Ancient History

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I saw a woman holding a baby on her lap. The baby had strawberry blonde hair and appeared to be around ten months old. I watched them happily interact. A man sat to the left of them.

Then the light turned green.

They made a left turn. So did I.

I called the police’s non-emergency line to report what I saw. After I gave the description of the vehicle and the direction it was traveling, I snapped my phone shut and felt terrible.

Why do I feel bad about doing the right thing? I don’t want anyone to get into trouble. I don’t want to be a Mrs. Kravitz.

Yet I don’t want to be the person who could have prevented a tragedy, but didn’t.

I vividly remember hopping from seat to seat to seat in our big green and wood-paneled station wagon. We only had to wear seat belts if we were on the interstate. When my mom drove our red Pinto she let me sit in the front seat and shift the gearstick for fun. There were no laws regarding seat belts or car seats. My parents weren’t careless or neglectful by early 1970s standards. Today’s standards would have demanded orange jumpsuits and mandantory court appearances.

Perhaps that is why I feel so odd regarding my Citizen on Patrol moment. The strawberry blonde baby was sitting on a soft lap, being held by encircling arms. They interacted and seemed happy. They were traveling together.

Through two panes of glass separated by thirty years I considered the scene and decided it was wrong.

19 comments to Snitch

  • Hey, you did the right thing. I remember rolling around in our station wagon too, but so much more than just time has passed. Our understanding of the laws of physics has grown with every tragic accident. People need to know. ((HUGS))

  • Yeah, but what happens when someone runs a red light and bashes into her? OR she rear-ends, someone, even at 10 – 15 miles an hour? The force of her body would instantly kill that baby.

    Something you already know. I too rode on my dad’s lap on road trips. Thing was, back then, we didn’t have the knowledge. We do now. You can’t just “hold the baby safely” during an accident. Your body becomes the dangerous object.

    You did the right thing.

  • mopsy

    Oh, I definately know I did the right thing. I just can’t figure out why I feel odd about doing the right thing in this situation. I think it’s a weird reaction and I am trying to figure out where it is coming from.

  • You definitely did the right thing. What she was doing isn’t in some moral “gray area”–it’s ILLEGAL. Good for you.

  • I second all the other posters. You did the right thing. But it is hard being the “tattletale” if you will – especially if you think that the child is otherwise well-loved and cared for.

    But … you most likely saved that baby’s life. ((Hugs))

  • Jennifer

    My mom passed away in 1996, so I know it was a while ago but she was an RN working for the city-county health department and was *required* to report every incident like this that she saw. As a previous commenter said, it’s difficult when you can tell a child is well-cared for. But they were still breaking the law. I think today there are a number of factors that car seats are necessary – the way cars are made (small and not all metal anymore), speed of drivers (most speed limits have increased), and the number of cars on the road has increased thus leading to more accidents.

  • You did the right thing. 30 years ago cars didn’t go as fast and there were less of them on the roads. Interstates weren’t made for speeding. You were pro-active and saved a life.

  • Shayne

    I would feel the same way. You know it’s the right thing to do, but still feel bad. Probably because you are a mom, too, and these parents didn’t otherwise seem neglectful or careless and, heaven knows, we have all made mistakes with our kids. So you wonder if you should give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Hopefully, this will serve as a wake up call for them and they’ll change their ways before anyone gets hurt. Even if they are careful drivers, they can’t control others on the road.

  • You feel bad because even though you did the right thing as a citizen, as a mother, you recognized the beauty and sanctity of a mother and her child cuddling, talking, and sharing love and affection. You feel bad because you know that what you did was going to result in that beautiful, tender moment being rudely, cruelly shattered, and possibly in having that child and that mother, who obviously adore each other, being separated, at least for a brief period of time.

    That’s a hard bit of knowledge to live with.

  • As mothers, we understand the importance of doing what’s right for children’s safety. But as mothers, we also understand how badly what we must do is going to hurt another mother, and that kills us inside. We know how they’re going to feel, and it rips us apart that WE’RE going to be the ones that caused them to feel that way.

    It WAS the right thing to do, but it was a difficult thing to do, and it’s natural for you to feel sad and guilty about it.

  • I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to just take the baby out of the seat to nurse and stop the screaming, but I don’t. Think of it this way: today you saved a life…

  • amy

    I definitely would not have called the police. I feel like you never know what is happening in other people’s lives. Perhaps they just arrived at the airport and the airline lost their carseats (this happened to my sister-in-law, who held her baby in the backseat of a cab under a blanket). Other relatives have been known to take there kids out of car seats on long trips to comfort a crying baby. I couldn’t do it with my kids, because I’ve been in car accidents and I’m risk advserse — but I know that my relatives believed they were doing the right thing for their child at that moment, and I don’t think it’s my place, as a passing motorist, to second guess their choice. Also, while I would never put my kids in a car without a car seat, I find the laws themselves contradictory and baffling. For example, why is ok to not have a car seat on a bus, a school bus, a motorhome or a passenger van — all of those modes of transportation are just as likely to crash as a car. I guess if the car had been driving erratically I might have called the police, but that would be the only circumstance.

  • I think the reason you feel odd is because you have lots of kids. You try to be the best mom possible & yet, just because of the sheer number, you are judged. People come out of the woodwork when they see your brood and want to ask none-of-their-business questions. They have no problem spouting advice, criticizing your parenting skills, or saying something incredibly rude for your children to hear. And heaven forbid you spank one of them and are accused of child abuse.

    Consequently, you are sensitive. As you mentioned, the child was certainly loved. For whatever reason, she wasn’t restrained in a car seat-in the same way so many of us weren’t as children. You feared for the safety of the child, and yet, you hated to interfere with a loving parent’s choice in interacting with her child.

  • Of course, there are those who love to judge others and would have dialed 911 with anticipation of the coming trouble. But don’t you think that’s a sign of pride?

    Or more importantly, consider how God feels about judging us. Many people seem to assume God is like a courtroom judge pronouncing punishment on a convicted criminal. However, given the sacrifice He made by sending His Son to stand in judgment in our place I think it’s obvious God is deeply moved by the judgments He makes. In other words it’s not pride, but love that moves him to correct us.

    Given we are made in His image, would it not make sense we should feel the same reluctance to judge when we are right with Him?

  • Very tough. I don’t know what I would have done either. I don’t see this as an issue of passing judgement on the adults/parents, but that you were just looking out for the little girl. Maybe they were foreigners, they didn’t have a carseat, didn’t know about the carseat law (stretching here), maybe the police that stopped them helped them to get one.

  • mopsy

    I can understand your point of view, Amy. Who knows if the police found them? If they did, would they be able to take the situation into account (lost carseat, medical issue with the kiddo, etc.)? The ideal situation is that the police would be able to educate and hook them up with a carseat ASAP.

    I do know if I saw a story on the news about an unrestrained baby turning up dead, I’d have to live with it for the rest of my life if I hadn’t said anything. The chances of tragedy were remote, I understand.

  • amy

    Hmm, that seems dramatic to me, but I get your point, once you saw the crime committed not reporting it made you feel like an accomplice. But I wonder, how do you reconcile that action with your prior post regarding how you wished the media would stop judging Britney Spears right after she was seen with her son out of his car seat? Did you only feel sorry for her because the judgment was national in scale? And I wonder, would you feel compelled to call the police if you saw people j-walking with a stroller? making illegal turns with kids in the car? riding bicycles without helmets? What about the fact that 90% of car seats (according to a state of colorado web site) are not installed properly therefore they do little to reduce the risk of harm in an accident? I’m just probing, because I suspect the real issue here is that because car seats are mandatory it’s one of the few areas of parenting that seems black and white — nevermind the inconsistent laws and poorly installed car seats. But, if your reason for calling the police was 1. a law was broken and 2. the law breaking endangered a child, why not call when other laws are broken that relate to safety and children if you don’t, then why call in this instance? You feel that what you did is right and yet you also feel a bit of guilt, I’m just offering up some possibile explanations. P.S. I think you’re a great mom and this isn’t meant as a character assasination.

  • mopsy

    Hee hee. Amy, I appreciate your line of questioning.

    I think you are referring to the Britney post entitled “Bash”. That post was sparked by the incident when she tripped on a sidewalk in NYC while carrying her son. It was a case of press-gone-wild, ridiculous nit-picking. I did not defend her for driving without her son in his carseat. That was idiotic and she deserved the negative attention.

    As for all the other bone-headed parenting misdemeanors mentioned, I give dirty looks out my tinted windows—remembering I have done stupid things with my kids in the car (running a red light, for example).

    Biking without a helmet is not illegal in Colorado. I see it every day when I drive my kids to school. I see kids three to a bike, one on the handlebars, one pedalling, and one sitting on the edge of the seat. I don’t call the cops. If I were consistent I’d take the plunge and deem myself Society’s Hall Monitor.

    My recent snitchy moment was done on impulse and surprise. It is quite rare to see a child unrestrained in these parts. I felt I had to do something. If I had a spare carseat rolling around with me, I’d flag the person down and hand it over no questions asked.

  • holly

    I have chased someone down who had a baby in the passenger seat (she was being held by the passenger). Anyway, when they FINALLY stopped, they demanded to know “why the hell I was following them”. I said, that it wasn’t safe to have a baby unrestrained and that I would gladly give my carseat to them right then and there. She demanded to know why I was so interested in them. I said, because I had children. She proceeded to yell, “I am breastfeeding if you must know” and ” I needed to stay out of her business” I sat there with my mouth open, and they drove off. I was not rude, nor condescending, but they wouldnt take my concern as a valid emotion. We (our town) just had a child die from being thrown out of a window, so it was fresh in their minds, I am sure. It was all over the news….but still they didnt care. So sad….

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