Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is it ever safe to leave your kids in the car?

Here's the scenario: You've got two kids, both in car seats and one has to be carried. You need to run to the convenience store for a gallon of milk, or the cash machine, or the dry cleaner - each of these tasks taking, maybe, 3 minutes tops to get in, get what you need and get out.

Each of these tasks have their own hassles when dealing with little ones - you need to tell your preschooler repeatedly that no, they can't have a candy bar; you have to juggle awkward dry cleaning on hangers with their large plastic coverings while trying to keep the plastic out of your baby's mouth and trying not to drop the baby or the dry cleaning.

You park in front and can clearly see the car from the window.

Maybe the weather is crummy. Maybe it's not.

Here's the question: Do you leave your kids inside the car with the doors locked while you run inside? Or do you unbuckle everyone and march them inside for what could amount to a 60 second errand? And what is your decision based on? Location, weather, age of the children, or other factors?

I'm genuinely interested in what you have to say on this. Discuss.


tracey said...

wow! this is a tough one. i would have to say though, for me the mother of one, i don't ever do it. for no reason other than the "what if." i know i couldn't live with myself if something did happen, so i just avoid it all together by not doing it. she comes in with me every time.

Anonymous said...

There is always the "what-ifs" so err of the side of caution. I went drop of a prescription the other day and parked right up front. Grabbed the baby and headed in. It was LESS than a minute before i headed back to the car... the bank next door was robbed in that 1 minute i was gone. My head did the "what-ifs"... never good to leave a kid alone in the car.

Plus, here in Florida I am quite sure you can be arrested on the SPOT if caught even for 10 seconds... other than pumping gas!

The ONLY time ours are left in the car seats is in the gas station, the garage or the driveway but always with the keys in my hand and at least one door or window open and always within view.

Anonymous said...

When I stop at the convenience store I leave mine a lot of times. But only if I can park right at the door. When I had just one it was never an issue. Even when I had two I hardly ever did it. But now with *three?* I just can't handle it all the time. I even bribe them by telling them I'll get them something if they just wait for me. But I can SEE them the whole time.

I would NEVER leave them in the car to go in a grocery store or pharmacy or anything. Only the gas station.

Anonymous said...

I only leave my kids in the car for the dry cleaners. From the door to the car is very close, I can see them at all times and never take my eyes off of them. I don't do this if I need to go into a store, even for something quick, because I can't keep my eyes on them.

Drive thru stores are great. Sadly we only have one and it is no where near my home.

One more thing, if I ever see a cop eating at the Subway next door to the dry cleaners, I take everyone out. I don't need any trouble. Luckily, I do all my dry cleaning before or after lunch.

Amo said...

Yeah, this is a tough one. When I have left them, we were always parked in front of the drycleaners (or whatever store it was), they were in clear view, it was a good area and the doors were locked. If any of those factors weren't present, I wouldn't leave them. If that makes sense.

When I had one, it was so much easier and I always took him with me. He was an easy one though; never bolted or wandered off.

Having two is kinda like when you get that second dog; one's a pet and two's a pack. They gang up on my now...

Heather said...

Never. I never leave my kids in the car unattended. Yes, that means I get 3 kids out of the car for a 60-second errand.

Meg said...

Mine are older (4 and 6) but I still never leave them in the car on their own ...even when we're at the gas station. If I have to go in so do they. I've been known to wake them up to make them go in somewhere for a 60 second errand.

The one time I almost did it, and changed my mind, I was so glad I didn't follow through. I took my kids in with me, and within 20 seconds of us entering the store, some daft cow mistook her gas pedal for her brake pedal and managed to drive through the front window of the store...hitting MY car on the way. If my kids had been in the car...well....yeah.

I know lots of people who do it, and I try not to judge. I totally get the convenience of it. But the "what ifs" that run through my head take over every time.

I did call the cops on a lady one time...but she had left her 6 month old, 3 yr old and 4 yr old in the car on their own, windows UP on a sweltering day and didn't return for 15 minutes. That is different to what you describe...I don't think I'd do anything for what you described.

Anonymous said...

Never, never, never. I never leave Madeline in the car unattended. I am too afraid of what *could* happened, coupled with what overreactive person *could* see and call CPS.

Never. I won't. I schedule errands around my work hours, when she's not with me; if it doesn't get done we go without, mostly. I'm a bit less efficient than I used to be, but I'm okay with that.

Cate said...

I'll do it if I can see them at all times, but I don't like to. I will drive way out of my way to go to a drive-thru bank or dunkin donuts, just to avoid the issue.

Arwen said...

Never in a public place. We have a private alley behind our house with a clear line of sight from the car to the house. If she falls asleep in the car I will leave her to sleep it out in our back yard but only if the weather is good and I usually stay in the yard while she sleeps. Of course, she's 7 now so she seems to have lost all interest in sleep.

Anonymous said...

Never. I'm always amazed when people who would never leave a diamond necklace sitting in full view on the front seat of the car, leave their precious babes. This is a subject I feel STRONGLY about.

Anonymous said...

I have twins. They're 3 1/2 now, and, although it's not something I enjoy doing, there are times when time is of the essence and I do leave my kids in the car unattended.

More so now than when they were smaller and could be transported from point A to B without being stirred, I will leave them alone for a few minutes if I have to make a quick run. I'm not a fan of it myself, but I do it from time to time.

And maybe I'm just a little over sensitive, but I get the slightest hint of judgment from a few the comments before mine about folks who may partake in this practice. It's one of those very personal things that, I think, we could all be a little better off if we weren't judged for it, is all.

Anonymous said...

What would the police say and do if they pulled up next to the car with kids alone?- You would not like it!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sherry about feeling judged for it.

Personally, I leave all my jewelry on the dash of the van when I go to the gym. I live in a small city (big town really).

Yes, there could be a freak accident, but there could also be a freak accident while you're getting them out of the car, or on the sidewalk. Or the store could be robbed while you're inside.

I know I'm a great mother even if I do occasionally bribe my kids to stay in the car.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sherry about feeling judged for it.

Personally, I leave all my jewelry on the dash of the van when I go to the gym. I live in a small city (big town really).

Yes, there could be a freak accident, but there could also be a freak accident while you're getting them out of the car, or on the sidewalk. Or the store could be robbed while you're inside.

I know I'm a great mother even if I do occasionally bribe my kids to stay in the car.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

These are all really interesting responses. Does leaving the kids in the car = bad parent? And I say "parent" here because are the rules different when a man does it? Just throwing it out there.

Anonymous said...

Nothing to add as baby is still in my belly so I have to bring it with me. But I do think the answers are interesting. I also don't hear as much judgement as some of the people who do leave their kids do - just wondering if that has to do with the fact that they feel guilty/worried about doing it...

Motherhood Uncensored said...

I won't ever say never. I've done it to run up to the video drop off to stick a video in - the car is about 4 feet from me. But if I'm literally going in somewhere, yeah, I take them all out.

Or I just send my husband.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Anon - I don't know, what would the police say?

Ms. Huis Herself said...

I don't like to do it, but I've done it on rare occasion. I only did it/do it when I had one child or only one is along when she's sleeping. With two it's still a very, very rare thing. It's got to be one of those in-and-out errands like to pay for gas or stick library books in the book drop or similar. I've GOT to be able to clearly see my car all the time. When it was so cold that they were closing the schools, yeah, I did it a couple of times then - left the car running and locked (had spare key) for the two minute errand.

I also live in what feels like a very safe area - people let their elementary school kids ride their bikes the mile to school without adult supervision on the way.

I agree with fusspot above with the "freak accident." Thinking about those terribly cold and icy days, it would have been a lot worse had a driver slid into me and the kid(s) walking into a store than into them buckled into the car. Not that it happened, but it sure could have.

karengreeners said...

I'll leave them in the car to drop off a video or mail a letter, because I haven't been separated from them by any walls.

Usually though, I'll try very hard to avoid any quick in/quick out stops if I have both kids with me.

Of course, on MANY occasions I have left one or both sleeping in the car (doors locked) in the driveway to go inside, pee, get a drink and come back out.

Greens and Pinks said...

Never. I drag the two of them out wherever we are if I have to go in someplace, and yeah it's a huge pain in the butt - especially the dry cleaner. When I'm dragging them both, more often than not, someone takes pity on me and will bring the dry cleaning out to my car.

I do, however, leave them in the car at home in the garage when they've fallen asleep.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

My feelings on this have changed as they've gotten older. Babies? I took them with me everywhere. Now that my oldest is 8, youngest is 4, I will run inside the library to drop off books but that is about it. Any errand that might take up to 5 minutes? They're coming with me. At least now they can all walk on their own.

Anonymous said...

I left DD in the car last week while I ran in to the PO. She was sick, it was crappy our & cold and I had had to drag her out of the car 4 times already. (She's almost 2). However, we live in an extremely small & safe neighborhood. DH used to leave her in his vehicle ALL THE TIME when he had to run in to the PO. Normally I take her, but if the weather's bad, nope. My factor is the weather, apparently. :) Great question!

Carrie said...

Such a great post as I just did this with my 2 boys yesterday...they are 3.5 and 5 years. I will leave them in the car if I am going to the PO or dry cleaners because I can see them at all times and those are usually fast errands.

Yesterday I had to run into CVS and Walgreens for 1 thing and I decided to leave them in the car. I couldn't see them but they were both occupied with their leapsters and my car was locked. It took me all of 3 min and they were both fine.

Would I do this if they were any younger? Probably not but if I know it's going to be fast then ya I will do it.

I can only do this in the winter since we live in AZ, during the summer they get drug out in the heat with me. :)

toyfoto said...

The only time I leave my kids in the car alone for short periods of time is at home in my driveway.

And my husband hates that I do that.

I wouldn't leave my kids in the car anywhere else for two specific reasons:

1. Times suck - and not because people are evil ... because people are fearful. I am not going to deal with a lifetime of social services calls because some screaming meme called the police.


2. If some freak accident happened ... say some car crashed into my car while I was away from it ... I'd regret not being with my children.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't, because (1) we live in a large city with a lot of crime, including lots of car thefts and (2) I worry that someone would call the cops or report me. However, I think you ought to be able to do this if you live in a low crime area without worrying about being reported.

Atlanta Mommy said...

I wouldn't say never. I've left my two kiddos, strapped into car seats, while I walked 4 steps away to an ATM. Keys in my hand, windows were rolled down so the kids could see me, and I could see and talk to them. I would never walk into a gas station or grocery store without them though. If the gas station doesn't take cards, I don't stop.

Usedtobeme said...

I've done both. When they were both small and in carriers, I locked them in the car to run and pay for gas. I've taken them inside for a gallon of milk because I had a weird feeling at the 7/11.

My kids are 9 and 11 now. Last year, a guy I work with, his wife left their two kids (both in car seats)in the car while she ran inside a 7/11. Someone wrote her license plate down and the police showed up at her house. Social services did an investigation. It was scary. I'd never do it now. Too many weirdos and way to much to lose.

Whirlwind said...

That's a tough one. The good parent in me says no. But I've done it. Whether it be at the school picking one kid up (where I can't see them), the pet store (where I can see them and stay in the doorway while they get crickets), picking up a pizza or running a book back into the library drop box. Let's face it, it's tough doing it with kids when you just need to be away from the car for a few seconds.

However, once they are in booster seats, all bets are off!

But honestly, you really shouldn't. It's a bad habit to get into.

d e v a n said...

I never leave the kids alone in the car unless it's in my own garage and even then it's never for more than 1 minute. Usually I just have to run back inside and get my phone or turn on the alarm or something.

Anonymous said...

I'm Canadian so I don't know what the law is in the states. I assumed it was the same. In Canada it is illegal to leave a child unattended in a RUNNING car, but not in a car that's turned off. While I think everyone agrees that it's never the ideal situation and we all feel guilty doing it, sometimes I think it makes sense. When the car is close and you can see it and you are going to be just one minute, when the kids are strapped into their car seats and the doors are locked. What's going to happen? It's exponentially more likely for you to be in a car accident than for someone to try and take your child. I always imagine someone trying to take my kid from my locked car. They'd have to break a window which you would surely see from the window, they would have to unbuckle the child who would be screaming because of the broken window. As if that could be done discreetly! It's laughable! People who want to steal children do not do so when it is so completely risky. They do it when it's easy. A child running around in a mall or park would be much easier to nab. I think they're perfectly safe in the conditions I listed above. But again, not sure of the American law. And those who mentioned overreactive people have a point. It was done to me once. Someone called the police and said awful things to me in front of my children. My 5 year old still talks about the "lady who wanted to kill mommy" and this happened nearly 2 years ago now.

d e v a n said...

I should add that I make my husband go to the PO because that is my least favorite chore with 3 kids. (almost 4, 22 months and almost 9 months)

Chris O said...

My husband is an auto theft detective. He says to never leave anything of value in your car ever!
Have I ever left my kids in the car? Nope. Although I locked my son in once when I set the keys on the seat as I strapped him in. I had someone else call 911 and the cop popped the lock with a coat hanger in just a few seconds.

My huddy also recently did a public service announcement called "Cold Car - Hot Car". This was to remind people not to leave their car running and then go inside just for a "sec" until it warms up.

Anonymous said...

I've done it twice. The 1st, DS was quite asleep. The 2nd, when he was 2, was to use the ATM. I came back to tears & he's never let me live it down. So I've never tried since. Though planning outings now with a newborn makes it tempting.

Mandy said...

Once I had two kids, I've done it, less than a handful of times. I only have kept them in the car when I can see the boys from the storefront window (so basically, at the drycleaners). I always feel guilty though, and afraid that someone is going to yell at me.

Generally, I try as much as I can to do all the small "60 second" errands with only one kid in tow or on the weekends by myself.

Mama Bub said...

I've done it to run up to someone's doorstep and drop something off, or to put something in the mail box, but not if I have to go in somewhere. Even the dry cleaners, I can park directly in front, and walk three feet into the store, but I don't do it.

I think I'm more worried about someone saying something to me than about something happening.

I try to just send my husband or go run errands when he gets home. Sometimes I put off going to the bank for a week because the prospect of having to unbuckle, carry him in, keep him contained and rebuckle is just overwhelming. And I only have one. I'll be homebound if we have any more.

Gini said...

I have got to say "No". 3 years ago - I was 9 months preggo, picking up one of my two kids at Elementary school. We park on a street across from school, which I'd been doing for 3 years in a row with a very recognizable vanity plate. A friend of mine and I would take turns carpooling our kids to their swim workout. My middle boy was in the car, home sick from school that day. I got my daughters bags out of the car, stepped across the street to my friends car, chatted with her for a few minutes, all the while talking to my son out the car window from across the street. Within a few minutes in flew two police cars, lights flashing - by this time I was already sitting back in my car. Someone saw me leave the car and called the cops.
It doesn't matter where you live, who knows you, or how many times you have been to a particular spot.

Anonymous said...

It's such a tough question to answer. But I'm not going to act like there hasn't been a time when I have to run into 7-11 for under 30 seconds to pay for gas. I fight with my son every single time I put him in his car seat. The struggle easily goes on for 3 minutes. And then he will scream for another 5. It's frustrating to deal with that everyday. I always said I would never, no matter what...but. And the circumstances always play a part in it. I mean I'm not running in to go shopping anywhere and leave him just because he's sleeping. I have only done it a few times. And then there are times when I just don't bother doing something because, even though it won't take long, there are other factors that would not make it safe. It's tough to answer. But it's a great topic to debate!

Patois42 said...

I have done it, once they became multiples. Totally situational: I can see them and they can see me the "whole" 1.5 minutes I'm picking up dry cleaning, paying for the gas or refilling my Diet Coke. My oldest is 12. My youngest is 6. I think I've done it less than 10 times.

Anonymous said...

It depends on how old and how mature the kid is. Once E is 8 years or so, sure, if she's reliable. Before then, eh, probably not. Definitely not right now when she's 3 months, although dear god it's tempting.

kristi said...

I never left Sara in the car not even for a second. But my kids are 6 years apart so now I can leave them and not worry. Normally my little one goes in with me though. My kids are 13 and 7 now.

Unknown said...

Depends entirely on where an what the weather is. Given I live in a small town where I know everyone and everyone knows me, I could ask a passerby to sit in the car with them and it would all work out.

SciFi Dad said...

I strap one kid in a snuggly in the front, and another in a backpack on the back. Once they outgrow the snuggly, I put them in a large jar on my head, like one of those women you see on the Discovery Channel carrying water to their village in Africa or whatever.

Alternatively, I tell them to grab onto my legs and then I walk with my "kid boots".

(In all seriousness, I never do stuff like that with both kids. I usually do it myself on the way home from work.)

Heather @CritterChronicles said...

The only times I leave my kids in the car are if I have to run back into the house to grab something I'd forgotten, or when I'm paying for gas after I've pumped. And even then, I'm not going more than ten feet away to the kiosk; I've always gotten them out of the car if I've had to go inside to pay. Oh yeah, and when I use an ATM. But then I pull up directly in front of the ATM, so that they're behind me. Like others have said, I lock the doors and bring my keys with me, and crack the windows enough to give them fresh air.

My kids are 5 and 18 months, too, if that makes any difference. I don't know when I'll start letting them stay in the car for errands when I'm gone longer or out of sight... but I think it'll be years.

mamatulip said...

Dave and I just had this conversation a few days ago.

I've left them in the car to drop a letter in the mail box or pay for gas. I make sure that I have a clear view of them and they me and if I am paying for gas I try to do it at a station with a walk-up window, so I don't have to go right inside. I used to pay at the pump a lot so I wouldn't have to leave the car, but my bank card was "compromised" after doing that so I don't often pay that way anymore. I try to leave getting gas for times when I don't have them with me or when I have cash and can go to a full-serve.

I would never leave them in the car if it meant I couldn't see them and they couldn't see me and I couldn't get back to the car within seconds.

Hannah said...

What Mama Tulip said. My kids are 3.5 and 10 months, and yes, I have left them to pay for gas if they are parked right by the door and I can clearly see them the whole time.

I live in a very safe part of my city - there are neighbourhoods where I wouldn't leave them even for a minute. And frankly, a friend of mine had the cops show up at her house - twice - for a tweet she posted one night, so I am more nervous about Nosy Nellie reporting me than a stranger snatching my kids.

Anonymous said...

Wow! So many comments and opinions! I think the law is South Carolina is that a child left in the car has to be old enough to know how to call 911. I'm also assuming that means they have to have a phone?

I think the main reason leaving your kids in the car ever became an issue at all is because of the idiots who leave them while they go shopping. Or while they go to work because they don't have a babysitter.

But the law is the law, no matter how extreme it seems sometimes. I know I worry that someone will call the police. Yesterday I ran in without them and I saw a woman notice, she opened her mouth, but I cocked an eyebrow at her and she stopped. So who knows what she would have said.

jodifur said...

I can't comment on other states, but I will tell you in md it is against the law to leave a child under the age of 8 toin a car unattended for any amount of time. Results in a ticket and a call to child welfare and an investigation.

Something to think about.

Julie Marsh said...

Jodifur, thanks for that comment. I honestly don't know what the law is here in CO, but I know a woman who was busted for leaving her kids in the car.

That said, I will do it occasionally with Tacy and Oliver when I run in to pick up CJ from school. Not a good idea, could probably get me in trouble, but I'll admit that I do it under those circumstances only (and only if I've got Tacy in the car).

Heather said...

I realized I should ammend my never. I have left them in the car to take a cart to the cart corral if I could not get a space next to the corral.

I'm not trying to be a jerk, but I would like to know what good it does to be able to see the children while you are in the store? So you can see someone taking them? So you see the accident happen? There were two kids that were very badly burned in my city several years ago who had been left in the car for just a few minutes. They were playing with the cigarette lighter. Granted, most cars no longer have one, but that is one reason I don't leave my kids alone in the car.

There is the national campaign "Not Even for a Minute" that lists several reasons to never leave your kids in the car: http://www.notevenforaminute.org/resultsandaction.html

I actually hesitate to even post this comment because I'm not a confrontational person (far from it) but I do feel strongly about this. Rarely is the errand that important that it could not wait until the child wakes up (if I don't want to wake him/her) or can't wait until another time.

I would feel horrible if something happened to ANY child because he/she was left in a car unattended.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

There are laws in many states against leaving children under a certain age (in a lot of states it's under the age of 12) alone in a car. In MA there is no such law, to my knowledge but they're pushing for it. I don't really blame them.

I'm under the impression that many laws were put into effect after kids died in overheated cars or, like Fusspot said, for people who think it's okay to leave their kids in the car while they run into a bar for a few hours.

Heather said...

I believe that in MN a child must be 11 before they can be left unattended (at home, in a car, whatever). When I heard that I admit I thought that was very old, I mean they go to school by themselves don't they? But I assume there is a reason for them picking that age. I hope.

Anonymous said...

Good post- great discussion. This is clearly a tough, sensitive topic and I flounder a bit on both sides. I used to be a "NEVER" until my kids got a little older, less portable and harder to negotiate with.

Now I am on the side of occasionally leaving my 4 & 2 1/2 yo in the car with these parameters:
- my kids are still in 5 point harnesses so they stay in their car seats
- I would never do it in the warm weather- never.
- The car/kids would have to be in full eye view- never into a store that I couldn't see.

I've actually left the kids in the car with the car running & I take the valet key so they can watch a video & the heat/AC stays on and the car stays locked & the emergency brake goes on. These days, the kids run away from me in the store, run away from me in the parking lot, kids can so quickly get kidnapped, etc.

Frankly my what if's are are more like "what if they ran in front of a car?" "what if I turned my back & someone grabbed them?" - I honestly feel like they're safer in the car like that- it's like a vault on wheels.

Yeah- someone will probably jump all over me for that but hey- it's a controversial topic...

Backpacking Dad said...

Kid, in the car seat, strapped in facing forward not eating doors locked cloudy day parked in the space immediately in front of the dry cleaner's bay window so that I am standing 7 feet from the car although I am inside a building and I can see her face clearly the entire time....

...yeah. I've done it. I don't have any general rules about it. I won't run into the post office to grab the mail and leave her alone, because it feels too far away and it's a little obscured.

My real worry when I'm making the calculation is: "What if she picks something up and eats it and starts choking in the minute I am gone?"

I don't know that I would leave one in the car if I had two. I think I'd be afraid the one would distract me too much, and if I left both in the car there'd be too much chance of pre-schooler hijinks. But it's not a fine calculation. It's intuitive risk management. As with riding my bike down the road I hope my intuitive risk management is good enough to avoid incidents. It may be wrong; but that's not a reason to stop everyone from riding bikes. It's a reason for better intuition training, at most.

Angela said...

This is a controversial topic. I live in FL though and I can't even count the number of times you hear about a child dying in a car. Even in the winter it's hot enough here most days to make it unsafe.

We only have one child now, so it's probably easier for me to always take him in. I can see it would be harder with two.

Once they're old enough to trust on their own (to not open the door to strangers, or to come in the store to find you if it is too hot or cold) then that would be a different story. But when he's little enough to not be able to fend for himself if it was too hot or he was scared, well no.

And I'm not ashamed to say I HAVE called 911 at least twice that I can immediately recall for something like this in a parking lot. Both times weren't kids though, they were dogs. Both times it was hot and the owner hadn't been there for at least 10 minutes. Here in FL you hear even more stories about dogs left in cars to die in the heat than you do kids.

(Just too scary. What if I ended up hurt in the store and ended up in an ambulance and no one knew I had a baby in the car... This is what my brain does when given space to worry.)

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to remember back that far to say if I've ever done it. I think there was one time it was sleeting really badly and we needed milk even worse. Doors locked - car right by the door of a convenience store in our little town.

But I do know that there are crazies out there that that will happily call the police if kids are left in the car for a second. I seem to remember a recent story where a mom put her kids in the car, locked the doors and went to return a shopping cart to the cart corral. Another person saw a cop in the lot and reported her.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to remember back that far to say if I've ever done it. I think there was one time it was sleeting really badly and we needed milk even worse. Doors locked - car right by the door of a convenience store in our little town.

But I do know that there are crazies out there that that will happily call the police if kids are left in the car for a second. I seem to remember a recent story where a mom put her kids in the car, locked the doors and went to return a shopping cart to the cart corral. Another person saw a cop in the lot and reported her.

Carrie said...

I think kids in the car paranoia is way out of hand. Yes, I do it, but only the 2 stores where I can see them and am about 5 feet from them while getting my cash and dry cleaning.
My concern that I can see them is not so much for their safety -- I think it's extremely unlikely that anything bad will happen to them that wouldn't have happened while I was right there with them. I don't get out of their site because I'm concerned that some other person will report me or that a cop will come by.
There are times I WISH I COULD but again, it's fear of trouble rather than fear for safety that stops me. For example, I have to park on a busy street at rush hour to drop the older kid off at a lesson. I have to unstrap both kids in the freezing cold, cross the busy street with them, then cross back again afterwards. What are the odds of something terrible happening to the toddler in the car versus us getting hit by a car on the icy street? I mean, both cases are pretty safe, but I don't think taking the kid out is necessarily safer than leaving her strapped into her car seat. It's just more legal.

Anonymous said...

i would not, for the simple reason that if something WERE to happen, i'd never get over the guilt that it happened because i was trying to take a shortcut. i would much rather that if something were to happen, i'd be right there to try to stop it. and it doesn't even come down to worry about other people. they could quite as easily get into trouble all by themselves in the car, like if they tried to unbuckle themselves to find you and tangled themselves in the belt. it's happened before, the results can be devastating. basically, i'd go through the hassle of taking them in just b/c i would not be able to bear it at all if something happened that did not have to happen at all.

Pgoodness said...

Yep, I've done it - at my office where I stand inside the front(glass) door a sidewalk width away...and at my acct's office...sprint in and out. No where for longer. They used to sleep in the car and I would totally leave them in the car in the garage..depending on weather I would shut garage door and open the windows or leave car running and stay out in garage or car with them.

I think the comments about never being able to get over the guilt are a little off, though...because really? If something happened while they were in the car and you were out OR if something happened when you were all out of the car, you would feel some sense of guilt no matter what. I mean, I can say I would never forgive myself if another car hit my car while my kids were in it, but I can also say I would never forgive myself if something happened to my kids on the sidewalk or in the home.

Amie Adams said...

Wow this started a heck of a conversation.

I think this proves we need more drive-thru options.

mo-wo said...

I spent years following some broad, important set of rules about abandonment that I might actualize by being ALONE. and them being ALONE for a few minutes.hmmmm....

Then somewhere I loosened up and changed the rules. I do leave my kids in the car at times. Depends on all the 'in my view rules' except in the case of my own street where my neighbours have been know to keep an eye on my kids 'for me'. We live on a city street and don't have a driveway. Is this like 'my driveway' so it's okay?? But basically I snub these rules, though I know them well. What changed?

Also, get this, about 6 months ago my daughter (4) began asking to wait in the car!

Drive-thrus suck.

Didn't pioneer children have to mind the horses while Ma got provisions at times??

mo-wo said...

But hey check me out -- I think about leaving my kid alone in the house, even.

flutter said...

not unless they are teenagers, no. But I don't have kids so I am totally talking out of the side of my neck

daniloth said...

This such a thought provoking discussion. I've left my girl in her car seat while I dropped off a video, returned a cart, etc. The idea of someone reporting me for these things never occurred to me, but they sure as shit will now.

Anonymous said...

Nope. Not at a store. Not to run an errand. Not ever.

I have left them asleep in the garage w/the kitchen door open. I have left them while parked in the neighbor's driveway while I run up to the door. I always shut off the car and take the keys.

Our street is named after a 2 year old boy who was run over by his father's truck when allowed to wait inside w/out him. He and his brother somehow shifted it and he fell out and got run over as the truck was rolling. He made it into the house and into his father's arms before dying.

SO, I'm probably more anal than most about this issue.

ninnifur said...

wow. Lots of people would NOT do this at all! That was suprising to me actually. Let me just say that I am not a mother, but maybe I can add a little comic relief!

My parents used to let me and my sister sit in the car while they ran errands all the time, granted it was a different time. Funny true story, My dad had taken my sister and I to Taco Bell, she was around 2 and I was around 4. We were eating our Taco Bell and she threw up in her carseat. He went back home and pulled her out of her seat and put her in the passenger seat while he ran in to get some towels to clean up. Suddenly the E-brake turned off and we started rolling backwards down our driveway. My dad freaked out and accidently threw the car keys in the bush next to our house.

We were fine. We lived. haha. I don't think I let him leave us in the car for awhile after that!

O's Working Mommy said...

I only have 1 child, so I don't know how it would work if I had 2. I have never left her in the car alone, except in the driveway or garge to run back in the house.

I do those things before or after work when she isn't with me.
I don't think its a bad thing that people do it though, its your own personal choice and what your comfy with.
Me, I'm wicked paranoid, I start having a panic attack once she is out of my sight.

Tuesday Girl said...

I have been in that situation MANY times. I have wanted to leave them in the car, I have been mad at the fact I will not ever leave them in the car though, despite teh hassle, I am too much of a wuss.

So I just get pissed off I have to do these things with 3 kids and do them anyway.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Can I add one thing to this huge discussion? I would like to kiss on the mouth whoever started drive-through pharmacy drop off and pick up. There is NOTHING worse than having a feverish, sick child and having to drag them into a drugstore to get a prescription filled. I'd like a world with drive-through options for most things but I'm a little worried about how big my ass would get so I won't push too hard for it.

kittenpie said...

I don't drive so I just schedule my stuff on a weekday off when I'm working, and either go out alone on a weekend or gt Misterpie to help now. But generally? Even though it's a pain, I'd have to say no, because even in not-steaming weather - what if somethign were to happen? There are creepy people in the world, and I could nver live with it if one got hold of my child. I just don't leave my valuables in the car at all, because it seems like tempting the people who would have no scruples about taking them.

Anonymous said...

I'm still pregnant with my first, so this is a purely theoretical discussion for me...but...

I sort of agree with the other commenters who say that it's purely situational. I understand the argument that, okay, which is more valuable: your time or your kids? But then again, it seems plausible to me that there would be situations wherein your child is perfectly safe waiting in the car for a minute.

Anonymous said...

I don't have kids yet, but I can't forget that lady on the news who was ARRESTED and carted off to jail for leaving her baby in the car while she walked 20 feet away to help her older daughter give coins to the Salvation Army collector in front of the grocery store. She was outside the whole time, 20 feet away, never lost sight of the car, and she was arrested for child endangerment. Now THAT'S scary.

Anonymous said...

I did this just this morning, actually.
I had my baby and the 3 year old I babysit. We ALL went into Starbucks (ours doesn't have a drive-thru here, not sure why) and got drinks. Then I went by my friend's house to drop her coffee off, but not stay to visit. I parked in her driveway, turned the truck off, shut/locked the doors, and immediately hit the autostart button so the truck would stay running and warm, but not leave keys in the ignition. I ran up to the door, gave my friend her coffee, said hello, and went back to the boys.
I've left my kids in the car other times for quick errands - paying for gas, dropping something off, stuff like that. But, my oldest is 13. (I also live on a military installation, where there are rules about rules, and also where they offer "babysitting" for kids up to 17 years old. Which I think is insane, but I guess if the teen isn't mature, then they need supervision.)
When my kids were smaller and my husband was deployed AND we lived in the tundra that was upstate NY? I let my kids wait in the car on quick errands. Could someone have called The People? Sure. Would I have gotten into trouble? Who knows. There's a huge difference in leaving the kids in the car to go gamble or shop or drink for hours and leaving them in the car, with visual contact, for a minute or two.
Just one opinion! :)

Anonymous said...

Yes and no. If you can see them, it isn't to hot out, you don't live in a dangerous/unsafe area, they are able to communicate, you have a good feeling about it. Etc. Otherwise, no.

Anonymous said...

And by to I mean too.

Heather said...

I live for the day I can A) leave them at home or B) leave them in the car.

Mine are 8 and 6 and I still won't leave them in the car. They are boys and boys are known for doing stupid things.

Yeah, it's a pain in the butt and take 5 minutes instead of 1, but those four minutes aren't worth it if something happened.

T with Honey said...

I'm not the previous Anon commenter but I do know what the police would do if it happened where I live. We just got a reminder from Princess's school that it is against the law in our state to leave any child under 12 unattended in a vehicle for any amount of time.

If a police officer came by while I was in the convenience store grabbing that gallon of milk at the very least I'd get a ticket.

But even while visiting in other states I haven't done it and I'm not sure if I ever would. I'm just paranoid that way.

Fern said...

I don't ever leave my 1yr old and 2yr old alone in the car, but I sure want to sometimes. I especially wish I could when I'm picking up take out.

Anonymous said...

Never, ever leave your children in the car alone, under any circumstances. Period.

motherbumper said...

I don't only because I'm sure the moment I blinked, she'd steal the car. But in all seriousness, I actually have never been faced with the decision but I'm sure in 98% of the cases, I'd bring her in just in case (because with me, anything can happen).

a li'l bit squishy said...

This is a sensitive topic. I didn't ever leave my kids in the car until my eldest was half way through grade one. I was pregnant with my fourth and when I picked him up from school I would drag his two and four year old sisters across two very busy streets to collect him. I finally decided it was safer to leave them in the car when the youngest was almost hit by a car turning a corner and not paying attention (even though I was holding her hand!) My six year old learned to come out of the school, I would take the keys, lock the car and I would cross the street to collect. Never taking my eyes off the car and feeling terrible about it every step of the way. Now, the big kids take the bus home from school so that I don't have to deal with the issue. It's a tough call. And the worst part is not that the child(ren) would be alone for the 3 minute task (buckled, locked in, and within view of the parent) but that some other well-meaning parent feels it necessary to police such a situation and potentially destroy another family.

Anonymous said...

I really struggle with this one. The worst is when I need to run inside the gas station to pay for gas or grab a drink. If I can avoid it, I will. I have left the baby in the car twice while I ran into a gas station. She's six months old. Other than that? I grumpily pack her in because I'm too nervous to leave her in the car.

Candy said...

I did it often, even when I knew I shouldn't. But not when they were babies, so much.

There are just so many rules...it's impossible not to break one of them. I think we, as women, have to stop beating ourselves up for doing things that, sometimes, are only a way to get through the day. Motherhood isn't easy. Some days it's all one can do to cope.

Maggie, Dammit said...

Man, it's eerie to read this post because I just did this this morning, and I've been thinking about it all day.

We live in a rural area between two towns. My 9-year-old rides the school bus to one town 15 minutes to the west, and I drive my 4-year-old to a montessori school 15 miles to the east. My 4-year-old and I were leaving the house when I realized my 9-year-old had left some important homework at home. I knew that even if I drove like a bat out of hell to deliver the homework, my youngest would still be late. We pulled up to my oldest's school and I did it -- I locked the 4-year-old in the car, sprinted inside, dropped off the homework, sprinted back out. It was probably 90 seconds round trip, but it felt like an eternity. My heart was pounding so hard it was painful. And my daughter's school is in a town of fewer than 1,000 people, total picturesque rural Midwest, there were no people around and there's never any crime, but I still couldn't stop thinking about how awful I was. It's funny, because I know I would never judge another parent that harshly -- just myself.

Another thing I often think about is what would happen if something happened to me while my kids were in the car. Like, what if I were mugged or hit by a car or had a heart attack or something, and there was all this fuss in taking me away and I was unconscious, say, and nobody had any clue that I had kids in the car, even if they were safely locked away.

I don't know.

Fascinating topic, fascinating answers.

Maggie, Dammit said...

(And that is officially the longest comment I have ever left. Sorry.) ;)

*slinks sheepishly out of the room*

Mr Lady said...

I've always lived in the city, and so my answer is no. Or was. If they have to be carried, if they cannot get out of their carseats themselves, no. Now, I have two tweens. They stay in the car with the three year old all the time, but before they were double digits (or at least one of them) no way. 60 seconds of convenience was never worth the what if's for me.

Mimi ;-P said...

This topic still frosts my cookies and happened 9 years ago. I had a 5yo to pick up from kindergarten and a 2 yo who was going through a "running through parking lots tossing coats and shoes in mom's path so he could get away further" phase (he's since outgrown this phase) and in the 2 minutes time it took me to p/u my kindergartner, I had a "fellow mom" stand behind my vehicle with the police on the line on her cell phone. Even though the safest place for him was securely in his car seat. The officer told me that yes it was against the law in WA and that he should send CPS and an officer to investigate. I scoured the WA law to find citation of this and it was a city code, not a state law. So technically, it is illegal for parents to return a shopping cart, mail a letter, etc. I know of a parent sent to 8 parenting classes for mailing a letter while her 3 children were in the car. I now offer to return carts and such for moms in that quandry. They think I'm either weird or an angel.

Karin said...

My rule of thumb for this rare occasion is this. If it takes me longer to unbuckle my 19 month old out of his carseat then it does to take money out of the ATM 7 feet away, then he stays in the car. However, it should be noted ALL the windows on my car are dark tinted and I have auto-start on my car. Which means the car stays running w/heat or A/C on and keys go with me while the car stays locked.

Otherwise, he comes in with me everywhere.

Anonymous said...

My decision varies depending on SO many factors.
If I can see him in his car seat and know that he can see me, and I can get there within 30 seconds if I have to, I will leave him in there if I'm only going to be a minute.
I don't lock the doors... but that's because I'm paranoid about him being too hot or too cold and like to leave the air conditioning or heat on (which I need the keys to do) Although in my old car I could leave it running AND take the keys out, so I would.

I will leave him in his car seat while I return a shopping cart.

I suppose I should point out that I always park right in front of the store doors, or beside the shopping cart return.
If I can't, I take him with me.

If the weather is nice, I don't mind taking him in and out of his carseat to run quick errands (I'm unemployed -- I've got nowhere that I have to be very quickly lol) but as much as he loves the snow, if there is a snowstorm I just hate to keep taking him in and out of the cold so I leave him in the car. Same goes for extreme heat!

I suppose my rule of thumb is pretty much the same as Karin's

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Anonymous said...

i pesonally think that as parents if we worried about all the "what ifs" in life. We wouldn't feed our chidren for fear of them choking... If you are a parent who chooses to take their child into the gas station, it is also my choice to leave them in the van. Why have we all become so judgemental of eachother. Next time you see the woman who left her kids in the car for a second don't snare at her...just remember that opinions are like a**holes and everebody's got one.

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Anonymous said...

I agree with ur response.... I went to the gas station and parked right in front of the door I left my 1year child in his car seat because he was sleeping and had the doors locked and the car running ... on my car u can start ur car with the clicker and it turns the ac on when u do that as well .with out having the keys in it .. ... so he was cool and locked in the car ... I could see him from the register the whole time I was in and out in 2mins ......... I came out and a lady started yelling at me as if I was tryin to hert my baby .... I told her the car is lock with the ac on and my eye on him thewhole time ... and she still kept yelling and telling me it was elegal

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