I saw something today that bugged me: a toddler sitting in a car alone at the grocery store. He looked about three and was strapped into his seat making faces and talking to himself. He seemed happy enough, but completely sans adult.
I turned around, hoping to see a mom or dad pushing a cart to its corral or otherwise hovering nearby. But, no. I thought about the begging meth mouths who'd approached me in that very parking lot a few years before.
Maybe the parent just ran inside for milk? And maybe the car doors were locked (not that a three-year-old wouldn't happily unlock them for a grown-up flashing a candy bar).
Believe me, I know the temptation well, to leave your child for just a few minutes. The car seats are so cumbersome and the kids so tedious. My rule, though, is that I have to be able to see Max and Claire from where I stand. So, I'll dash up the ATM machine and library book return, but won't actually disappear into a building without them. Not that I am perfect and without recrimination. But a toddler? Store in an okay but by no means super safe neighborhood?
I loitered for a minute, then went inside to get my chicken nuggets and wine. (Why yes, they do go beautifully together). I told myself that if the car was still there with the toddler alone when I came back, I was going to alert a store employee.
To my relief, five minutes later the car was gone.
Once, when I was in my twenties and a friend and I pulled up at a rural microbrewery, I noticed two little kids by themselves in a sedan. Okay, I thought, this is distressing, but maybe the dad just dashed in to grab a six-pack.
For at least an hour, my friend and I sipped hefeweizens (which would also be amazing with chicken nuggets. Or fish sticks!), and when we returned, the kids were still inside their own car.
I hemmed and hawed a little, and my friend started her engine and swung out of the lot. On the highway, though, I called the police. I can only hope the negligent non-parent was busted. There's really no excuse.
And I'm admittedly a half-hearted advocate. If I were nervier, I'd stay with the car until the parent returned. I wish I had today, actually.
I want to know...what do you think of leaving a three-year-old in a car alone? A foolish risk not worth taking or no big deal?