Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The speed limit of life

After a little hesitation, I thought I would touch upon a topic that is perhaps out of the scope of my usual blog posts; I mean the terrible tragedies that happened here lately, of babies and small children dying after they were forgotten in cars. A quick Google search proved that it does not just happen in Israel. There was also a recent incident of a child drowning in a wading pool. 

I talked about this with my husband more than once. "How could it be? How could it happen? I can't wrap my mind around it; I just can't"; I said. I had this terrible, terrible vision of a little helpless baby struggling against the straps of her car seat, calling, crying, unheard, perhaps, unnoticed by the passers-by... until the heat and the sun did their evil work, and she passed out, never to wake again. I shut my eyes tight and then opened them again, quickly, just to make sure that my two little ones are right here in front of me at the table, doodling with crayons. 

I cannot judge; I cannot blame the parents; I cannot even say I support a prison sentence, or believe it will make any difference. The way I see it, they were already judged and punished severely enough. I don't see how anyone can truly go on with such a burden of grief and guilt upon them. 

There was, however, something in the article that caught my eye. "Initial reports indicated that the father, who worked the overnight shift as a security guard, apparently forgot about the baby after dropping his older daughter at her day care. He then went home and slept for seven hours, and only when he awoke did he remember the infant."

To me, this speaks of a hectic life; an impossibly hectic life; a life which most of us are unsuited for. I am blessed; I have been a mother for 4.5 years now, and as of yet I don't know what it's like to get up in the morning, every day, and rush the children to some places where someone would look after them, and then rush to another place myself - all this done under terrible pressure of time, because we cannot, of course, afford to be late. And I just cannot help thinking - if there was no need to rush these babies out of the house in the morning - if they could have just stayed home with their mothers - if there was leisure of time and of mind to remember them always - isn't there a chance they would have been saved?

"At the beginning of the month a 9-month-old girl died after she was left in a parked car in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan."  I cannot think of any subrub of Tel Aviv which is completely empty of people, no matter what the hour. Were there no passers-by? Did no one notice the baby in the car? I'm sure that if I strolled around the nieghbourhood and there was a baby in one of my neighbours' cars, I would have noticed. But then, I almost always stroll at a leisurely pace with my children. People who rush cannot be expected to stop and peek into someone else's car. And everyone rushes; that is the normal course of things.

But should it be? Suppose we ask - what is the speed limit of life, and how do we know we have long passed it? Perhaps the indication of it is that people are forgetting, actually forgetting, about their own children. Not for a moment, but for enough time that lives are lost, families ruined, hearts broken beyond repair. 

Suppose we slow down. Suppose we have a look through the glass. Suppose we see a baby that was forgotten in a car, and is just about to pass out from the heat; suppose we raise an alarm early enough to save one little life. Wouldn't it be worth the few minutes of delay? 

11 comments:

Lynette said...

Hello,

These stories, which are all to common in the US, are a sad reminder that the hectic pace of our lives harms more than just our attention spans, our environment, and our culture. Though not yet a mother, I already can't imagine being so busy as to forget a child in a car- much less my own. That we've reached this level of stress and exhaustion means that our modern culture needs to stop and seriously rethink the causes of such rush.

JRKmommy said...

Anna:

The issue of children being forgotten in cars is crucially important - but I'm concerned that the focus is in the wrong place.

The studies that have been done on this show that these parents are not generally neglectful or incompetent. Rather, their brains switch into auto-pilot (which is something that happens all the time). Have you ever found yourself going along your old route just after a move, or done something else out of habit? It's the same mental process.

Really, the ONLY way to prevent this from happening is to take very conscious steps to prevent it, and make those part of a new habit. ALWAYS check the back of the car when you exit. Always take the children in from the car first, before bringing in parcels, speaking on the phone or doing anything else. If there is more than one young child, bring the youngest in first, because you are more likely to forget a sleeping newborn than a demanding toddler. Put your purse or wallet next to the baby, as an additional reminder to look in the back seat.

If we think that this is something that only happens to other people, we fail to plan to ensure that it doesn't happen to us.

JRKmommy said...

Here's the best article that I've found on Forgotten Baby Syndrome.

Being busy is only one factor of many. A change of routine was often a factor as well. It happens to both fathers and mothers, and it doesn't reflect prior parenting.

One quote that got me was this: if you could forget your cell phone, you could forget your baby. When memory fails, it fails - regardless of how much we love our children.

Being a parent means being busy. I was tired as a working mom, but I was also tired and absent-minded when I was staying home with a baby that refused to sleep.

Karen said...

Anna, we have had similar instances here in the Louisville, KY area. It is so sad. You are right that we need to slow down and see what is most important! I came over from "Living Glory to Glory".

Anonymous said...

Anna,
we had similar episodes here as well.
They're all the more frightening because it could happen to ANYONE, regardless of how much they love their children.
It even happened to grandparents (that were retired and so lived at a very slow pace).

It's not just a question of living a busy life, it's mostly about habit.
You do the same things over and over and you're sure you've done it that day too, but instead you're remembering another day, much like that one, and that happens.

Unfortunately is something that could happen to literally anyone, as tragedies like getting distracted for a second and in that precise moment something terrible happens.


Joluise said...

Whilst I am a working mother ( my children are now adults and have left home) for over 25 years and I have never forgotten my children or left them in a car. This isn't about working women, its also as problem in Australia , children are often found in car parks of places like clubs, casinos, hotels etc.... women gambling is often the issue . Sometimes it happens when the bub is asleep in the car and mum doesn't want to disturb the baby . . . and she pops into a shop and stays longer than expected or leaves the sleeping baby in the car at home while taking in the groceries and gets sidetracked. There are many reason and certainly not all are to do with busy working mums at all. I like the idea above about place a handbag by the baby.

Anonymous said...

I think the best advice I find here is the one about making habits. so often when a person is tired or stressed they are living on automatic....I actually forgot to strap my new baby into her car seat on our first outing in a car....I was so worried about her head being positioned properly etc that the fact that I needed to strap her in seems to have melted out of my mind...I hate to think what would have been the out come of an accident , I dearly wanted my girls and was nearly 40 before I had them and am a stay at home mom so blame an old brain or whatever but I think all parents need to realize this could happen to them ,all may be calm and serene but a sudden call to take Grandma to hospital can throw anyones day into chaos, my heart breaks for these parents and babies. I imagine that mostly this did not happen as much back when it was common to leave the car unlocked and windows down because people where less worried about theft.I remember in my neighbor hood 30 years ago seeing cars in the driveway with the doors even standing open because jr. had fallen asleep on a trip to get groceries and mom just let him continue napping.

SubWife said...

When our third child was born and was about a month old, we needed some printer paper and I asked my husband to take me along for the ride, just to shake off cabin fever. My husband wasn't exhausted, preoccupied, rushed and was generally not a forgetful person. Yet, when he left the car, he totally forgot that the baby was in the back seat. (Fortunately, I didn't.) It wasn't negligence and the baby was and is very loved. It simply was a change in the routine - having two older kids, who for the past 2 years can't wait to jump out of a car on their own and are more independent and never quiet, he needed to adjust to having a baby in the car.

This is to show that anybody in any state of mind can make this mistake when on auto-pilot. Of course, being tired and rushed makes these mistakes more likely, but no one is immune and everyone must be vigilant on this matter.

Lady Anne said...

All of these poor children had been put in the backseat.

Back in the days before we knew how to be "safe", infants were often laid on the front seat, with their heads by the driver - usually mom - so if the child pushed with its toes, it don't get closer to the door. Once the child was able to up, they went into a car seat - up front - and only into back seat when they were "up and around".

So - is there a way to compare the number of children who die in the name of "Safety" to the number who were actually saved in a motor accident by the custom of putting an infant in the bback seat>

living from glory to glory said...

Dear Anna, I just want to cry, to cry for the Baby and to cry for the Daddy. What sorrow!!
May we all be watchful to see or hear something that could save a child in distress or trouble.
But we have so many parents who do not have any kind of help or support system. So glad for those who do get to keep their babies at home!
Blessings, Roxy

tarynkay said...

Lady Anne- yes, there is a way to compare the number of children forgotten in the backseat with the number of children who would likely die in car accidents if they rode in the front seat.

On average, 38 children die each year when they are forgotten in cars. Each of these deaths is a completely unnecessary tragedy, but dying in a locked car is actually very rare.

That is why these stories always make headline news. Children dying in car crashes does not make headline news b.c it is so common..

The number one killer of children is car crashes.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 444 children between the ages of 1-4 died last year in car accidents. This is for the US only. Many more children die each year in car crashes worldwide.

Also according to the NHTSA, it is 27% safer for children under the age of 12 to ride in the backseat.

In the scenario you describe, it sounds like the baby is not in a carseat. Per the NHTSA, it is 54% safer for a child under the age of two to be restrained in an appropriate carseat.

So it is much, much safer for children to ride in the backseat, buckled into carseats.