I Understand How Parents Leave Babies in Hot Cars
- on June 25, 2014
Last week, a father was distracted. It happens to every parent. We get consumed with one of the fifty things going on in our heads and we accidentally put everything else on the back burner.
Unfortunately, this time, it cost him his child.
For whatever reason, he accidentally left his child in the car instead of taking him to daycare that day he went to work. His son died. He's also being charged with murder.
This happens numerous times every summer. It seems every week a new article or news report pops up talking about a child behind left behind in the car while the parent goes to work. And my heart breaks into a million pieces each time.
I may be in the minority, but I get it. I have worked in environments that consume more of my brain than I can handle some days. On those days, if our regular schedule shifts even slightly, I’d leave my right arm behind because I’m so preoccupied.
And yet the vile remarks from online commenters and people in conversation flow.
“How could you forget your child?!”
“If you can’t remember your kid, maybe you shouldn’t be a parent!”
To that, I say: How dare you. How dare you judge someone who made a mistake while trying to provide for the family he or she loves. How dare you snarl hateful comments when someone is experiencing the most horrifying hell on earth.
Could you imagine living with yourself after making that kind of mistake? These people are victims of a world that has failed working parents. The demands on working parents are unreal: Work 40 hours a week to provide for your family. Pay a huge chunk of that to childcare. Be present in your child’s life. Put dinner on the table. Maintain your home. Keep up with doctors’ appointments. Do the grocery shopping. Schedule play dates. Visit family. Do the laundry. And the list continues. If any one of those things requires more of your attention than usual, there’s just no room to fit in all in your brain.
That being said, yes, a child is different. Forgetting a child is huge. But imagine for a moment that the child was up all night teething. That parent got less than an hour of sleep. He has a huge project going on at work. His family is coming in town the next weekend and the house is a disaster. He also has to take the baby to daycare...something he doesn’t usually do. The wife loads the baby up in the car without telling him. He completely forgets about his turn to drop off.
Can’t you see it happening?
When I was working in a particularly stressful and chaotic work environment, I was terrified of leaving baby HJ in the car and going on to work. I made a plan with our child care provider that if I were ever more than 15 minutes late, she was to call me. I also would leave either my laptop, purse, wallet or phone in the back of the car so that I had one more thing to get from back there.
If you’re a parent, make a plan with your daycare or leave something in the back seat. Set up a safeguard. Because even if you think it could never happen to you, make sure that it REALLY couldn’t.
I don’t know this particular dad’s story or any other parent’s story who’s made this kind of terrible mistake. What I do know is that these parents’ minds were somewhere else that day. And now they will have to carry one of the largest burdens imaginable for the rest of their life.
I think a little grace and understanding is in order.