Parking Lot Police

Yesterday morning at Target I had an experience that left me feeling alternately overwhelming guilt and extreme anger (neither of which seems warranted but I’m really tired and overly emotional right now).

The kids and I haven’t left the house since last Thursday and if it was up to me we probably wouldn’t leave again until it’s consistently above 70 degrees, but a lack of cold medicine and Goldfish drove us from our cave and out into the world. And by world I mean Target. We actually did pretty well getting ready and packing up to go so it was early when we got to the store.

Now, with one child, my standard method of getting said child into a store was to park as close to a cart return as possible, toss my bag over one shoulder and carry the child to one of the carts in the return. Then I don’t have to worry about anyone running away or distracting me in a Dangerous Parking Lot Situation and we roll right into the store. The problem is with TWO children – especially when one weighs upwards of 30 lbs and the other is sleeping in a bucket seat – is I cannot carry them both safely at the same time. It is possible but not easy and not something I like to do, especially with the toddler in his current state of extreme defiance. I just don’t trust him not to thrash out of my arm when I’ve only got one to hold him with. So what I try to do when I have both kids with me is park directly next to the cart return (even if it means parking super far away from the store)(I actually prefer far away because then no one parks so close to your doors you can barely fit in the space to get the kids into the seats), lock the car, grab a cart and bring it back to the car to load the kids one at a time. I’ve always felt very comfortable with this situation, because my proximity to the car at all times means even in the extremely unlikely circumstance that I were to suddenly – KNOCK ON WOOD – drop dead while the kids were locked in the car, someone would notice them.

Unfortunately, because it was still really early and I was at the Target Less Traveled (you should be so lucky – brand new gorgeous store, almost always empty) there were only 2 carts in the entire parking lot and both were in a cart return in the only row full of cars. I drove around for a minute, hoping I could stalk someone out of the store to their car and grab a cart from them but no one came out. So I decided to pull through a spot one row over from the return. That way although I would have to trek across a row of cars to GET a cart, I’d only have to cross the lane of traffic to put it back.

So I park the car, turn around to tell Little Evan I’ll be “one minute”, which he repeats back and holds up one finger, and get out of the car. At that exact moment, cars pull into spots near mine. The guy in the truck on one side smiles and heads towards the store. No one gets out of the minivan on the other side. It isn’t until 5 seconds later when I’m on my way back with the cart, being extra-super-careful not to ding anyone’s car on my way through the row that I can see two women in their van making dramatic motions and pointing towards my van, where you can clearly see Little Evan sitting in his seat drinking his milk. I get back to the car and press the “unlock” button as dramatically and obviously as possible, wrestle the toddler then the infant seat into the cart and start towards Target. Only THEN do the women get out of the van.

After picking up all the essentials – cough drops, graham crackers, tiny pink cowboy boots – I successfully navigate checkout without accidentally stealing anything or letting the toddler fall out of the cart and head to the car. I open the right door with the remote, lock the (still sound asleep) baby’s bucket into the base, drop my bags under her seat, and close that door. I roll the cart around to the other side, wrestle the toddler into his car seat, put my diaper bag under his seat and close THAT door. Now I have an empty cart and two kids secured in their seats, so I press the lock button, dash across the lane of traffic and shove the cart into the (still empty) cart return.

As I get back into the car, I look to my left and notice those two women are sitting in their van, just watching me with their judgy, judgy faces.

I can’t prove they were waiting for me to come out and they never said a word while we were in the store together, although I passed them several times, but I would bet a MILLION DOLLARS the conversation they had when they pulled into the parking lot was whether to call the police and report children left in a car. I wouldn’t be surprised if they wrote down my license plate.

Or, hey, maybe I’m just being paranoid! Maybe they were waiting to see if I needed help! They’re just Concerned Citizens and they want to watch out For The Children! Such As.

So here’s the thing: Am I doing this wrong? Is leaving my kids in the car for less than 30 seconds at any given time worth the looks of scorn and horror these women were sending me? Trust me, I am VERY AWARE of the dangers of leaving your kid in the car but…I don’t think that’s what I’m doing here. I would bet the number of children hit by cars in parking lots is a lot higher than the number of children who are kidnapped while their mother grabs a cart. Even if you add in children who were left in a car for up to 5 minutes while their mom runs into a convenience store to pay for gas or buy some milk I think “hit by car in parking lot” would be significantly higher. I am making what feels like the safer choice in a situation that doesn’t really have a better option – at least until Target gets valet parking.

What say you?

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58 Responses to “Parking Lot Police”

  1. Kodi says:

    I’m dying to read the comments because I have the exact same situation and often feel torn on what to do! Even with only one child it’s been a predicament because I was pregnant and couldn’t haul the 25 pound toddler safely.

  2. Natalie says:

    I do this. You have nothing to feel badly about. You are doing what you feel is safe for your family. In fact, I’ll go you one further. When we return to the car, I will load the kids up and tell them I’ll be right back. I lock the doors and return the cart to the nearest return thingy while (Olivia) buckles her carseat harness.

    My thought is as long as you can SEE YOUR CAR, you know that they are safe. You do not hover over them while they play, and you might not want to do it on a hot day (obviousNatalieisobvious)but I see no problems in this situation.

    Don’t beat yourself up, you’re doing it right.

  3. Stephanie T. says:

    You are, without a doubt in my mind, doing the right thing. I know how it feels to have an almost 2 year old who, for the love of jeebus, WILL NOT DO ONE THING YOU SAY! I can’t even imagine it with a baby that I’m supposed to be responsible for in the mix. I laugh at the people who give me “why don’t you just pick her up” glares after we’ve been in Tarjay for 2 hours and she refuses to sit or stand in the buggy and wants to walk… Slowly… And look at everything… And hold my hand. It’s not that easy. So I say just glare on back. You know what’s right for your little bebehs.

  4. cakeburnette says:

    I think you did exactly right. You could SEE him the entire time–which is why you could SEE those women being all judgy. Don’t worry a bit about it–you do what you can when you have two babies.

  5. Abby says:

    You are doing the right thing, I have NO doubt about it! Think of it this way: Is it safer for them to be in the car for a minute alone, while you can clearly see them, or is it safer to drag a toddler and baby across the lane of traffic to return the cart? I think that the risk of him darting off in front of a car would be FAR higher than any risk associated with him being in his carseat for thirty seconds while you can see him. Don’t worry about those judgy people…they are EVERYwhere, and no matter what you do, they will find something to judge you for. I do the same thing, all the time, as long as I can see my kids in the car and they are strapped into their seats.

  6. Amanda says:

    I do that all the time and that’s just with one kid! After loading everything plus Maddie in the car I lock it return the cart (well most of the time at least) while Maddie finishes buckling herself in (which of course I check to make sure she did it right). You are only human and only one person! You could still see your car, could run to it in a flash if necessary and it was locked! What more do the crazy women want?

  7. LCW says:

    I sometimes do what you did with only one child. It’s safer. Period. The alternative is not returning the cart. So you’re right and making safe choices.

  8. Susan says:

    THIS IS RIDICULOUS. Not you. You are amazing. The fact that what is a dangerous and scary thing (leaving a child in a car for half an hour while you go grocery shopping in the heat and/or crowd of kidnappers) has spread to mean “never ever ever ever ever ever shut a car door with a child inside of it.” Do you put the child in the car and then close the door and walk around the car to get inside of it yourself? What if you trip on the way around the car?!?!?!?

    You did right, and those ladies can f themselves.

    • bebehblog says:

      Yes! This! I think the problem is no one wants to draw a line and say “this is the exact amount of time it is OK to leave a child in the car”. Is it less than 1 minute? Less than 5 minutes? Never ever ever?

      I vaguely remember reading a discussion about this on someone else’s blog a couple years ago, where a mom wanted to leave the baby locked in the car parked at the curb while she walked her older child up to the door of the school (which was mandatory). Even with the car visible the whole time I think the majority of responses said “Oh no, I’d NEVER leave the baby. You can’t LOCK A CHILD IN A CAR.”

      • I remember that. It was TFB. I think someone brought up a gas station where you HAD to go inside and pay and people freaked out in the comments.

        • FourInchHeels says:

          I was gassing up a few weeks ago when a momma locked her keys in the car … with toddler inside. The kid was happily playing with his toes, but oh my heart went out to her as she waited for AAA to show up and let her back in.

          I think you did NOTHING wrong, but that would be my only paranoid concern – accidentally locking myself out of the car, which is easily solved by having a hidden key on the car somewhere.

  9. Those chicks are stupid. You’re totally doing it right!

  10. merin says:

    I leave Cora in the car more than I should probably admit. At the dry cleaners, the post office, anywhere where I am just running in somewhere to pick up something. You are totally doing the right thing in this scenario.

    I, for one, also THANK YOU for not bringing a cart to your car and then leaving it there for it to roll into someone else’s car or block a parking space! That makes you a super good citizen.

    • bebehblog says:

      After working at a Target for 7 years, I simply CANNOT bring myself to leave a cart in a parking lot. The only exception to that rule is at Babies R Us because there is no parking near the entrance and they don’t even HAVE cart returns. It’s the worst designed store ever, seriously.

  11. Kimberly says:

    You are totally right. And shame on those women for not actually asking if you needed help. I do the same thing when I’m going somewhere that has carts. When I have to get them both into My Gym, you should see the looks I get as I carry O and JD just holds my hand as we walk across the parking lot. You would think I was dragging him by his hair across hot coals or something. (Although now that I think about it, it probably is pretty entertaining to watch me walk while saying things like “Don’t touch that dirty car! Yuck! Yuck! Look where you’re going. Stop looking behind you!”) And don’t get me started on the people who race their cars past us because they can’t wait for his little legs to cross the lane of traffic.

  12. Joanna says:

    I’m with Lindsey- I do this with one child. I often park next to the cart return & I usually carry Madison to a cart on the way in and on the way out
    I unload the stuff, push her in the car to the return and carry her back to the car. HOWEVER, if it’s freezing, raining or there are some other circumstances I park as close as I can, load her in the car, lock it, return the cart and come right back- she’s always in my sight and I don’t see anything wrong with it.

    Clearly, they have nothing better to do.

  13. Nicole says:

    I do the exact same thing, and considering that those hens probably left their children in the car while they shopped, they have some nerve giving you the eye while you cope with frankly unreasonable standards of safety. Is it just me, or does anyone else remember spending a lot of time waiting in the car as a kid? My brother and I logged so much car time while my mom was in post offices, stores, etc.

  14. Other Erin says:

    Haters gonna hate. I think it’s fine and furthermore you are establishing a good pattern for your kids that Mommy doesn’t always have to be right there with them for things to be ok. I know some 25 year-olds that could have used that lesson.

    I was hoping for a confrontation somewhere in this story but it’s probably better there wasn’t one.

    • bebehblog says:

      I was soooooo close to saying something right at the beginning but realized it wasn’t going to help at all – I tend to turn into a sobbing mess in (what I perceive as) tense situations and crying at these women that I WASN’T LEAVE MY KIDS IN THE CAR while I shopped wasn’t going to help anything.

  15. I absolutely do this when we go to Target/the grocery store, etc… I even go as far as putting him in the cart before the groceries and then putting the cart back. Especially when it is cold out, I usually grab a cart, put on the cart cover, put Jack in and run like mad into the store to keep him out of the cold for longer. You are just going what makes sense to all of us.

  16. Veronica says:

    You were right to do what you did. As you know I have two under two similar to you and I have never even been out with both without my husband or mom SO i KNOW how hard it is. Screw judgey old hags. You did the safest thing and internet “knowing” you I am going to guess your eyes weren’t off the car for a second.

    You know who does deserve to be judged though? Jerks that don’t return the carts and are all alone and physically able and just plain old lazy. Grrrr.

  17. LB says:

    I don’t have any kids yet, but I have observed mothers in this situation before. When I’ve noticed this, I have always offered to return the cart for them, which I think has probably earned me a few karma points that hopefully will come back to me when I have 2 kids.

  18. Krista T says:

    Well there you have it Suzanne! You are a rockin’ mama and not a SINGLE MOTHER on your blog has scoffed at you and told you HOW DARE YOU! ;) We love you, we agree, and we ALL do it, more than we ever admit because we never know who The Haters are who might call in our license plates for cops to stalk us and wait for us to leave our kids in the car for 2 seconds.

    I will say that I have an automatic starter button on my key fob, so I take this one step farther in that I put Carolyn in, buckle her up (she still can’t undo her buckles, so I call that As Safe As It Gets, close the door, and hit the button. The car locks itself, starts itself, and I’m halfway across the lot putting my cart back. Or in the post office. Or running back into my house to get the fifteenth thing I’ve forgotten for our 30 minute outing. And I keep waiting for a Hater to speak out, because, since it starts itself, heater/AC included, I can even argue the hot/cold thing. Do you have a key fob that locks/unlocks your car? Try putting it on a separate part of your key ring, start your car with your key, then lock it with the fob and walk away. (And if you are like me and freak out about smart hating cars that randomly lock you out and won’t let you back in when you have 2 kids strapped in (or, more reasonably, that your fob battery might die the ONE time you try this)…maybe carry a spare car door key in your purse or something. Then see if you don’t feel a teensy bit less guilty. ;)

  19. Amy says:

    WHA????!! What you do is PERFECTLY FINE. As long as the keys are not in the car and the car isn’t running and the doors are locked, what could happen? I do this all of the time and I only have one kid (especially if it’s freezing outside). Plus, my daughter LOVES to play in the car, so if I put her in first before loading the groceries in the trunk it gives her a bit of time to enjoy herself. The car is off, I have the keys, the car is locked…I don’t see why those women thought it was an issue.

  20. StraderSpiel says:

    I thought you might be interested in this: http://www.dmv.org/ct-connecticut/safety-laws.php for the state of CT laws.
    Unattended Children
    Anyone who leaves a child under the age of 12 unattended in a vehicle long enough that it represents a substantial risk to the child’s well-being, could be found guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

    Should this happen between 8 p.m.-6 a.m., the charge rises to a class C felony.

    No matter what world you live in, leaving your children in the car long enough to return a cart can in no way be considered “long enough that it represents a substantial risk to the child’s well=being”. As for the hens next to your car, I agree that before they start being judgey they should have offered to help you if they thought 5 seconds alone was so awful!

  21. Leah says:

    I agree you were perfectly in the right. HOWEVER, if by some miracle you ever have a perfectly behaved and listening child, I have seen these hand print stickers that you slap on the side of the car. The little one is supposed to stand there, touching the sticker and presumable not roaming the parking lot while you load up your car, crone-judgment free.

    I sincerely doubt that in my own personal experience, this will ever work.

  22. Ms. Megan says:

    You did the right thing friend!!!
    Don’t worry about what others think!
    xoxo

  23. Joni says:

    When my oldest child (who is now almost 16) was 2 I used to occasionally (if she was asleep) leave her in the car to go into the post office to check the mail (which i did daily as part of my job at the time). Very small town (and PO), less than 20 feet from the car and always visible and locked, I was gone probably 15 seconds. One day man LITERALLY GRABBED me and told me I was being neglectful and abusive (me, the co-sleeping, extended nursing, no hitting mother) that he was going to call the POLICE. I kid you not. I said, “you go right ahead a%*hole. I’d love to see what they say about you grabbing me by the arm.” Was it a bad idea to leave her in the car? I don’t think so. If you knew how hard it was to get her to sleep, how much she HATED the car and how long the drive was home (45 min in rush hour) you’d never judge me for leaving my child in a locked car in clear sight for 15 seconds. Or probably for an hour for that matter. (She was a CRAB)

    And that’s the thing. People who pass judgment aren’t usually in your position. In my experience. And if they were many times they’d go to a lot more desperate measures.

    Don’t let the haterz make you second guess yourself. I’ve got 4 kids and I’ve done some crap in the name of safety and sanity that you wouldn’t believe.

  24. Heather says:

    I think you did the right thing. I always try to park as close as I can to a cart return (with only 1 kid!) even if that means parking really far away from the store. I usually unload my stuff, ride A to the cart return and then carry her back to the car and put her in. But if its raining, or really cold out, or if I’m RIGHT next to the cart return– I totally put her in the car first. I can see her the whole time and the car is locked so I don’t see what the big deal is.

    Plus, its not like you left your toddler to run loose inside the car or something? They are strapped in and the car isn’t running so GOOD LORD what would they do in the 30 seconds it takes you to get back? I hate judgey old ladies. HATE. I’d like to see one of them try to wrangle a squirmy toddler, a carseat with a baby and a cart. Let them do it ONE TIME and see what they would do differently!

  25. Julie S. says:

    I would do the same thing, trust me. As long as the doors are locked, the kids are buckled in, and the car isn’t running, I don’t see how you would be posing any danger to them whatsoever. Snarky people…guh. They should have helped you!

  26. Jennie says:

    OMG! Old people have nothing better to do with their time! I do this ALL THE TIME! Try it with 3 kids! I had a similar look for a very disapproving old lady when I sent the oldest back across the parking lot to retrieve our shopping bags from the car rather than take all 3 back into freezing cold tornado strength wind weather. He was always in my line of sight, and in ear shot of me. Hell we were parked in the very first spot!
    In my opinion, if they are safely strapped into their seats, running in to pay for the gas, walk up to the USPS to drop a letter in the bin, or return a shopping cart (All activites that take less than 2 minutes) are perfectly acceptable. Heck; my mom used to leave my brother and I in the car while she went into the store to grab cold medicine and milk.
    Don’t beat yourself up. We can’t please everyone all the time. And getting your children safely into a store, is NOT bad parenting.

  27. Alison says:

    I do the exact same thing. Park as close to a cart return as possible, lock the car, keep one eye on the car at all times & grab a cart. My boys are 2 and 3 1/2, and I feel much safer doing this than trying to walk two toddlers through the parking lot. You absolutely did NOTHING WRONG!!! So often, in situations like this, I feel like it doesn’t matter what you do, someone is gonna judge. You just have to do what works best for you. You’re obviously a great mom and would never put your children in harms way.

  28. Pamela Gold says:

    Doll, you’re fine! I do this too. Don’t worry about those ladies…If they’ve got nothing better to do than scope out the Target parking lot for what they believe are bad mothers, they need to get a life!

  29. Robyn says:

    i do it too. i use the rule that if i can see the car the whole time it’s ok, but not to run into a convenience store or anything. just while getting/returning carts, or dropping something in a mailbox or other drop box.

  30. Holy comments! I feel like telling you you are CRAZY for doing this just to be different :)

    But seriously, I do the same thing. It’s too effing cold in MN right now to keep Aric sitting in the cart while I unload it, then walk to the cart return, then walk BACK to the car. I keep two car keys on me so that when we are done shopping, I start the car, put Aric in, unload the groceries, lock the car, take the cart back, then use the 2nd key to unlock the car, and we’re on our way.

    So yeah, those women? Don’t have children. End of story.

  31. Denae says:

    What is it with strangers? I am so tired of their judging. I 800% believe you did the right thing. I would say that the toddler/baby left alone is more a danger to themselves than a random stranger breaking into the car (that you locked!) So what place is safer than their car seat? Its one of the very few places they are strapped in and safe – as it has to be since we cant drive our cars while constantly staring backwards. It wasnt outrageously deathly cold or hot. You were keeping the kids away from dangerous cars that ignore all things less than 4 feet in height while navigating the parking lot. If you had 4 kids under the age of 6, what would they have expected? I seriously see moms do EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID all the time and never think twice about it. That was the safest choice.

  32. I left Spencer in the car to use the ATM when the drive-thru was out of order. He was a nasty, teething 6(ish) month monster and there was no way I was waking him up. I think that if you can see the car, you are fine. If you can run to the car before someone could break in, you are fine. And judging from the other commenter, legally you are fine.

  33. raincheckmom says:

    You did the procedure perfectly. I can’t even imagine that those women could have been judging you – there was nothing to judge! I suppose for one brief moment they may have thought you were walking away from the car, intending to leave the children unattended. But, seriously, they should have been embarrassed when they realized how wrong they were!!!!

    I like to think that when you came out they were sitting in their vehicle, awed into silence by your efficiency in dealing with two babies!

  34. GFMR says:

    I may or may not have left the baby in the car with the dog (he was a great babysitter when the baby was small) while I parked next to doors of stores where I could quickly run in and out… sometimes the car may or may not have been running as well.

  35. Christina says:

    No, you are right. I do this with one toddler and plan on doing it when the baby is here. He is never left for more than a minute to return the cart or to bring groceries inside. I would rather him sit in his carseat for that 1 minute than dart in the street and be killed.

    Now, my question, what do you do if it is hot out? Do you roll down the windows and run the cart over? This is my question.

  36. Alicia K says:

    Hi – I’ve never commented before. I’m also not a Mother.

    I just wanted to comment because I’m sick of women judging other women. What’s wrong with us? We need to stick together, not tear each other down. Mother or not, you just go on doing what you feel is the best choice for your family. And screw the rest of ’em. I know it’s hard to brush off moments like those, but it’s a waste of time analyzing your every decision. Those women and their opinions don’t matter (bitches). You matter, your family matters, your friends matter. Just take some time to focus on how many things you do, do RIGHT every single day.

    Ok, I’m hoping off my soapbox now. Thanks for keeping it real.

  37. Brigid Keely says:

    FYI, one of the VERY REAL DANGERS is not “the car’s going to get struck by another car” but “cars heat up really really fast in the summer and a kid can suffer heat stroke or death much sooner than you think possible” (the same is true for dogs, btw). So if you do this in the summer, leave the car running with the AC on. Cracking the window is not enough. A lot of people think the ULTIMATE DAAAAAAAAANGER is the car getting hit or someone doing a child-based smash and grab (come on. who would want a child badly enough they would break into a car for one? Seriously. THINK ABOUT IT. It’s an INCREDIBLY small percentage of people.)

    However! I’m not saying that to judge you and say OMG WORST PARENT EVER! I’m just letting you know FOR THE FUTURE. What you did was fine. If Evan were old enough that him getting out of his seat and, say, messing with the parking brake was an issue? That’d be different. But if he were old enough to do that, he’d be old enough to hold your hand and not be a danger in the parking lot (in theory).

    I’m really sorry you had to deal with a situation like this! It’s awful and stressful! It’s part of why I rarely leave the house unless I have my husband with me AND I ONLY HAVE ONE CHILD.

    • I was curious about this and poked around the internet. While there is a real danger of hot cars when kids are forgotten in them or they crawl in them and no ones knows and deaths can happen in as little as 40 minutes.

      And I did find something that said a on a 78 degree day a car can heat up to 100 degrees in 5 minutes, I still think that while this is a real danger that all parents should be aware of, it doesn’t really apply to taking 1 and the most 2 minutes to return a cart.

    • bebehblog says:

      Actually I don’t think there ARE very many people who don’t know not to leave a kid in a car for anything that could be considered a “length” of time – there has been quite an awareness campaign regarding the problem and I hear parents CHARGED with leaving a kid in the car far more often than I hear about something bad happening (we live near 2 casinos and people live their kids in the parked car to go play slots.) Hot car = bad gets a double whammy from the dog people too. I’m pretty sure it was covered in anything we took that could be considered a parenting class and also in every single pamphlet in our discharge booklet. I also think a much larger percentage of those deaths come from people FORGETTING their children in the car – Jill from Baby Rabies posted a link to an article about that a while ago. I am not going to link because there are things you CANNOT UNREAD and if you want to read statistics on those deaths you can go track it down. I cried about it for days.

      Also, I think a running car is much more of a target for someone looking to jack a car and am comfortable with just leaving a window cracked for the amount of time it takes to get a cart.

      Or maybe I just won’t leave the house in the summer.

      • Brigid Keely says:

        I think you maybe know smarter people than I do, or it’s a regional thing or something, because I run into (even second hand) a LOT of “well gosh, I didn’t know leaving a living creature inside the car could have negative consequences! Golly! How unfair is this ticket/broken window/etc!” So, you know. I’m a little jealous of you. Also, even though Chicago gets literally death hot in the summer (seriously, people die every single summer from the heat, usually the elderly and babies), NONE of my parenting/child birth classes or discharge information mentioned it. And my parents routinely left us in the car for half an hour or more while they ran errands in stores. Peoples’ parents did that with them and THEY were fine, so they do it with THEIR kids.

        I see a lot of people online/hear a lot of people talking about the danger of leaving kids in a car and they almost exclusively are talking about the danger of the car being hit. It’s rare that I hear HEAT (or cold) mentioned as the reason to avoid doing it which is weird because, you know, that’s the super important reason not to do it.

        Car jacking is really uncommon, especially when the car is occupied. I mean, it happens, but it’s rare. Car thieves want to get in and out fast and unnoticed. It’s hard to do so with a kid in the car.

        Obviously, what you need to do is pull a million dollars out of your butt and hire a chauffeur. That’s totally do-able, right? RIGHT?

  38. Suzanne says:

    You are fine.

    I wish you would have just gone up to the car and knocked on their window and said “I see you are watching how hard it is for me to safely put my children in the car and return the cart. Can you just walk the cart over to the return for me? Kthanxbai!”

  39. this brings up an incredibly interesting and important discussion, and lady? i’m SO GLAD you wrote this! i’m only sorry that it stems from a really stressful experience on your part. )*:

    i believe those ladies were most definitely judging you. but if i’m being completely honest, if i saw the exact same scenario (seeing kids unattended in a car for any length of time) i would have been staring too. the difference is, if i noticed the parent was only walking away to attain a cart, i would ABSOLUTELY step out of my car and offer to help! before i even had my own child, i was on the lookout in parking lots with moms struggling to load up cars with purchases and kids; i’ve helped parents out in those situations more times than i can count. i’ll never forget the young mom with a screaming toddler and wailing infant whom i ran to at a safeway – i unloaded her heavy bags & a flat of bottled water while she safely buckled her kids in, and she burst into tears out of happiness that a stranger was willing to lend a hand! i felt great that the kids & mom traveled a little more safely and happily that day because of me (well, maybe not the toddler. he was pretty pissed. heh!) alternately, i did call the police once when i found a toddler & infant unattended in a minivan. the toddler did not have a car seat, she was feeding the baby (well under a year old) some kind of snacks (so i was worried about choking) and the mother had left the kids while she was shopping inside a craft store. she was gone for well over 15 minutes, which is far beyond any time frame that is legally considered safe in my state. there is a world of difference between parting from your vehicle for a moment while it’s still in your sight, and leaving it completely unattended with your kids inside. it’s black and white, really.

    personally, i probably fall in to the hyper-vigilant category when it comes to my kiddo ever being in the car alone. i’ve just heard far too many horror stories of cars being stolen with kids inside, and as a result i wouldn’t be comfortable being more than about six feet away if she’s in there without me, haha! my personal method is to use my stroller’s undercarriage to store all anything i’m buying, so that i can load p straight into the stroller from the car without having to fuss with carts. i can fit in 6 bags of groceries using this system, and since i live less than 2 miles from my fave grocery store and prefer to shop often & in small bursts, this works great for me. but in the exact situation you’re describing – having 2 kids & needing to attain a cart – i absolutely without question agree that you’re choosing the safer method by bringing the cart to them and safely loading them in from your car. i mean, when poppy does that awful toddler-tantrum-backbend thing where she whips herself backward toward the ground while in my arms, i have an immediate panic spiral as i struggle not to drop her – there is NO WAY holding a kid this age/size would be safe while also holding an infant in your other arm! not to mention, as you’ve pointed out, the safety issues of actually navigating the parking lot with your kids. you would think that the general public would be extra vigilant of mamas n’ babes, but in reality i’ve found it to be the blatant opposite, as cars with accelerate to cut me off at crosswalks when they see my strolling up, because they don’t want to wait the three point five seconds for me to pass by. asshats.

    summation? i think you’re making the safer choice. i while i WOULD probably stare a bit if i saw that very thing, it would only be to make sure you weren’t leaving the car completely, and i would also absolutely offer to help out if i saw that all you needed was a cart, to try make your job a little easier. i don’t personally think that leaving kid/s in a car while it’s out of your sight (such as to actually go inside of a store) is safe. just last year i read a news report of a mom who left her toddler in the car while she ran in to the post office to mail a package. she had locked the car and the temperatures that day weren’t extreme so cold/heat weren’t an issue. however, when she returned roughly 4 minutes later, her car was gone. stolen. with her child inside. thankfully, the child & car were recovered safely that same day, but if the worst case scenario is possible, i avoid it, even if it means a lot less convenience for me.

    again, i’m really glad you wrote this post! you should be proud for sharing your experience and thoughts on a rather sensitive subject. you rock, lady! love ya tons!!!

  40. TMae says:

    My mom used to leave my sister and I in the car ALL THE TIME when we were in carseats. To run in for milk, to get gas, to let us finish a nap. Returning a cart to the cart corral? WHY IS THAT EVEN AN ISSUE?

    I leave O in the car while I go get the cart, and put the cover on, and grab the grocery bags, etc. Then I put him in the car, unload the groceries and return the cart.

    I know there is the very real issue of cars heating up faster than people realize (an issue for kids and pets) but this situation doesn’t even REGISTER on that radar.

    I’ve had people fuss at me for leaving my dog in the car (I do it a lot – she likes to run errands with me) when it’s 35 degrees out, I’m parked in the shade, and the windows are cracked. Everybody else likes to tell everybody else how to live their lives. STFU people!

  41. I came back to read more of the comments here. I feel like Line of sight should be the distinction for being completely acceptable. I have been known to lock the car door and run back inside the house to get my cell phone which breaks the line of sight rule but I try to leave the front door open and go REALLY FAST. But we park the car right outside the front door so there is probably only 12 feet between me running into the living room and the baby in locked in the car. But I’m not worried for him. I know he’s fine. I’m only worried that someone will call the cops and report me for leaving him in the car. I think things for gotten alittle bit distorted on this issue!!!

  42. Mama Dom says:

    Lol sooooo many comments of moms that do the same thing. People are going to judge no matter what. I don’t find what you did unacceptable, in fact, my rule is as long as nothing comes between me and the car. So you will find that I never take my two out of the car to go to ATM or get a cart.

    Honestly, if I would have been in the van I would have watched just to make sure the kids were okay and you were returning right away. Not so judge-y just concerned.

  43. Holly says:

    Yes, please let me add to the chorus of you are doing the right thing. And what TMae said: STFU People!

    This reminds me of the time my MIL’s nosey ass neighbor came out to yell at my SIL for strapping her son in his carseat and standing in the driveway for 2 minutes to talk to us, like 2 feet from the car. BABIES CAN GET HURT IN CARS WHEN THEIR PARENTS AREN’T IN THE CAR WITH THEM! she yelled at us. She was also bat shit insane, but still.

  44. […] you read Suzanne’s post on Parking Lot Judgment? It was excellent and so were the comments, but it got me thinking. More than a few people […]

  45. Mindy says:

    I just came across your blog when browsing and this article caught my attention. I live in Florida so this so called leaving your child in the car thing is a BIG issue here.

    You did nothing wrong. I do this all the time. If you can see your car there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. If you are gone under 2 minutes there is nothing wrong. I believe where I live there is a law that states the amount of time until it’s considered unreasonable, it’s like 15 minutes or something…

    I even run into the post office (I live in a small town and my box is in front of the window I right next to the door). I don’t ever go into see the post master people doing this but I’ve ran in just to check my box.

    I do have issues with kids being in the car while you’re running into the grocery store to pick up a few things or while you’re out of sight. I feel if they are 11, 12 yrs old, etc. it’s different. IE: Once, at the post office in the town I work in that is larger, I seen two kids, 2-3 yrs of age, sitting in a car for 15 minutes by themselves. The post master in this office is in the back of the building where you can’t see the cars. The windows where down all the way (which the parent probably thought was a good idea but is not considering the sick people in the areas we live) and they are at the age where they are curious and know how to get out of their seats.

    What you did is completely okay. And you’re better than I am, I would have said something to the ladies.

  46. bellegourmande says:

    I don’t really have anything to add but just wanted to say YEA to you and your fantastic blog for getting so many comments and so much traffic with this post!

    Also, wrangling not one but TWO kids and a grocery cart and car seats and all that stuff is so challenging, doing what you’re doing seems totally fine to me. Those judgmental hags should’ve offered to help. I will never, ever understand why people are so judgmental of parents, instead of pitching in, for goodness’ sake. I think we all need a little more compassion and a little less judging. Parenting is really hard, and if those in our community would be even a tiny bit more helpful, it makes the day-to-day things that much easier.

  47. Mrs. Blur says:

    I agree that you do the right thing, I only have one LO now and I do the thing where I go unload everything then with him still with me take the cart back and then carry him back to the car.

    Also I read the article that im almost 100% sure your talking about just last night- and it terrified me, but I posted it everywhere(my blog, fb,ect) because I think it is an issue that needs brought to peoples attention that they shouldnt be all “I could never forget my child” because it could happen to ANYONE. It was a heartbreaking article and is enough to give any parent nightmares. And while im not so worried about me doing it, im terrified of someone else doing it ie: my mom who doesnt always have a LO to carry inside.

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