with Talyaa Liera
I'm Talyaa, the poster child for the concept that there's no one right way to be a parent. I went from stay-at-home attachment-parenting mom of four to being the non-custodial parent, working as a professional writer and channel-psychic. Let's talk about throwing away the parenting manual and exploding the myths and mystique of motherhood!
Check out my personal blog at Juxtapositioning.
I still remember it like it was yesterday. I went home from the hospital with kid #3 the afternoon after her birth. Her father left for work that night, to be gone for 2-3 days and leaving me alone with a newborn, a 4 year old, and a busy teenager. From baby Serena’s two-day doctor visit we were sent home to nurse round the clock to wake up this sleepy, dehydrated baby and avoid the ER. The next day — at this point I’m going on three days without sleep and still not recovered from an intense birth — we returned to the doctor (a 40 minute one-way drive): me, Serena, and Nathaniel, 4.
Relieved that my all-nighter was going to keep my baby from the ER, I strapped the kids in the car and we drove home. After about 20 minutes Nathaniel piped up. “Mom, I’m not seat belted!”
I had forgotten to buckle his car seat. I was driving around with a potential human cannonball inside my car. Any sudden stop on this high-traffic road filled with bad drivers would send my son hurtling through a window to his death. Shaking, I pulled over and fastened his belt, but not without a big hug first.
It could happen to anyone. That’s one of the main things I took from this New York Times Motherlode post about kids dying in hot cars. But the issue is more complicated than that.
[For some background and perspective, read last year's Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post feature about this very thing. It's the best piece I've ever read about the horrors of this phenomenon. Warning: have tissues handy.]
The short version of my opinion:
1. The experience of dying from being overheated probably ranks up there with slow drowning for horribleness.
2. Add to that the feeling of powerlessness if you’re, say, 2, and you have mobility but can’t get out of your car seat, let alone the car.
3. I need to take a moment. That was too awful to contemplate.
4. The flip side? And probably even worse (though I’m not into making comparisons here)? Living the rest of your life knowing that you did something that led to the death of your child.
6. Deep breath.
7. Why we prosecute these cases is beyond me. Where is our compassion?
The NYTimes piece brings up some good points. There are ways to prevent this. But, really, it could happen to any of us. I dare you to say, “I would never do that.” Because you SAY that, and I know you mean it, but you don’t know. I left my kid to maybe be a human projectile. It happens. We have lapses. We think we did something and because it’s routine — did I put sugar in my coffee already? — we convince ourselves that we actually did the thing.
Best-case scenario for prevention is a better safety net for parents. But that involves changing the whole social fabric, creating an it-takes-a-village concept that we’re just not yet ready for implementing. That’s my Happy Bubble World of idealism talking, where our kids are raised by community and by default there are many sets of eyes, ears, and hearts caring for them — but we’re not there yet. We’re still dropping kids off at day care, heading off with our Starbucks to cubicle jobs so we can come home, clean up, make food, collapse on the couch a bit, and tuck our kids in safely at night.
Next-best is vigilance and awareness. It’s summer. Cars heat up in a matter of minutes. Create a habit of checking your back seat BEFORE you leave your car. Make a backup phone system — tell the babysitter, the daycare, to phone you NO MATTER WHAT every time Junior is dropped off. Even if it seems (duh!) obvious that you know, because you’re right there. Create a backup system with your partner. Find a system that works for how you think and remember things.
My wish right now is that this never happens to another child. To another parent. I know that statistically there are so many other things that kill far more kids. But this isn’t about numbers. It’s about how we look at one another. And I truly hope this never happens to you, or anyone.
(P.S. If you see a child alone in a hot car this summer, call 911. And keep your car doors locked when you’re at home — kids can climb in and get locked inside.)
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