Leaving sleeping children in the car for under 3 minutes - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 08:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Our au pair just came home in tears. It seems that she was out with the boys and wanted to take them to the playground, but didn't have any water or milk and she knew they'd be thirsty (they often have snacks after the playground).

So she stopped off at 7-11 to grab a bottle of water and a bottle of milk. When she parked, right outside the door, she realized the boys were asleep.

So she got out, locked the car door, walked the 20 feet to the 7-11 (with its huge windows so she could see there was no line) and went to buy the water/milk. It was, btw, 60 degrees outside and she parked in the shade. She could see the car while inside.

When she came out (total time inside was under 3 minutes), a woman she'd never seen before started yelling at her for leaving the boys in the car unattended and threatened to call the police, called her negligent, trying to harm the boys, etc.

Our au pair is from Brazil and leaving kids in the car is quite normal there. She was really shaken up by the experience - she didn't know what to say and felt quite attacked (especially not being the mom and not being a citizen), so she didn't defend herself - instead she quickly got in the car and drove away. She said she couldn't stop crying for a good 30 minutes and had to come home early because she was so upset.

My husband and I are appalled that a complete stranger would just attack her like that - if this woman had been really concerned, she could have approached her differently and expressed her worries - but instead, she attacked her and made all sorts of accusations.

Our au pair, btw, is an exceptionally responsible girl. She is 24, very honest, very good judgment, and is someone who I completely trust with the boys.

I am just so angry that this happened. It just strikes me as complete overkill to get so worked up over a stranger briefly leaving two sleeping kids in a locked car in a safe neighborhood when there is no danger of heat exhaustion or exposure.

Thoughts?

You know the attributes for a great adult? Initiative, creativity, intellectual curiosity? They make for a helluva kid...
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#2 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:01 PM
 
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I would do the same as your au pair.

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#3 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:08 PM
 
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I, honestly, would have just driven off without the juice. I am not comfortable leaving my kids in the car for the 30 seconds it takes to carry one of them up the stairs (we live on the second floor) from the car if they are both sleeping. I've been known to ask a neighbor who is mowing the lawn to watch the car for me

That being said, if I saw two kids sleeping in a car, I'd watch the car until the guardian came back and mention to the grown-up that I am personally not comfortable leaving kids alone in a car, so I watched out for them....

This would probably creep out the guardian quite a bit and they may never leave the kids alone again which would be fine with me.

No need to scream
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#4 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:10 PM
 
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I think it's actually against the law in many states.

But it's hard to see the actual harm in the situation you described.
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#5 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:10 PM
 
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I personally think there is a happy medium in all things.

It used to be accepted and normal to be too laid back....... no car seats, swatting, yelling, spanking, kids running all over the neighborhood up to no good.

Now the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme.... where common sense isn't allowed to dictate that there are some circumstances where the "rules" can bend a bit. Now we're seeing a generation of kids so overprotected they are like animals in cages afraid of their own shadows.

Poor girl. She must've felt awful.
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#6 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:13 PM
 
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I'm sorry to hear your au pair was so traumatized. Sounds like the person who confronted her was over the top. The issue has been in the news so much recently that she probably just got all zealous about saving a life or something like that.
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#7 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:20 PM
 
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I'm with you. I've left my boys safely buckled in their seats to run into a gas station many times. If I can see the car at all times, it isn't too hot outside, and I'll only be a couple of minutes I have no issue with it. Here in my state it isn't illegal. It is illegal to leave kids in a running car. I'd never do that anyway though...

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#8 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:27 PM
 
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Personally I wouldn't do it...
I thought it was against the law?

Amanda , mama to my two boys: N (10/06) and : A (7/09)
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#9 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:31 PM
 
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There's something of a moral panic about this particular issue these days and it's sounds like the yelling person is a part of that. I leave my kids in the car in front of 7-11 all the time in front of the doors/windows, locked in for a couple of minutes while I grab stuff. I simply cannot find a problem with that. I dare someone to try to yell at me over it.
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#10 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:40 PM
 
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I'm going to have to disagree with the PPs and say that I think the au pair was just plain wrong to leave the kids alone. I would not have been comfortable if my nanny did that. I wouldn't worry about heat in the scenario you described, but about not being able to get to them quickly in case of an emergency, or mistakenly locking keys in the car, or one of the kids waking up and being scared and confused.

In my state it is illegal for licensed family daycare providers to leave a child unattended in a car... at all. I know that's not the same as an au pair, but the concept is the same.

If it were me, I'd wait until my boys woke up and go in all together (since we're going to the park anyhow... they need to wake up for that) or go through the Dunkin Doughnuts drive thru for water/milk, or I would have foregone the drinks.
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#11 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:40 PM
 
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Depending on where you live, I wouldn't think twice about leaving kids in the car for a few minutes. In my area, I would never do it. But, I don't live in the kind of place you can do that.

I understand why she would feel like it is reasonable to leave them in the car for a few minutes.

Just explain to her that here in America, it isn't considered normal, and she should probably just go home if they are asleep.

I'm sorry she felt attacked. I wish people would say what they want to say with a little more compassion.
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#12 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:41 PM
 
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I personally never leave my boys in the car by themselves, even for a minute. Even though it is a pain in the tush to have to get them out of their car seats if I am just running in I still can't do it. What if that was the one time something unthinkable would happen.

The person who yelled at your Au Pair was in the wrong, who yells at strangers? Like a PP mentioned, I would watch the car to make sure they were ok although I don't think I would approach the person. It's my opinion that you don't leave your kids in the car...ever...that doesn't mean everyone needs to either agree with me or get yelled at.
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#13 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:47 PM
 
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I don't think she did anything wrong.

The only reason I would never, personally, leave my kids in the car like that is because of people like the woman who attacked your au pair. I would be afraid of someone calling CPS on me or something else equally ludicrous but dangerous nonetheless.

Too many people today are paranoid and overprotective . . . not especially good for anyone, especially the kids.

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#14 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by aran View Post
I'm going to have to disagree with the PPs and say that I think the au pair was just plain wrong to leave the kids alone. I would not have been comfortable if my nanny did that. I wouldn't worry about heat in the scenario you described, but about not being able to get to them quickly in case of an emergency, or mistakenly locking keys in the car, or one of the kids waking up and being scared and confused.

In my state it is illegal for licensed family daycare providers to leave a child unattended in a car... at all. I know that's not the same as an au pair, but the concept is the same.

If it were me, I'd wait until my boys woke up and go in all together (since we're going to the park anyhow... they need to wake up for that) or go through the Dunkin Doughnuts drive thru for water/milk, or I would have foregone the drinks.
Ditto. Leaving the children was unnacceptable.
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#15 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:50 PM
 
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I got chewed out for doing this one time. I live in a small town and this was actually on the outskirts in front of a place called the Country Deli. I ran in to grab and pay for my sandwiches which I had preordered... the car was locked with windows up (cool day) and came out and a woman yelled at me.

I've heard stories about kids being snatched when the car was running or left open. But I've never heard of an instance of someone breaking into a locked car and stealing the kids while the mother was right there in view. It seems safe to me to lock a car and run in somewhere. But again, I live in a pretty safe area. If I lived in a city or suburbs, I would feel more wierd about it but even that could be perception. Honestly, I worry more about someone yelling at me than anything happening to my kids.

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#16 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:54 PM
 
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I have yelled at someone who left their kiddo alone in a car. I would rather have some adult feel righteous/sad/attacked/whatever than to have an innocent child hurt.

If I had been you I would have been outraged AT THE AU PAIR. I wouldn't allow her to watch my kids. :
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#17 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 09:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by milkmamma View Post
What if that was the one time something unthinkable would happen.
I guess I just cannot think what could happen to them?

They are strapped into their carseats and are asleep, so they aren't going anywhere. The car is locked, and in plain view of many people, so the likelihood of someone stealing the car (a 97 ford contour, so not valuable) or the kids (you ever try lifting a sleeping 4 year old out of a carseat quietly without anyone noticing?) is pretty darn low.

Sure, another car could hit the car, but that could happen at any time, au pair in the car or not, so not sure how her presence prevents it (in fact, being outside the car may help her get the kids out, vs if she were trapped in the car too).

I did hear once about a family where the kids got into some matches while mom was running an errand, but in my mind the problem there was leaving matches around small kids, and not leaving them in the car.

I don't meant to be snarky, but I am seriously puzzled by what unforeseen tragedy would be likely to occur in that time period that her presence would prevent?

Not to say that anyone should be comfortable with it if they aren't - but I am just trying to assess risk here, and the risk, honestly, to me seems very very low.

You know the attributes for a great adult? Initiative, creativity, intellectual curiosity? They make for a helluva kid...
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#18 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 10:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have yelled at someone who left their kiddo alone in a car. I would rather have some adult feel righteous/sad/attacked/whatever than to have an innocent child hurt.

If I had been you I would have been outraged AT THE AU PAIR. I wouldn't allow her to watch my kids. :
well, since I have done it myself - run in to pay for gas, left my kid sleeping in the car in the carport (right next to the house), left my car for a few moments with the boys inside to get the paper or talk to a neighbor or get the phone, I clearly don't see an issue with it.

Again, we are not talking hours or even 10s of minutes. I wouldn't leave a child in a running car or in an unsafe neighborhood.

I guess I am not comfortable with the blanket belief that car=dangerous.

You know the attributes for a great adult? Initiative, creativity, intellectual curiosity? They make for a helluva kid...
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#19 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 10:09 PM
 
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If she realized the boys were asleep, continuing to the park was not a good idea.

Running into a store, for "just 3 minutes" is an even worse idea.

Running into a store, for "just 3 minutes", taking her eyes away from the window to grab the drinks, look in her wallet to pay, etc. is a HORRIBLE idea!

I would have done the same as the lady who yelled at her, honestly. With as many kids that are forgotten about in cars and have died in the past few years, it should be repeated constantly that we simply do not leave kids in the car alone.
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#20 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 10:12 PM
 
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I think it is against the law here in California to leave children in a car and enter a store. It doesn't matter how long it takes you to go into the store and back to the car--it doesn't matter what the weather, etc. If I had seen the kids in the car, you would have a broken window--I wouldn't have hesitated to break the window and get the kids out.

I am sorry that your au pair was so frightened, but you should take this as an eye opener, and make sure she is familiar with all the laws and cultural customs of the US in relation to children.


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#21 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 10:15 PM
 
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I guess I am not comfortable with the blanket belief that car=dangerous.
Me neither. I think that belief is ridiculous and illogical. Sure, you can think of horrible things that could potentially happen while kids are left alone in a car for a few minutes, but aren't there just as many horrible things that could potentially happen if you get the kids out and take them in? A careless driver could hit a kid walking across the parking lot, or an armed robber could come into the store and start shooting, or someone could grab a kid and run away with him . . . Of course none of those things are likely enough to worry about, but I don't think they're any less likely than, say, the possibility of someone breaking into the car and trying to abduct a kid.
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#22 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 10:16 PM
 
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I guess I am not comfortable with the blanket belief that car=dangerous.
Especially if it is locked, everyone is strapped in and a sleep, it's cool, in a safe neighborhood and it's in full view for the all of 3 minutes that you're getting a drink for them.

It'd be far easier for someone to corner and carry off a child in a park.

I don't think the au pair did anything wrong, especially since in her country it is the norm. And I'm sure she'll never do it again, given the verbal abuse. That is why I don't leave my kids in the car no matter how safe. I'm less worried about someone stealing the car, more worried about someone deciding to call CPS.
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#23 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 10:21 PM
 
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Again the fear our culture has instilled in us doen't allow adults to make a pretty harmless decision without being verbally ATTACKED and am appaled people here would have done the same thing I coud unserstand mentioning that you dont think its legal and she should look into that before she does it again but to rip her a new one is just plain wrong.
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#24 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 10:21 PM
 
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Me neither. I think that belief is ridiculous and illogical. Sure, you can think of horrible things that could potentially happen while kids are left alone in a car for a few minutes, but aren't there just as many horrible things that could potentially happen if you get the kids out and take them in? A careless driver could hit a kid walking across the parking lot, or an armed robber could come into the store and start shooting, or someone could grab a kid and run away with him . . . Of course none of those things are likely enough to worry about, but I don't think they're any less likely than, say, the possibility of someone breaking into the car and trying to abduct a kid.
Yep. You're more likely to get killed by a car walking across a parking lot carrying a chiihld than your child is likely to be taken out of a locked car. And if someone wanted to steal a child, what's easier? Knocking you down and taking the child vs. having to break into a locked car?

I agree that there are times/places situations where its not appropriate, but to turn it into a blanket "you can't walk more than 10 feet from your car with kids in it" is hysteria in the other direction. I once had someone tell me that she wouldn't walk four parking spots down to a cart corral in the supermarket parking lot because that was "leaving your kids in the car." I just have to disagree and leave it there.

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#25 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 10:25 PM
 
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I wouldn't have yelled at her, but I wouldn't have approved of it, either.
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#26 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 10:26 PM
 
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I guess I just cannot think what could happen to them?
That is why they call it the UNTHINKABLE.

If you google around you can find all kinds of stories: cars stolen, cars reposed, cars mistakenly reposed, accidents, kidnapping, injury, etc.

I am not saying that I cannot imagine a scenario where I would decide to leave my kid in the car. In a true emergency they may be safer in the car. However, running into the 7-11 to buy juice is not one of those cases. I value my kids, and their safety too much to chance anything.
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#27 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 10:43 PM
 
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Again the fear our culture has instilled in us doen't allow adults to make a pretty harmless decision without being verbally ATTACKED and am appaled people here would have done the same thing I coud unserstand mentioning that you dont think its legal and she should look into that before she does it again but to rip her a new one is just plain wrong.
Sorry. I wasn't thinking that neglect of children was harmless, and personally I wouldn't want to stand there with a stopwatch to determine of the adult was coming back soon and the degree of neglect involved. I'd rather jump the gun and try to protect the kids - option A being calling the police and letting them know that two kids were left in a car, and option B being dialing the cops, seeing the adult, and laying into her for being so careless - especially with someone else's kids.

At least one of the OP's kids is at the age where s/he could unbuckle if awake, and wander into the parking lot to look for this missing adult.
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#28 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 10:48 PM
 
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the stranger shouldn't have yelled maybe, but the au pair was totally in the wrong, full stop. you do not leave kids alone in a car ever. completely aside from stranger-danger (which is totally overblown), there are so many cases where one kid unbuckles, or unbuckles the other kid, opens the windows, puts the care into neutral and it starts to roll...

in any case, she is paid to mind the children, and she wasn't minding them. it's just irresponsible.
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#29 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 10:50 PM
 
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I think with better planning and foresight on the part of your au pair, she would not have had to choose between leaving your children in the car or waking them up to buy drinks.
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#30 of 407 Old 09-20-2007, 10:56 PM
 
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I think with better planning and foresight on the part of your au pair, she would not have had to choose between leaving your children in the car or waking them up to buy drinks.


I never, ever, go out without taking water with me- and when I had little kids, I always had snacks AND drinks with me. If we finish the water, I refill the bottle(s) in a water fountain or public bathroom sink.

If I'd found myself out without drinks, I would have simply skipped the trip to the park and gone right home.

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