I remember the first time I heard about a baby being accidentally left in a hot car. I was working for the Red Cross and my boss was about to have her first baby. We discussed how on earth something like that could happen. She expressed an understanding and fear that the same thing could happen to her. I, however, as a newly married and childless 22-year old could not possibly see how such a thing could ever happen to a loving, attentive parent. How do you forget your own child?
Of course, that was nearly 15 years ago. I’ve now weathered the difficult waters of infancy and toddlerhood as a parent. I now completely understand how such a terribly tragic mistake could occur. As a parent, especially a new parent, we are surrounded by a swirling vortex of sleep-deprivation and chaos, the likes of which can make your freshman year in college look like a cake walk. Our list of a million modern day things to keep track of suddenly jumps to over a billion little details that our highly adpated, yet still human minds, must coordinate. Pack the bottles, brush teeth (mine, not the baby’s), bathe two humans, get dressed, check for spit up stains, pack the nursing cover up, diapers, wipes, sun hat, sunscreen, matching shoes (mine AND the baby’s), finger foods, water and snacks (mine, not the baby’s), changing pad, change of clothes (mine AND baby’s), plastic bag for poopy diapers. The list is truly endless. Add to that list work obligations, car trouble, meetings, flights, meal plans, etc. and it soon becomes quite easy to imagine yourself doing the unthinkable.
In a gut wrenching article on the topic of parents who forget their children in their carseats, Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, does a terrific job of presenting a very human view of the parents who have done such a thing. The article is long, but well worth the read. It will make an impression on your brain, no matter how busy and cluttered it may be, and hopefully, on a very busy day when the details your brain continually tracks are beginning to slip, this article will still be there in the back of your mind preventing another unthinkable and horrifying death.
Here are a few of the suggestions from KidsAndCars.org about minimizing your risk of leaving your child in his or her carseat:
Always put something you'll need for work -- cellphone, handbag, employee badge, etc. -- on the floor of the back seat, near the child.
Keep a large teddy bear in the child's car seat when it's not occupied. When the child is placed in the seat, put the teddy bear up front in the passenger seat. It's a visual reminder that anytime the teddy bear is in the passenger seat, the child is in the back.
Make arrangements with your child's day-care provider or babysitter that you will always call them if your child will not be there on a particular day as scheduled. Ask them to always phone you if your child does not show up when expected.