Summer’s officially here. My news feed is filled with barbecues, splashy pools, sandy hair… sunscreen warnings, drowning warnings, leaving-babies-in-cars warnings.
It’s all scary. It’s all out there. And, as far as the last one goes, it’s all judgy. It’s all ‘how the hell does that happen?’ It’s all ‘I would never do that.’
But it happens.
I did it. I left my baby in a car.
So now I can tell you how the hell someone leaves their baby in a car.
I think if you know me you’d say I can get overwhelmed at times, I can be hectic, but on the whole I’m pretty organized. They’ll tell you the wrench that gets thrown in is really the change in routine. That’s what the articles have all said. What parents will admit. One change on an otherwise normal day, and you can get totally thrown off.
In my case, it was a day I was leaving my baby with a sitter to go on a job interview. I’d left her to go on my own a couple times before, so it wasn’t my very first time making a long trek to Jerusalem without her in the back. And when I have done it, I’ve managed to think twice at some point in the ride – is she here? Is she supposed to be? Ok. A lot of the time, she cries at some point on a ride – she doesn’t love the carseat. None of my kids have. So her cries are something I’m just used to. And though I’ve driven without her here and there, those silent drives are still jarring for me.
When she is in the car, I tend to stick my arm back to reassuringly pat her head… feel her soft hair in my fingers and remind myself where I am, where I’m going, and where she’ll be when I do that.
But for some reason, a few weeks ago, I had dropped her off, taken a silent drive into town, done my interview, kicked its ass, taken the silent drive to pick her up, and we went home together.
A few hours later, I loaded her, sleeping peacefully, back in the car for sibling pickup. Made the 4-minute drive to the first gan. Was so pumped on a great interview experience, and there was no wailing from the back – I jumped out of the car, slammed the door, greeted friends on the way in, and didn’t look back.
When I spotted my older daughter in the yard, she ran to me and I picked her up and hugged her. It felt so good! I was cuddling her when one of her ganenot started chatting with me… but I have no idea what she said. A thought had suddenly occurred to me:
Why isn’t it that I always pick her up for a hug?
My stomach completely dropped as I made the slow painful realization.
I’m usually holding a baby.
I nodded at the ganenet to end the conversation and bent down to my older daughter: ‘I need to run and get your sister from the car; stay here, I’ll be right back.’
I dashed out from the gan and got to the parked car, where baby was sleeping as soundly as… a baby. Which is incredible because she usually doesn’t last more than a minute in the car seat when not moving.
I unlocked the car, swooped in, and took her out. It was a sunny day, a beautiful June day, a seasonable day but not anything special.
My heart was hurting.
It had been no more than 3 or 4 minutes. But I looked at my sleeping baby in my arms, and looked back at the car. It could have easily been a hotter day. It could have easily been a distraction found in one of my friends. It could have easily been a longer conversation with the teacher.
And that is how people end up leaving their babies in cars.