Do You Leave Your Child?

When Matt and I stopped to get some food to go at a restaurant, an interesting conversation came up and I thought I would write a post and see what others thought. The whole conversation involved whether to leave the kids alone in the car for a minute or not. Now, I realize that this can be a hot topic, but I hope that we can all look at it objectively and share our opinions in a constructive way.

When Matt and I arrived at the restaurant (a buffet), I told him to go in and get what he wanted and then I would go in and get what I wanted. We had already bought the kids dinner earlier. Normally I just get both of ours, but he wanted to get some different things by himself this time. He mentioned that we should park in front of the store, lock the doors and go in together to get our food. I disagreed and said I would wait while he went in, so that is what we did.

The fact is though, that Joshua is 10 and is probably more than capable of watching his brothers for the few minutes that we would have been in the restaurant. So why did I say no? A year ago, I parked in front of the little country gas station in the town where my mom lived. Seriously, this town has one caution light and consists of a whole block.

Anyway, I parked there, took the keys and went in to quickly get the boys some juice for the ride home. It took all of two minutes, and I could see the boys the whole time. When I came out and was giving the boys their juice, the man that had been in line in front of me began to berate me and call me a horrible mother. That was the first and last time I ever left my kids in the car for even a second alone. At the time, I thought it was reasonable to believe that a 9 and 8 year old could sit with their younger brothers while I was watching them through the windows the whole time. It’s not like any of them were babies or even toddlers.

Did you know that in many states, the beginning age for a latchkey kid who stays home alone after school is only 8 years old? In other states it is 10 or 12 and in the majority of states there is no set age at all, leaving it up to the parents discretion. Just in our school zone, I know several 1st and 2nd graders who walk home alone and stay there by themselves until their parents get home. I think it is far more dangerous to leave young kids home alone where a predator could learn their routine and snatch them easily, than it is to leave children for just a few minutes, in a locked car where you can see them the whole time.

There is also the other side. Why not just take your kids inside with you in the first place? Well, if I had only one child, that would be a given. With four kids at the end of the a busy day when they are all fighting, it is an unneccesarry evil. It doesn’t matter though, because I would never consider leaving them for even a minute after what that man did to me.

What are your thoughts? Do you leave your child/children alone in the car for a second while you run into a gas station or restaurant for a minute? I am not talking about long periods of time here. Just trying to get some other perspective on the subject, because Matt thinks it is crazy that I wouldn’t trust a 10 year old in a car for a minute, but other people will let their children run around the neighborhood alone at a much younger age.


  1. I have to bring my son to speech therapy twice a week. I just have to bring him in the school and hand him off to the therapist in the lobby. While I do this I leave my twins(20months) in the car locked …parked right out front where I can see them. It would be such a hassle to get them both out and it is freezing here and slippery, so I feel it;s just as safe to leave them. But I do always wonder if people think I'm a bad mom for doing it.

  2. Oh and I think I would be more nervous to leave a 5-10 year old, just because they could climb up front and move the car out of park…so I think you did the right thing : )

  3. Nope. My kids are 5 and 2 so it might be different for me than it is for someone who has say a 10 and 13 year old. I've thought about it on occasion. It would be SO MUCH EASIER to leave them while I ran into the store/resturant for JUST A SECOND. But the possible risks totally outway the "reward" and I just can't live with the idea that something might happen to them and it would be my fault for leaving them alone.

    When I was younger(say 10), I was allowed to go play as I pleased. We lived in a rather large neighborhood and there was a group of 5 of us that had houses on 2 different streets. Our parents knew we would be at one of those 5 houses. Now adays, there is no way I'd let my kids do that. One, we live in town, not in a neighborhood. Some of the cars on these roads drive like theyre practicing for Nascar or something. Two, all the horror stories you hear on the news about the little boys/girls who were walking to their friends house and got kidnapped. Sorry, but I'll take my chances at being called overprotective and drive/walk them there. I'd rather have my kids around.

    This is a very hot topic though, and I'm interested on seeing what others think.

  4. I won't leave my boys even when I go in to pay for gas. I am just so super paranoid. I am very interested to hear what other moms say, and see if I really am too paranoid or if I am normal lol 🙂

  5. I do not leave my kids in the car, I am just too nervous to do it for even a minute. But if you do it and you are comfortable with it for a minute, more power to you. My girls are 5 and 3 and my son is 9 but my girls are very squirrelly and I do not trust them to stay in their seats or the car.

  6. Wow, I hope I don't get flamed for this. I am a good mother, I swear! But, I have left my kids in the car.

    Example: Temps outside are 10 degrees. I am dropping my 3.5 yr old off at preschool by myself. I am not about to get all three kids – including the brand newborn – out just to drop her off. I don't have one of those baby seats I can carry, I have a convertible car seat for the newborn. So, with the car running & warm and my 22 month old and new born buckled in, I take my daughter inside and come right back out.

    But if it is a populated area, no. I don't leave them alone. But her preschool? Yes.

    You are a good mom and I do the same thing. That man was NUTS

  7. I leave my kids in the car sometimes. They are 9&8. They prefer to stay in the car depending on what I'm doing. I would never leave them for more than a few minutes. Most of the time my teenager is with them so she watches them. I also leave them home alone. They hate going to the grocery store with me and would rather stay home and play. They are safe and in my state it is the parents discretion as to leave them or not.

  8. I cant lie and say that I haven't done it before. Like you though my oldest is 10 and very mature for her age. I only do it where I can watch them the entire time. I have the keys and they are locked in tight. Now, saying that I don't feel like the worst mom ever for not wanting to drag all four kids sometimes screaming out to run into the gas station to get milk would be a lie too. But I do it and I'm a good mom. Does help though that I live on a military base so I feel a little safer doing it on base. I don't believe I would do it out in town but we live by Boston. If I was in my mom's small town in the south, I probably would.

  9. Wow! Great feedback ladies and I am so happy to see that we are able to discuss our different opinions without it turning into a cat fight.

    Overall, I consider myself pretty darn protective. The boys aren't allowed to even ride their bikes around our little circle on a dirt road unless I am with them. The gate always has to be locked and they can never leave the yard. My 10 year old has never been able to go anywhere by himself and I about have a heart attack the few times I have let him go to the bathroom by himself in the middle of a movie with the bathroom right outside the door.

    That being said, I didn't think anything of running into the gas station with no keys left in the car the one time I did it, but after the experience I had with that man yelling at me, I will never do it again. I can respect both sides and decisions.

  10. never ever…but H is only 3 and N is still a wee baby. I've heard horror stories of kids being stolen with a vehicle as the mom was in paying for gas. I remember being a kid and my mom ran into the bank…I threw the car into reverse for fun and was old enough to put it back into park when it started moving so that memory alone is enough to never leave them in the car!

  11. No. Way. It only takes a second for a tragedy to happen. My "convenience" is not worth the chance of something happening to my kids.
    I yell at my BFF for this all the time!

  12. Nope never. I actually have a similar post going up tomorrow about something the freakin' school said to me that has me absolutely irate. I have left the kids in the car for about 2 seconds at the gas station and threw my money on the counter. But I rarely pay for gas with cash. As for the store, no they always come in with me. I would never berate someone for leaving them in a car though

  13. Can't wait to read your post Nichol! I could write a novel on the obscene things the schools have told me throughout the years, but I think I will leave it alone lol.

  14. Also, for the record, the child in the picture in this post is not mine. It is just a free public domain stock photo.

  15. Never — but for two reasons.

    (1) My kids are 3 and 1.

    (2) I live in Houston, where car-jackings are relatively common. There have been several cases where a car was stolen with a child in the backseat. Not going to be me.

  16. My husband is a fire fighter and because cars can catch fire, even when turned off, we NEVER left the kids in the car alone. Cars can also be knocked into neutral and roll into traffic. In 30 years he's seen many crazy things happen.

    Ironically, our van did catch fire once while we were on a logging road, far from any service and before cell phones. We drove it out of the woods and to a gas station where we put it out. We had a fire extinguisher with us but he didn't think it would put it out. So we drove it and as long as we drove fast enough, the wind going through the engine compartment kept the flames down.

    It was the scariest ride ever, and we talked about our plan to get the kids out of the carseats should we have to bail out.

    Why didn't we just put it out or get out in the woods? The van would have burned and start a forest fire and we'd have no way out.

    Yep, I remember that day well. What a nightmare.

  17. Well, I'm way beyond that stage now, but I was ok with leaving them while I was pumping gas and to quickly run in and pay, provided I could see them the whole time and the weather wasn't too hot or too cold. Beyond that, I always brought them with me.

  18. No, but I used to. Now I've decided its safer just to lug all 4 out because I would never forgive myself if something happened to them!

  19. I NEVER have nor will. My husband did a few weeks ago, to our 3 year old, he was RIGHT in front of the car getting a red box movie and he was looking right at her. A Guy YELLED to his wife saying "someone left their baby in the car!!!" My hubby immediately said, no, I am her dad I am RIGHT here!! So, he said he was sorry, but he was just looking after the child. I don't blame that man, I would have done the same thing, LOL. So, hubby does not do that anymore!

  20. The only time I have left my kids alone in the car is when I am paying cash for gas and run into the gas station. The door is locked and the keys are with me. My guys are still little though, maybe it will change when they are older? It isn't so much MY KIDS I don't trust it is the people around. Who knows if someone can convince them to unlock the door so they can steal them or the car? That where my fear comes from.

  21. You are right this is a hot topic. My husband and I had the very same conversation and in some states it's illegal to leave your kids in the car. You can actually get arrested. I think this is a personal decision based on past experiences, the kids ages, and where you live. My sons are 13 and 7 so yes I leave them in the car. But I do remember leaving my little one in the car so I could pay for gas. It was bitter cold out and I didn't want to get him out in it just to pay for my gas. I would have told that man to mind his own business (throwing in a few explicative's) I always take the keys with me and lock the doors. I do live in a small town though. I don't know if it would have been different had I been in a bigger city. We are moms and the fact is we are not going to do anything to endanger our babies..follow your gut.

  22. Mine are currently 6 months and 3, so I'm going with no, for now…When my daughter (the 3 year old) was younger, (still in the baby carrier) I would leave her in the car for a minute why I ran to a trash can or something in a parking lot (I'm talking 100 feet…But then I stopped even doing that for a good reason. I read an article about a mom (in our state, not our city) who left her 18 month old in the car at Walmart (the car was still running and pulled to the curb, not in a spot) while she jumped out to drop some change in the Salvation Army guy's bucket…I'm taking the nose of the car was about a foot from the guy! Well, someone called the cops and she was arrested for "abandonment"! I'm not kidding…It was ridiculous. There is no reason that child should have been considered abandoned…But since then, I won't leave the kids in the car for anything…Not even when I return the cart at the store when it's freezing cold and snowing…They go with me…
    But, that being said, I don't fault people who leave them in the car to run in when they're older (7, 8, 9…) That's fine. Besides they're your kids and it is your choice as a parent. You know your kids and know if they're capable of being left alone! Whether I agree or not with the age people choose, unless they are babies or little little kids, I don't judge…

  23. Erin, you actually gave me an idea for another great post that I will probably put up tomorrow.

    I really appreciate all of you ladies who took the time to weigh in and I really appreciate that the conversation could remain civil and friendly!

  24. I can understand both points of view on this topic. If I am getting gas they stay in the car I am right there. If I have to run in to pay cash I leave them only if I have the first parking spot (I usually do) right in front of the door. I also have four kids ages 13,11,6 and 3. If only the little ones are with me my dd locks the door till I get back. But I only do it at gas station where the whole front is glass and I can see out. I will not do it any where else. I really think that it depends on where you are at. I would never leave the kids in the car and run in to walmart. Am I a bad mom for that no. I unload all my kids at the gas station chances are they would ask me to leave 😀

  25. I have done it at the gas station a time or two. But I also live in a very small town. If I lived in the city, I probably would not do it.

    I think a LOT depends on the area you live in and the people.

  26. My kids are all grown up and out of the house now, but when they were little, I didn't leave them in the car until the oldest was 12 years old (the youngest was 9 at that time) and it would only be for a few minutes.
    I would sometimes go to the grocery store down the street when they were that age, but I would tell the next door neighbor I was going and that they were home. When the youngest was 12 (and the oldest 15) I finally stopped being so paranoid… HaHa… and we lived in a pretty nice small town in Connecticut.
    I think it all depends on where you are, how old your children are, their maturity level, how long you are going to be and how comfortable you are with doing it. If it makes you uncomfortable, the kids are going to pick up on that and it's not going to be good for them.

  27. In our state you have to now be at least 14 years old to babysit or stay home alone, so I think that would apply to sitting in a car without a parent too. Now a days I believe it is better to be safe than sorry. There have been two car jackings in my community not long ago either, within the year actually. The people in the cars thankfully were adults, but still, the what if is always there.
    I think how the two of you went in individually to get your food was probably best.

  28. I usually don't. I pay for gas at the pump. My son is 7 and my daughter 3 and they just don't get along well enough to be left alone in the car.
    If I could see them the whole time, I might be ok with it. Like at the video store running into the entry part to drop movies in…like 5 feet away.

  29. I've only left them once, in the car. I USUALLY pay for gas at the pump, but the pump wasn't reading my card. I wanted to move my car, but the other pumps were full and I needed to get Jillian to an appointment. I ran inside, could see my car and I STILL felt guilty.

  30. I think it all depends on your kids. My oldest is 12, and while he has ADHD, and can be very impulsive on his own, he surprisingly thrives with a little feeling of responsibility. I let him stay in the car or at home with my other 2 children (ages 9 and 6) if I am just running to the store for a few things. It also depends on where you live. We live in a relatively safe city in PA…if we lived in a big city, or high crime area, I'm sure I would re-think. I am VERY over protective. Also, we live next door to a restaraunt owned by our landlord, so if anything were to happen, or they were just scared, they could just go over there. But as your kids get older, for 1- you have to let them learn responsibility, and 2- have to give yourself a break! LOL..taking all 3 of my kids to the store is a nightmare!

  31. I'm late to the party, but mine are 5-days-short-of-11 and 8. I wouldn't have a problem leaving them in the car for a few minutes, and the almost-11-year-old has been permitted to stay home alone if I'm doing something quick, like picking his brother up from school or just running to the drug store. He knows to keep the doors locked and only answer the phone for certain names on the caller ID. No problems. I was a latchkey kid in second grade.

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