I was driving home from the shops today and heard a message on the radio from the “Look Before You Lock” campaign. “Look Before You Lock” is a campaign to raise awareness and promote strategies to prevent accidentally leaving your baby or child in the car. There’s are several great video that explains how “fatal distraction” can happen to anyone.
However hearing it on the radio made me think about how just yesterday afternoon I drove to my kid’s school instead of to the supermarket.
Wrong Place At The Wrong Time
I left the house to go to the supermarket to get a few extra things I needed to cook dinner last night. I got in the car and I drove out of the driveway. Then somewhere along the road I shifted into autopilot and turned right when I should have gone straight. I navigated through the side streets approaching my children’s school, blissfully unaware that I was headed to the wrong destination.
When I got within a block of the school I finally noticed something wasn’t right.
There were no cars around. No parents or children on the footpaths. It was nearly 6pm! Of course I’m not on the way to pick the kids up from school!!!
I rolled my eyes at myself. Had a little laugh. Drove to the supermarket. Stopped to make a humorous Facebook post about how tired and frazzled I am. And then went on with the rest of my evening.
But what if that wasn’t the story. What if instead of the supermarket I was on my way to drop my baby off at daycare. And what if the destination I drove to on autopilot was work.
And what if everything seemed perfectly normal when I arrived at work. What if it was the right time for me to be getting to work and nothing triggered my memory to realise that it wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
What if instead of realising I’d made a mistake I got out of the car and went to work for several hours. With baby asleep in the back.
It just seems so terrifyingly easy to me.
How Can You Forget Your baby?
And I know people often howl in online discussions “How can you forget your own baby?!?!” “How can you forget where you child is?!?!”
Well, technically that’s exactly what I did last night.
I forgot, on some subconscious level, where my children were. Somewhere in my mind I must have thought they were at school, when they were safely at home with their dad.
Clearly it’s not because I don’t love them enough to remember them. I just forgot where they were. I just forgot where I was supposed to be. We all go into autopilot from time to time. Surely it’s something we can all understand?
I’ve seen people online outraged at even the suggestion of having a strategy to never forget to get your baby out of the car. I personally still habitually leave my handbag on the back seat, even now that my kids are old enough to get themselves out of the car!
It’s About Habits And Short Term Memory – Not Love
But I see the comments like – HOW CAN YOU REMEMBER YOUR HANDBAG AND NOT YOUR BABY! (And worse comments. As you can imagine online people don’t hold back.)
Well, because, I ALWAYS have to get my handbag out of the car. But I don’t always have my children with me. So if I have the habit of every single time I park my car to get out I have to reach over and get my handbag out, I don’t have to think about it, I just do it.
Like putting the handbrake on every time I park. I don’t think “I’m going to put the handbrake on”. I just do it, because I do it each and every time I stop my car.
My routine is: Park the car. Apply the handbrake. Turn off the engine. Pull out the keys. Reach over the back and grab my handbag. Put the keys in my bag.
If I don’t get my handbag I still have my keys in my hand. Which would remind me I’d forgotten it.
And then if I’m always reaching over the back to grab my bag and there’s a kid still in their seat I’m going to see them!
Look Before You Lock – Or Whatever Works For You
There are also several other great strategies outlined at Look Before You Lock including having a mental check list before getting out the car, a mirror for rear facing children, or opening the back door each and every time you get out of the car regardless of whether there’s a child there. Do whatever works for you!
The most important thing is that having a ritual, routine or habit, that works for you to ensure you don’t ever leave your baby in the car doesn’t mean you don’t love them enough to remember them. It means you love them so much you want to make sure they’re safe no matter what.