Soooooo...I was confronted with an awkward situation not too long ago. It was one of those things that you, upon reading this, will probably be able to say, "Oh my word, I would totally have done/said/called ________..." because it seems painfully (and should be painfully) obvious. If you wrote this and I read it, I would think the same thing. But you really never know until you're in it, and I found that I clearly did not do the right thing. So out of mild embarrassment, and sort of as a public service announcement, I present you with said situation, and the correct solution at the end. :)
You pull up to a store. Say, a Christian book store, in the late morning. There are few cars in the lot, and HAHA!!! there's a primo spot right up by the door. You park, next to an SUV that is also directly in front of the door and large display windows.
You get out to wrest your child out of his car seat, and note the SUV - black, windows cracked, engine running, no one in the car. You think sarcastically, "Sure wish I were rich enough to keep my car running while I shop.." and then inwardly chastise yourself for thinking haughty sarcastic thoughts in front of - a Christian bookstore. ;)
And then you look again - at the risk of being snoopy, because the windows are very tinted - and are completely taken aback. A little boy is looking back at you...no older than Levi's age...from his car seat. At the risk of being even more snoopy, you cup your hand around your eyes against the window to make sure there isn't a grandparent, sibling, or anyone else there. There isn't. The boy looks content. He's not crying. The day is becoming very warm but the sun is on the other side of the building so he's very much in the shade....and.....well...this is weird to see a kid by himself in a running car.......
You justify to yourself - how many times have you thought, "Doggone it - I do *NOT* want to unbuckle _____ AGAIN just to run into Walgreens for three seconds." And then again, you inwardly chastise yourself at those moments,thinking - it takes a split second, the wrong person in the right place at the right time, the brake slips, the engine spontaneously combusts, whatever....and I'd live with my regret for the rest of my life. Nope, can't do that, and so you unbuckle him. Again.
Maybe the mom ran in for a quick second and is watching the car like a hawk. Yeah, that must be it. If you were at the grocery store, that would be a no-brainer - huge parking lot, kid alone in vehicle = a call to the police. But this is a tiny bookstore...in a small parking lot...in front of the large windows...does that change things?????
So you go in the store. Not a soul - not even a cashier - can be immediately seen. A small handful of people shopping there. You later figure out that the woman who was literally sitting in the Bible aisle, surrounded by Bibles and books, completely surrounded by large bookshelves and clearly immersed in her choices, is the mother of the boy in the car.
Grab the license plate number and call the police?
What do you do???
Confronting her is a sticky enterprise. No doubt it'll not be received well - even if you're clearly in the right.
Calling the police seems sticky - will you have to wait there and be questioned? Can you remain anonymous? How do you remain anonymous when your car is clearly the one right next to hers, it'll be pretty easy to conclude it was you who called...and maybe she's a really awesome mom. And now she's open to a CPS investigation that could entirely ruin the next few weeks for her. What's the fallout of that???
So you do the worst possible thing...nothing. She spends her sweet time in the store, debates about getting her new Bible engraved, and then drives off. Nothing happened to her toddler. She probably will do it again.
I did nothing. And I'm kicking myself for it. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt - I mean, there's a REASON I don't go to bookstores or any place that requires me to stand still for more than three seconds to make a decision. Taking an antsy little boy into the bookstore is a recipe for frustration at best. That day I had my mom with me, so we could tag team while we looked at what we wanted while Levi systematically dismantled the Veggie Tales display, touched every book, keychain, and bookmark, and gawked at the candy. That lady was by herself. Undoubtedly, she did what she did so she could actually take her time. I get it.
But it was still........and I'm really not trying to judge HER, just make a discernment on this one decision........a very stupid thing to do. Maybe our parents could do it 30 years ago, I don't know. It's just...it only takes a split second. And your baby is gone. No trip to any store, no amount of peace and quiet, is worth that.
So what should you do???
Well, Matt works - (well, this is his last day, he's now an employee at Gentex in Zeeland!!!! WOOOOOOH!! No more commute!!!! - but that's a different post for a different day) in Grand Rapids police department. He asked one of his cop friends. The right thing to do is take the license plate number and call the police and let them handle it. Confronting invariably leads to a confrontation that becomes an issue between you and the other person, and then it's on a totally different level of problematic. In this case, assuming this is a normal mom with no prior "history," she'd get a quick visit from CPS with an admonition on why this should never be done, and then hopefully it's a done deal. (And FYI - evidently the fact that the car was running puts it on a whole different level, apparently, and she could have been charged with abandonment.)
Soooo...if this happens again, I'll know what to do. I hope it doesn't, but if it happens to you, don't make the same mistake I did and do nothing. If something popped up on the news that night about that little boy, I would feel partially to blame, basically standing by and doing nothing when I could have. It was just one of those instances that in retrospect - or even in theory - seems terribly obvious, but when you're in it, you're like UHHHHHHH.....UHHHHHHH....and we all hate those moments. So, learn from my mental oblivion and don't let this happen again :) And it's just another reminder that it IS worth it to do the carseat-wrestling-match multiple times.