Many years ago, I was watching a news report on a toddler who died when his mother forgot him in her car. I remarked aloud with disgust and pure criticism of this mom. “How could any parent just forget his or her child? That’s the most ridiculous and irresponsible thing I’ve ever heard.”

My friend (a mom of 3 girls) was watching with me and looked at me with a level stare. She said, “don’t judge, Holly, don’t judge this mom who may have done 1,000 things right and loved her child to the end of the earth but who had made the most terrible, awful mistake that she will never forgive herself for.”

I was a little stunned. I was surprised that another mom could defend a parent who – as I saw things at the time – had just murdered her child.

This week was full of similar stories, as we unfortunately hear every summer. In the town next door, a father left his 15 month old son in a hot car for an entire work day with no realization of what he’d done until he headed to daycare to pick his son up.

How does this happen? Are we so focused on other things or distracted by non-important things, that we can forget the most important ones? Or, is it more because believe that it’s something that we’d ever in a million years ever do? So we don’t ever make any efforts to prevent it?

I’ve read 100s of comments online relating to this story in particular. Every poster wants to see the father charged with murder, they all express disbelief that any good parent would ever have such a lapse in memory or judgement and most of all they say things like “I WOULD NEVER FORGET MY CHILD!”

I think that statement is the key – “I WOULD NEVER MAKE SUCH A GRAVE MISTAKE!”

For me, I think we need to acknowledge that, yes, we can. We can all make that mistake, what we need to do is express more diligence. We need to recognize when our routines get changed. We need to take an extra moment as we are getting out of the car to just double-check, every day. No matter how ridiculous it is, double-check the back seat of your car every. single. time. you. get. out.

When you ask What Kind of Parent Forgets a Child in a Broiling Car? please realize that all kinds of parents have done it. A hospital CEO has done it.

About 4 months ago, I took Dylan to school, which I rarely did. I went through my normal drive and routine on my way to work. I pulled into my office building when a voice piped up from the back seat “Mommy, why are we going to your office?” I was stunned for a moment. I was on autopilot, I forgot he was there. I pulled back out and got him to school, but I was surprised at myself for just not thinking about him being there. He’s 4 years old, he certainly would have piped up if I’d parked and walked away. He’d be able to get himself out of his seat and the car as well. But I was stunned that I had even a momentary lapse.

The lesson I have learned is that I cannot understand how or why any parent can make that mistake, but many have. We can speculate if some were intentional, but I’d like to think that most are not. This is a horrible, horrible mistake. It’s more than a mistake, it’s a preventable tragedy.

I’m not asking anyone to understand why, but I’m asking that instead of being so quick to criticize and judge a parent who does make this fatal error, maybe we can all focus on how we can all prevent it from happening to our children.

Please take a look at this site, Kids and Cars. They’ve put together a reminder to BE SAFE:

Back seat: Put something in the back seat whenever you strap a child in, so you have to open the back door, or at least turn around to find that item, when you get out of the car. Your handbag or briefcase, cellphone or employee badge.

Every child should be correctly restrained in the back seat.

Stuffed animal: Keep a brightly colored one in the car seat when your child isn’t there. Then move it from the car seat to the front seat after you strap your child in, to remind you when your baby is in the back seat.

Ask your baby sitter or child-care provider to call you within 10 minutes if your child hasn’t arrived on time.

Focus on driving: Avoid cellphone calls and text-messaging while driving.

Every time you park your vehicle — every single time — open the back door to make sure no one has been left behind.

 

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