We shared the first of what sadly ended up being several "Hot Car Death" stories today.
We shared to raise awareness under the belief that the more aware people are the less likely this will happen. We share these stories each year. Each one is tragic. Each is meant with a variety of responses and provoke very strong feelings. It boils down to it being an emotional issue. Anytime a child is hurt, suffers or dies we get emotional. We are parents. We know what it is like to love a small being more than we ever thought possible. We know that we would do anything to keep our child safe. We live for them and we would die for them. We know all parents should feel this way. So when a child perishes due to a parent's actions... we get mad. We get so mad and we want them punished. After all, they must be bad parents. We would never hurt our children! We wouldn't have done that! We couldn't have done that! They need to be punished! And these are all very natural reactions but sometimes I think while natural... maybe these aggressive and angry feelings are misplaced.
When a child dies in a hot car... it is so preventable, so avoidable that we can't understand how a good parent could let that happen. Sure, I can say this would never happen to me. I am too careful, I am too watchful. My children are never off my mind. The truth is... given the right circumstances maybe it could. No sleep because a newborn, a change of routine, something distracting... it all culminates to a tragic end. It happens, rarely, but it happens. I've gone to the store for a specific item and I leave without the one thing I went in for. It happens. I go to take the kids to the park and turn to go to school since I make that trip every day but it's a Saturday. It happens.
While no where as drastic as forgetting to drop your child off at daycare and leaving them in a car these things at their core not too different in the sense that the brain may just let some vital thing slip from your awareness. The difference is the loss of a child is the worst possible outcome for that lapse. It is a hard thing to understand but not that hard to explain. The issue is getting people to accept the explanation. Even when faced with expert studies and research people still blame the parent for this. The Washington Post published a story on this several years ago that is probably one of the most comprehensive and informative articles I've ever seen on the topic. The article was titled Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime? I encourage anyone regardless of their stance to read this. I've read it multiple times. I've looked into this several times because I never want to be the one who decides that these things can happen only after they happen to me. I rather take the precaution than bet my child's life on my own perfection.
I'm not talking about the dad that leaves his child in the car while he goes and drinks at a bar, or the mom who leaves their baby to go buy drugs and gets high. Or even the busy mom who decided to run into the store real quick to pick up a few things leaving their toddler strapped into a car seat. Those are all conscious decisions that put the child in danger. Those are crimes. I am talking about the dad who tragically swapped his carpool day and it threw off his normal route and he drove right past the daycare leaving his child in his car as he went to work. I'm talking about the mom that is doing so much for her family and is exhausted and running late and is frazzled and her altered schedule made her miss a vital detail, the sleeping infant in the back seat. I am talking about the good, loving parents who made a mistake that cost a child it's life and the life they knew, the life they dreamed of.
How many times have you been driving and make that turn on a street because you are going to work only to realize you had an appointment and should have turned the other way? Or you were driving to work and suddenly you are there and you can't truly remember the trip but you made it. Your mind has autopilot. It knows your routine and when in doubt it takes over on occasion. This happens when you are tired, off your routine, rushing, or distracted. Many parents operate in a constant state of fatigue or urgency. That's all it takes. But how can you forget a child? I bet you wouldn't forget your phone! Well how often have you misplaced or forgotten your phone simply because you put it in a place you aren't used to putting it. Babies are not the same but the concept of a difference in routine being able to cause you to forget something is. Why is that so hard to understand? Why do we have to assume that this only happen to parents who are bad, don't deserve their child or who want to intentionally hurt their child.
I am a believer that this thing is most commonly an accident. A terrible, tragic accident. It's so easy to pass blame. A young life is lost so we naturally want to blame someone and have them punished. Can't blame the car, can't blame heat... that leaves one person... the parent. But no matter how much we want to blame her don't think for one second it comes close to the blame she is placing on herself. We will move on. We will forget this story, we will find a new story to be upset by and blame someone over. This parent will spend every moment for the rest of her tortured life miserable, blaming herself, punishing herself, thinking of what she could have done differently. When she is out and hears a child laugh she will mourn that sound because she will never hear it from the child she lost. When she sees a child hug their mom she will feel the emptiness in her arms and heart. She will wonder what her child would look like on the first day of kindergarten. She'll never see their first date, or when they learn to drive, graduate, get married or hold their grandchild and she will never be able to think how it looks like her own child when they were just small. There is nothing worse than losing a child.
She will create her own prison, where she is her own judge, jury and executioner. She made a mistake. A mistake that cost her child their life. A mistake that effects every person who knew that child. She will never be ok. She may learn to live with the pain, she may be able to function but inside she will be dying each day. She will be judged and hated by family and strangers alike. People who mock parents who leave their purse or shoe in the back seat to make sure this doesn't happen to them will scream in outrage that this mom LET this happen, that she CAUSED this and that she should be PUNISHED. How hypocritical is that? Only bad parents need to take steps for safety but if something bad happens they are awful too?
Blaming her makes us feel better but it doesn't help. What helps is raising awareness because even though we say this will never happen... it happens. It happens to the moms who said this could never happen. I pray for this mom, this lost child and I hope that if this tragedy does nothing else... it helps people be a little more aware, a little more cautious and possibly saves a life.
If I were to tell you I left my left shoe, or phone or purse in my back seat, I would be judged. I would be mocked. I would be looked down upon. You may think "What kind of mom needs to do that!". I'll tell you the type. The type that says "This will never happen to me. Not because I don't think I can ever make a mistake but because I will take steps to avoid it". I'm the mom who is ok being judged if it saves a life.
I'm not arguing about this. Everyone has a right to their opinions and many are different than mine. Sadly some are cruel. But God forbid it happens to someone here who says it could never happen. Things happen. I pray they don't but if they do I also pray that we consider seeing things from another perspective now because if we are ever on other side of the argument it is too late and we would want the understanding that maybe we denied others. I can't tell you not to judge, but i can ask that we keep the judgment private and publicly work to end this and raise awareness and let people know that no step is to silly, extreme or unnecessary if it can save a child.
So blame the mom if you really want to. But share the story because the fact is... THIS HAPPENS. And the more we all say "It can never happen to me" the less likely people will take precautions to avoid this. Let's, for the sake of every parent and child start saying "This can happen to me, it can happen to anyone" and remove the social stigma that comes with saying we may be flawed as parents and let ourselves take steps to insure safety. No one wants to admit they can make a mistake, many don't think they can but if we all agree to say... mistakes happen, accidents happen and it's ok to do what we can to avoid them even if we don't think they may happen to us then we are being better parents. We are helping ourselves and each other. And won't that be more helpful than passing blame?
Post insprired but the tragic story:Mississippi Toddler Dies in Hot Car http://www.fox13news.com/news/140299482-story