Public Nudity–It Could Happen to Anyone

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.

Right?

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: 

Full-time parenting. 

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.

To anyone?

Schlothauer hesitates.

“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 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?

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10 thoughts on “Public Nudity–It Could Happen to Anyone

  1. Stephanie Rose

    I’m curious what your motivation is for this post. Do you wish that the public awareness would stop? Your post could come across as ‘blaming’ parents who have forgotten their kids as parents who are not invested in their children and who are not good parents. There are many, many people who have to work f/t or p/t to financially provide for their families and are not privileged to be f/t stay-at-home parents. This is a very sensitive topic. I know of one stay-at-home mom who left her kid in a car: http://www.nochildleftalone.us/A-Voice-for-the-Victims.html
    A psychologist who was a graduate of my program forgot her daughter, and her daughter ended up dying. She was working part-time hours as a professor at a Christian college. Good parents have tragically forgotten their children. I do believe that it CAN happen to anyone- myself included. I have been privileged to work very flexible, mostly p/t hours (as a single mother) the first two years of my daughter’s life. However, I begin a mandatory f/t internship this fall, and I need to be extra vigilant to be aware when she is and is not in the car.
    I think that the underlying message of the public awareness that ANYONE can forget their child- still stands. I think that it can be dangerous when a parent believes that he or she could NEVER become so distracted that he/she would forget a child. Even f/t stay-at-home parents have a lot on their minds at times- things that are not 100 percent about their children. For example, many parents are caregivers to their elderly parents or volunteer. I think that any type of public awareness can be beneficial to try to help decrease the incidence of children left in hot cars.

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      Thanks, as always, for reading Stephanie. I replied to your comment on Facebook in greater detail. Here, I’ll simply ask. Is it dangerous to assume you’ll never forget to put clothes on before work? If you let your guard down, might you forget a shirt? Or can you say with total confidence that it will NEVER happen?…
      It really is the same situation. My kids are with me as often as my pants…

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  2. Stephanie Rose

    I too feel ‘naked’ when my daughter is not with me. However, I (like many other parents and fellow single parents) HAVE to work in order to provide for my family. I have had to adjust to being away from my daughter at times and effectively focusing on school/work WHILE she is almost always on my mind. I’m still curious how your post is productive to people who need to work full-time or part-time. i don’t think that the issue of forgetting children in hot cars should be turned into a debate of stay-at-home parents VS. working parents. Is that what you want? I have been blessed to work flexible, part-time hours for these first 2 years of my daughter’s life, and my ultimate goal once I graduate in about one year is to work part-time hours (for full-time pay). The suggestions that I have read about trying to prevent ‘forgetting’ children in cars have been beneficial to me (i.e., place a stuffed animal in the car, walk around the car, etc.)…

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      I mentioned the fact of certain people having no choice but to work in the oped.

      But this post was written precisely because every time someone tries to recognize what full-time parents do well, they’re accused of starting a debate (or “Mommy Wars.”) Society is allowed to hypothesize that hot car accidents have increased because of the new carseat laws. (Even though babies younger than a year never would have been able to get themselves out of a car by themselves, even without carseats a hundred years ago.) But, still, nobody accuses the hypothesizer of starting a “carseat vs. no-carseat” debate. We’re just trying to form theories to understand what’s different today than back then.

      I’m stating the obvious difference BECAUSE it will make people tell me I shouldn’t. In our culture, we’re not allowed to talk about the people who don’t leave their children in hot cars, because it makes others feel less guilty to hear “it could happen to ANYONE.” I didn’t write the post to start a working-vs-stay-at-home debate. I wrote it because trying to avoid “debate” is a really bad reason to tell two-parent-working-families that their choice is “just fine” and nothing bad could come from it…

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  3. bethagrace

    I see your point, but here’s my question: If being a stay at home mom makes it far less likely that you’ll make this mistake, doesn’t it make it more likely that your husband will make this mistake?

    While the kids are hanging off of you, Luke is still getting used to the idea that not wearing pants is OK and normal. So what happens when you aren’t around? What happens if you get sick or go visit a friend or whatever else?

    Luke becomes the very person we’re warned about: A changed routine, maybe a little stress stacked on top, the natural feeling of the kids not being with him….

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      I’m really glad somebody pointed this out. (I kind of expected it would be you, Bethany!) 🙂

      You’re absolutely right. Luke is the parent who’s used to not being “dressed” with kids 24/7. The only redeeming fact that might apply is that having kids with him would feel really, really strange for a day or two, since he’s not used to being alone with them AT ALL. I hope this analogy doesn’t emasculate him, but he sort of becomes like the 12-year-old girl who babysits for the first time: wants to do everything PERFECTLY, so it becomes sort of a hyper-focus thing. I literally can count on one hand the number of times he has taken Cami by herself. He has taken Collin out of the house once. And…I don’t think he’s ever had both of them in the car without me.

      But, anyway, you’re right. If one parent is used to having the children ALL THE TIME, then the other parent experiences the opposite. Yet, isn’t that the way we picture the 50’s? Mom does just about everything child-related? Dad feels just a tad awkward when it’s his turn? I’m definitely not saying it was a fool-proof system. But, on the plus: locking children in cars was unheard of.

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  4. Stephanie Rose

    That is a good point, Bethany! And I don’t have the stats right now, but I’ve read that Dads ARE more likely to forget children in cars. And I agree with Amanda’s point that Luke may be hyper-vigilant when caring for the kids. But for other families, moms and dads may both feel ‘naked’ when away from their children. Mis-communication can easily occur along with change in routine, and I can see where one of the parents would momentarily ‘forget’ the child in the car 😦

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      No argument here. What you’ve described is exactly what happens with MANY families. And it very rarely happened a few generations ago–when small children *primarily* were cared for by a single person instead of splitting their time with several caregivers.

      As our culture transitions and makes child-rearing a team effort, some problems are solved while others are created…

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