Let’s Rethink Leaving Kids in the Car

I heard the kids before I actually saw them, a little girl with a tangle of light brown hair, maybe four or five, and her sidekick little brother. They squealed and giggled, running up and down the kitchen gadget aisle at TJ Maxx.

When it comes to cute kids, I can’t help myself.

The dad, I supposed, was watching the urchins while Mom tried on clothes. That’s what I supposed. He kept his cool. No yelling. No reprimands. Just hanging out with the kids.

I’d gone shopping for a birthday present for my daughter-in-law and somehow wound up in the sleepwear section. But since I didn’t have her correct size, I moved to the goodies aisle for some chocolates.

Then it was onward to the bookstore, for a copy of Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt, by Beth Hoffman. I wanted to include it in the birthday package. (It’s so good, I mailed a copy to one daughter and ordered the Audible version for the other.)

As soon as I arrived at the bookstore, a car pulled into the space beside me. Two adorable kids sat in the back: a girl of about nine and a younger brother. They looked a bit like the kids at TJ Maxx, maybe a little  older.

The scrawny guy in the passenger seat held onto his door, making sure it didn’t scrape my car. A cigarette dangled from his fingers, trailing smoke in my direction.

I had expected him to let the kids out, but both the man and the female driver skedaddled across the blacktop, leaving the kids behind. Windows up. Breathing secondary smoke.

The girl smiled at me through black-framed glasses, her hair a mass of blond curls.

I smiled back and hurried inside.

When I couldn’t find the book I wanted, I went back to my car. I’d have to try elsewhere.

The kids were still there, bouncing around in the back seat. The girl smiled again, her eyes eager behind the black frames.

Why would parents leave kids behind in a busy parking lot for this length of time?

Don’t get me wrong.  I did let my kids stay in the car. But when they were teens, not little ones. Even so, they usually they wanted to go in with me.

Someone could have broken into that car and taken the children. I wondered if the car doors were even locked. For a second I thought about calling the police.

But what if the parents showed up? Or the kids screamed? Then I’d be the one in trouble.

I smiled at the black-frames again and got in my car.

But let me get back to other dad, the one shopping with his kids at TJ Maxx.

He wasn’t waiting for the kids’ mom after all. He was on a mission.  “Excuse me,” he had said. “Can you tell me what a frying pan looks like?”

I pointed out that all the pans on the wall were frying pans. Some big, some small, others shallow or deep. I told him to read about their features. One of the symbols I kept seeing had to be an acronym for some cancer-causing material the manufacturer had decided to eliminate.

The kids played happily at their dad’s side while he selected a big, red-bottomed pan with a heat indicator.

Good choice, I thought.

I don’t know where Mom was, or why he wanted the pan. But I was impressed by his kindness toward the children. His patience. The  kids obviously were not a nuisance to him.

I bet he never once considered leaving them in the car.

It doesn’t take much to bring the kids along. Except a bit more time, an extra trip to the rest room. These little people are learning to handle themselves in public. They need practice not touching everything, watching where they’re going, and saying, “Excuse me.”

Even for a quick trip to the P.O. or convenience store – kids are worth taking with. It’s time to rethink leaving them in the car. FFG

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