Children Die in Hot Cars...what kind of parent does that?

Have you ever known a mother or father (or been a mother or father) who forgot to pick up their child from a school activity, playdate, daycare or school? Perhaps dates got shuffled around, maybe dad usually picks them up but today mom was supposed to, the usual routine wasn't in play, and it just slipped their (your) mind?

Luckily, there was probably someone who called and jogged their memory, and sheepishly the parent went and got them. These people aren't neglectful monsters. They are human beings and very normal parents juggling a million things in their world. Nobody would judge them too harshly, *shrug* it happens. Don't be so hard on yourself.

Now imagine that instead of being left at a daycare or neighbor's house, they were left in a car on a hot day. And since there was no one to call and jog your memory, horrifically, tragically, that child died. Suddenly, you are evil, hateful, cruel, selfish, unforgivable. You are vile garbage who clearly should have never had a child and should be locked up for life in the deepest darkest dungeon. No "good parent" would ever do such a thing.

I reject that notion.

Over on Facebook, a lot of discussion has been going on surrounding the media's attention on infant car deaths due to hyperhermia--that is, heat stroke from being locked in a car on a hot day. I have seen almost zero sympathy for these parents and the horrible tragedy they perpetuated. Their punishment is their own thoughts, their prison will be their own minds having to live with what happened. I feel intense sadness for them, but not anger. There is some good reading on this, so here is an excerpt from a HuffPo piece, and a link to a long, tough read which breaks down the phenomenon--how and why it happens, and who does it happen to. Not exactly a happy-sunshiney post today, but I wanted to share my thoughts, and the thoughts of these articulate writers, on the subject.

"What kind of parent forgets their baby? A monster, right? A callous, careless, stupid, irresponsible human being who should never have been trusted with a child in the first place, yes?

No. Which is why I keep asking this question.

The parents who accidentally leave their children to die could be any of us. That was the message of one of the most compelling pieces of journalism I have ever read, one in the Washington Post by Gene Weingarten four years ago (it later won him a Pulitzer Prize.) Dissecting a number of tragedies he persuasively argues that those who lose children this way could be you or me.

'What kind of person forgets a baby?

The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.'
Think that could never happen to you? Read Weingarten’s enitre article here. Then come back and tell me you are still completely sure. Think that parents who do this should be tried for manslaughter and sent to jail? Read of how these families punish themselves, and come back and tell me if you still feel the same way.
My heart breaks for the 15 families who have lost children to the heat so far this year and the more than 650 who have done so in recent decades.

Calling the parents inhuman monsters might make us feel better, but it won’t save the next child. Recognizing they are human beings just might."

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