Kids in Cars – Cartoon Illustrator
Have you ever left your child alone in the car to quickly dash into a shop? Apparently a parent was prosecuted in the UK for neglect for doing just that. If this is the case, lock me in prison and throw away the key because I’m guilty. But surely I’m not alone? Hasn’t every parent at some stage done this?
You’re driving home from the childminer/school/soccer practise or whatever and need bread. The kids are safely strapped in their seats. Park outside or as close as you can to the shop door and quickly run in. Grab provisions. Make no eye contact or get caught in chit chat. Simply pay, no delay and be on your way. What can possibly go wrong?
Chances are, nothing will but it takes one bad scare to make you realise it’s not worth the risk. I found this out almost the hard way. One dark, wet evening, after collecting the kids from the childminder on the way home from work, I stopped outside the local shop. The three year-old was in a temper and wouldn’t sit still but no matter, I only needed milk. He was safely strapped in, secure beside his baby brother and big sister. “I’ll only be a minute – wait there!” Returning to the car armed with cartons, I was surprised to see a friend at our car door holding my screaming tooddler’s hand. “I spotted him trying to get out,” she explained. I nearly dropped the blasted milk on the ground with the fright. We calmed him down and persuaded him back into his seat. With traffic belting by, I thanked my lucky stars that she was there to stop him crossing the busy, badly lit street. I couldn’t thank her enough. All the “What ifs” were racing through my head. What if he’d been knocked down, badly hurt or worse?
It never occured to me that anything might happen. He wasn’t alone. There were three of them, all safely strapped in. How could he undo the buckle? Oh God, I was surely the worst parent in the world. I’ve never forgotten that fright and even today, recounting it to PJ Coogan on @Corks96FM @OpinionLine96 I thank God for our lucky escape. But did I learn my lesson? I have to be honest and admit that afterwards I still took the ocassional chance.
I can totally empathise with mums who momentarily leave their sleeping baby strapped in the car to collect an older child at the school gate, or the parent prosecuted in the UK who simply nipped in for Calpol. I understand too well the temptation of scooting off to do a quick task insted of the hassle involved in taking the buggy out of the boot, assembling it, upsetting sleeping baby from snug car seat to strap into said buggy and wheeling possibly now-crying child into school yard or shop. It’s easy to criticize harried parents but as one ‘Opinion Line’ listener reminded “I was a great parent until I had children myself.”
Depending on the situation, parents must use their discretion and commonsense. Leaving a child unattended if going to the bank or buying a pair of shoes is compeletly different to quickly popping in for bread. That said, there is always a risk – engine fire, abduction or the child becoming frightened at being alone. As parents, our childrens’ safety is our responsibility. We can’t wrap them in cotton wool forever but when they’re very young, it’s best not to take a chance.
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Maeve O’Keeffe, the Frazzled Mammy! ©Maeve O’Keeffe 2015
Maeve O’Keeffe is a Cartoonist, Illustrator and Journalist in Cork, Ireland