My heart hurts today.
On May 23rd, news came around dinner hour that a young child, three-years-old, was found to have been left in a car, on a day that reached 24 degrees Celsius. Who knows how hot it was inside the car. A frantic call to 911 wasn’t enough to save the child.
It’s not the first time it’s happened. It won’t be the last; a child, left in a car, to perish in the heat.
“Why are people so stupid?” one woman in a local mommy Facebook group asked. Another was far more sanctimonious. “Ugh I cannot even begin to process what must go through these people’s heads! Your most precious cargo and people 'forget' them or say oh I’ll only be a minute, or they are sleeping I don’t want to wake them. None of which are excusable. People like this don’t deserve children.”
They aren’t unique in their snap judgement, calling the parents of this child (who we haven’t even confirmed to have had anything to do with this accident – we still don’t know anything about what happened!) horrible things.
Stop. Just stop. Stop with the judgement. Stop being jury and executioner. Stop vilifying a family who has just suffered unimaginable loss, as if you know what happened, or how, or why. Just stop.
I feel like those of us who were Oprah watchers back in the day all remember THAT episode – the one where she had a parent whose routine changed just ever so slightly one day, and she forgot her own child in the car, and her child died.
Anyone who saw that episode remembers her story and saw the human inside the person everyone wanted to vilify.
I remember, back then, reading Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?, that explains how and why it happens. It illustrates, in very sad technicolour, that contrary to popular belief that these people are immoral, horrible, thoughtless, terrible, evil, neglectful, and all sorts of other judgement-laden terms, they’re really just like you and me.
If you think it can’t happen to you, you're wrong. You are. No matter how attentive and good of a parent you are.
It’s science, and I’m sorry to break it to you but you (yes, YOU!) are the same kind of person who could make such an error, because you, too, are human.
You might question the logic some people employ, to keep a purse or a phone in the back seat of their car, so that they are forced to visit the back seat before heading on their way.
You might say ‘so a phone is more important than a child? If you’re more likely to remember your phone than your child you shouldn’t have children!’ You might, because I’ve heard that one before. Except that you use your phone throughout the day, by practice. You use your wallet.
Your child is not supposed to still be with you.
All it takes is a simple change in routine. You might never realize you forgot to drop your child off. You might think you did. In cases like these, that is often exactly what happened.
Parents of young children are sleep deprived. They have life stresses and crazy schedules and things pulling them in a million directions. Don’t tell me you never looked for your phone when it’s in your hands, or for your glasses when they’re on your face.
We all do stupid, mindless things.
I once had put my one-and-a-half year old in his car seat and before I buckled it, my three year old called me over to help her. I closed the doors and got in the car and put it in drive. From the backseat I hear, 'mommy? seat!’ my one year old was just verbal enough to tell me what I had forgotten.
If I drove, and we were hit, he would have gone flying. One, tiny change in routine put my child at serious risk.
I’m not a monster. I’m human. I’m fallible.
The lack of compassion I always see when this tragic story repeats itself never ceases to break my heart for the young child and for their family.
We, as of yet, have no idea what actually happened that lead to this particular tragedy, yet people have rushed to condemn the parents who have lost their child. How about, instead of rushing to judgement, we instead rush to compassion. We acknowledge our humanity and theirs. We step back from our almighty perch and acknowledge, not just their loss, but our own VERY REAL imperfect minds, that, by the grace of all that is good and holy, hasn’t resulted in our own tragedies.
Don't assume negligence. Don't assume they are horrible parents because ‘what parent would forget their child?’ A tired parent could. A parent with a lot on their mind could. A parent whose routine is a bit different today than it is every other day could.
It is a terrible tragedy. A child died. These parents have lost enough. They don't need the world telling them they're horrible people. I'm sure they already feel that way. It wouldn’t hurt any of us to show them compassion. They need it more than the judgement, and deserve it more than the judgment.
If you still don’t think it could happen to you, go back and invest some time in reading the article linked above that illustrates, plainly, truthfully and with tragic reality, how very wrong you are.
So, stop, please just stop with the judgement. Because, at the end of the day, you? Me? Them? We’re all human, we’re all fallible. It could, and does, happen to people who love their children as much as you love yours, who likely thought it could never happen to them, either. Until it did.