STFU Parents: Forgetting Your Baby In Your Vehicle And Other Car Hysterics On Social Media

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.

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    • atlmom

      Okay, this child looks a little young… but did anyone consider that perhaps mom locked the car from the outside?? I grew up outside of Miami, and mom let me stay in the car by myself all the time — always with the car on, so I had AC, and the radio (the whole reason I wanted to stay in the first place), I hit the locks, she parked in a space right in front, and if anyone approached the car, I was to lay on the horn and not stop.
      KK, thank you for providing some reason as to what is “illegal” and not. I am 8 months pregnant and commented to a coworker who is 22 that I was going to celebrate my birthday with my husband and would be enjoying a glass of wine. My coworker immediately exclaimed that it would be illegal for a waitress to serve me! No, dear, the manager could refuse to serve me, as proprietor of a private business, and I would have left, but it is not illegal to serve a glass to wine to a pregnant woman. Many people would be surprised at what isn’t “ILLEGAL,” but instead merely frowned upon.

    • HS

      What’s disheartening is all the mentions of using the purse as your reminder. Um, a living, breathing, human being in the backseat of your vehicle should be enough of a reminder to not leave your child in the car. I’ve made it to stores with my childly safely with me and had to go back to my car to get my purse. Never, ever have I/will I ever forget my child. Don’t mean to be judgemental, that’s just how I feel about it. No excuses.

    • Miss RIddle

      wait…these people realize that the car could be locked, right? the mother probably has two sets of keys and left one in the car to keep it running. I don’t think the child is in much danger if the car if locked and the mother was only gone for a few minutes to get a SANDWICH. My mother used to leave me in the car all the time for a few minutes here or there when i was younger. She would leave the car running if it was hot or cold out.

      I’m sorry, but I really don’t see anything very dangerous about this situation. It doesnt’ take long to get a sandwich.

    • Na

      What about parents who leave their children in the pub?
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18391663

    • Katherine

      I wouldn’t leave my kid alone in a grocery store without my eyes on them, I wouldn’t leave them in an unlocked car where I couldn’t see them, either. These aren’t my diamond earrings I’m talking about – they’re my kids. It might be overprotective, but they’re irreplaceable. That being said — my car has a remote starter, and several times, I’ve locked the car, and restarted it, to run in somewhere quickly. I guess someone could still break the windows, but if they were going to go to that length, they could do it with me there, too.

    • nexttonormal

      I personally don’t see a problem, I remember staying I’m the car many times while my parents got things from CVS, blockbuster, even one or two things from Kroger. As long as the car is on or the windows are down a crack and the door is locked, what bad could happen? I mean I wouldn’t leave a child in) a car that was too young to realize they were getting too hot,

    • http://robot-heart.tumblr.com heartbot

      I have a 5 month old. There have been so many times when I have wished I could just leave my kid in the car while I run in a place, especially when I know it’s going to take longer to unbuckle the seatbelt than it would just to run in and run out. (Obviously only in situations where I could see the car the whole time and could leave the car running.) The only reason I don’t is not because I think it’s unsafe (yes, I suppose there’s a very small chance that someone could take my kid or the car, but it’s more likely we’d both die in an accident on the way to the gas station than for her to be snatched out of my car while I’m paying for gas inside), but because I’m worried about someone calling the cops or CPS on me. And not just because it would make me look like a “bad mother,” but because it ups the chances that my child would be taken from me and put in foster care, where she would be far more likely to ACTUALLY be neglected or abused by some stranger than she ever would with me, 5 minutes alone in the car notwithstanding.

      Fortunately, in most places, CPS is so overwhelmed with real cases of child abuse, they barely have the time or resources to roll their eyes over this crap. BUT. There’s always the possibility by reporting behavior that is less risky than the actual act of driving your kids in a motor vehicle can land a perfectly well taken care of kid in a really rotten situation. So thanks, concern trolls. I hope indulging your smug, self-righteous inner douche was worth it.

    • http://twitter.com/MsWendyKH Wendy Kraus-Heitmann

      I’m sorry but leaving babies in cars alone and not using a carseat are NOT matters of “parenting” but are about SAFETY. And no CPS should not be called, 911 should be. God.

      • http://twitter.com/MsWendyKH Wendy Kraus-Heitmann

        And why is leaving your baby in the car because you’re choosing to drive when over tired and stressed out (from the exhausting overbooked lifestyle you’ve *chosen*) treated so compassionately compared to leaving your baby in the car because you’re choosing to drive when you’ve had 2-3 cocktails? Both are *choices*. Slow down and pay attention. Call it being a perfect mom if you want, but none of my four are dead or have CPS involved go fig.

    • chanceofrainne

      I can’t count how many times I and my sibs/friends got left in running cars as kids. All still alive. Heck, one time my (older – about 13 or so at the time) brother got into the glove compartment and sprayed Mace (not pepper spray, actual MACE) in the floorboard to see what would happen. Still alive. People really need to chill the F out.

    • SMiaVS

      Did it occur to the guy that maybe the doors were locked? My mother used to leave me in the car (once I was about ten) with the doors locked, and if it was hot, (which was often the case in the South) she left the air running. People are so quick to judge….

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    • Sami

      Whether I’d call the police or not would depend on factors like the weather, whether the engine was running/AC was on, and how long they were gone. I’m not sure I’d be up to confronting them over it, but I’d definitely wait by the car.

      If it was in the middle of summer, when, here in Australia, cars in the sun can get murderously hot in a matter of minutes, I’d be likely to call the police pretty much immediately, and if the child was visibly in distress, or it went more than about five minutes (tops) before the parent or the cops arrived, I’d probably break into the car myself. “Watch a child die” is not exactly on my bucket list.

      But then, it has actually happened that children have, literally, died in hot cars when parents “just popped in” to a shop (or, depressingly, a casino or a pub), so it’s not *pure* paranoia or anything.

    • GAT

      you’re an idiot

    • Ashley Wilson

      The kid + car case is where I am definitely a product of my environment. Where I live, even in the dead of winter, leaving a living thing in a car with no AC can kill. This past warm winter I had to use a jacket maybe 6 times. I see anything living locked inside a car, running or not, I take action. Now this action can vary, but I don’t stand by. In the case of the mom and the sandwich, the guy knew where the mom was and kept an eye out. I’d probably do the same and say something to her when she came out because cars overheat easily here. Animal locked in the car, running or not, and I can’t see the owner, I call animal control’s line the have specifically for this (our laws say that even if the car is run, if you “abandon” the animal in the car, it’s illegal). If I don’t see the owner/parent and the car is not running but it’s a more mild day, I call the non emergency police line and see what they say (so my ass is covered if a window has to be broken). If it’s 100+ and the car is off, I call 911 and find a way to break the window right then. I’d never call CPS. If it merits legal intervention, the cops or ambulance or whatever can see if CPS needs to be involved. No need to call them for a parent who just did something you don’t agree with versus actively putting the kid in danger, and if the kid is in active danger, I should focus on getting them care right then rather than fill a complaint with CPS. We have pretty clear laws as to what is acceptable for animals locked in cars since it can be hot enough to melt plastic (not just warp) and figure that can be a pretty fair guideline for a kid.

    • Leigha7

      Seriously, Wendy? I can’t even BEGIN to remember how many times in my childhood I sat in the car and waited while my parents ran in to the post office or the store (small grocery store for single item purchases) or the gas station. Admittedly, we lived in a small town, so the post office and store were pretty safe. The car was never on, the doors were always locked, they were never more than 50 yards away, and it was never more than 5 or so minutes, but it happened LOTS of times and they were not “lousy parents” for it. (And don’t even say “Well it was a different world then.” I’m only in my 20s, things haven’t changed that much since the 90s.) I would also like to note that I doubt they ever left me in the car before I was old enough to communicate clearly and understand what was going on around me. Babies are a bit different.

      ETA: I clicked reply on the wrong comment, but obviously I meant for this to be a reply to Wendy.

    • Leigha7

      I’ve never been to a Blockbuster but the handful of times I’ve been to a movie rental place, I was EASILY there for at least 20 minutes, because I had to look at basically every single movie there to see what they had (just by walking through the whole place, not literally looking at every single one) and then (if I was actually going to rent some) pick out what I wanted, which is really hard after looking at so many options. I’m not sure how big Blockbuster is but they’re such a big name I’d imagine they have quite a few movies to choose from.

      Not everyone goes there to rent a specific movie, some people like to browse. It’s kind of neat to see movies you didn’t even know existed sitting on the shelves.

    • Leigha7

      That and the possibility people might just break into the car to save them.

    • Leigha7

      It depends on the kid. I know I personally would never even have dared to do such a thing because I knew better (yes, even at 3 1/2). If you know for a fact that your kid will do nothing more than sit there and wait for you, you don’t really have to worry about it. If you have any reason to believe they might not, then yeah, what you’re saying could be a problem.

    • ktree

      Just wanted to say that was a really generous and awesome thing to do. Good for you :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/mary.renee.reuter Mary Renee Reuter

      There is only one time I wanted someone to call CPS on someone. And that was when my boyfriend saw a woman smoking a crack pipe with the windows up with a baby in a carseat in the back (I wasn’t there) I was like “Did you get her license plate? That kid is f*cked!” and he hadn’t. Had I been there, I would have. I’ll be honest, I’ve been so tempted to run into a store to grab something real fast if my daughter is asleep in her carseat, but I haven’t. The only time I will leave her in the car for a second is to buy gas and I park at the pump closest to the cashier (so yeah, I’m about six feet away from the car, I guess)

    • http://www.facebook.com/mary.renee.reuter Mary Renee Reuter

      I don’t mind if you leave your dog tied up outside the store as long as I don’t get the stink eye for petting him.

    • Teacher

      As a mandated reporter, I want to point out that we (those mandated) have a legal obligation to report based on any reasonable sign of mistreatment or risk being legally liable if something happens to a child. Our training is to err on the side of caution because a child could die. It is stressed that fear of reporting and under reporting of abuse is common. I agree that you should never report someone without reasonable cause, but please don’t discourage people from making a report because they could be saving a life.