Friday, May 27, 2011

Oops - Did I break the Law?

I almost broke the law last week.

I had to pick the Man-Child up from a baseball game, and since the Queenager wasn't in, I also had to schlepp the Little Guy with me. (Such will be life after August 29 when she starts college. Sigh) Oh, and the dog came along too.

Of course when I arrived at the baseball place, at the agreed upon time, he was nowhere to be seen. I waited a few minutes but since I was driving him to a guitar lesson, and hate to be late, I started to think of Plan B. That would be leaving Little Guy and Dog in the (locked) car, marching across the field, yelling and gesticulating till the Man-Child saw me. Since he had his back to me, and is apparently deaf, this took a few more minutes. Anyway, I got back to the car, all was well and off we drove.

A few days later I remembered that in Chicago, it's illegal to leave small children unattended in a car, even with a barky dog. I know someone who was severely chastised by a cop for popping into her dry cleaners with the baby outside in a locked car. I checked online to learn more.

Fortunately the law relates to children under 6, but parents can be charged with child endangerment and receive a sentence of up to a year in jail, and a $2,500 fine. Gulp. This is because children have been left in cars in dangerously high temperatures, and sadly have died. Other children have been the victims of car-jacking, although most of the criminals don't even realise there's a child in the car when they drive off. (And yes, you're right - that would mean some parents not only leave their kids in the car, but the engine running and the keys in.)

When I was little I distinctly remember big prams parked outside the local shops with sleeping babies inside. Often, babies in prams were parked outside front doors too. Can you imagine this happening today? In fact, about ten years ago, a Dutch woman in New York city left her sleeping baby in a stroller outside a Starbucks, and sat inside with a friend at a window table right next to the child. The cops were called and there was a debate on every news channel that night about it. Poor woman was only doing what was apaprently common practice where she lived.

How times have changed.


  1. I remember the big Silver Cross prams outside supermarkets. No-one would have thought there could be a danger.
    I remember leaving son in the car with husband while I nipped into the supermarket. Unfortunately I locked them in and set the alarm (force of habit). As soon as they moved within the car, the alarm went off. They had to sit there, locked in, with the noise attracting attention, until I sauntered back. They weren't happy.

  2. Yes, i remember prams outside shops too! I also remember my dad leaving me and my brother in the back of the car with a couple of sleeping bags outside someones house, while he went in to a party! My mum (they are divorced) went nuts when she found out.

  3. Just found your blog through BMB. I always used to take mine out of the car, even just to pay for petrol when they were small but they're 7 and 5 now so I'll nip into corner shop and leave them in car, but I'm still on pins! Makes me sad that this is the world we live in! Nat

  4. I would have done just what you did, leaving child and dog in car, because it was practical. Then I would also have done just what you did and Googled it afterwards ;)

    When I was a kid in the 70's I remember kids in my class as young as 9 going home to empty houses with their own keys. That's just how it worked. I think it's illegal in the UK to leave a child under 13 or 14 at home alone. Im not sure.

    Its like the rampant health and safety laws. Times have changed to prevent the rare bad and nasty things from happening like they used to, but perhaps we've gone too far with the nanny state.

  5. I also remember the Silver Cross prams and also leaving babies outside shops and in gardens for fresh air.

    I think that it all depends on the age of a child and how sensible they are when it comes to them being left in cars. However I think I'd have phoned the man child's mobile & told him to turn around OR if that didn't work I'd have taken son to guitar lesson and either come back or let the man child find his own way home.
    Thats because I'me probably no where near as nice as you!
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  6. I am always tempted - and sometimes do if it's not the seven year old - to leave them just for a few mins at home, with locked door, but I am sure that is illegal as well. There for the grace of god go I...

  7. With regard to the age at which children can be left home alone - in the US (and the UK I think) there isn't a specific age, but if something goes wrong you can be charged with child endagerment or neglect. So if you leave a very competent 10 year old alone, and nothing happens, all wee and good; but if you leave a 13 year old alone who then gets hurt or kidnapped, you could be in big trouble. Very ambiguous.

  8. Of course, that should have said "well and good". My useless laptop is typing about ten words behind me at the moment.

  9. I left my boys in the car after we'd packed it up to leave on a trip - whizzed inside the house to lock up - came back out and a police car was there threatening to call social services. Crazy!

    I was literally gone a couple of mins. The boys were outside the house all excited to go on a trip.

    I was PISSED!!!

  10. I don't think there is a similar car rule in the UK, right? Even so I am loathe to leave LLC for the reasonse everyone is discussing in this post. The other day Chris and I stopped at a cycling shop with all the bikes chained up outside. We were parked right in front of the shop and standing outside it and left LLC sleeping in the locked car for the five minutes we looked at the bike. I could not relax though, convinced someone would walk by the car, not know it was ours and we were right there and call social services on us.

  11. I remember my brother and I being left in the car for an hour while our Mom grocery shopped! Times have really changed. I have heard, though, that you can leave your children in the car for up to 10 minutes if the car is in sight. I looked this up mainly because of all he times I needed to stop for gas and didn't want to unbuckle and drag three chaotic little kids in with me!
    Did you hear that one news story a while back where a lady got arrested for leaving her sleeping toddler in the car for 2 minutes while she and 3 older kids (about 6-9 years old) dropped off a charity donation? Ironically, the cops who arrested her and took the baby neglected to take the older kids and left them abandoned at the store!!! Nice, right?

  12. I've always left my son in the car when I went to pay for petrol etc - though I do pay at the pump whenever I can. Same with the dog!

    There is no legal minimum age for leaving a child at home alone in the UK, nor one for babysitting (though I'm sure it used to be 14) or leaving in the car, so common sense is supposed to apply.

    When I was in the Czech republic some friends of ours regularly left their 9 year old alone, and another Czech friend confirms this is quite usual.

    I left my son home alone from the age of about 8 for 20 mins while I nipped to the shop, though mostly while he was playing computer games and therefore wouldn't be distracted! He did ring me the first time while I was at the checkout to tell me how he was doing on his game!

    He started walking home alone from school in year 4, which is age 9, and now sometimes catches the train home, which involves changing trains. It's all good life skill training.

    He's been left at home for progressively longer from those first 20 minutes to now, when we just go out in the evening and inform him that he's dogsitting. (He's 14, but quite old for his age). I think we left him once overnight last year while we went to a hotel for our anniversary. We do have friends and neighbours he can call on if needed though.

    It does depend on the child. My son babysits for a friend's daughter, who is actually only 3 months younger than him but has a disability, and he is far more responsible than the girl's 17 year old brother, who has been known to forget he was in charge of her and go out, leaving her alone!

    I was pretty independent at a young age (off on bike rides at 7 or 8) and as long as the child is mature and confident enough, I think that's to be encouraged - while applying common sense of course!

  13. In some states, it's also illegal to leave your dog in the car. LOL! Double whammy.

    One of the things that horrified me when I first moved to England was seeing mums leaving their babies in prams outside the shops. The very first time I saw this occur, I was so worried and upset that I stood outside the shop, not beside the pram but close enough to keep my eye on it and waited for mum to come back. Now I can appreciate that this was a sign of a more civilized society and I grew up somewhere that did not allow me to trust other people.

  14. We once left Littleboy 1 sleeping in the locked car as a baby in France - we went into a wine tasting place to buy something quickly, and he was fast asleep so we left him there. Unfortunately he woke up and set off the car alarm by moving around!

    I can see there is a reason for the rule but I think if it's just for a couple of minutes, it's far too over-zealous.

  15. I don't know what the law is down here in Florida. But a young child could certainly die if left in a hot car for any length of time.

    It does sound like one of those laws that is there just to punish a tiny minority of irresponsible parents, but is capable of hitting responsible ones too, who just want to post a letter, or nip into the shop etc.


  16. A friend of mine ummed and ahhed about whether to leave her daughter in the car while she nipped into a shop and decided to take her with her. When she came back outside two minutes later her car was on fire!!! That story alone is enough to make me never leave my daughter in the car!

  17. Gulp! That reminds me of a friend who used to leave her sleeping baby in his crib/cot while she popped out to the shops or to get her hair done. For some reason, a few months later, she was out of town and I was checking on her house. Turns out it had a slow carbon monoxide leak. Doesn't bear thinking about!

  18. I've never left children in cars, though when we just had one, we developed a nifty strategy of finding a pub with a car park you could see from the garden. We'd leave the baby asleep in the car (he always fell asleep in the car), and enjoy a pub lunch and a drink, in view of the car, and going over the check him through the window every now and again.

    Doesn't sound good though if I say "we used to leave him in the car while we were at the pub".

    Hard to believe, but where we lived in Scotland, those big Silver Cross prams were still popular (lots of babies being brought up by grannies, I think). And they were left outside shops - only very small shops, so really the mothers/grannies were only a few paces away from the pram, but even so... it used to amaze me. Could never do it myself - but then I had a nifty stroller rather than a huge Silver Cross.

  19. Can't believe Calif Lorna's story!


The more the merrier....

Blog Archive