A mother in Mississippi is dealing with the devastating loss of her 2-year-old tonight. She forgot her child in her car and went to work. So many may say, “How could she do that?” So many may feel compelled to judge. All I could do was feel sadness as tears welled up in my eyes. I just want to hug her. I came so very close to being her.
As for my story: It was one of the first warm days of the year in Atlanta. The summer heat was still a month or two away, but the winter cold was definitely behind us. I was working a demanding job at The Weather Channel. I had an infant and a 2 year old. My baby girls each went to different pre-schools because the one we wanted to ultimately have them attend only accepted children starting at 2 years old. My morning routine consisted of getting two small children ready for a day away from me, dropping the first at one place, and the second at a school several miles away. The upside was the second drop off was right across the street from TWC.
On this morning, I was completely distracted by work. I had so much to do. I dropped my first baby girl at school, with kisses and hugs, and the normal amount of anxiety on both our parts. The women at the front were busy cooing over my youngest baby as the goodbye between us took place. Wrapping that up, I grabbed my baby’s car seat, said goodbye to everyone and off I went to the second drop-off. Only this time, I missed that drop-off. I drove straight to work. I started to gather my things when I noticed the diaper bag on the front seat. I couldn’t believe I forgot to give it to my baby’s teachers. That is when I realized, I hadn’t given my baby to them either!
I turned to see my sweet baby sleeping away in her seat. I started to shake, thinking how close I had come to the worst moment of my life. I sat there and cried, while sending a text to my boss that I was going to be late. I couldn’t stop sobbing, and I hadn’t even really left her in the car. I took her to her destination, and the women inside hugged and consoled me. They told me it was ok, that I wasn’t a bad mom, that everything worked out. They promised that if I didn’t show up ever, they would call to make sure no mistakes had happened. However, we all knew I wouldn’t ever face this again, because the trauma of ALMOST was enough for me to be diligent in the future. I was thankful I had left the diaper bag on the front seat, and did that every day we still had that diaper bag in use.
I share this story because this moment in my life made me realize how easy it is to make mistakes. My mistake just led to tears on my part, and a lifetime of guilt, but nothing tragic. Other people’s mistakes lead to tragedy. Like the story above here, or the school teacher whose husband thought she was taking the baby to school, but she thought he was. He put the sleeping baby in her van, but she didn’t know. Their child died that day. My heart still breaks for them.
My mistake led me to an understanding toward other parents. We don’t all do it the same way, have the same rules, or believe in the same methods, but many, no most, of us are trying our best to do the correct thing. We want healthy, strong, independent people to go out into the world after we are done. We want them to know they are loved and always have a place, and people, to turn to when in need.
I’ve taken judgment out of the equation when hearing about other parents’ rules or beliefs. I’ve taken judgment off the table when I see a child without shoes on, especially after meeting one who will throw shoes in the garbage to avoid wearing them. I have learned that in my imperfections, and boy do I have many, I should always accept others’.
There is one exception, of course, and that is when it comes to intent. Several years ago, in the Atlanta area, a dad left his boy in the car all day while he was at work. The little boy usually went to a daycare at Dad’s work, but this day his Dad “forgot” him in the car. I stood up fiercely for that dad. I told anyone who would listen the story I told you here. I waited for all the facts. Then, I got them all. The dad had done it on purpose. I will never understand that, and will not be able to ever find understanding for that man or others like him. Harm a child on purpose, and I’m sorry to say, my judgment returns.
However, the rest of you… you are doing just fine.