I Understand How Parents Leave Babies in Hot Cars

Last week, a father was distracted. It happens to every parent. We get consumed with one of the fifty things going on in our heads and we accidentally put everything else on the back burner.

Unfortunately, this time, it cost him his child.

For whatever reason, he accidentally left his child in the car instead of taking him to daycare that day he went to work. His son died. He's also being charged with murder.

This happens numerous times every summer. It seems every week a new article or news report pops up talking about a child behind left behind in the car while the parent goes to work. And my heart breaks into a million pieces each time.

I may be in the minority, but I get it. I have worked in environments that consume more of my brain than I can handle some days. On those days, if our regular schedule shifts even slightly, I’d leave my right arm behind because I’m so preoccupied.

And yet the vile remarks from online commenters and people in conversation flow.

“How could you forget your child?!”

“If you can’t remember your kid, maybe you shouldn’t be a parent!”

To that, I say: How dare you. How dare you judge someone who made a mistake while trying to provide for the family he or she loves. How dare you snarl hateful comments when someone is experiencing the most horrifying hell on earth.

Could you imagine living with yourself after making that kind of mistake? These people are victims of a world that has failed working parents. The demands on working parents are unreal: Work 40 hours a week to provide for your family. Pay a huge chunk of that to childcare. Be present in your child’s life. Put dinner on the table. Maintain your home. Keep up with doctors’ appointments. Do the grocery shopping. Schedule play dates. Visit family. Do the laundry. And the list continues. If any one of those things requires more of your attention than usual, there’s just no room to fit in all in your brain.

That being said, yes, a child is different. Forgetting a child is huge. But imagine for a moment that the child was up all night teething. That parent got less than an hour of sleep. He has a huge project going on at work. His family is coming in town the next weekend and the house is a disaster. He also has to take the baby to daycare...something he doesn’t usually do. The wife loads the baby up in the car without telling him. He completely forgets about his turn to drop off.

Can’t you see it happening?

When I was working in a particularly stressful and chaotic work environment, I was terrified of leaving baby HJ in the car and going on to work. I made a plan with our child care provider that if I were ever more than 15 minutes late, she was to call me. I also would leave either my laptop, purse, wallet or phone in the back of the car so that I had one more thing to get from back there.

If you’re a parent, make a plan with your daycare or leave something in the back seat. Set up a safeguard. Because even if you think it could never happen to you, make sure that it REALLY couldn’t.

I don’t know this particular dad’s story or any other parent’s story who’s made this kind of terrible mistake. What I do know is that these parents’ minds were somewhere else that day. And now they will have to carry one of the largest burdens imaginable for the rest of their life.

I think a little grace and understanding is in order.

Tagged: parenting


Angela Heili 3 years, 11 months ago

Well said Megan. It's happened to us. Years and years ago we all piled into the van and went to VBS. When we got to church we realized we were missing one child. One of the kiddos had fallen asleep and was at home napping on her bed. I stayed with the kids at church and the hubby drove home while I frantically worried the kiddo would wake up and realize she was alone and be scared! Thankfully she was safe, still sleeping and never knew she unaccounted for!

It did take us only minutes to realize the little one was missing and not hours but we left her nonetheless. All it takes is for something out of our routine to derail our train of thought and forget something even a child.

So many people appoint themselves judge and jury. Unfortunately for them they in turn are judged by their own standard. Reasons why I don't judge people. I'm as flawed as everyone else!

Jennifer Alexander 3 years, 11 months ago

Thank you for posting this. While this is probably one of the most horrifying things a parent can go through, it still does not give anyone (parent or not) a right to judge. I am a first time mom, and I will often tell myself "dont forget the baby" As silly as it sounds, I repeat it over and over when I get out of the car. Its just my own little reminder. I know that as great of a parent that I am, I too am capable of forgetting or having a lapse in judgement. Here is another great article as well.


Rae Hudspeth 3 years, 11 months ago

Heck, I leave my phone, my purse, my wallet, my camera and even my keys in the car. I'm not a parent, but I have no doubts that I'd probably leave a sleeping kid somewhere. You are right... a little compassion and thoughtfulness is far more important than spewing vitriol at people who are broken-hearted.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.