Anger · Family · Parenting · Rant

Parental Choices: Consider Me Shocked.

Last night, I went to the chip shop to fetch some tea after a busy day for all of us and after I ordered I stood outside because it was frightfully warm with all of the fryers going. Our local chippy is along a busy main road which is mostly residential but has shops at various points along it, a busy dual carriageway at one end and a large alley running next to an allotment opposite the chip shop.

The reason I bring all of this up is this:

I want you to focus on the lighter silver coloured Ford car in the picture. Can you see, the rear passenger window almost all the way open? Can you see how far away it is from where I’m standing? It’d take at least 4 seconds for me to get to that car from inside the shop and that’s if the traffic is clear, which having lived along this road I can tell you it rarely ever is.

Now, consider this: there’s a kid in the back of that car.

I watched the Mum get out, lock the doors and tell her little boy who was probably a little younger than Sausage, so around three maybe three and a half, “I’ll be back in a minute”. I then watched the mother disappear inside the newsagents next to the chippy, which has completely papered over windows so no view out once you’re inside. I stood there for over 4 minutes watching that car with the little boy inside. I stood there thinking how easy it would have been, even with locked car doors, to drag that little boy through the open window, get in my car and drive off.

I realise I’m in danger of gaining a reputation of being judgemental, but I’m begging you, tell me, it’s not just me who thinks this is mental, right? Even if the kid was slightly older, the windows were shut, the car was closer, I’d still think this was a stupidly risky thing for that mother to do. Does she not read the papers?  Do the names Madeline McCann, James Bulger, Danielle Jones mean nothing to her?

I’m genuinely sitting here unable to get this event out of my head. Something that the other mother probably hasn’t thought twice about, a non-event in her day to day comings and goings. All I can say is, I pray and hope my anxieties are never realised for this woman, no matter how careless she may seem to me.

Is this something you’d do? Am I a mental, over-protective mother? Does it make you sad that we are forced to think this way because of crime? Let me know.

38 thoughts on “Parental Choices: Consider Me Shocked.

  1. I seen someone pull up and leave there child about 4 and Went into Asda years ago when I was pregnant and felt to ill to go shopping and I was in shock,I wouldn’t …Thanks for stopping by my post and commenting 🙂

  2. Oh this is so interesting, and reading all the comments too! I personally wouldn’t leave my child in the car on its own, window open or not. Not even if the child was asleep, I haven’t ever, not would I. I have seen it done lots, and by some of my really good friends, it’s interesting how we all tackle thing differently. To me it’s just fundamental safety and I wouldn’t do it.

  3. It’s all well and good for some people to say that when we were kids that we all played out on the streets and everything was fine, but that doesn’t take into consideration that society has changed pretty dramatically over the years. When I was a kid my parents knew most of the other families on the street, so if we played outside there would still always be plenty of people keeping an eye out and anything dodgy or suspicious would be spotted and dealt with long before we could get into any sort of trouble. I don’t know any of my neighbours now, people shut their doors and close out the rest of the world. There is also more traffic and issues with people driving recklessly so the streets are just not a safe place to play, and to be honest if you have a garden I don’t see why your kids should need to play in the streets, and if you don’t then take them to the park.

    As far as the toddler in the car goes, even if you’re not worried about the child being abducted a car with an open window is too good to pass up for a lot of petty criminals these days. There may not be a lot of articles about children being abducted but there are plenty about purses being snatched from buggies, and would any parent want their child being put in the direct path of an opportunistic druggy?

    Taking calculated risks is one thing, being reckless and endangering your child is quite another.

    Great post 🙂

    1. Thanks Nicola, I completely agree. It’s all very well having a romantic view of what we did when we were kids, but things have changed a lot, even in 25 years. I also think it’s ironic that everyone who has quoted crime statistics at me and said that we’re both too protective and that crime had reduced have failed to see the direct correlation between the two facts. Yes, abduction rates may have reduced, but if we’re being more careful with our kids and NOT leaving them outside the pub for 7 hours at a time, maybe predators have LESS OPPORTUNITIES to abduct or abuse children?!

  4. Its a tough one and it is interesting reading all of the different prespectives on this. Like you, I err on the side of over protection and I know that sometimes, I need to be realistic. I wouldnt do what that woman did, but I do occasionally leave my three if I am just running in to get milk. They are 8, 6 and 2 and they are ok, but I do put the windows up and lock the doors. I would never do it if I couldnt see them and more often than not, they come with me. I have just started to let my eight year old out to play outside the house/gardena and I really struggled with that as I worry so much, yet other people let theirs out roaming from the age of two and I often feel that I am mean or over the top. At the end of the day it is up to you how you parent your children, but I guess we are all different.

  5. I am posting this anonymously as I don’t want it attached to my blog for obvious reasons when you read the last bit. Mums the Word will know who I am through the email address, but I’d like it kept private please. I’ve given you my real one so that you don’t think I am some troll on to cause some controversy.

    The woman is an idiot, pure and simple, and too lazy to be bothered to take her kid into the shop with her. I’ve had to take special needs kids kicking and screaming with me everywhere I go and lazy parenting is just boring and dangerous. At about 5 or 6, I wouldn’t call that wrapping them up in cotton wool, I’d call it being a responsible mum to make sure they are within vision.

    Yes, anything could happen to anyone at any time, but it’s silly to invite danger in. If something happened while driving etc, you’d still be there and there wouldn’t be anything you could do to stop it.

    Could people live with themselves if their little ones were taken while they were off enjoying themselves, or couldn’t be bothered to get them out of the car as it’d take an extra couple of minutes.

    My eldest is older now and gets some freedom and was grabbed by a man who stopped with a van and open sliding door to get him into. Lucky for him, eldest was faster at ducking than the man was a wrapping his arms around him and he managed to step out of the arm hold and leg it.

    We live in a sheltered and very quiet area where crime is low. It can happen anywhere at any time and while our kids have to get some freedom, it is just plain and simply silly to risk such a precious cargo at such a young age to leave small kids alone.

    A friend of mine used to drive me nuts by leaving her baby in the car to go to the shops, or pick up at school, or even go to a restaurant for meals. I couldn’t live with myself if I did that with young kids and something happened.

  6. I think most of you have covered rather well, what degree of freedom/risk/judgement you find acceptable with your children so i’m not going to comment on that. But what struck me was to what degree we feel socially responsible. I know the lovely Jayne very well, and this is is in no way a critiscm, but while she has pointed out her observations of what another mother did, what has not been noted (unless i missed it), was that this scene was being watched. That mother probably had no idea whatsoever that her actions were being observed, but i know that if someone suspicious had approached the car, Jayne would have raised the alarm. And that is entirely to her credit. We live in a societies/communities that are so detached from one another that it is very easy to apportion blame else where, and question the actions of others in relation to how we would act.

    I think that is part of the reason that people are so paranoid these days. i think that there used to be a greater understanding that looking after ‘your own’ was not just the people that you nuture within your family, but the community as a whole. I live in a small quiet crescent, and I haven’t lived here long but there are people I can call on for a favour, and i feel that it is my duty to look out for all of them, and not just myself. I absently left a front window open some months ago, and my neighbour closed it for me from the outside. the same neighbour that scooped up my little boy in playgroup when he had fallen over and i was at the other side of the room. i think we need to regain some of the trust and mutual responsibility that makes up these communities, and i wonder just how our risk assessments might change.

  7. My point is that at some point you have to let go of the reins as a parent. My older boys get called on to ‘play out’ – how can I say no and have them sat in the house where they can hear their friends playing? They’re both out of sight now and, while it makes me uneasy, its just one of those things I have to deal with.
    We are lucky though that we live in a safe cul de sac with a field at the end of it.
    Although, at the moment, they do have me lurking in the background looking rather bored as my three year old also wants to join in the fun – and with the weather as nice as it is – how can I say no?

  8. I can understand why some people do it, though in this heat I’d not do this to my child, we don’t do it to dogs after all. For me I’d probably never do it simply because we’d never be in this situation. All shops are a short walk away so we rarely ever have the car with us in the first place.

    As for being judgemental well yes you are being a bit, but I think we’re all guilty of judging people before we really why the full story. I mean I was nearly 7 months pregnant and at the time was 23 years old and always told I look young for my age (compliments I gladly accept!) but one woman in town decided to look me up and down, glare at me and call me the W word. She knew nothing of me, she probably assumed I was a young and single female who lived with her parents and was bringing an unwanted child up who’d never know who their father was. Truth is I’m an adult, living with my fiancé who is the father of my child and was walking up to get my next scan and blood tests done because doctors, my fiancé and I were worried about our unborn child. I bet she wouldn’t have called me that name if she knew all that. But I digress…. what I’m saying is we judge before we know the full of it and that’s what we humans do. As long as you weren’t the woman who called me the W word I wouldn’t think badly of you. 😉

    1. Ha, no, it definitely wasn’t me! I know what you mean though, I have certain health conditions which cause my hands to swell up and my original wedding ring was forever getting stuck on or I;d take it off and be unable to get it back on again. If I ever went out without it, I’d feel very self-concious pushing Sausage in her pushchair, in case people judged me. The silly thing is, my own mother was unmarried and I have NO problem with children being born out of wedlock, so I still don’t know why I was worried about other people judging me in this way!

  9. It is judgemental but I believe every one is judgemental to some degree. No one is completely neutral! Also when a child’s safety is seen to be at risk you are naturally judgemental. Like if someone calls social services because they believe a child is in danger because it cries at all hours. They don’t know the full story and maybe the parents are trying to calm them but still the judgement is made of you see what I mean.

    Personally I’m against leaving kids in the car if you have to go anywhere. Which is why I always use pay at pump for petrol and if not the kids come. Likewise even if I’m just outside a shop I take them in.

    The area I live in is pretty mixed but there is a great deal of poverty to match the wealth. Equally there has been countless scares around here of children being snatched. Including one in tescos where they took the child into the toilets cut their hair off and changed their clothes before walking out the front door.

    No we can’t wrap them in cotton wool but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be safety conscious and take the appropriate measures to ensure they are safe.

    1. As far as I’m aware that tesco’s story is an urban myth that has been circulating since 2008. A friend of mine who is a cop, has confirmed there is no record of any case like this in Tesco or any supermarket, in the UK.

    2. I agree Hayley, I find it a constant struggle to find a happy medium between to taking stupid risks and not being overbearing. I fear the overbearing side probably wins most times, but I also feel that ‘rather safe than sorry’ is the most important part of this debate, for me anyway. Thanks for commenting.

  10. What haunts me is the number of children who have died in cars, either from overheating or from the car going on fire. That is my biggest fear and why I would never approve of leaving children, especially small children, in cars.

    1. This is the thing, isn’t it? It would have been way too hot to leave the child in the car with the windows shut, so as far as I’m concerned he shouldn’t have been left, but I am fascinated by the way this has divided opinion to acutely. Thanks for commenting.

  11. I wouldn’t leave a single kid inside a car with an open window, on a busyish road, to go into a shop where I couldn’t see them.
    But TBH, I’d be more worried my kid would get out on the road than that they’d be abducted. I think the chances of a child being taken by a stranger, especially in a UK suburban or city area, are very, very small.
    I wouldn’t leave a dog or kid in a stationary car at all in this weather. But I often leave a number of my children in the car when the weather is cooler, and I just pop into the local tesco express. I only go in if I can park right outside though.
    I give my children quite a bit of freedom compared to other parents around here though. They aren’t roaming the streets but the older ones get to walk themselves back and forth from school, piano , brownies etc.

    1. You make a very good point and maybe my reaction of thinking about abduction first is an insight into my personal paranoia rather than anything else?

      Having said that, I was given a lot of freedom as a child, as was my Husband, in fact I remember going out after breakfast and not coming home until tea. However, I grew up on an estate with no major roads where literally everyone knew everyone else. We also had two parks on our estate and several wooded areas, so I look back on my childhood with lovely memories and it makes me feel very sad to think that Sausage may never experience the same thing.

      We have one park in our area now and not only have I seen actual riot police with shields and batons breaking up a mini riot in the adjacent field in the middle of the afternoon, there are regularly reports of used needle being found there too. Not nice at all.

      Thanks for commenting.

  12. When I first read this I thought you were being very judgmental. Everyone has differing levels of parenting dependent on their own upbringing, where they currently live and what they believe to be safe or unsafe.

    I have massive issues over the Madeline McCann case. I have no idea if the parents were or were not involved but I can assure you that if “Stacy, single parent, aged 22, living on xyz council estate” had left her three children in bed so that she could go to the pub the media would have taken a very different route with their stories.

    Which leads me onto the fact that we have so much more access to world events through radio, television and the internet. We can get minute-by-minute accounts (sometimes in real-time) updates of what is happening. That make it all the more real.

    I agree with everything that Kate has written (a lot more succinctly put that I ever could have done). We need to stop wrapping our children up in cotton wool and let them experience their childhood. Someone could have snatched that child whilst stopped at traffic lights, someone could have run into the back of the car whilst it was parked and the parent was in it. Something always could happen and if we spend our life thinking about “what if’s…” then we would never spend our time living our lives.

    I know my methods of parenting aren’t to everyone’s tastes, just as my own daughter’s methods of parenting aren’t to my tastes. But it doesn’t matter. We’re all responsible for our own actions and shouldn’t be too quick to judge others.

    1. You may find this surprising as your comment is seemingly in contrast with my post, but I actually agree with a lot of what you’ve said. As I mentioned in another reply, the area we live in is quite unsavoury at times and the crime rate is more akin to a city than a large town. We also have local problems with drugs, antisocial behaviour and theft. However, we also live in the catchment area for the best primary school for miles and miles around, which is why we’ve stayed put.

      I completely agree with you about the social inequality surrounding child abduction and the media and think had the McCanns not been professional, well-off people, they’d have been publicly flayed. I read an interesting article about it once actually about how abductions of children who don’t fall into the bracket of ‘blonde haired, blue eyed, middle class, trouble-free home’ don’t get a fraction of the media attention that children within that pigeon-hole do. It just doesn’t suit the gutter-press in this country, I suppose.

      I do try not to be too judgemental and have been proved wrong on more than one occasion, and I’m happy to eat my words if my judgement is misplaced. I’m certain that a lot of people judge me as an overbearing mother but I’d be a nervous wreck if I were to let Sausage have the freedom I had when I was a child, but as I said in this and other comments, our childhoods and upbringings have been very different.

      Thanks for commenting.

      1. I wrote about the McCann case on my blog recently for a very similar reason. I have seen lots of parents do what you witnessed, and worse, and have not batted an eyelid, because I was left alone in similar circumstances. Heck, babies were left in prams outside shops when I was little – it was the norm. Madeleine’s case changed me forever, and I am now hyper careful with my kids, and they are indeed wrapped up in cotton wool. I’m not happy about it, because I agree with Nickie that they have to learn freedom, and independence, and responsibility for themselves at some point. But I lived every emotion with the McCanns at the time, for various reasons, and I know I could never forgive myself, so paranoia is unfortunately the road for me. I wouldn’t have judged the mother in this case either, even though it is not something I could do. I do judge the parents who take their baby sleeping in his pushchair to the pub every night till closing time, because it implies poor parenting in other areas, even thought the child is physically safe. Class wouldn’t matter to me in that respect, and nor would it if wealthy parents locked their child in their house and went to the pub every night either. It was pointed out to me on my own blog that there was no difference between that and what the McCanns did, and I hadn’t considered that, not because of class, but because of the fact that they were on holiday, and I know lots of people who I respect, who have done exactly that. Why they should think it ok to do on holiday when they wouldn’t dream of doing it at home, I don’t know, but people do. They let their guard down and it’s not ok. But Nickie is right, we cannot have our eyes on our children 100% of the time, it’s just not normal.

  13. I don’t think you are overreacting at all. As a mother it is my job to keep my children safe. We live on a housing estate where children as young as 3 are allowed out unsupervised for hours on end. It is scary to think what could happen. I may be a mother who overreacts and overprotects my children, but as long as they are safe that is all I worry about. I could never forgive myself should something happen to one of my babies so I will try my hardest to eliminate all risk.

    1. Thanks for commenting, it’s nice to know that while a lot of people disagree with me, there are some other mothers who think similarly to me. I guess it’d be boring if we were al the same though, wouldn’t it?!

  14. I see so many parenting decisions made that I disagree with and leaving my kids in the car with open windows is not something I would do. But there again, I wouldn’t fake my daughter’s kidnap
    either for money from The Sun.
    I don’t think you’re paranoid 😉

  15. Actually, I think we’re stupidly over-cautious these days. The numbers of children being abducted hasn’t risen at all. In fact, I’m sure I heard something the other day that suggested it’s actually decreased in the last 40 years.

    You have to remember that you cannot remove all risk. You have to manage risk and take acceptable risk.

    If she had closed the windows, that would have been unwise because of the heat. Perhaps it was not the best idea to go into the newsagent for that length of time, and into a shop with no clear view of the car, but she took what she saw as an acceptable risk. And it turned out OK, didn’t it? I refuse to condemn this woman.

    The McCanns are a well known case purely because it is so rare and let it not be forgotten that the children were left in an unlocked villa and went 120 metres away for extended periods. In the case of James Bulger, again it is notorious because it was so shocking and unusual. Nothing has happened like in the nearly 20 years since. Danielle Jones was a teenager and abducted by her uncle, who had engaged her in an inappropriate relationship.

    I believe we can’t live our lives assuming that something bad is going to happen any time just because it happened once. After all, if we did that, we’d never get on a plane, go on a ferry, ride on a train or a tube, go on a bus or even drive a car. Or walk down the street for that matter. Because, you know, someone got killed on that street 20 years ago. That sounds daft, doesn’t it?

    We were listening to Fighting Talk this morning and Bob Mills said something about when he was a kid, parents would go to pubs, leaving their kids in the car park with a drink and a pack of crisps, then go in the pub for 11 hours. And whilst 11 hours is an exaggeration, it was certainly the norm when I was small – my parents certainly left us outside pubs when I was a similar age to my own son (who’s 7) No-one would have called anyone a bad parent for doing so back then either. What’s changed? Just society’s attitudes and the press have turned up the hysteria button to full volume. You wouldn’t even see a parent leave a child in a beer garden these days without getting “looks”. Moot point slightly as at least children are allowed in pubs now.

    You can ring and report me to social services if you like. My kids have been going out to play since they were under 5. But we have rules and boundaries, they know what they are and what the consequences of breaching them are because they are enforced. We are lucky in that most of the places they are allowed to go are without car and the road is quiet anyway. I am more worried about the quarry over the back (in which a teenager died last summer – but at least the kids know that it’s dangerous to go in there now) than I am about child abduction. I want my children to grow up aware of risks and dangers but not to be petrified of them.

    1. I agree with what you’ve said Kate.. it makes me sad that society as a whole has become very paranoid about everything and wonder what effect this has on our children x

      1. It makes me sad too, I’m well aware that my attitude is probably because of mass paranoia, but I’m not willing to compromise on something like this. Thanks for commenting!

    2. Thanks for commenting Kate, I promise I won’t be reporting you to social services. I agree with you that it’s down to each parent to make their own choices, set their own boundaries and measure what they consider to be acceptable risks. In this case, I think that the mother was unreasonable, but this is why I’m pleased that this post has sparked a debate as I’ve found it very interesting to read the opinions of others.

      Husband and I both had very free and easy childhoods and were a right pair of streetrakers. We’ve both often commented on how different things are now, to the point where Sausage wouldn’t be able to have the same freedom. The area we live in has gone rather downhill, as I mentioned in other replies, and I genuinely believe that she wouldn’t be safe to play outside on her own, not to mention that our street is pretty busy and we’re constantly having issues with people driving far to fast around the residential streets.

      I understand what you’re saying, in terms of parents of previous generations being a lot more relaxed and I do think that the media has played a huge part in making us acutely aware of every little danger, sometimes information can be a burden, however, I don’t think I could change my attitude towards Sausage’s safety.

    3. First of all it’s not nice for anyone to have to sit in a hot car outside, and in my opinion it is wrong to leave a child who probably doesn’t have any rights to disagree with being left in the car. In my opinion it is abuse first of all it is dangerous for all kinds of reasons (abduction is the least of these) secondly it is abuse of your power as a parent. I would be surprised, despite what has been said, if witnessing a three and a half year old being left in such a way didn’t make you wince, even slightly.

      There are taking educated risks like letting older children play out in safe areas etc or letting them walk to school etc. Leaving a child in a car like this is stupidlty and if that makes me judgemental so be it. My train of thought is once something happens you can never turn the clock back.

      If I am an overprotective mother I’m sorry I don’t care that is my own business not yours. My child is happy and well adjusted, he is not scared of strangers, he gets to take risks , he feels safe because he knows he can trust me to keep him safe. After all I am his parent and that is our job to raise our children and keep them safe.

      Please don’t think I am judging anyone, I am not this is purely how I personally approach parenting.

  16. I see a lot of questionable parenting choices and wonder WHY and HOW. The one that always gets me is children in cars without seatbelts and/or car seats. Just beggars belief!

    I agree with you, it wasn’t a wise decision on the mum’s part. We’re lulled into a false sense of security sometimes aren’t we? It only takes seconds for tragedy to happen. You’ve raised a very interesting question and one that should be considered by a lot more people.

    Karin @ Cafe Bebe

    1. I agree Karin, I’m definitely of the ‘better safe than sorry’ school of thought. I do sometimes admire parents who are able to be a little bit more easy going than me, but I’m just not made that way and I’d rather be safe in the knowledge that there’s far less chance of any harm coming to Sausage because I’m busy helicoptering around her! (though I’d wager plenty of people would read that and think “poor Sausage”). Takes all sorts though, doesn’t it?

      Thanks for commenting.

  17. Dale once wanted to leave our older boys – about 6 and 7 at the time, in the car outside while we went to order a new kitchen. This was an empty car park, parked directly outside full length windows – and I said no. If that makes me overprotective then so be it.

    It does get harder as they get older though. They’re 8 and 9 now and I have to let them play out unsupervised. Something could happen in an instant but at some point you HAVE to take some risks.

    1. If there’s one thing that this post has taught me it’s that most people feel very strongly about this subject, in one way or another. I agree with you though, I wouldn’t have left them.

      I’m probably overprotective with Sausage. However, I have much younger cousins of 13, 11 and 9 and have encouraged my aunt to let the older two be more independent and walk to school by themselves and such. I know I’m going to have to loosen the apron strings at some point but I hope it’s not for a very long time yet!

      Thanks for commenting. x

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