Writer Kim Brooks made a split second decision that would alter the next few years of her life. On a trip to visit her parents with her two young children, she ran a quick errand with her oldest son—then four—leaving him in the car while she ran into the store for five minutes.This was not a usual move for her: As four year olds are wont to do, her son flip-flopped between being desperate to come with her, to wanting to stay in the car alone, playing a game. He got that “tantrum” look in his eyes. Brooks carefully considered her options (certain scream-fest vs. five minutes alone in a child-locked, alarmed car, on a 50-degree day) and decided to crack the windows and run into the store.She came out after five minutes, her son was fine, and she made her flight on time.But that was just the beginning of Brooks’ story. She returned home to the news that the police had arrived at her mom’s home. A concerned person had noticed Brooks’ son alone in the car, took a video of the incident, and reported the car license plate number to the police.  There was a warrant out for Brooks’ arrest.  She’d never been arrested before, but now she feared that her kids could be taken away.Anyone who was a child before the 90s remembers being regularly left in the car by our parents—our science editor fondly recalls the time when her brother crashed the car into the supermarket window. Our office 20-somethings, on the other hand, grew up after the kidnapping scares of the 80s, and were not left alone in the car until they were teens.Tragically, 30 to 40 children die yearly after being left alone in cars, and those kids are usually under age six. A car turns into an oven at 75 degrees. Concerned citizens should absolutely report kids and animals being left alone in cars. It saves lives. But as Brooks herself notes in her insightful article on Salon, she feels horrible for leaving her child in the car, but would she if she had not been reported? [In her case, everything turned out OK. Brooks got community service and was able to “do her time” with charities she cares deeply about.]The seemingly carefree decisions our parents made long ago when we were kids can now be faced with arrest. I’m a mother of two young boys. While we haven’t left our children alone in a parking lot, we do let them sit in our car—for short periods, with the doors locked and windows cracked—while it’s parked outside our apartment, and we run in and out of our first story, Brooklyn apartment to load the car before a trip. I never feel great about it, but the kids are happy while pretending to drive the car, and it certainly makes our lives a little easier.But in hearing Brooks’ story I won’t allow us to do this again. We’re in a unique parenting place these days: We hear about how helicopter parenting is ruining our children, and see people pining for the return of the “wild children of yesteryear.” But then when we let down our gard, in Brooks’ case, just for five minutes, look what can happen.Read Kim Brooks’ full account at Salon.MORE: Secondary Drowning – What Every Parent Needs to Know