Many times before I have seen on television or radio shows “What to do if you see someone drinking and driving with a child”. I never thought in a million years I would live to have to make that decision myself. Two weeks ago I did. (the name of the child and how we know this child have been changed for privacy purposes).
Two weeks ago I took my kids to our local park at 3pm. We ran into “Laura” – a 4-year old on our “t-ball” team. Laura was at the park with her grandma. I was talking to grandma about our sports team when I smelled a strong whiff of beer. I thought Why am I smelling beer at 3pm at a park for children? I looked down, and grandma had a large plastic mug of beer full to the brim. Is the really beer? Surely grandma isn’t driving. When grandma walked away and left her drink on the park bench, I bent over to tie my shoelace in order to confirm what she was drinking. Yep, it was beer – foam and all.
Then my head started spinning. What should I do if grandma is driving? Should I do anything at all? What did all of those television episodes say to do? Am I damned if I do and damned if I don’t? What if grandma and Laura’s parents lash out at me at the next ballgame for calling the police?
All I could think about is this: If my children were in the care of a grandparent, babysitter, teacher or neighbor, and someone saw that they were being neglected or in harm’s way, not only would I hope that person would help and do something, but as the parent I would also want to know as well.
About 45 minutes later after grandma chugged her beer she said goodbye and headed to her car. Yes, she was driving. At the same moment I realized there was a small Sheriff’s office on the premise of the park. I jumped in the office and informed them that an intoxicated woman was getting in her car with a child. There were about 8 people in the Sheriff’s office. The deputy said, “Call 911.” I said, “Call 911? But you guys ARE 911!? All 8 people in the Sheriff’s office stood at the window and watched grandma pack her car. One lady called 911. By the time the 911 call was completed, grandma was long gone.
This morning at our t-ball game, I sat next to Laura’s mother. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t share with her that her daughter was being driven around town by a drunk driver. This is what I said: “Are you Laura’s mom? I’m Kate, Conley’s mom. I want to share something with you that has been tugging on my heart whether to say or not. The reason I’m sharing this with you is because if I were in your shoes, I would want to know. Last week we ran into Laura at the park and her caregiver was drinking and driving with Laura in the car. I’m so sorry to be the bearer of this kind of news…but I just felt that for your family’s well-being you deserve to know.” Laura’s mother was very kind and very thankful for the information. She completely understood why I shared this information with her.
The person I am upset with the most is myself. I cannot believe that for even 10 seconds I almost chose to do nothing because of the social stigma of getting grandma in trouble, or the parents being mad at me, or the stigma of being the “snitch”. Come on folks, we are not in high school anymore. When a child’s well-being is at stake, we must all be snitches. I would much rather live with the consequences of a drunk grandma being mad at me, than to live with the news that a child was killed (or other drivers) because I was too self-absorbed to do or say anything. And shame on the Sheriff’s department for not doing anything as well. They could have easily approached grandma at her car and had her call for a ride, a taxi or sit in the office until she was sober – but they didn’t. Like most people, they tossed the baton to someone else.