course, there are PC exceptions to this, but none of them includes a struggling mother, as far as I know. I would guess that if you re-wrote this piece to perhaps make it more of a frustrated question (What should I have done? Why do I feel guilty for doing the right thing? Why do I feel uneasy about being so angry at this child’s mother? Or even the question, did I overreact?) rather than an angry personal reprimand to another mother, it would be accepted for publication. It’s excellent writing and held my interest from top to bottom. Thanks for posting it! 🙂

    Talmage

    Liked by 1 person

    • T.D. Donley says:

      Thank you for your feedback! I actually agree with you on my tone… I was writing it to be intentionally judgmental because the site I submitted it to seems to like “shit stirring” essays. This rejection was likely a good thing in the long run – I don’t like writing like this. It feels too contrived. I’m focusing on this blog now!
      Before I forget, my email address is awritingmamasjournal@gmail.com. I know you gave me your on one of these posts, but I figure I’d drop send you my email here too. Looking forward to talking with you!

      Liked by 1 person

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