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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Heat Of The Moment

As mentioned at the end of my post from yesterday, history repeated itself two decades later.

My mom's trip down memory lane about the time I passed out in a hot car, triggered another memory for me. A few years ago, my kids were with their babysitter while I was at work. The babysitter decided a 100 degree day was the perfect weather to shop for a new car. She took her children inside of the car dealership and left my kids inside of her car.

Parked in the sun, on the asphalt, no air conditioning and the windows were closed.

Like me, they were older, not in car seats. Unlike me, they were smart enough to say, "It's too hot in here."

They tried to open the windows but they were power windows and the car was turned off. They tried to open the door to get out but the child locks were on.

The two of them began to feel weak and their breathing became labored. They talked about crawling over the seat to get out of the driver or passenger side doors but were "afraid to step on the seat and get it dirty."

A while later a salesman walked by the car. Dripping in sweat, Lane 1 waved his hands at him. Lane 2 warned Lane 1 that they weren't supposed to talk to strangers. Lane 1 convinced Lane 2 that they needed to take their chances.

The salesman opened the car door, took them both by the hand, brought them into the dealership, bought them cold drinks and candy from the vending machine. He asked them all sorts of questions but neither would answer. They didn't want to "talk to a stranger and get in trouble."

The babysitter never saw them with the salesman because she was in another salesman's office. After they finished their drinks and candy, the man told them to stay in the showroom near the exit and wait for their babysitter. They nodded.

When the babysitter came out and saw them, she yelled at them for getting out of the car. Neither said a word as they were scolded. When she asked how they got out of the car and they said the stranger opened the door, she said, "Do you realize he could have kidnapped you or killed you?"

When they got back to her house, she grounded them. Lane 1 tried to plead their case, saying how hot they became and how breathing was difficult. She told him to "shut up" and "pray to God your mother doesn't find out about this because she is going to be really mad at you guys."

That night, after I picked them up and brought them home, we sat down for dinner. Normally dinnertime in our house is when we do all of our talking. We share our day. That day neither of them had much to say. I asked them why they were so quiet and didn't get much of a response. Neither ate well that night, both were lethargic.

I continued to pry about their day. Lane 2 started tearing up Lane 1 followed. As they told me what happened, I could tell that they were more worried that I was going to be angry at them. They worried about telling me they'd gone with a stranger, taken candy from a stranger, and accepted a drink from a stranger.

You teach your kids to listen to the adult in charge but you never imagine that it can cause harm to them. You tell them to respect adults and do what they are told. But what if they listen and behave to a fault? I imagine this day and age we have to warn them a different way than our parents did. We need to let them know if they feel in danger, even if the adult in charge told them something specifically, it's okay to be defiant.

That night I had to explain to them the difference.

They learned quickly that the disgust on my face was directed toward their babysitter and not them. To this day I get a lump in my throat just thinking that they believed I would be angry at them.

That night, after the kids were tucked safely away in their beds, I called the county sheriff. I explained what happened and said I wanted to press charges. The law is a fucked up thing. Because my children were not "hospitalized" or "killed", no charges could be filed against her.

It isn't often that I've felt the urge to kill someone. This was one of those times.

I was mad at her for neglecting my children. I was mad that she was stupid enough to leave them in a hot car for an hour while she went shopping in an air-conditioned place. I was mad that she only took her kids inside. I was mad at the police because they couldn't do anything about her obvious neglect. I was mad at myself for choosing her as the caretaker of my children. I was mad at myself for being so hard on my kids that they would actually think they did wrong by being "defiant" that day.


I was happy because that salesman, Sam, walked by that car and saved my kids. I was happy that I worked at a newspaper and could warn other parents. I was happy because the power of the press was in my hands.

I wrote a story about what happened to my children. I highlighted Sam the hero for his good deed. The babysitter was well known and I didn't even have to mention her name. Everyone knew it was her. Funny but she moved out of town a couple weeks later. Hmmm... was it something I said?