September 27th, 2021


Child in Car Seat Falls out of Moving Car. Jail the Mom?

Lenore Skenazy

By Lenore Skenazy

Published Feb. 27, 2019

 Child in Car Seat Falls out of Moving Car. Jail the Mom?
There but for the grace of G od go I — and anyone who has ever used a car seat wrong. A Minnesota mom strapped her child into a car seat but somehow didn't manage to strap the seat to the car. Then, another misfortune: The car door opened, either because it wasn't slammed shut all the way or because somehow the child opened it. Result? As the mom drove, the car door opened, and the child, in her car seat, fell out.

Another driver witnessed what happened and scooped up the child — who's fine, thank G od. The mother turned around and came back in hysterics — and was slapped with child endangerment charges.

Yahoo News reports, "Maimuna Hassan, 40, faces a gross misdemeanor charge of child endangerment, a permit violation misdemeanor charge and a petty misdemeanor charge for child passenger restraint not fastened, according to a criminal complaint from Blue Earth County, Minnesota."

Hassan could face up to a year in jail on the child endangerment charge or a $3,000 fine — or both. And the other charges carry potential jail time and fines, too.

So, on the one hand, yes, this child was endangered. On the other hand, by the time you are strapping your child into a car seat, you are not a reckless, devil-may-care parent. One study found that up to 93 percent of new parents don't secure their kids in those confounding car seats correctly. And 75 percent of parents turn their kids face-forward too soon. Doing that kind of thing does not make us bad parents.

That makes us humans, confused by something that is not inherently user-friendly.

A friend — with a doctorate in education — just told me that she remembers a time when her daughter was 1 and she drove for an hour before realizing that she'd neglected to actually buckle the kid in.

That that Minnesota child is perfectly fine is thanks, ironically, to her mom's dutifully having strapped her into the protective car seat! To treat a mistake like a crime is the kind of reaction that does not take into account reality. It's like when cops charge parents with negligence because their 3-year-old suddenly learned to unlock the front door and let himself out in the middle of the night or because an 8-year-old ditched Sunday school and went to the dollar store.

Parenting is impossible to do "perfectly." To imagine that parents can and must never make a single misjudgment or mistake turns all parents into potential criminals just because they are human, not because they are evil, cruel or careless.

The comments below the article on Yahoo News ran very much to the "String her up!" side of things. The one thing that she did consciously do wrong was drive on a learner's permit, not a full license. In a country where it's hard to get around without a car, I can understand the desperation, but still, the state licenses drivers for a reason.

Be that as it may, the consequences she may face would hardly make her daughter safer. With her mom in jail or in debt, the girl would not be better off. Maybe Hassan should attend one of those car seat safety clinics that are ubiquitous precisely because car seats are confusing to us all.

And then, stop with the mom shaming. Let her and her kid go home, chill out and face another day of being imperfect. Like the rest of us.