UK singer Rachel Stevens made a parenting decision this week that’s sparked quite a debate. Stevens allegedly left her four-year-old and 18-month-old in the car for 10 minutes while she shopped nearby. Is it okay to leave two small children unattended in a car?
Stevens’ four-year-old daughter Amelie was photographed frolicking around in the front seat, while the 18-month-old was strapped to her carseat. There are no details about how far away the store was or if the children were in sight the entire time. The kids were unharmed. A major theme in the reaction to the story is, “there’s nothing wrong with it” or “mind your own business.” Really?
There are plenty of times when parents leave their kids in the car for moments: like running back into the house if they’ve forgotten something and the kids are already strapped in or running in to pay for gas. Everyone can probably agree that if it’s mere moments and the kids are in sight, it’s really not a big deal. But how much time does it take to tip the scale from no big deal to questionable parenting?
You can’t blame people who overreact when they see very small children alone in a car — even if it’s not a hot day. Most people who see two small children unattended would feel a responsibility to make sure they were okay. And if those onlookers simply walk away from the car and something happens to those children, then what? If someone acts too quickly and calls police, they may be considered an interfering busybody. If they don’t react, they may be considered complacent. It’s really a lose-lose situation for a concerned onlooker.
Everyone is free to make their own parenting decisions, but no one lives in a bubble. If your definition of “safe” and someone else’s definition of “safe” don’t mesh, there may be a problem when you are in public. Personally, I don’t feel that it’s safe to leave two toddlers in a car alone and I’m not comfortable not helping two children who may potentially be in need. Is it my responsibility to comb all the neighboring stores looking for a parent, or wait around until the parent gets back from a distance to be sure the kids are okay?
I have a two-year-old and a four-year-old. There are many times when leaving them unattended would be the easier thing, but guess what? Parenting is a pain in the ass, and kids are inconvenient. That’s what you sign up for when you have them. If it’s absolutely not okay for children to be left home alone at that age, I don’t see why it should be deemed okay for them to be left in a car. Where’s the logic there?
It’s not safe to leave small children alone in cars, it’s convenient. There’s a difference.