Yesterday morning my two year old son and I were heading back from his Saturday swimming lesson. I needed to make a quick stop to grab a superhero costume for a party he’d be going to later. I didn’t have any cash on me, so decided to stop at an ATM at a fuel station nearby. I parked my car at the entrance to the garage shop and saw there was nobody else queuing at the ATM, which was directly opposite the door. I got out to take my boy out of his seat, but he was dosing off. And that led to a quick decision to dash in and out without getting him out. I repeat: my car was parked right at the door, and I could see my son from the ATM. It was a 2 second decision. Just as I knew the act of drawing cash would be a 2 minute action and I’d be back in the car and on our way.
“Everybody in the forecourt is looking at you and they’re disgusted,” she yelled. Sure enough, I walked out, by now really angry, and there were several eyes on me and this shouting woman. I don’t know if they’d seen how quick my entry and exit had been. All they’d seen was a kid in a car seat in a locked car. And a short, disheveled mother emerging, fresh from swimming, hair pulled back and probably looking as if she didn’t have a cooking clue how to raise a little person.
I got into my car shaking with a mix of embarrassment and spitting anger. An elderly lady drove by, rolled down her window and said, while shaking her head at me, “She’s right, you know?” I heard myself say, “Yes. I do understand that.” I was defeated.
I would never do anything to intentionally endanger my son. But of course, I’m certain that all of those parents felt the exact same way. The truth is that all it takes is a build up of these “I’ll be just 2 minutes” occurrences or a day where you are bogged down by the millions of responsibilities running through your head, to start developing bad habits that can eventually lead to something tragic.
I do believe that I had first assessed any danger yesterday. And I honestly didn’t see any, knowing that I was going to be in and out in a flash. This wasn’t a shopping mall or a supermarket. It was an ATM stop on a cool, sunless day. I wasn’t buying anything from the shop. I was drawing cash.
- On average, 38 children die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths (www.kidsandcars.org)
- There is no safe amount of time to leave children alone in the car
- Kids are more susceptible and at higher risk for heat-related illness and injury than adults because their bodies make more heat relative to their size and their abilities to cool through sweating are not as developed as adults
- A 2002 study found the temperature rose significantly in a car within just 10 minutes
- Even opening the windows is not effective at reducing the temperature or delaying the temperature increase
- Just a few minutes can be extremely dangerous — even fatal — for a small child
- The highest number of incidents occur in summer
In short, it is never worth the time saved. Don’t do it. I certainly won’t ever again. Even for 2 minutes.