I know that in Birmingham this week, we have all been wondering how someone could forget a baby in a car seat in the car in the kind of summer weather we have.
I have almost done it.
My kids were playing outside, and I went in to answer the phone and my youngest daughter got into the car. She buckled herself into the car seat of our vehicle. She "wan go"!
I was in the house fifteen minutes by the time I finished talking, used the bathroom, and laid out food to thaw for supper. All four kids were in the yard. 4, 6, 8, 8 playing. It never occurred to me one of them would get in the car, much less buckle herself into the car seat and be unable to escape. With all of the doors closed, not to mention the playing and running and yelping of playing children, no one could hear her screaming for help.
I came out and had what can only be deemed a complete come apart. It stared with 'where is Lilly where is Lilly' with me casually walking around the yard to me frantically calling and running. My son actually saw her in the car. She was soaking wet head to toe. Her skin was an inferno. We called 9-1-1 and they told us to put her in a lukewarm bath and take her temp. 101. Fifteen minutes in a closed vehicle under a carport.
That could have ended much differently. I could have been that mother.
Another time Carter had fallen asleep in the backseat. I decided to let him sleep a little longer while I unloaded the groceries (back door is five feet from the car). I unloaded three-hundred dollars worth of groceries (it took awhile) and closed the car and went in the house. Less than two or three minutes later I remembered, but what if I hadn't? I had shut the house door. It was his natural nap time, so I wouldn't have been looking for him for an hour or better. He was strapped in and unable to free himself.
I also once left Elaina at a fall festival. I did a head count and had four kids in the van. (We had the bonus child with us that weekend, so I should have had five.) The church we were visiting called about five minutes into our drive home and asked me if I'd forgotten anything. I said, "Nope." They laughed and put Elaina on the phone. Anyone could have picked up my child and left with her.
And then there was the time that Carter was playing on the swing set in the back yard. He was five, and I was watching him through the sliding glass doors, because I was dealing with Lillian, his baby sister, at the time. He attached a jump rope to the top of the slide and was backing down it, sort of like rappelling down the slide, and he slipped this way and the rope went that way and he found himself hanging by the neck from the jump rope, dangling about two inches off of the ground, which is plenty to hang yourself. If I hadn't been staring right at him when it happened and rushed out of the house to pick him up...
No one could ever in this lifetime call me a bad mother. Not even a questionable one. But in every one of those situations I could have been called neglectful or negligent or "a bad parent". Every one of those situations could have been a tragedy.
And there is never any doubt how much we wanted children--having gone through everything possible to conceive and then raise our babies. It was just a moment. One moment. So, before condemning this poor woman and her husband, think back through your child rearing and admit that there are times you have come close to the same whether in a car or on a playground or in a public place--you looked away for "just a second". Just a second could be any of us.
They need prayers and support and compassion and mercy. Not your condemnation.