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no child left (too far) behind

My life is a logistical nightmare. Take vacuuming for example.

OBoy loves himself some vacuum, which would work nicely if he had the gross motor skills required to actually be effective at the task. Unfortunately, vacuuming to him looks like leaving the appliance tipped up and loudly whirring in the middle of the living room while he disassembles the various attachments and drives trucks over the tubing. And be sure that theveryinstant he sees me get out the vacuum, he will not rest until he has commandeered it. Thus, vacuuming on two (and a half) year old’s patrol is not an option.

OBrother, on the other hand, would like absolutely nothing to do with the loudish sucking machine. Vacuum on: waaaaaaaaah!! Vacuum off: calm. Vacuum on: waaaaaaaaah!! You get the idea. Thus, vacuuming while the baby is out and about is not an option either (at least, not a peaceful one).

While they’re both sleeping, you say? Well sure! Happily! Except for, you know, the fear stricken heart racing panic I feel at the very thought of voluntarily making noise outside their room once they’re down for the night. It’s something I can stomach about once a year – typically the night before we have company coming.

That? Was just vacuuming. Now picture this:

It’s 1:00pm. The boys and I are on our way home from a very fun trip to the library. Despite my best efforts to talk to OBoy, even giving him some crackers to munch on for the drive, he falls asleep before we get home. OBrother does too, but this is no surprise. I find myself with two sleeping boys, a diaper bag, a book bag, and a half-finished latte to get into the house. The possessions are less concerning, as there are no laws as to their proper care and supervision. The children, however, are a trickier matter.

What is the precedent here? I have heard horror stories of mothers being arrested for walking feet, yards away from their cars while their children are inside. And don’t get me wrong, I would absolutely call the police if I thought a situation with an unattended child warranted it. I know moms who are comfortable with kids staying in the car while they jump into a café or store, so long as the car is visible. I’m not there yet, nor may I ever be. I have been known to bring the entire posse into Papa Murphy’s and then request an employee’s help getting us (and our unbaked pizza) back to the car.

On cooler summer days I have let OBoy continue napping in the car while I water the front landscaping or the like. A few times when OBrother was taking his morning nap, OBoy and I went outside and played in the (lack of) snow. Once, there was a front loader digging a hole for pipes two houses over and across the street. With OBrother sleeping in his crib, OBoy and I ventured some 80ft away and watched the machines work from our sidewalk.

Always in situations like this I wonder. What’s ok? Where’s the line? If I wanted to go 2 houses farther down, is that too far? Or is it more about duration of absence? Is it alright as long as the house or car is in view? Or as long as I’m not in a different building/structure? Within earshot? Frequently checking on them? Have the monitor with me? What is an unattended child and what is just the reality of having as many children as I have arms?

To complicate things, in my post-library, car-bound sleeping children scenario, I am parked in front of my house. That’s right, street parking. We live in the city and while we have a garage on the alley out back, the stairs to the house back there are catawampus and I don’t feel safe traversing them with the boys. Two sleeping boys, one street-parked car, one house 40 ft away. What would you do?

Here’s what I do: I take the baby out of the car, still in his infant car seat. I lock the car doors after extracting the baby. I unlock the house and set him inside (in his seat) and pray with every fiber in my body that he stays asleep. Then, I return for OBoy. I unlock the car, pull him from his seat, and whisk him upstairs to his bed.

Because this wasn’t complicated enough, I still need to put a nap diaper on him (remember? He wasn’t supposed to fall asleep on the way home.) so I lay him on his bed and apply a diaper with the expertise of a neurosurgeon. With OBoy sleeping, diapered, under his covers, I return for the baby. I carefully unstrap him and attempt the transplant to his crib. If successful, I then return to the car for the bags and my now cold, half-finished (or half-left?) latte.

Finally, I collapse onto the couch.

42 Responses to “no child left (too far) behind”

  1. Ashley

    Bless you, Mama. I remember those days when my 2 oldest were babies/toddlers (22 mos apart).

    As for what’s ok, it’s mostly subjective and may change in every circumstance. I say go with your gut and at least you’ll feel comfortable with safety, though you may still be dealing with a logistical headache.

    Reply
    • AllisonO

      It’s so hard to really tune into what my gut’s saying when in the back of my mind I know there are LAWS about aspects of this, you know? When’s it my judgment speaking and when’s it my *fear of* judgment? You’re right, though. If I’m comfortable, that goes a long way.

      Good to hear from a two-babies-logistical-nightmare survivor! :)

      Reply
  2. Cat

    I have the SAME problem with the vacuuming-my little guy wants to help but his arms are so short it means the same square foot gets vacuumed for 5 minutes! And NO WAY do I want to risk waking him up with the noise! So…I don’t vacuum much, and usually only when Daddy’s home or my helped is strapped into the high chair. Which, let’s be honest, I want to eat then, too. :)
    TWO sleeping babes in the car-I don’t know what I would have done! And I don’t know HOW you changed a diaper and he stayed asleep! You’re impressive-seriously!

    Reply
  3. Dawn S

    I have returned in-house as long as I lock the car and it is in-sight if I forgot the bag of returns or want to unload groceries whille kiddo sleeps (though I don’t allow my kid to sleep and surprisingly have not yet crashed in My efforts at crazy-loud singing and talking and rear-view-mirror-checking to keep him awake en route home), but I don’t know that I’ll feel comfortable leaving kiddos alone in a car while I run an errand until they’re old enough to let themselves out or control the windows for air in my absence (what…9-10ish?) and know to keep doors locked and ignore all strangers…and if my errand is 5mins or less.

    Reply
    • AllisonO

      I love that last sentence – the list of qualifications – that’s what I do in my head too. These situations are so complicated!

      Reply
  4. abby

    I so understand! I often wonder what is acceptable. Like when I’m running something up to a friend’s house. Is it ok to leave A in the car? What if I step inside the front door but still ear shot from the car? Even if she’s not sleeping it seems like a big hassle to get her out of her seat just for a quick drop off, etc. But then I don’t want to be that mom that leaves her kid unattended! Then after work, I have my purse, lunch bag, child, diaper bag, and possibly grocery bags if I’ve needed to run to grab a few items. Is it ok for me to put the groceries in the house while A is still safely in her car seat in the garage? Or do I put her in the house and leave her unattended (with the dog!) to go back out for groceries/bags. Usually I end up loading my arms with insane amounts of baggage just so that I don’t have to decide which scenario is best. Then I think about when brother comes… how does one negotiate with 2 babies and all their stuff? Thankfully my hubby goes grocery shopping with me so I always have his help on big grocery trips, but on those quickie times that I have a few bags and (soon to be) two children? What to do???

    Reply
    • AllisonO

      Right? As if unattended in the house is better? Usually in those situations I feel like I can’t win. I hold my breath and hope for the best.

      Reply
  5. mae

    I’m not sure how else you could do the car thing… I think your current solution is a good one though! One kid in house and safe, second kid in house and safe, prioritizing which needs to nap more (almost always the toddler) and working backward till you can get back out to the car and get your stuff.

    As for your vacuuming issue, maybe waiting until DanO gets home and can distract the Dynamic Duo while you power vacuum their room and the hallway? Then you can get to the rest during naptime?

    Hang in there lady.

    Reply
    • AllisonO

      Yes, vacuuming has been known to be a “quick you whisk the children upstairs so I can get this done” task.

      Such adventurous lives we lead, no?

      Reply
  6. Karey

    Let me get this straight? You had a book from the library, a latte, and two sleeping kids in the car??? I say that’s when you turn off your car, lay your seat back a little and sip your coffee whilst reading your new book and for a few minutes pretend your laying pool-side in the sunshine on a mini-vaca! (You know, next time it happens…) :)

    (And for the record: My husband and I are in constant “debate” over what/when/where it is or is not acceptable to leave kids in the car to run in somewhere. I’m always very captain-safety about it and he’s more lenient – and our kids are 9, 7, 4, and in utero…)

    Reply
    • AllisonO

      I know, I know. I used to stay in the car regularly with just one kiddo, but car naps seem to be so much shorter than in-bed naps for the baby that in my world it’s almost always worth the effort to transfer.

      Reply
  7. Amanda

    It’s like you can read my mind this week. I’ve been having the same dilemma since #2 came along. Is it okay to run a cart back to the cart stall with a baby and toddler in the car? I usually don’t (and feel like an awful person). Then again, when I go to pick up the toddler from daycare, I put on the E break and leave the baby in the car while I run in to get J. It really does feel so situational. But it’s nerve-wracking. As for vacuuming… how about a little dirt devil or play vacuum for M to use while you vacuum with the big one? Of course they usually want whatever you have, so that might not work. :) I am such a slacker on vacuuming… but that will probably have to change when baby starts crawling! (Which is going to happen WAY too soon for my liking!) xo

    Reply
    • AllisonO

      YES. The cart corral! GAH! I usually park as close as possible to one for this reason exactly, but ALDI! O My Heck. The cart corral is up by the store and there’s no such thing as a parking space next to it. It’s like we can’t win. ;)

      Reply
  8. Cathy

    When my boy was 18 months he loved the vacuum cleaner. I wanted to buy him a toy vacuum so he could work right along with me. Battery powered toy vacuum (with the noise but no suction power): $20. REAL vacuum cleaner that plugs in and actually does some work: $14. I bought the real one (it’s a mini size, not full on grown up size) and he actually did some work right along with me! Best thing I ever bought for him. He was always supervised of course. I’m a good little mommy.

    Reply
  9. Johanna @ These Prices

    Will OBrother let you vacuum if you wear him? Harry is no longer afraid of the vacuum, but when he was, it was the only way I could get it done unless Aaron was home to take him to the opposite floor.

    Reply
  10. Sarah @ Cole's First Blog

    Now imagine this: we live in a condo. Our house is 3 flights up & a long-ish curving pathway from the parking lot… when my kids fall asleep in the car, we SIT in the car for nap! Thanks goodness for smartphones!

    Reply
  11. Savannah

    Yep, I feel you mama! I have been known to whistle, clap, and shake the foot of my toddler with one hand while driving with the other just to avoid this situation! There is, however, no way to keep the baby awake!

    On the vacuuming front, I have found two things to be helpful… 1. Ignore dirty floors completely 2. Vacuum while they’re both strapped in high chairs and eating. They can’t get down, they are somewhat distracted, and I can go fast since nobody is crawling under, over, or around me. Sure, I don’t get to eat, but at least they won’t eat the hard-as-a-rock peas off the floor!

    Reply
  12. bekah

    Oh shoot. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve enjoyed “me time” with two sleeping babies in the car. I usually bring a book in the car in case they both fall asleep. I park by the lake and enjoy the view and the silence, reading my book and texting my brother.

    And then there’s those times when the “car nap” is totally on purpose…when I can’t get them to settle down and sleep…I grab that book, usually a bag of candy, and my phone…and we’re good. Drive for fifteen minutes and…wait for it…peace and quiet.

    Reply
  13. Laura

    I work for our county’s child protective services agency, and I can understand your dilemma! I don’t have kids of my own but we see cases all the time where parents have been reported when the kids weren’t in any danger at all! I think it’s a case by case thing, and I commend you for being so brave to carry two sleeping little boys inside! I hope you got a chance to finish your latte!!

    Reply
  14. Erin

    When my boys were little, I would do ANYTHING to keep them awake on the way home. Including but not limited to driving down the road with a pair of toddler-sized swimming trunks on my head, singing the Elmo song. Oh yes, ma’am. Good times.

    Reply
  15. Kallysa

    I work for what be your equvilent of child protective services in nz and I will leave my boy in the car to run inside to grab something or to pay for petrol if I can see the car and know the line isn’t long.
    I called the police once at the supermarket because there was a 5yr old alone in the car at car park. He was there when I went in to quickly get something and still there when i returned after 15 minutes. By the time the police arrived it had been almost 30mins and the parents still hadn’t come out!

    Reply
  16. Megan

    Allison,
    I’ve been reading for a while but not sure I’ve commented before…my two boys are 20 months apart and I smiled in agreement when you mentioned “logistics”…each activity, any plans, the whole day is logistics :)
    Thank you for sharing, so good to know it’s not only me!

    Reply
  17. Elisabeth

    Ahhh the car to bed nap dance! We’ve all done it, but now you have me panicky at the idea of doing it with two! Eight more months to worry about that…

    I’ve left K in the car plenty of times to run in the house to grab my purse, or a grocery bag or whatever if I’ve forgotten something. I also have no problem leaving her to run something up to a friend’s house or to run inside a gas station to pay for my gas (but then I lock the door and glance at the car every 5 seconds!). Your judgement is pretty spot on…I don’t think I’d go down the street with my kiddo sleeping in a locked house, but my front/back yard seems okay to me, esp. if you bring the monitor with you!

    Reply
  18. Steph

    I run through these scenarios in my head every single day……and my second son isn’t even born yet! HA. My sons will be 25 months apart, and I constantly find myself thinking “OK HOW am I going to do this once the baby is born??”

    I guess I’ll just figure it out as I go….I’m trying not to worry too much about it now, and just trust that God knows what he’s doing giving me a toddler and a baby. Women everywhere do it, right? Good to read this and know what to expect, though!

    Reply
  19. Sarah-Anne

    You go girl! I have to admit I am oddly inspired by your afternoon and hope I can do the same because Lord knows when I’m watching a sleeping child I barely breathe.

    Reply
  20. Patty

    Cut yourself some slack. I put my kids in the car first and leave them unattended (and safely buckled in their carseats listening to adele) while I run back and forth grabbing sippy cups and bags. I’ve even locked them in the car and then lost the key and had to call the cops. They didn’t arrest me, they laughed. (The keys were on the ground right outside the car, I had dropped them into some leaves). People will ALWAYS find things to judge you about, and we’re our own harshest critic. I think if they’re safe and buckled and happy, then there is no harm.

    Reply
  21. Meghan

    Yes. I do this just about every time we go to an activity that requires driving, except that my 9 month old is 25 pounds (!) so she is not in an infant seat, so I have to decide whether to wake up my 9 month old or wake up my 2 year old, because somebody is going to wake up when they get plopped into the entryway of the house. Then it’s usually a matter of trying to keep the other one asleep while the first one is downstairs screaming, etc. This is why I recently told my husband that my prior life as a lawyer did absolutely nothing to prepare me for life as a SAHM (rational thought? persuasive argument? Useless.) A better preparatory career might have been serving as a Field General in the Army: strategically moving around people and sufficient provisions. All while people are trying to kill you.

    Reply
  22. elizabeth

    I have a paranoia of all things related to J and him being taken. I never leave him anywhere unattended. This really stinks when I get groceries, b/c I have to carry all of the bags plus him up a flight of stairs. That’s when bringing your own bags helps since you can fit a ton in and they can go on your shoulders. For carts, I just carry him while I return the cart. I always talk to him in the car or tickle his head so that he won’t fall asleep if it’s close to nap time. But you can’t do that with both kids (unless you had octopus arms), so I can see how it would be hard to carry 2 sleeping children at the same time!

    Reply
  23. Caroline

    Allison,
    I could have written this post. My boy is slightly older than Oboy and my baby girl slightly younger than Obrother. I struggle with these exact circumstances all the time. Here in the UK we have very few ‘pay at the pump’ petrol stations so when my son was tiny I risked running out of petrol frequently because I was terrified to leave him in the car while I payed – how messed up is that? Risk being stranded in my car without fuel?
    I say just do what you think is right at the time – helpful huh? I’m trying to keep in mind that our children will only be this small for a short time and these logistical things will/should get easier in time? I love posts like this – reminds me I’m not alone.

    Reply
  24. Jenn

    My mom got my brother a carpet sweeper and a play vacuum when he was that age. He loved them.

    Reply
  25. Jill

    What’s a vacuum?

    On another note…my kids were farther apart in age, 6 years and they are now 16 and 10. I still worry about what is appropriate for leaving them…last week I left the 10 year old in the car when I ran in to the post office to do a quick errand. He was sitting in a locked car, with the engine off in our suburban town. I still worried. Of course, he can be riding his bike downtown alone and its no biggie…but if I leave him out there…is that bad?

    I think you’re doing great, and the fact that you think of these things means you’re a great mom.

    I was wondering, too, how Blissdom went with the baby? I was praying for you! :)

    Reply
  26. MrsL

    I’m kinda glad to hear I’m not the only one who has an internal debate on the right order of loading/unloading the car! One thing I’ve started doing at the store is making myself park immediately beside the cart return, whenever possible. For whatever reason, it’s made me feel so much less anxious about whether to carry the baby in our cold winter weather or leave her in a locked car for the 10 seconds it takes to return the cart.

    For everything else, I’ve got nothin’. :) And my poor, neglected carpet hasn’t seen a vacuum in a reaaaally long time. Baby hates the noise and I shudder at the possibility of waking her up at night! One of these days I’ll clean it. Right?

    Reply
  27. Whitney

    I’m proud of you for being brave enough to get them out of their carseats and into the house! I’m too chicken to move my daughter once she falls asleep. I end up sitting in the car in my driveway, bored out of my mind and thinking of all of the tasks I could be getting done inside, and I wait until she wakes up :-/

    Reply
  28. Casey

    Oh wow…this was like reading my life! I knew I loved this blog for a reason! We have an almost 22 monther and a 2 monther. Oy, the headaches trying to balance the two very different stages! The car situation…totally everyday of my life. I do exactly what you do. Baby first, come back for toddler. Toddler to bed, come back for baby. I actually do like when the toddler falls asleep on the way home, because nap time these days are a joke and it saves me the trouble. Isn’t that terrible of me!? I always read your blog and I’ve always loved it. Your posts dealing with PPD made me confront my own demons when my first was real little and when that evil monster shows her head nowadays I tell her exactly where she can go…after reading an inspiring post of yours of course. Thank you for being so honest. I’m afraid to say things like that on my blog (when I remember to blog!) I don’t want my family across the country thinking I made a huge mistake marrying and having babies young… Anyways, rambling over!

    Reply
  29. Danielle Cooper

    Wow, this story sounds so familiar. I live it nearly every day!! Minus the living in the city part. I live in the burbs. But the library incident where both kids fall asleep, I understand. I went to switch banks today, that was crazy! My 16 month old was screaming and kicking. when i would ease up, off she went chugging those chunky little legs towards the vault. This was ongoing ordeal, the tellers cooed and offered lollipops and even stuffed animals-but these treats still would not keep her in one place longer than five seconds. I’m surprised I even had a newfound bank account after this. The joys of parenting. ;-)

    Reply
  30. Susie Brown

    Allison, So glad I found your blog! I love the scenario with the two babies in the car. Sometimes a mother has to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Reminds me of a comical scenario I had when my kids were babies. I was by myself in a department store with a stroller, 2 1/5 year old and 2 month old baby in a car seat when the sudden need to go to the public restroom was upon me. What do you do with those tiny stalls, strangers everywhere and your defenseless little entourage? Well there is no way I was going to shut that door!!! I pulled the stroller as far into the stall as I could and oh well….. I was mortified but I never took my eyes off of my children! :) Love the blog, have a great day!

    Reply
  31. Sarah S

    This is really a go with your guy situation. When mine were that little I always kept them in eye-sight. If they fell asleep in the car and we got home I would either work in the front yard or whisk them in like you did. yes, there are laws about it but really, i’m not getting both my kids out of the car so I can walk 10 feet to the atm with them when I can see the car. Frankly in that situation they are safer locked in the car than running around the sidewalk/parking lot with me, even if that’s not the “legal” thing to do.

    Now that they are 7 and 5 and I know my daughter knows how to undo seatbelts, get out of cars and has a healthy respect for safety and rules, i will sometimes leave them in the car while I run in to pick up a pizza (in eyesight, non -crowded parking lot). I partially do that because I know SHE has a huge need to feel independent and i am constantly trying to find situations to help satifsy that. It kind of comes down to knowing your kid. In public restrooms if they don’t want to go in the stall with me I always make them stand in front so I can see their feet at all times 9if it’s not crowded) but i’m pretty sure this didn’t start until they were 5. Before that, i brought them in. Neither of them are “runners” though so that made it easier.

    The way you did it though, i think is perfect ,except for the cold latte which maybe you can re-heat in the microwave. : ) And, as always, with time, things like this ease up.

    Reply
    • Sarah S

      I have to add, I found out a bit ago that my husband was leaving them in the car at the gas station (THE GAS STATION!) to go inside and get a soda or something. AND that he’s been doing this for years!!!! Holy crikey. I couldn’t believe it. He had no clue that it wasn’t ok.

      Reply
      • Sarah S

        ok, now I’m reading all the other comments and i want to delete my last one becuase I guess the gas station thing is ok, maybe I just over-reacted. Ahhh…parenting, you bring out the crazy in me.

        Reply
  32. Dinah

    I just gotta comment on this because I know how this feels! Except for one thing. I have three kids and the oldest was two and a half when the youngest was born. Yep, having as many kids as arms could be even worse of a ratio!!!

    Reply
  33. Katie Steiner

    Haha that reminds me of the riddle where you have the fox, duck, and grain. You know, and you have to move them across the river. But you can only fit one at a time in your boat? Nevermind.

    I know what you mean, since my 1-year-old and two-year-old (13 months apart) frequently put me in that position. Fortunately, I’m comfortable leaving them inside our van (a/c ON and parked in the driveway very close to our house). A keypad lock on my house helps me to get in the house without having to turn the van off. At least, in their car seats, they’re restrained and thus rendered incapable of mischief. After the groceries/diaper bag/latte, my 1-year-old gets to come inside first since she gets into slightly less trouble than her 2-year-old sister, who is last to leave the safety of her child restraint. Whew!

    Reply

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