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Never Say Never: I Left My Daughter in a Hot Car

Prevent accidentsI left my daughter in a hot car, and if I could do it-so could you.

“Hey where is Penny?”  It was such a simple question, one that any parent of a young child will find themselves asking when things are too quiet.  It was a little after 8 p.m. and my family had just arrived home-I was gathering things around the house to prepare for a work trip I was taking the next day, my husband was going through the mail and my seven year old was already playing in her room.  Everything seemed normal except I didn’t hear sounds of my three year old, my baby, running around or fighting with her sister.

Not yet knowing the gravity of the situation, I walked in each room calling for her, and with each utterance of “Penny” my anxiety was climbing and my voice becoming more concerned-I instinctively knew this wasn’t a game of hide-and-seek.  I heard my husband ask, “Do you think she is still in the garage?” from another room and the weight of realization that not only was she in the garage, but still buckled into her car seat overcame me.  It felt so heavy, as if every single muscle in my body was filled with lead but adrenaline pushed me to run to the garage.

I opened the door and could hear her screaming from inside the car.  I threw the door open, relieved that the inside temperature of the car felt cool compared to the stifling, sticky temperature of the garage.  Tears stained her flushed cheeks but the moment she saw me she stopped crying and just stared at me, obviously mad. 

I frantically unbuckled her and attempted to hold her close to me but she pushed me away angrily. 

I kept repeating that I was sorry and I would never do that to her again.  Like a typical threenager, her mood immediately switched and she nestled her head into my shoulder allowing me to feel the weight of her body against mine.  This time I truly became frozen, I stayed in that hot garage feeling the sweat start to bead on the back of my neck and my heart beating out of my chest replaying everything that happened that caused me to leave my baby in the car.

When I looked back, what hurt the most was how easily it happened.  We had gotten home later than I wanted from dinner and knowing I had to pack for a work trip, I wanted to get started quickly so I could get to bed at a decent time.  As soon as we pulled into the garage, I transferred something from my husband’s car to mine so I wouldn’t forget to bring it with me the next day.  This was the break in routine that caused me to forget Penny.  Every time we arrive home, I get out and unbuckle Penny as my husband opens the door for my older daughter.  The simple act of doing one tiny thing differently could have drastically changed our lives forever.

Prior to this incident, I was not the parent who said this could never happen to me.  In fact, I previously have written an article about never saying never when it comes to tragic situations.  Still, while I knew it was possible, I didn’t think it would happen.  And holding my girl that night, I felt so incredibly lucky that the circumstances were what they were-she hadn’t been in the car more than five minutes because my husband realized it was just a little too quiet, it was late at night, and the car was still cool from running the air conditioner.  It didn’t have to be that way and tragically, it isn’t for some parents.

When I admitted on social media what happened to my friends, several chimed in and admitted their parenting mistakes, and a few reached out to me privately and shared they had done the same thing, feeling too ashamed to openly admit it.  While I have extreme regret and was angry I made the mistake, I don’t feel ashamed to admit it. If being open about my story helps one other parent realize it could happen to them too and be more aware how easily it can happen and potentially prevent an accident, then I would share it as many times as it took.

I’m a good mom.  I know this through and through-I adore my girls, want the absolute best for them and feel pride knowing that my daughters will make a difference in the world because of who they are and how I am raising them.  It doesn’t mean I can’t, don’t, or won’t make mistakes in the future and I was just very, very lucky that evening. 

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2 Responses to Never Say Never: I Left My Daughter in a Hot Car

  1. Mrs G August 23, 2017 at 11:29 am #

    I read your article and immediately felt a need to say something but I didn’t because after all who am I? No one with a huge social media following nor a blog. I didn’t feel like I had voice that would matter. So, I left it alone but the next day I awoke and I still thought about how much this article truly bothered me. Why? It seems like we are now making excuses for forgetting our kids in hot vehicles. And that is Not okay. We should definitely save Never- to forgetting our children in a car. We list reasons on why we “forgot”, “oh, we got so busy.” The truth is we all have things to do- prepare for work, dinner, laundry, homework, after school activities, and so on. But is that really being busy? Isn’t that just life? Being alive and being a parent, has responsibilities and it’s up to us to prioritize those things to do. I am a wife and mother to five children and I understand how hectic home life can get but still cannot get to a reason on why it is okay to get so busy that I would forget a child in a car. In your article you mentioned your family arrived home- meaning both you and your husband and your two children. So both of you and your husband forget your child was in the car? I am extremely happy that you realized her absence in time but if it had not been that way, was anything you and your husband doing really that urgent, that it made you forget to get both of your kids out of the car? There are a lot things in life we cannot control and yes we will make parenting mistakes but this should not be seen as mistake. More and more children are dying this way and perhaps it is because of this mentality that “we just forget” or “we were so busy.” Would you be okay dying simply because someone you loved and trusted, forgot about you?

    • Cassidy
      Cassidy October 22, 2017 at 8:42 pm #

      Hey Mrs. G, I am so sorry I didn’t catch this comment when it came through! I certainly don’t want you to think I ignored it based on your response.

      If it came across that I was making an excuse (as if this action could be forgiven) that wasn’t my intention-there isn’t a reason this *should* happen to myself, or to anyone. You are completely and totally correct that it is never ok to get so busy you leave your kid in the car. I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks that is ok. That said, it does happen and we need to identify why things like this keep happening.

      One of the key things experts have identified as to why these things continue to keep happening is because of the stance your brain wants to take, “This could never happen to me.” If your brain doesn’t allow for it to be an opportunity, you have blocked out the ability to realize that something has shifted in your routine and caused you to forget that one major, life-altering step.

      My husband and I have the same routine every single time we get out of the car-he gets my oldest out from his side, I get the younger one from my side. I am frequently far behind him because the youngest is still rear facing in a five point, the oldest unbuckles herself and he only has to open the door. Based on this circumstance, we have changed our routine to look for both kids upon exit of the car.

      I do feel like you missed the point to my story-the reason why I am retelling it. There was absolutely nothing, no excuse, no reason for me to have forgotten my daughter in the car. You asked me if my husband and I were doing something so urgent to make this mistake-only the routine of us returning home, like any other night. So no, there was nothing urgent and I would not be ok if I, my daughters, my loved ones, or anyone dies because someone who loved them forgot about them.

      Yet the mistake still happened. I know you believe this will never happen to you, and odds are, it won’t. Have you ever forgotten something? Something you were so sure you would remember and you found yourself surprised that you forgot it? While the potential consequences of what you have forgotten are assumably less tragic, the cause of forgetting to run a very important errand (or send an email, or schedule a doctors appointment, or follow up on a particular task) is the same exact thing that occurs when you leave a child in the car. The brain isn’t perfect and while there is certainly something to say about society and the damage we are doing to ourselves with nonstop technology, poor food choices, etc-you can only do your best to make sure it never happens, which requires you to realize it COULD happen.

      I appreciate your frustration that it seems like people are normalizing this, like it is something we should just accept. I 100% agree with you that we should not allow that to happen. I just believe that it is more important to take the time to understand why this is happening instead of making others feel like they don’t prioritize their children as much as they do. Because I assure you, I love my children, value them, and have them as my highest priority, just as much as you love your five-even if I did accidentally leave my daughter in the car.

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