By Valerie Zilinsky
To the mom I saw at the gas station this morning,
I was parked at the gas pump behind you, minding my own business, filling my tank, probably sharing your annoyment with the escalating gas prices we are all dealing with today. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw you hang up your gas pump, and walk into the gas station. It wasn't until I heard your baby crying that I gave it a second thought.
Okay, maybe she wasn't technically a baby. My guess would be about 2.5 years old? Old enough to realize she was alone in your car, and old enough to get herself into trouble.
Not old enough to protect herself from a stranger, or any other dangers that she might encounter.
This is no small gas station. Your car was not parked close to the door, where you could safely watch her out a window, and come to her aid in a matter of seconds. Your car windows were down, where anyone could have reached in, or your child could have possibly even gotten out on her own. Maybe you left the windows down for her because it was hot outside? But by doing so, you left her exposed to other possible dangers.
Although I was already late for work, when I finished pumping my guess, I sat in my car and kept my eye on her until I saw you walking back to your car.
There's that old saying, "It takes a village to raise a child". Today, I felt like it was my turn to help with this child, to be part of the "village", even if it was as subtle as just watching from a distance to ensure her safety for a mere 5 minutes out of my day.
Maybe you were late for work also, and it was quicker for you to run in without having to pull her out of the car to go with you. Maybe you are a stay-at-home mom who is overwhelmed with caring for your children, and walking into a gas station alone is the only break that you can sneak in. Maybe your child was sick, and you didn't want her to spread her germs to other children. Maybe she had a temper tantrum, and you needed a "time-out" before dealing with her. There are a million other reasons why you might have chosen to do this today, but are any of them important enough to take this kind of risk? You are not a terrible mother. And I am not judging you. I am just hoping to to get you to think twice before making this choice again.
Most likely, you are just like the rest of us - you read about tragedy in the newspaper and see it on the evening news, but you think it will never happen to you or your family.
Unfortunately, it CAN happen to you. It can happen to your own child, your family, your friends, or your neighbors. Please don't ever again make the assumption that your young child will be safe when you leave her alone, in an open vehicle, with strangers & their cars all around. How would you feel if something did happen? If your car was stolen while your child was in it, would your reason for leaving her in the car be important enough after the fact?
That's a guilt that no mother should have to live with.
You are not alone.... Unfortunately, all kinds of parents do this all the time; yet when discussing this among our peers, nobody admits that they do this. That's because we know it's wrong to do.
Watch around you as you go about running your errands, chauffeuring your children around, commuting to and from work....You'll see it happen, probably quite often. Many times, you'll even see the parent looking around, with a guilty expression, to make sure nobody is noticing. Yes, we know it's wrong. But many of us still do it... Children are our most precious cargo, but in an instant, they become an inconvenience that gets left behind in the car to save a few seconds of time.
When you observe another frazzled parent making this same mistake, it will be your turn to step in and provide a watchful eye for a few moments out of your day.
Together, we can spread the word about the dangers of leaving young children unattended in cars. A gentle reminder might be all that other mom or dad needs today. You may help prevent a future tragedy for an innocent child.
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