It’s officially summer, and parents know what that means.
Read: It’s time to spend the next 4-6 months petrified of accidentally locking your small children in the car.
After all, it could happen to anyone.
Yeah, sure, I guess anyone could forget their baby in the backseat…the same way “anyone” could forget to wear pants to the store, for example. (Don’t think you’re invincible! THIS woman did it!)
Perhaps it’s possible–but I’ll disagree if anybody tries telling me I’m at a high risk for public nudity…or for accidentally leaving my kids.
Let me switch tones quickly, lest anyone think I’m joking about children suffering heatstroke. It’s absolutely tragic that roughly 20 kids per year die in hot vehicles. The only thing worse than being trapped in a boiling car and passing away would be surviving and knowing your absent-mindedness caused the whole thing.
These personal stories are the stuff nightmares are made of. Horrible, never-ending nightmares.
I totally understand why people are brainstorming ways to prevent car-locking accidents in the future. Advocates suggest we install alarms in cars…set reminders on cellphones…and ask for calls from daycare providers if/when our child is absent, to name just a few things.
All of these safety precautions are fine with me–except the media is ignoring the single best way to protect children from distraction-related accidents:
And if you’ll allow me to regain my slightly-sarcastic-because-I’m-angry tone, I’ll say I’m tired of being told “it can happen to ANYONE,” when it never, ever has happened to a person whose full-time job is taking care of the kids.
Here is an excerpt from the article I linked above:
There is no consistent character profile of the parent who does this to his or her child.
…It was “a big doggone accident,” he says, that might have happened to anyone.
“Well, it happened to me.”
The results were not catastrophic, Schlothauer says, but the underlying malfunction was similar: Busy and stressed, he and his wife once got their responsibilities confused, and neither stopped at day care for their daughter at the end of the day.
“We both got home, and it was, ‘Wait, where’s Lily?’ ‘I thought you got her!’ ‘I thought you got her!’ ”
What if that mix-up had happened at the beginning of the day?
“To anyone,” Schlothauer says.
“Some people think, ‘Okay, I can see forgetting a child for two minutes, but not eight hours.’ What they don’t understand is that the parent in his or her mind has dropped off the baby at day care and thinks the baby is happy and well taken care of. Once that’s in your brain, there is no reason to worry or check on the baby for the rest of the day.”
That last paragraph is the key. Why are we missing the truth here? The problem isn’t forgetfulness–or unusual distractions or stress. Children get locked in hot cars for hours in cultures where parent-child separation is normal.
The problem is daycare.
If you need more convincing, let’s go back to my analogy.
Think of the term “I felt so naked!” When something makes us feel creepy to the point we can’t shake the nagging discomfort, we call it “feeling naked.” Why? Because nakedness is strange. That type of vulnerability isn’t normal.
When we’re exposed, we know it. We CAN’T forget. Nakedness itself is a reminder that you’re naked because it’s out-of-the-ordinary.
And that, Dear Reader, is how I feel when my kids aren’t with me.
If it’s not one of the 99/100 car trips we take together, I actually have to remind myself the kids are NOT in the backseat. What’s unusual—when I feel naked—is when my two babies AREN’T an arm’s distance away.
Therefore, I can say with confidence there is absolutely NO WAY I’ll forget to take them into the store with me. The same way I’ll NEVER “forget” to wear clothes in public. Period.
Now, if a person lived in a nudist community (where being outside naked is common) I can see how he or she may lose focus and accidentally scandalize some people at Walmart. When you get outside your normal routine, then forgetfulness happens.
I understand this is what happens when people forget kids in their cars, too. They’re not monsters. They’re not more stressed or busy or absent-minded than most people. They just get thrown off their routine, with the worst possible outcome…
But, why not inform parents that switching to a stay-at-home routine would work best for preventing car-lock accidents?
Why not be honest and put the blame where it actually belongs: on a culture-system where parents regularly go to the store, and to work, and to the gym without their kids–constantly getting used to that naked, childless feeling?
If you really want to prevent car-lock accidents, make your children as habitual as getting dressed.
Look, I understand some people have to work. I’m not saying it’s bad parenting to put your children in daycare. But I do believe that truth and knowledge are power, and parents need to know there IS a link among all the cases of child heatstroke.
I’m calling out the culture that won’t give credit to stay-at-home parents (or live-in nannies) for something they’re clearly doing well. I’m calling out the campaigns designed to prevent tragedy, which continue to dance around the main issue.
Bottom line: if you are used to wearing clothes, it’s automatic. You CAN’T forget something that’s hanging on your hips, literally, 98% of the day. I’m equally confident that I will not forget the children who have been attached to my hip since their birthdays. (Technically even before that.)
Sure, everybody gets stressed and “absentminded.” Making mistakes truly does happen to anyone. But, when I switch to auto-pilot, I open the backdoor forgetting the babies are NOT there. I suddenly remember they’re with my parents or my husband, and it’s not the worst day of my entire life.
If we want to talk about prevention, study the people with the highest success rate. Don’t sweep the statistics under the rug because it makes working-families feel guilty.
The truth is, if you want to be SURE you never leave a child in a hot car in your workplace parking lot, then you should quit your job. Spend all day, everyday, carting your kids around any time you go somewhere, and eventually it will become routine.
If it’s at all possible, arrange to be (or get) a full-time, 24/7 caregiver for your children. That should be priority #1.
If that’s not possible, well then we can talk about car alarms and phone calls from the school where the kids spend a lot of time away from you.
When people start forgetting their pants, we should blame a culture where nudity is widely practiced. Do you agree?