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Modern Parenthood

New Zealand mom vs. Norway mom: Who leaves a child unattended?

A New Zealand mom left her child in the car while she shopped, but left a note on the baby to call her if things went bad. While some Scandinavian countries do leave their children outside (in frigid temps, too!), they still keep an eye on them. But this baby was left with only a note. 

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I am fine with the sleeping outside in the cold part after a pediatrician had me bundle fhe first of my first of four sons in his stroller on the front porch of our Medford, N.J. home for naps when he was suffering the croup while snow piled high on the ground. I have done so with every sick baby since and healthy ones as well, taking care to bundle them and myself as I sat on the porch with them or sat by the window and watched like a ninja mom.

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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I can’t imagine any scenario in which I would ever intentionally leave a baby unattended outside.

However, in the New Zealand incident, a parking-lot witness told the Herald:

"It was written from the baby's perspective, and it said, 'my mum's in doing the shopping, call her if I need anything,’ and it had the cellphone number We waited there for a little bit, wondering if the mum was just going to be two seconds and come back. And my wife said, 'I'm not going in without someone being here with the baby.'"

According to Susan Pollack, curriculum and program director for Children’s Harbor of Virginia the dangers are not only physical but spiritual issues on trust in their care giver. “This is a big deal because think of not only a child possibly choking from vomit but also what if someone hits that car in the lot? What about the baby in the news who almost lost a pinkie because a hair got wrapped around it (in what’s known as a hair tourniquet) and there’s nobody there for who knows how long? Then we have the whole trust issue too.”

“I always tell new parents to imagine themselves as a quadriplegic in a chair with no means of getting words out, totally dependent for everything — that’s a baby,” Pollack said. “A baby’s signals must be read and they’re not asking for a new car here,” she added. “They’re asking for someone they can trust to respond to their needs. Leaving a child alone to cry until someone calls the mother’s cell phone? That is raising a child to know the person who counts the most can’t be trusted to answer their needs. They need that relationship.”

My Norwegian friend agrees that the case of the New Zealand baby being unattended makes it an absolute no-no in her country as well.

“That [a baby unattended or out of sight] never ever happens here,” she said. “Parents constantly watch the sleeping babies though not with thoughts of kidnapping, but more safety like crib death or temperature falling or waking.” 

So, despite the fact that cultural and climate differences may result in a baby being put outside, while getting some healthful fresh air is not a crime while under a keenly watchful eye, leaving a baby or child unattended in a public place or locked into a vehicle is never, ever right.

I have four sons and I have made scads of mistakes along the way over the past 19 years, and from those mistakes comes a certain amount of confidence in telling new parents and non-parents who are interested the following: We do not leave an infant or child in harm’s way, out of our reach or sight in public. In addition, we do not leave babies at home alone while we go out on errands because of the fear of a baby choking of reflux or crib death by other circumstance.

These are things that we, as parents, must pass on to our children so that when it’s their time to be sleep-deprived, they might make the bad judgment call of going to the store in their slippers, but their child will definitely be in that store with them. 


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