Recently, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about threatening to call the police after a car pulled up next to her in a parking lot with an adult female passenger holding a baby on her lap. I read through the comments, which indicated that my friend told the woman she should be using a car seat and that the woman told my friend to mind her own business, and the general consensus was that the baby’s life was potentially in danger so calling the police would have been warranted. My friend did not call the police after all was said and done, but the discussion made me think about the various STFU, Parents submissions I have that revolve around parents, kids, and cars.

To say that people judge other people’s parenting these days would be an understatement, but how does that attitude extend to vehicle-specific issues? I think each case has its own potential dangers (the statistics of which I’m not exactly familiar), but then again, we are living in an era where a child could be 10 or 12 years old before he can ride in a car without a booster seat. Even I think that sounds a little extreme, but what can I say, I’m a child of the 80s. Back then, kids would cruise around with their parents in what would surely be deemed “an unsafe manner” by today’s standards, especially since I don’t recall ever singing the Pointer Sisters while sitting backwards in my mom’s rusty Volvo. In some ways, the heightened concerns parents have are justified. And I like to think that parents looking out for one another’s kids is a good thing, something that leads to more open communication and harmonious interaction. But instead, there’s a lot of knee-jerking and finger-pointing, and the acronym “CPS” gets tossed out over even the most minor of parent “fails.” Like I said, I know that every situation — much like every child — is different, but personally, I prefer to proceed with caution than call the police or file a report with CPS.

Here are a couple of examples of car-related scenarios that I don’t think should’ve been discussed on Facebook for totally different reasons. They may be completely different situations, but they both have one thing in common: hysteria.

1. Accidentally Locking A Baby In The Car

Personally, if I ever made a mistake as controversial as Suzanne’s (with the same positive outcome), you couldn’t pay me to mention it on Facebook. Aside from opening yourself up to criticism, you put yourself in an awkward position with other parents whose kids you might currently or one day babysit. Plus, the reactions are inevitably going to range from sympathetic to hostile, and it doesn’t seem worth it to me to put the information out there for everyone to judge.

But, on the other hand, this submission made me realize how much parents are discouraged from admitting that they’re human and capable of making bad (accidental) decisions. Parents are always happy to share their babies’ dirty diapers on Facebook, but they’re not as inclined to admit to screwing up. If anything, they want to look like heroes. Sure, Suzanne revealed something shocking that doesn’t paint her in the best light, but she got some decent feedback from the few friends who didn’t scold her, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad move to discuss it on Facebook after all. It’s a sensitive subject, and I’m on the fence over whether it’s sharing too much, but ultimately it was Suzanne’s information to share.

2. Intentionally Leaving A Kid In The Car

Technically – legally – what the owner of this Toyota did was very irresponsible. But, so was the man (yes, man) who posted the original status update. It’s mind-boggling to me that R. would go out of his way to mention this on Facebook, and I don’t think doing so actually helped the situation. It just got a lot of parents jumpy and allowed them to feel “perfect” amidst the accusations that this mother “needs to be in jail.” Not to mention, R. did not have to supply anyone (himself or all of his Facebook friends) with a photo of the car, the child, or the woman’s license plate (that I’ve edited), which is just about as irresponsible as the mother leaving her kid in the car with the engine running. What if the child was holding a cell phone and called his mother to say that a strange man was taking pictures of him outside the car? Well, then I guess they’d both be getting arrested! Such is the reaction in the times we live in.

Rather than call the police on every idiot we see, why not try communicating with the parent first? Perhaps, as was the case of my friend in the parking lot, the parent will tell you to mind your business. But maybe, just maybe, some parents will take the time to listen. It doesn’t sound like R. even bothered trying to talk to this mother before deciding to file a report against her with CPS. What does that say about our society? Yes, there are parents out there whose kids are on their laps in the car; there are parents who accidentally leave their kids in the car; and there are parents who stupidly leave their engines running while their child is sitting in the car. But those things don’t diminish from the fact that parents should be there for each other. In fact, they enhance that need. There are a million ways that parents can screw up when it comes to cars and their kids, but there’s only one way parents should react: with compassion. At the very least, don’t post pictures of other people’s vehicles and children on the Internet.

Tell me: Would YOU admit that you accidentally left your baby in the car, even for just a second? Would YOU call CPS or the police if you saw a child in the back of a running car, or would you just wait for the parent to come out to ensure the safety of the child? And what if you saw a baby riding on someone’s lap? Where do you draw the line, and what do you feel comfortable discussing on Facebook?