04 June 2010

This really can happen to anyone ~

"Each year about 37 babies and toddlers die when they are accidentally left strapped in car safety seats or become trapped in vehicles that rapidly heat up.If you think this senseless tragedy couldn't happen to you, think again....[any] parent -- even a smart, loving, safety-obsessed parent -- can accidentally leave a child in a hot car until it's too late...."

Please take a few minutes to read the rest of the article, Tragedy in the Backseat: Hot-Car Deaths, at Parenting.com's on-line magazine.

When I saw the title of this article, it grabbed my attention because our Jonathan could have been one such tragedy... of all of my "bad-mama" moments (there have been more than plenty) and parenting mistakes, this was the one that devastated and destroyed any illusion of my competence as a parent. I am capable of any mistake imaginable, with consequences that fall anywhere on the continuum from almost nothing to laughable to tragic...

Isn't it funny how a moment of forgetfulness can be so clearly etched in the memory? We were busy preparing to return to Niger in August, 2005... I was driving my mother's car, a different car for me, and I was trying to finish up a thousand different details in as many different directions... there really was a lot involved in moving a family of (then) 8 overseas for 4 years. I had dropped Tim and a few of the kids off at the dentist while I had a meeting with one of the teachers at our church's Christian school. I pulled into the parking lot, running late, snatched my purse off the passenger seat and immediately ran into the school without a second thought, totally unaware that I was leaving 10 month old Jonathan sleeping soundly in his carseat in the backseat. Forty-five minutes later I walked out of the building and back to my car, and was astonished to see a carseat in the back with a blanket thrashing around. Confused, I ran to the car as the fog lifted ~ I realized it was my sweet little guy, laying there, kicking and screaming, dripping in sweat, very red and flushed with the soft skin on his face so hot to the touch it was terrifying. He was beyond distressed and I disolved into tears. I cannot begin to describe the horror I felt as I realized what had happened... what could have so easily resulted. That awful feeling far outweighed the simultaneous relief that he was obviously still alive. That Michigan day had been cool (70 degrees and overcast) and I had returned to the car in a comparatively short period of time. If it had been a typical August day in Michigan... if I'd lived in the south or had been in Niger... if I'd been in a longer, more complicated meeting or going to a job... the results could have been, probably would have been, tragically different for our family.

Since that day, I've always put my purse in the floor of the backseat so that I do not leave the vehicle without checking to make sure that there aren't any sleeping babies in the back seat, regardless of how sure I am that I couldn't forget... again.


  1. Richelle, I had one of those horrible bad mama times, too. I was in Niger and was running errands. I stopped at the office, fortunately for not more than 10 minutes, and completely forgot that S was in the back seat. When I came out, there she was in her car seat with sweat pouring off her little face. For sure, I've never forgotten that or what could have been. I'm not so quick to judge those whose children have been found dead in their car seats because Mom forgot they were there.

  2. Richelle, I hope you don't think of yourself as being as bad as this note sounds like you feel. To balance (then) six kids, and now eight, and adding the complexity of moving overseas for four years, and then traveling to various towns and states nearly every weekend while you're here in the USA, you rank among the champion mothers in my book. You have been blessed by God, not just with your eight wonderful kids, but with the strength to handle them.

  3. Adam, I'm not beating myself up about this... 5 years later. But, I saw this article and I recognize the fact that there are those who think Tim and I do work parent well. Yet even with all the effort, our years have taught me that I am capable of any error or sin and I shouldn't sit in judgment of others' mistakes or feel that I've got it made or am so competent in a particular area that I couldn't mess up...

    I do appreciate your kind and encouraging words.

    Wow, Nancy - thanks for sharing your story, too.


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