The Article ‘Fatal Distraction’ – My Take

This Pulitzer Prize winning article “Fatal Distraction” was brought to my attention by Jill at Baby Rabies. The article centers around the cases of parents forgetting their children in hot cars, and finding them dead. I warn you right now, it’s an incredibly hard article to read and it made me sick. I literally wanted to throw up. You can read the article here, and please do before continuing on to my thoughts.

The beginnings of my thoughts are copied from the comment I left on Jill’s post.

It was an amazing article, and one that I felt nothing but anger toward the offending parents throughout, and sympathy and sorrow for those babies that died. The line where the woman talked about the child pulling all her hair out before she died? I literally almost vomited. My stomach lurched and I looked down at my sleeping 12 week old in my arms and I wanted to throw up.

I’m not having the same views as a lot of the other commenters. This article was amazingly written, and I think it’s very important to bring stories like this forward so parents can become hypervigilant and aware of their children. I am going to say the thing that hundreds of other parents have said: This could NEVER happen to me. And I know that a bunch of people who were in this article said the same thing, but THIS. COULD. NEVER. HAPPEN. TO. ME.

This article made me angry. And sad. And sick. I feel bad for the parents who did these things. I’m not going to say “who this happened to” because it’s not like it was some random catastrophic event. They left their children in hot cars until they DIED. The one woman who stated that it felt like “God had taken her child away from her while she was at the peak of happiness” made me want to scream. It’s not like that baby died of cancer, or of SIDs, or of anything else that couldn’t have been prevented. SHE left her baby in that car. God didn’t leave that baby in her car. SHE DID. On one hand I understand that maybe her brain cannot process the fact, and that she has to feel like maybe it was some sort of injustice toward her that made it “happen”. In my mind, she is responsible.. Plain and simple. I don’t care if you are distracted. I don’t care if your cellphone is ringing off the hook and you have a THOUSAND other things on your mind. NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE SAFETY OF YOUR CHILD. And I’m sorry. “If you can forget your cell phone, you can forget your child”? I’m sorry but my Pink LG Chocolate slide phone is not the same thing as the tiny human being that I carried for nine months, gave birth to, and who is solely reliant on me and my husband to keep her safe.

My opinion may not be popular, and people may shake their head at me and say, “Never say never” in regards to my statement that it could never happen to me. I stand by it. And no, these people aren’t bad people or parents. But they also aren’t victims of some horrible accident that couldn’t have been prevented.

I feel pity for these parents, because I cannot imagine the amount of guilt they now carry, and the hell that their lives have become. I cannot fathom what it would feel like to be directly responsible for the death of your child. Not even a little bit. Ugh. I need to go snuggle Nellie for the rest of the day (she’s passed out on my lap right now).

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Parenting Fail, Or Honest Mistake?

Yesterday we were hanging out in the living room, just enjoying one another’s company when there came a knock at the door. I opened it to see the little boy who lives upstairs (we live in an apartment) who appears to be, oh.. Maybe eight. Nine at the most. He looks worried, and is all sweaty (it got to almost 80 degrees yesterday). He says to me in a very polite and timid voice that he needs some help and isn’t doing so well. I asked him what was wrong and he tells me that his mom isn’t home, she’s at work and he’s been trying to get ahold of her for a while now. He says that he can’t get into his apartment and she isn’t answering her phone and he’s afraid of these bees and wasps that are buzzing around. I asked him if he’d like to come in and wait for her, and he tells me that he’s not allowed in other peoples’ homes (good job little guy!). I asked him when she was supposed to be coming home, and she said 5:00. This was around 3:45. I suggested to him that he could go to the office and see if they could maybe let him in. He looked worried, and said that he wasn’t allowed to go that far (we live at the top of a big hill and the office is at the bottom near the entrance to the complex). I asked him if we could go down for him, and he looked even more worried and said no, he didn’t want to get in trouble and his mom would probably get mad at him. I began feeling frustrated (not with the boy) and asked if he’d like us to CALL the office and have them come and let him in. Again, worried look and a shuffle of feet saying he didn’t want to; it would make his mom mad and he’d get in trouble.

I’m starting to feel a little wonky about this whole situation, so I asked him what we could do to help. He stuttered around a bit and stumbled on words and wondered if he could call his mom. I asked him if he’d like to use my cell to call her and he nodded. I dialed the number for him and he called. It went to her voicemail. He left her a message and was trembling a little bit the whole time he was talking. The poor thing looked on the verge of tears the entire time. He said something along the lines of, “Mom, please pick up I can’t get into the apartment and it’s hot out here, I don’t know what to do please please call me back.” I asked him where she worked and he said he didn’t know.

I asked him repeatedly if he wanted to come in and he just shook his head “no”. At this point Josh was already pulling on shoes to go down to the office and he kept telling us, “No no no, don’t go down there, she’ll get mad and I don’t think they have a spare key anyway.”

I, of course, didn’t argue with him and tell him that of course they have a spare key, how else are they going to get into your apartment for maintenance if you’re not home? But I didn’t, because the poor thing was already distraught enough as it was. I didn’t want the child to get in trouble with his mother and he seemed genuinely worried about making her upset. I was beginning to feel more and more “off” about this whole situation. Josh kept insisting that he go down and talk to the office people but I told him I didn’t feel right about that either; that I didn’t want the boy’s mother to get pissed and take it out on the kid. The little boy said he’d just wait on the stairs for her. I told him to come back if he needed to use our phone again, and not to hesitate to get us if he needed anything.

Around 4:50, he came back and asked to use the phone. I was holding the baby and rocking her to sleep so Josh gave him his phone. He called his mom again, and there was no answer. He left her another shaky message, and handed the phone back to Josh. Josh asked him if he was SURE he didn’t want to come in and he just shook his head quickly and repeated that he wasn’t allowed to. We told him, again, to get us if he needed anything. Josh shut the door and looked at me. I know that look, it was a “I want to smash something” look. We were both feeling pretty crappy about the situation and were also feeling angry. Now, I know we don’t know this woman’s situation or circumstance, but here is what we did know:

  • 8-9 year old kid gets home from school and can’t get into his apartment.
  • It’s almost 80 degrees outside.
  • He’s terrified of these bees and wasps.
  • He can’t come in where it’s cool.
  • He’s afraid to ask for help.
  • His mother won’t answer her phone.
  • HE’S 8 OR 9 YEARS OLD. Did I mention that?

Does this seem a bit wrong to anyone else, or are we being too quick to judge? I’m inclined to say that we aren’t, but again. I don’t know this woman’s situation. I believe she’s a single mom; I don’t ever see a man coming and going from the apartment. Just the mom and her son. But still.. This situation just seems a bit off to me.

Speak of the devil, I just watched her get into her car and leave him by himself. I don’t know where she went or how long she’s going. I’m trying really hard not to be judgemental but it’s getting more and more difficult.

So what do you think, guys? Parenting fail, or should I back off?

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