parents

"The day I left my baby in the car."

Three weeks ago, l left my baby in the car.

It was Melbourne in December and Claire was 6 weeks old at the time.

Earlier, I had woken her from her nap so we could go and collect her older brother from childcare. She was still drowsy and as soon as I strapped her in she went straight back to sleep.

I drove ten minutes to my child care centre, parked the car and went inside to collect my son.

It wasn’t until I was collecting his bag that I realised something wasn’t quite right.

William’s educators had left some of his artwork for us to take home, so I was asking myself ‘how am I going to carry his bag, the artwork, the baby and hold his hand in the car park?’

That was when I realised I wasn’t carrying Claire.

This baby was left alone in a car for an hour and a half while his mum hit the Boxing Day sales

I haven’t sprinted in many years, but I ran that day.

Thankfully, the weather was mild, I had parked in the shade and it was only a minute or two she had been alone in the car.

Nevertheless, how could I have done such thing?

Claire had not made a noise since I lifted her out of her cot. I had the radio on in the car for the news and was ticking through my to do list in my mind as I was driving. For those few minutes, I switched to auto-pilot. The habits of the past two years kicked in and I forgot I had an infant with me.

The distractibility of early parenting – we’ve all been there.

We all know how lethal it is to leave children and animals in cars. Every summer we read tragic stories about babies dying in these horrific incidents. Our governments and health institutions go to great lengths to remind us of the dangers of hot cars.

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Kyle Seitz drove his car 3 times, not noticing that his baby son was dead in the back.

Public figures use strong language, sending a message that leaving children in cars is an inexcusable act of neglect. “No exceptions, no excuses,” is how Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has characterised it.

Mamamia’s own Editor-in-Chief, Jamila Rizvi posted “get your act together, Australia” on her Facebook page after several parents left their children and pets in hot cars in recent weeks.

It is right for us, in the course of our public conversation, to condemn people who leave children and animals in cars deliberately and recklessly. It is also right for there to be strong penalties for people who do so.

But I’m horrified by just how easy it is to be so distracted by the minutia of life that, for just a few moments, one of the most precious things in our lives can slip from our minds.

So, as well as the condemnation and the strong language, I wish there was just a moment of gentleness in the conversation.

A gesture of empathy, a nod of understanding to the majority of parents who really doing their best to muddle through the messiness of life.

The silver lining to the guilt I continue to feel about that day, and the tears I cried at the mere thought of what might have happened is that I’m unlikely to forget Claire is in the car with me ever again.

What has been your greatest moment of horror or fear as a parent? 

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