Parents screw up. I certainly do. Most acknowledge a mistake when they make it. So when someone leaves a 4 year old in the car and writes a rambling essay about all the legal woe that came of it, I struggle to sympathize.
Kim Brooks writes about her mistake in Salon.com in the essay “The Day I Left My Son in the Car.” She writes of a harrowing morning getting her kids on a plane and making a last-minute trip to the store because her son misplaced his headphones. It was going to be a long flight, and she couldn’t board without headphones so the kid could use his iPad and keep quiet.
At the last minute, the boy announces he’s going with her. Despite her better instincts, she relents. When they reach the store, he announces he’s not leaving the car; he’s too busy with the iPad.
So she lets him stay, figuring she’ll just be a minute. She returns to the car and a safe-and-sound son five minutes later. After the flight, Brooks discovers she’s in a heap of trouble because a bystander used a cellphone to record her leaving the child and later returning. The bystander sent the recording to police.
The rest of the essay chronicles her dealings with lawyers and law enforcement and how absolutely awful it all was. If she has a lesson to share, it’s buried beneath all the whining.
I want to sympathize. She didn’t act maliciously. She made a split-second decision. A bad one, but find me a parent who hasn’t and I’ll eat a live worm.
Here’s what’s truly outrageous to me: She admits giving in to a seemingly spoiled brat:
“I don’t want to go in,” my son said as I opened the door. He was tapping animated animals on a screen, dragging them from one side to the other. “I don’t want to go in. I changed my mind.”
He glanced up at me, his eyes alight with what I’d come to recognize as a sort of pre-tantrum agitation. “No, no, no, no, no! I don’t want to go in,” he repeated, and turned back to his game.
And then I did something I’d never done before. I left him. I told him I’d be right back. I cracked the windows and child-locked the doors and double-clicked my keys so that the car alarm was set. And then I left him in the car for about five minutes.
The rest of the essay goes something like this: “He didn’t die. He wasn’t kidnapped.” Why then, was she being punished?
Here’s why, Kim:
You should have made him go in. Better yet, when he refused to get out, you should have driven back without the headphones and confiscated the iPad. Sure, he’d have screamed bloody murder. But he would have learned something.
Do us all a favor: Instead of writing essays like this, why don’t you discipline your child instead?