Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Parking lots and pre-schools

I wrote this for my son's pre-school but I thought it wouldn't hurt to post it on the blog too.

As I was pulling into the parking lot to drop my son off to pre-school the other day, I noticed a mother backing up her car while she was talking on her cell phone. For me, seeing this simple act in a parking lot full of children triggered some very unwelcome memories.

In a former life (the one I had before I had kids), I was a police officer in California. By the very nature of the work, police officers tend to see a lot of things they would just as soon forget. For me, the memory that haunts me most is an accident that occurred outside a local pre-school.

While a Mother was dropping off her older son off at pre-school, her younger son unexpectedly pulled away from her grasp (it was a hot day and their palms were sweaty and slick). She immediately reached out for him but before she could grab him, he was struck by a passing car. The Mother told me he had been laughing just before the car hit him, he never saw the danger he was in. The little boy suffered a severe head injury and other officers and paramedics struggled to stabilize him at the scene. When he was ready to be transported, I was tasked with driving the Mother to the hospital. The Mother’s cries and screams of anguish in that fifteen minute drive is a sound I will never forget.

The little boy survived, but had significant brain damage. He would never be the same. His Mother, Brother, Father and other family members and friends would never be the same. In this instance, there was nothing the driver could have done to prevent the accident, but she was horrified and traumatized. She would never be the same.

The tragedy took less than five seconds to unfold but the pain and loss would last a lifetime.

There is one question I would like you to ask yourself…is that phone call really that important? Is it worth risking someone else’s life? Is it worth risking forever altering your life, your family’s life?

Inattention and distractions in school parking lots are not problems unique to the parking lot at my son's pre-school. I watch the same things happening when I take my daughter to her elementary school. Many parents drive talking on their cell phones, or talk to each other out the window of their cars, they often drive too fast, and can be extraordinarily impatient and reckless. Due to the way children’s brains develop, small children have poor impulse control and by their very nature are impatient and unpredictable. Putting all these factors together in a crowded and busy parking lot is a recipe for disaster.

We are the adults and so it’s up to us to act responsibly and attentively. Put down your cell phone, ignore any incoming phone calls, slow down and pay attention. Just because your child seems to be responsible, don’t trust them to make good decisions while they are in a parking lot. Carry them, or hold them firmly by the wrist and don’t start chatting with your friend until they are safely inside the school. Avoid walking your kids through the parking lot behind other cars, use the designated walking areas and medians, even if the route is considerably longer.

Slowing down and paying better attention might cost you a few seconds of your time but it also just might save you a lifetime of regret.

Additional comments. Donna T. made some important additional points in the comment section. Donna is also former law enforcement and her observations about little ones being too little to be seen by cars backing up is incredibly important. I needed to keep my letter for the school at one page and I struggled with space and wanted to add this important aspect to parking lot hazards but just didn't have the room. Thanks Donna for taking the time to point out how vulnerable little kids are walking in any parking lot, school or otherwise.


At 6:36 PM, Blogger Amy said...

I have enjoyed reading your blog. This particular post really struck home with me. While our family is now living in Hong Kong for three years, the drop-off/pick-up situation is on hold. However, those days are not that far in the past for us and this post really brought back all the chaos at their school in Michigan during drop off and pick-up.
I hope you don't mind but I have forwarded your post to their school in Grosse Pointe Farms as a reminder to everyone that phone calls can wait.


At 6:50 PM, Blogger Donna said...

Excellent advice. I see the chaos in the parking lot at our school too.

Our school is smack in the middle of a residential area with very limited parking so the hoards of parents who don't time manage very well all arrive at the last minute and are in a big hurry to beat the school bell. Not only are they frustrated and impatient, but some of them actually let their small children out of the car in the middle of the street. They expect their 6 or 7 year old to navigate a maze of cars all by themselves. On more than one occassion, I've almost put my car in park and gotten out and escorted a small child to safety. Drivers need to keep in mind that most little kids aren't tall enough for us to see them out the back window of our car. And parents need to teach their children that parking lots are horribly dangerous!

I see teeny tiny kids walking several feet behind Mommy as she pushes her shopping cart through the Target parking lot and I cringe because I know that NONE of the cars backing out around her can see her small child in their rear view mirror and she's oblivious to the danger because he's BEHIND her and she can't see him. Makes me dizzy just thinking about it.

I hope God really does protect fools and children.

Our Blog: Double Happiness!

At 5:53 PM, Blogger Valerie said...

Great post!! Just another reason why my favorite bumper sticker is "Hang up and DRIVE!!" Don't have a kiddo, but just about every accident I've seen lately, from fender bender to SERIOUS has been cell phone/texting related...

At 9:15 AM, Blogger V and M said...

May I submit your story to my son's pre school? I've seen some pretty crazy stuff in the parking lot lately!


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