Coffee. I have made it literally thousands of times. And my coffee maker is not complicated. Add water. Grind the beans. Put grounds into the filter. Put filter into basket. Put it in the machine. Turn it on. Simple, right? And I have done it so many times I can do it with my eyes closed. But on Sunday morning, I messed it up and ruined the coffee. I wasn’t even tired. Or distracted. Or rushed. It was a beautiful quiet morning. The window was open, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, I slept well, the kids were not fighting…seriously, a perfect morning. So you would think I could get the coffee make correctly.
I missed one simple but crucial step because I did one thing out of order. You see, normally I take the grounds over to the maker, tap them into my filter and go on with the process. But Sunday morning I decided to take the basket from the maker over to where I grind the coffee. Why, I don’t know. It doesn’t even matter. And it still seems simple, right? But that one step out of order—that one step out of my routine, and I made a crucial error—I forgot the filter. So I tapped those grounds right into the basket, walked over to the coffee maker, put it together, turned it on and walked back down to my bedroom for the 3 minutes it takes for my machine to make coffee. I grabbed a load of laundry, ran it to the laundry room, started it and went back for my coffee. My kitchen smelled amazing. But I quickly saw I had a big mess, with grounds everywhere and a ruined pot of coffee.
Frustrating, wasteful, but fixed easily enough with a quick clean up and starting over. And all was right with my world again Sunday morning. But not everything is so easily fixed. So why do I share this story? Why do I point out that one small, simple change to a routine can have a big consequence? Because this is how, as parents, accidents can happen. That small, simple change to a parents routine can have devastating consequences. You see, I live in Arizona. And while the Midwest got snow this weekend, we are already hitting temps into the 90’s. It is going to get close to 100 degrees this coming week. We are not the only area of the country seeing higher temps. And it won’t be long before temps are creeping up into dangerous numbers around the rest of the country. And sadly, every single summer here in Arizona and other parts of the country, we hear of tragedies. Children, accidentally left behind in the car because of one simple, small change in a routine. Mom had a doctor appointment, so dad had to drop baby off at daycare. Dad had to go in early for a meeting, so his partner had to drop the baby off today. Grandma couldn’t come at her normal time to help with morning drop off so one of the parents had to do it. All small, seemingly insignificant changes—all one simple change to the routine. But something that so easily can lead to tragedy. Add in sleep deprivation and the chances of an accident go even higher. Not because a parent doesn’t care; not because they don’t love their child; not because they are bad parents. But because it can take one simple disruption in the normal routine, something gets missed and a devastating, life-altering event occurs. A child gets accidentally left in the car and nothing is ever the same again.
It is important to know that interior vehicle temperatures rise very quickly, even in the shade, as outside temperatures go up in the Spring and Summer. Temperatures within the vehicle can rise to over 110 degrees even on an 80 degree day. On days in the desert when we are seeing 115 outside, the car can get to over 150 degrees within 15 minutes and even higher if left longer. This becomes a deadly situation for an infant in a matter of minutes. They are small people, confined in a snug fitting car seat, often covered with a blanket to protect them from the air conditioning and they don’t have the ability to cope with the heat in the same way an adult does. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know this is a very fast recipe for tragedy.
So, what is a parent to do? Experts offer a variety of suggestions on ways to combat the possibility that your child might get forgotten and left behind in a car.
- Don’t change the routine if you don’t absolutely have to—actions become rote after a fairly short amount of time and so we do them automatically, especially if we have a lot on our mind—so stick to your routine as much as possible.
- Put your purse, cell phone or briefcase in the back seat. Keep in mind it can become a projectile in an accident, so strap it in using a seat belt, or tuck it down behind and under the seat. But the act of opening the door to get it out of the back seat will allow you to see the baby and be reminded they are there.
- Keep a stuffed animal in the car—in the front seat with you. Set it with, on or even IN your purse or briefcase. Make it big enough to be noticeable. And it will remind you there is a baby in the car—when you remove the baby, place the stuffed animal in the car seat until you return. Stuffed animal in the front means baby in the back.
- Consider one of the new car seats that has an alarm that alerts you once you turn off the car that the chest clip on the car seat is still buckled, indicating that there is a child in the car.
- There is something called a Child Minder Clip that sounds an alarm if the parent or caregiver gets more than 15 feet from the car. It hooks right to the car seat strap. Their ads claim is does not interfere with proper use of the car seat, has been crash-tested and does not void your car seat warranty. Please check with your car seat manufacturer should you opt to use this as most recommend NO after-market products on their seats.
- There is a “Kars for Kids” safety app to remind you when you leave your car that you need to check for a child left behind.
- Finally, try to not drive distracted. Too often (guilty) we are checking cell phones at stop lights or in parking lot, some (FAR TOO MANY) are doing it while driving, we are messing with our satellite radio, eating, putting on make-up, shaving (not guilty!) and more behind the wheel of the car. Distracted driving is becoming an epidemic. And that distraction can lead to a child being left behind as well. Nothing, and I mean, NOTHING, is so important that it overrides the basic safety of a child that is 100% dependent on the adults in their life for staying alive.
I ruined the coffee with one simple change in routine. But it is just coffee. A simple change in routine could have much bigger consequences, so take your time, put safety measures in place and always check the back seat—a child’s life depends on it.
For more information on this, visit www.kidsandcars.org.