I’m a busy mother of three who works full-time, and if you came to my home or office, you’d find post-its, to-do lists, and calendars everywhere. If something is really important, I’ll write it on my hand. I’ve learned over the years that if I’m not constantly reminded about something, I’ll definitely forget it. This method works for me. I don’t typically miss deadlines or fall through on commitments, but it doesn’t fix how my brain remembers things.
In the spring of 2017, when my daughters were 4 and 5 and my son was 1, my job required a 25-minute commute on I-565. Because I only took I-565 to go to work, my children were rarely in the car when I was outside of south Huntsville. But on that day, my son was sick and had a doctor’s appointment. The plan was to drop him off with my husband, who just happened to be running an errand less than a mile from my office. But once I got on I-565, I got in “the zone.” My sick son was sleeping (rear-facing) in the backseat. I drove all way to my office and completely forgot to drop him off with my husband.
Forgetting the drop-off was explainable. Like I mentioned, I have a bad memory. But what was so alarming was that I when I got out of the car, I saw my son’s diaper bag in the front seat and my first thought wasn’t “I forgot to drop him off.” It was “I forgot to give my husband the diaper bag.” In my mind, I had already dropped him off. Why would I have my son on I-565? Why would I have him at work?
I quickly realized I had forgotten he was in the car, and I instantly felt sick about what could have happened. What if I had just gone in to work? What if the diaper bag had been in the back seat and there was nothing to remind me of him? Obviously, my husband was waiting for me to drop him off, but what if he had waited 15 minutes before calling me? In a hot car, 15 minutes can lead to death. What if he tried to call me and I didn’t have my phone?
What type of mother forgets her child? Any type of mother could. I had proved that.
I wasn’t on my phone, I wasn’t stressed or over-committed that morning, and I wasn’t in a hurry. It was a normal day except for the doctor’s appointment. Dr. David Diamond, a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida, has studied the cases of hot car deaths and explained that there’s a correlation between how the brain functions and breaks in routine that is behind most of these accidents. You can read a detailed explanation here.
That day changed me. Afterwards, I constantly thought about where I last saw my kids and what they were wearing. I constantly reaffirmed that I did indeed drop them all off. It became a constant source of anxiety.
Payton’s Charm: A New Way to Protect Kids in Cars
Before this incident ever happened to me, my father challenged employees at his company, Venturi, Inc., to find a solution to this common tragedy. Payton’s Charm was born out of this challenge.
How Payton’s Charm Works
It is a device that measures the CO2 and temperature levels inside your car and texts a primary and secondary phone number when the levels are too high for a car that is supposed to be empty. If neither of the contacts clears the alert by checking the car or resetting the device, emergency responders are contacted and are given the GPS coordinates of your car to perform a welfare check.
Since this is my father and his company, I’m obviously pretty close to this product. But, that said, I’ve been prototyping an early version of the device, and it’s helping a lot with my anxiety. While I obviously don’t want to ever forget my children in the car, at least I know that the charm will notify me if the worst happens.
If you’d like to learn more about Payton’s Charm, you can learn about its history and pledge to purchase your own on the Payton’s Charm Kickstarter. The Kickstarter campaign lasts until January 17. And if you don’t need one, but believe in what we’re doing, you can contribute to purchase one for a parent who can’t afford their own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrea is originally from Illinois, but has lived in Huntsville since she was 5-years-old. She currently lives in South Huntsville with her husband, three children, two dogs and a cat. She works full-time as a Budget and Cybersecurity Analyst for a local DoD contractor and serves on several non-profit boards and committees which all focus on children and/or healthcare.
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Rocket City Mom is a website about raising children in and around Huntsville, Alabama. Started in late 2010 by a local mom and newcomer to Huntsville, Rocket City Mom has grown into a thriving community of local parents and now boasts a staff of four, thirteen regular contributors, and tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley readers making it the #1 Parenting Resource in North Alabama.