It's the end of May here in good, ole VA and the temperatures are rising. While today may be a mild, rainy day, Saturday was sunny and HOT. Already we're starting to hear reports of children being left in the car, sometimes with catastrophic consequences. Sometimes it's a frazzled, over-worked mother who made a terrible mistake, whereas other times it's shear ineptitude, but regardless of the cause, we always see those comments from people claiming it could never happen to them, and these mothers / fathers couldn't possibly love their children if this is what they'll do.
I understand this outcry. It's hard to imagine someone could ever leave a child in the car, and I felt the exact same way for a long time. I mean, I went years with dogs in the car and I never once came close to leaving one in a hot car (even when they were sleeping soundly). Surely people who leave their children in the car must be heartless. Heck, I even argued that if you had to leave a shoe / purse in the back seat to ensure you wouldn't forget your child then there must be something wrong with you. That is, of course, until it happened to me.
A little over three years ago, I was a new mom. I had a very new infant and I was running my growing business (trying to put in as much time as possible), when BAM! All of a sudden I was hit with a completely unexpected life-changing event when my Mom, the woman who was supposed to help me care for Anna and serve a pseudo-nanny, was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. All of a sudden I was left caring for my infant and my business while simultaneously helping my mom recover from surgery, moving her from her apartment to our house (and a few things to storage), caring for her 2 dogs in addition to my own 2 dogs, dealing with her bills/finances, and also shuttling her from doctor appointment to doctor appointment while I fit my own doctor appointments in there as well. And that doesn't even begin to factor in dietary changes we were trying to make to help cope with the cancer diagnosis! It should go on note that all this hassle is what made me decide I only want one child. I don't need anymore craziness in my life, and I'm happy to shower all my attention on Anna (and the pups, cats, and kennel).
Anyway, I was beyond stressed when my mom's car came due for its annual inspection and needed a few repairs. Dad said one of his friends could take care of it, so I gave him the keys to mom's car and he dropped it off. I have no idea how he got a ride from the shop, only that the car was there for a few days. After a short while, Dad showed up at the kennel one day and said, "OK, let's go pick up your mom's car." I wrapped up what I was working on, placed Anna in her car seat, and let Dad give me directions as to where I was going.
When we arrived, I got out of the car and followed Dad into the main office. The mechanic wasn't in there, so I followed Dad into the garage. Dad was closing the door behind us when he looked at me and asked, "Where's Anna?" Less than 5 minutes had passed and I completely panicked. I string of expletives flew out of my mouth as I ran back to my van only to find her resting peacefully. The temperature in the car, however, was climbing quickly, and I couldn't believe my stupid mistake.
I didn't tell anyone about this for a long time simply because I was so embarrassed. Dad, to his credit, also chose not to spread the story around. I can't begin to tell you how much I felt like a horrible mother. Here was this helpless, defenseless creature, who relied on me for everything, and I couldn't believe I could be that careless. I wanted to cry. I held Anna close to me, I let her nurse when she needed to, I wiped her brow, and I thanked God nothing worse had happened, but I also gained a lot of understanding that day.
Now, I doubt I would have forgotten her for hours on end, but who am I to say I wouldn't have left her in the car for 20 minutes while I dealt with the mechanic? Even saying that makes me feel terrible, but it's the truth. For a brief moment I was so worn out that I left my darling girl in the car.
Have I forgotten her since? Not even close. More often than not I find I'm checking her car seat even on days she's not with me just to make sure. That one time was enough to scare the living bejeezus out of me, and I doubt I'll ever make that mistake again. Still, though, I see how it could happen. I hate to admit that I'm one of those people, but I am. Simply put, I'm human.
Now, I might get some negative response to this, and that's OK. I understand where you're coming from. I just hope you can show some compassion and understand not everyone is as perfect as you. I certainly am not. I give everything I have in me, but sometimes I'm just out of things to give. That's where I'm so thankful for my support system. I'm thankful for Hans and my dad and my friends. They're the ones who keep my errors from turning into horrible, horrible mistakes.