No more speeding with back-seat driver

Confession time: I got a speeding ticket this week. What’s worse: I got it for speeding in a school zone. With my daughter in the back seat. Bad Mommy (head hung in shame).

I don’t have a good excuse. I was probably rushing more than usual, trying to get Eve to day care in time to have breakfast there. It was a sleepy Monday morning and we got out of the house later than usual. But honestly, I simply spaced out the 20 mph zone.  I probably do so most mornings, despite the flashing yellow lights on either end.

The $40 fine was enough that I’ve been watching my speedometer like a hawk since I got pulled over. But my 3-year-old has also helped keep my speed in check.

First, I needed to explain what was happening to her: “What’s that guy doing?” she asked after the police officer took my license and went back to his patrol car. “Writing Mommy a ticket because I was driving too fast,” I explained. “Mommy!!! Why were you driving too fast????” she asked in a highly concerned voice. “I don’t know, honey.”

I texted my husband about the ticket right away (but not while driving). I wasn’t going to try to hide it from him, not just because of the whole honesty thing that is implied with marriage vows, but because I knew Eve would end up tattling on me that night anyway.

This morning, she was talking about the speeding ticket again. She said she was going to get a ticket because she would push the garage door opener button really fast. No, I said, that’s not how it works …

I assured Craig I would not get another speeding ticket (it was my second in two years and third in a decade). Eve heard this. A few minutes later, Eve asked him if he was taking her to daycare. “No,” Craig said. “I’m picking you up, but Mommy will drive you there.”  She was confused. “But how will Mommy not get another ticket?” Apparently, in her mind, if I’m driving, I’m getting pulled over.

I drove the speed limit all the way to day care this morning. It felt like I was crawling. And the whole time, Eve yelled from her car seat: “Mommy, you’re driving too fast!!!” “No, I’m not!” I’m countered. She didn’t believe me. Talk about a back-seat driver.

Parenting Perspectives: Car provides refuge for stressed mom

My column from Aug. 3 …

This past week, my parenting took a back seat, literally. Twice I found myself, in the midst of a toddler tantrum, fleeing to the back seat of my car for refuge.

The most recent was a very public grocery store display I hoped my vehicle would make more private.

There were only three things on my shopping list – milk, lettuce and training pants for 2-year-old Eve (who thought cookies should also be on the list) – so I asked if she wanted to ride in a cart or walk.

Walk, she said.

But as soon as we were on the other end of the store, Eve decided she wanted a cart.

No, I said, rationally. It would take longer to get the cart than it would to finish our shopping.

But toddlers aren’t rational. I should have just gotten the darn cart.

Instead, I lugged my gallon of skim and bag of greens and mega-jumbo pack of Pull-Ups along with a flailing, screaming, 30-pound child.

Oh, the looks we got as I clumsily checked out my items. Eve’s screaming grew worse once she realized I hadn’t bought any cookies.

Trying to get her in the car was a physical effort akin to battling a kraken. Limbs flew everywhere as she struggled against me. I finally just shut the door without buckling her. We sat in the parked, running car until she calmed down.

A few days earlier, I’d used a similar back-seat maneuver, but to calm myself instead.

We had a 9 a.m. appointment at the gym’s day care that I was determined to keep. But that morning, Eve simply refused to get dressed or wear a diaper.

I felt myself get more and more frustrated as she tore off her clothes as fast as I wrestled them on her. I heard my voice grow louder and louder until I was yelling.

“Enough!” I screamed.

Quickly, I realized it was as much a reprimand of myself as it was of Eve.

I grabbed my naked baby, a diaper, pink dress and shoes and drove to the gym. She didn’t fight being buckled in the car seat, a bit bewildered, I think, at her nude state.

I knew the coming and going of other exercisers would force me to put on my calmest mommy front as I dressed her in the back seat. Within a few minutes Eve was still upset, but clothed.

In this case, my back seat provided a public venue for how to properly dismantle a parental time bomb.

Let’s call it parenting by the dashboard lights.


Sherri Richards is mother of a 2-year-old daughter and employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at

Kids, Cars and the Danger of Summer

The list just kept going. And going. And I felt more and more nauseous reading it. Incident after incident of American babies who died last summer from hyperthermia because their parents had left them in the car.

My mind immediately rushed to my sweltering backseat. Did I drop Eve off at daycare? Of course I did.

I’d like to think this could never happen to me, or to my family. I’m not that kind of parent. But as the founder of the organization Kids and Cars pointed out, the parents who suffered these losses are mostly highly educated, loving, doting parents. It can happen to any parent.

All it takes is a forgetful moment. A change in routine.

About 36 infants and children die each year in the U.S. from being trapped in cars. Ironically, one reason we’re seeing this happen more often is because kids are now in the backseat — out of sight — because it’s safer.

So, here’s my PSA for the day: Don’t leave your child in the car. Here are a few tips from Kids and Cars that may help:

1. Starting today, put a teddy bear or stuffed animal in your child’s car seat. When your child is in his or her car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder your child is in the backseat.

2. Keep your lunch bag, employee badge, or purse in the backseat. That way, you’ll always reach into your backseat or open your back door when you arrive at your destination.

3. Have an ironclad policy with your day-care provider that if your child does not show up, that person will call a provided list of contacts to confirm his or her whereabouts. “In so many cases, if the day-care provider would have called, tragedy could have been averted,” says Kids and Cars founder Janette Fennell.