Thursday, 27 October 2011

Choosing between risks

I'm still thinking about risk. I needed to go to the post office today and pick up a parcel. The baby was asleep in the back of the car having just dropped off after a slightly troublesome night. I needed the parcel but was loathe to wake her.

The road outside the post office has three lanes of traffic and is just after a bend that cars often take too fast. The parking bays are on the right hand side of the car and the baby sits in the back on the left hand side. So I had two choices if I was to pick up my parcel: leave her locked in the car, which was visible from the post office or take her with me but get her out of the car with traffic zooming past me on a busy road.

I took her with me of course. But I did wonder for quite a while what to do. Truth is I suspect taking her out of the car was more dangerous than leaving her in it alone, with an accident more likely than an abductor. Perhaps it is because I am a journalist though that my brain works in headlines. Mother Leaves Baby in Car would be worse than a headline about a road accident.

I was of course influenced by the fact that she was asleep. Any parent knows that sleep is sacrosanct. I have an image of a cartoon in my head in which a mother holds a sleeping baby while the house is on fire. "Come on," says the firefighter, "we need to get you out of here". "Later" says the mother, "She's just fallen asleep."

But where do you draw the line when it comes to risk? If you are buying petrol and you need to go to the kiosk to pay, can you leave your child in the back of the car? At ten years old? At five years old? At ten months old? I have always done this at the petrol station yet wouldn't outside the supermarket. What about if you need the loo when you are out shopping? Can you ask a stranger to watch them much as you would your bag or coat? I would not dare just in case the worst happens. Yet what is more likely - she is abducted by that stranger or she gets ill from licking the toilet floor as she sits in the cubicle while I pee?

Raising a child is about gradually allowing them the independence to weigh up and take risks. I'm fine with that (until she wishes to do as I did and backpack around the world alone anyway). But goodness me the risks we take with them are many and the chances we take are abitrary.

Related posts:
The risks you dare not take
Searching for lost children

My baby, my daemon


  1. Oh Ellie xxx. It gets no easier. This week I let my newly turned 8 year old go down to the shop BY HERSELF just to buy a pint of milk. I gave her my mobile, which of course she used about 6 times with crossing-the-big-road-updates thus resulting in the most costly pint of milk ever. Sigh. But it is soooo hard. It really is. Encouraging independance versus I'd never forgive myself if.... is a lose-lose battle I tell you x

  2. I was the fire woman. My first day on my own with Will after paternity leave ended our neighbours set fire to their house. The fire fighters knocked on the door and told me to get out. I actually stood at the bottom of the stairs for too long weighing up whether they could put it out before he woke so I wouldn't have to wake him. I did wake him and leave of course. I went and sat outside seven sisters tube crying until s came home from work. Sleep deprivation makes you crazy. A. X

  3. Such a tricky one. I had the same back when mine was a toddler asleep in the car and I risked leaving her while going to get a ticket from the parking machine, which was in sight of the car even if a distance. When I got back to the car I got a horrible telling off from an elderly couple for leaving her - it was about four minutes but they wouldn't listen to my explanation. I felt absolutely terrible! So much so that from then on it was worth risking the wrath of a woken child against the guilt I felt. So actually it wasn't about risk at all!! Risks do have to be taken with raising children all the time; mine are grown now but there's always a worry. All we can do is calculate, be wise and try and remain balanced as we gradually let them go.