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Dad Called Out For Leaving Sleeping Toddler Unattended In Car To Grab A Drink At Coffee Shop

Young child sleeping in car
Cavan Images/Getty Images

Most parents do their due diligence to take care of their child and anticipate anything that could possibly go wrong, especially with their first child.

But sometimes there are concerns a parent may not anticipate until it comes up, agreed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor speedycheeseis was furious when she discovered after her husband returned home that he had left their toddler alone in their car while he went to get himself a coffee.

When he accused her of not listening to his side of the story and making him out to be a bad father, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if she was being too harsh.

She asked the sub:

“AITA for not negotiating on leaving our toddler in the car?”

The OP was talking to her husband about his day with their toddler.

“My husband is angry because I got very upset about how he handled a situation with our toddler.”

“I came home from an appointment today and asked how things went while I was gone.”

“My husband said that our three-year-old fell asleep in the car, and he ran into a coffee shop to grab a drink while our son slept in the car.”

“When I asked him if he brought our toddler with him, he said no.”

The OP couldn’t let that slide.

“I told him that he cannot leave our child, unattended in a car.”

“He said it was only for 90 seconds and the door was locked.”

“I told him there was no negotiating in this situation, and if he cannot take our son with him, I would prefer for him to not take him on the drive and to leave our son with me.”

“I told him someone could steal the car with our toddler in the back, he can wake up scared, etc.”

The OP’s husband was furious.

“My husband has left the house angrily because he said I won’t listen to his thoughts about why it’s okay.”

The OP was left to wonder.

“AITA here?”

Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some sided with the OP and said this was a neglectful and careless act.

“NTA, this is an absolute dealbreaker. Leaving the child alone in the car is neglect.” – Jolly_Tooth_7274

“NTA. I won’t even leave my dog alone in a car.”

“What if he got hit in the head and knocked unconscious? Wakes up in the hospital three hours later? If it’s hot out, your kid could be dead.”

“Or what if the line is just really long? Kids in cars alone are bad on so many levels. I just can’t with this guy.”

“If the police saw it, you two could be facing a CPS investigation. Does foster care for your child sound fun?”

“Hold your ground on this. You’re not wrong. He needs to stop and think about what COULD HAVE HAPPENED instead of what did.”

“A big part of being a parent is trying to anticipate bad outcomes and avoiding them.” – TKDavis_07

“NTA. Your husband is being naive if he thinks it’s OK to leave a child in the car unattended, even for a short while.”

“Lots of accounts of cars being stolen from a garage forecourt while a parent pays for petrol and kids being taken too. It’s an avoidable issue and, while an inconvenience for him, his child is worth so much more than a cup of coffee to him.”

“He may not like it, but you’re not wrong. Be good to find common ground though so he doesn’t feel he has to butt heads or stand down: maybe agreement that you both value your child equally. It’s possible he is just unaware of the potential for harm.” – Hefty_Drawing3357

“NTA. It may seem overprotective, but it’s better to err on the side of caution. Neither of you could live with yourself if something bad happened.”

“A three-year-old is also capable of getting out of their car seat, which makes it even more dangerous.” – Jazzlike-Elephant131

“NTA. There are far too many stories of babies and toddlers dying in cars when they have been left there.”

“To me, leaving your child in a car is the same as leaving them home unattended. You wouldn’t go out and leave your child home alone, so why leave them in a locked car?!” – Scarlettohara1605

“NTA, anything could have happened while he was getting his coffee. He was endangering your toddler on purpose. So what, he locked the doors? Three year old’s can unlock doors from seeing it done by adults.”

“He’s lucky someone didn’t see him do that and report him for child endangerment or child neglect. You could be dealing with CPS or an injured or missing child right now. I’d be livid. I wouldn’t listen to his bs excuses either.” – CharliAP

“NTA. I’m not a parent, but I would never leave any child in a car alone for any amount of time. Even when I would have my nieces or nephews and needed gas, I would roll the window down halfway on the side I was on, lock the car, and have my keys tightly in my hand.”

“I hated getting gas with them with me. Ugh. Terrified me.” – L_Jade

“NAH. Your request is reasonable. But so is his. If it’s perfect weather and he’s within eyesight at all times, and it’s like 20 feet away, or so, I don’t see an issue. And truly 90 seconds. Like, once 90 seconds is up, go out and then come back.”

“If you’re in a safe area, even more. H**l, I’d say the odds of him running into traffic are higher than if he stays in the car. Call me callous that’s what I do.”

“That said, coffee shops are all around (at least for me), so I’d pick a drive-thru place. Or make it at home. Coffee seems silly to do this (at least on a regular basis. I’m assuming this was perhaps out of the ordinary).”

“I don’t see a car getting hot-wired in 90 seconds. Nor do I see someone busting the window to grab him. It sounds like he rarely does this anyway because the kid is asleep when he does it.¸” – RustyNail1980

But others were sure the OP couldn’t possibly be the perfect parent.

“YTA. Do you never leave your child for ninety seconds? To go to the toilet? Have a shower? take the rubbish out? Do the washing? After he falls asleep at night?” – Either_Branch3929

“I wonder about the chance of the car getting stolen over, say, a carjacking.”

“Probably by far the biggest risk he took that day was actually driving and being involved in a car accident, so if OP wants to criticize him for something, it should be that. So I’m going to go YTA for letting emotion cloud reason.” – throwMeAwayTa

“Seriously. People keep saying, ‘anything could have happened,’ and I’m sitting here trying to rack my brain for all of these ‘anythings’ that could have happened in 90 seconds to a locked car.”

“The number on most likely possibility? Some id**t calling CPS and having a child removed from a loving home (probably temporarily) and traumatizing the entire family, but especially the child.” – ThisCatSwims

“YTA. I have a three-year-old and have thought about this exact scenario quite a bit. In this specific situation where you’re parked right in front of a building, running in for a short period of time, and are basically in direct line of sight of the car, I think this is fine.”

“There is no practical problem with this, and most objections to it are basically like, what if you dropped dead while you were in there or something similarly unrealistic. The car getting stolen; nobody is leaving the car running. You’re about as likely to have your car stolen while you’re stopped at a red light as you are while it’s parked in front of a Starbucks for three minutes.” – Wahoo017

“YTA. I’m going to assume that you are American because this kind of paranoia isn’t normal in most other parts of the world. Living your life under the assumption that a kidnapper or mass murderer is around the next corner is how you raise kids with anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and zero independence.” – Beginning_Ad_1371

“All my kids are grown, and sometimes that’s what happened when they were little and sleeping.”

“This is not talking about accidentally leaving your kids in a car on a hot day, and it’s leaving the car running, taking the key with me, locking the door it l with the a/c running, grabbing the coffee, and coming back out, with my eye on the car the whole time.”

“Not something you’re doing daily or weekly, but it’s happened at least a couple of times. The dumb part was never mentioning it! NTA, but neither is he.” – breadad1969

“It’s an unnecessary risk. But in the grand scheme of risks, I’m not sure how it compares to all the many unsafe things parents do with kids in the car.”

“If OP never speeds, talks on the phone, takes her eyes off the road to deal with the kid, or drives when she is really exhausted, then this is the biggest danger that kid has faced in the car.” – Chemical_Enthusiasm4

“In many places in the world, it is normal to leave the child unattended for a bit. It’s not dangerous.”

“It’s interesting. I think this has to do with culture and time. It used to be even in the US, parents could leave their kids to play outside unattended. Now you almost never see that anymore.”

“I don’t know if there’s more actual danger or if people perceive that there is more, but the US is definitely very different.” – LunaMunaLagoona

The subReddit was firmly divided on this one, with some confirming the dangers of leaving a child alone in the car while the rest cited incident-free examples from other countries or their own childhoods.

The most important thing for this couple is to communicate about this and find a compromise.

If they couldn’t even agree about whether or not to let their child wait in the car, there likely would be greater parenting concerns later on.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan has been a part of the George Takei family since 2019 when she wrote some of her favorite early pieces: Sesame Street introducing its first character who lived in foster care and Bruce Willis delivering a not-so-Die-Hard opening pitch at a Phillies game. She's gone on to write nearly 3,000 viral and trending stories for George Takei, Comic Sands, Percolately, and ÜberFacts. With an unstoppable love for the written word, she's also an avid reader, poet, and indie novelist.