To the Stranger Who Made a Scene When I ‘Forgot’ My Baby in a Hot Car: Thank You

Molly Schultz

Molly Schultz
Molly Schultz

"MA’AAAM!!! Ma’am stop! Please stop! You forgot your baby in the car!!"

Now let’s back up. (I didn’t leave my baby in the car for those of you who can’t get past that first part.)

I was unloading my groceries into my van like I usually do. Bulky items in the trunk, delicate items in the front seat … you know, just a completely regular day for me. On this particular day I was actually doing that whole "push the baby in the stroller and drag the cart behind you" type of grocery shopping. I had forgotten my baby carrier at home so that was the next best option.

Once I had all the groceries in the van and had folded down the stroller, I put the baby in. I could have started the car first and then put the baby in, but I have this very real fear of starting my car, putting my kids inside, and some stranger running up to me to knock me out of the way only to get in the driver’s seat to drive off. But that’s another anxiety story for another day!

  • Anyways -- I packed everything up and then put the baby in.

    He was fussing so it took me a minute to calm him down and find a pacifier he felt like taking on this particular day. I left the van door open and then I grabbed the cart and started heading back toward the store to the closest cart return. A woman had just parked next to me as I grabbed my cart.

    I was pretty nonchalantly walking away from the van. The cart return was just two cars up, so I wasn’t walking that far. Sometimes I will take the baby with me and then carry him back. But on this day, it just felt easier to load him in and then return the cart.

    This woman that parked next to me didn’t know we had just gotten done with our shopping. She didn’t know that I was going to the cart return, and not into the actual store. She just saw a baby in the car and watched its mom walk away.

    She thought I left my baby in the car.

    This woman was YELLING. She caused a scene where people turned to look at the commotion.

    "M’AAM!!! Ma’am Stop! Please stop! You forgot your baby in the car!" To be completely honest, I didn’t even realize she was talking to me. As I was pushing the cart into the cart return, I turned to look at her.

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  • Oh. She was talking to me. She was waving her hands and was starting to run toward me!

    Molly Schultz
    Molly Schultz

    My knee jerk reaction was to be defensive. I felt horrified for a second that she thought I forgot my baby. My face was instantly flushed. I was so embarrassed that she was yelling that to me.

    It took me a second to realize what was happening. But I decided to take the high road. Because you know what? She was looking out. She was trying to prevent another baby dying in a hot car. She was being hyper vigilant and … oddly sweet in the moment. In her yelling, her tone was never judgey. You could tell she wasn’t pointing fingers, so to speak. She was genuinely trying to help, even if her approach was a little over the top.

    I could have chosen to stay offended, but had it been another situation, maybe she would have saved the baby.

    Once I explained myself, she let out an, "Oh thank God! I just hear these stories all the time and I really didn’t want to witness it myself." I walked back from the cart return and we talked for a minute next to the open van door as she got some smiles from Bowie.

  • In our conversation she realized she pulled the trigger a little too quickly. 

    Molly Schultz
    Molly Schultz

    She reacted on impulse instead of actually trying to take in the situation. She apologized for embarrassing me and [said] she felt horrible for not giving me the benefit of the doubt. I appreciated her sincere apology, but I really tried to hit home the fact that she really was just trying to look out, even if her approach was a bit alarmist.

    Today’s lesson: Be thankful for the strangers just trying to help.

    Today’s second lesson: Don’t take offense to every single thing that happens to you.

    I feel like we’re so quick to take offense to things that happen to us. We all can twist a situation that happens to us and present it to the world with a victim-like narrative. ‘Can you believe what this total stranger said and did to me?’ I’m totally guilty of that. I’ve had my fair share of comments when I’m out and about with my six under seven kiddos. I’ve heard it all with having a set of twins, and all of my kids being so close in age. I’m absolutely guilty of gossiping about other people’s reaction to my tribe or my parenting.

    We could all continue to do that. OR … we could take these experiences and force ourselves to see it from a different perspective. Maybe people aren’t always out to get us. Maybe people are just trying to give us sound advice, but their method isn’t the best. I think we just need to give strangers more grace. Not in every single circumstance, but in most. Smile and nod, even if you don’t totally agree. But I urge you – just be more kind when strangers approach you next time.

    We could all use more grace and kindness.

    This post was was written by Molly Schultz of Tried and True Mama and republished with permission.

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