I saw you in the car park, Mother of the Child in the Green Wellies. Looking frustrated and anxious and a bit overwhelmed. Your Mother (or Mother In Law) was with you pushing the shopping trolley. And your son was with you too. He was wearing dark-green wellies. He had blonde hair and he was fussing. He looked about three years old. You wanted to cross the car park, he decided to sit down on the path. You indicated to your mother to keep moving with the trolley towards where your car was parked. The boy in the green wellies squirmed and you picked him up by the arms and you both did a half crawl, funny walk, puppet on a string, manoeuver. All the time you managed that wonderful, check for traffic, check my child, check where I am walking, head sweep as you guided, frog marched, cajoled your son to cross the car park.
I was walking with my teenage son and I so remembered this – first with him and quite recently with my daughter. It had been a hot day and it was early evening and I could remember this being my children’s ‘cranky hour’. I felt a wave of empathy for the Mother of the Child in the Green Wellies. I could tell you were frustrated and embarrassed. But no-one had really noticed you. Or if they did they glanced and moved on. I noticed we were heading in the same direction. I gave you room, walking slowly, so you wouldn’t feel pressurized into trying to be quicker. My boy and me strolled along in the evening sunshine, with our supper slowing de-frosting in the bags. I got distracted by my own son and we lost sight of you all until we got nearer our own car.
As it turned out my car and your car were parked virtually facing each other. As my son and I settled into the front seats, put our seatbelts on and switched on the car radio, I glanced over and there you were. Mother of the Child in the Green Wellies, you were sitting in the passenger seat. You had your eyes closed and with your hand over your brow, just trying to block it all out. Your own mother was talking to – or at – you. It looked like you had given up, just for a moment. I glanced away. I didn’t want to intrude. I didn’t want you to think I was staring. I didn’t want to make it worse. I started my car and moved forward as your mother reversed out of your parking space and we followed you out of the car park.
I was concentrating on driving, as the car park was quite busy, when my son noticed your Child in the Green Wellies. He had not been strapped into his car seat and now he was moving around on the back seat. At first I thought you were going to pull into an empty car space and strap him back in.
But you just kept on driving.
‘They haven’t noticed’ I thought. But your mother, his Grandma, his Nanna, his Granny, was driving SO SLOWLY that it was obvious that you both knew he wasn’t strapped in. I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do so I kept my distance. Really kept my distance as I saw his blonde head bobbing about in the back window. Kept my distance as he leaned forward through the gap between the two front seats.
If someone was to hit you from the back at that moment, he would have gone straight through the windscreen. Your cheeky, lovely, blonde haired boy in his dark green wellies, would have smashed into or through the glass. You drove off in the opposite direction and got lost in the traffic and I was left upset and a bit bewildered by it all.
So here is my plea to the Mother of the Child in the Green Wellies…. next time please strap your boy into his car seat.
Most car accidents occur within 5 miles of home (Which? News 2009)
- If he does that rigid starfish stance where you cannot get him to even bend in the middle – JUST WAIT.
- If he refuses to let you do up the straps – JUST WAIT.
- If he screams, or hits, or pulls your hair – JUST WAIT.
- If other people are pressurizing you to hurry up, take a deep breath and LET THEM WAIT.
Eventually he will get bored, he will relax, he will sit in his seat and you can strap him in. It may take 5 minutes. It may take 20 minutes. You may have to take him out of the car and go for a little walk, take some time out to distract him, sing a silly song, tell him a joke or a story.
Whatever you do please, please do not drive off, or let someone else drive off, with him not being securely strapped in. It is s easy to think it will not happen to you, that it is only a two minute drive home, that everything will be OK. Don’t become one of those mothers that have to live with the sadness and guilt of being distracted for a moment from what is really important……