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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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140 Responses

  1. EG
    EG May 2, 2012 at 3:09 pm |

    That bit about thinking you’d have to kill yourself really hits home. That’s a great piece.

  2. Bridget
    Bridget May 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm |

    That is a great piece. It’s so easy for people to judge after the fact, and say things like “you have to watch them every second!” but the truth is that there is no such thing as the perfect parent who never takes a risk or makes a mistake (and if there were, their kid would still have issues).

  3. grrljock
    grrljock May 2, 2012 at 3:30 pm |

    Oh, I think about that all the time. I could be the parent who left the baby in the car seat all day. Or who backed over my own kid. Sigh.

  4. Stephen
    Stephen May 2, 2012 at 3:32 pm |

    It’s so easy for people to judge after the fact, and say things like “you have to watch them every second!”

    Someone said that very thing in the comments of this article.

  5. EG
    EG May 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm |

    As if it’s even possible to watch anybody/thing every second.

  6. Jesse
    Jesse May 2, 2012 at 3:38 pm |

    The truth is, sometimes even non-parents screw it up. I’m the oldest sister. I’ve dropped by three month old sister in the pool, slammed my brother’s hand in the door, pushed my brother down so he needed stitches on both the inside and outside of his upper lip. My siblings in turn have slammed their knee into my face while jumping on the bed so that I chipped my two front teeth, slammed my hand in the door and many other things.

    It is luck that we often don’t kill each other. Sure there are steps you can take to be more alert. (i.e. Don’t text and drive). But sometimes its absolute luck that I happen to think “I should check my blind spot again” before merging into another lane.

  7. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar May 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm |

    I wasn’t even there when it finally happened: right over the bars of his scooter, feet in the air and face cheese-gratered on the asphalt of the big hill, the one that I ran down with them and encouraged them to go down as fast and they felt they could, as long as their helmets were tight and their brakes worked. I told the other parents, “I love this hill, because if they fuck up, they’ll bleed but they won’t die.”

    And he did. He bled, he scabbed, and he healed, and I said, “that’s why we wear helmets, buddy.”

    The world is a scary place, and I don’t know how this story turns out because it doesn’t end with one fall. The world is a scary place, and anything I do as a parent could go badly for them, including nothing. The choice I make, that I keep making, is to encourage them to take risks, to learn from taking risks, because I think the odds are that will work out better for them in the long run. But there are no guarantees. The risks I encourage them to take could kill them. Or they could get run over by a bus or hit by a lightning. The world is a scary place.

    One thing I know is that as much as I try to be a parent, I’m a dad, and the social construct of “dad” is that I can look at another parent and say, “I love this hill because if they fuck up they’ll bleed but they won’t die,” and the look on my face says, “no comment is permitted. If you don’t like it call child protective services.” (And, because I’m me, that’s what I mean, too.)

    Folks don’t react the same to that coming from a mom.

    I know that the piece (which is great) is not really about conscious risk-taking, but when I read it, that’s what readily came to mind.

    The other thing that comes to mind is that societal attitudes towards motherhood and fatherhood are kind of like the difference between defined-benefit and defined-contribution retirement plans in that fathers are held, at most, to be responsible to their children, while mothers are held to be responsible for, absorbing all the risk and responsible for the outcome. That’s unreasonable and unrealistic, and it undergirds so much of the culture of mother-surveillance.

  8. Norma
    Norma May 2, 2012 at 3:44 pm |

    What struck me in Cliffe’s piece was how nice everyone was to her about it– all consolation, no apparent judgment. It’s uncomfortable to know that if the same accident had taken place but she had been less lucky, people’s reactions would have been completely different.

  9. librarygoose
    librarygoose May 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm |

    Ha, the stories my mom could tell. She must have a lot after six kids, and I bet she could tell you each and every time she let us out of sight and we injured ourselves or a sibling. She still apologizes to me for the time I fell off her bed as an infant and cut my neck open on a bottle my siblings had hidden. The harshest judge of my mom is my mom. When I hear these stories (after hoping the kid is okay) I think “Man, that parent must feel terrible.”

  10. Katya
    Katya May 2, 2012 at 4:00 pm |

    I was sort of heartened by how supportive the comments were – nearly everyone shared a story of a time they or their parents were momentarily inattentive or thoughtless, which just reminds you how common these little accidents are. No one can watch anyone every second, and disaster can strike even when you’re looking.

    I think a lot of the angst about mothering is the idea that we’re in charge, that what we do controls the outcome, when really, there’s just a lot of chance and coincidence and luck involved. The inability to accept that we’re not entirely in control is responsible for a lot of guilt and judgment.

  11. Kaija24
    Kaija24 May 2, 2012 at 4:19 pm |

    My siblings and I agree that it’s a wonder we lived through our childhoods, four of us running wild all day in the summer or after school, playing in the woods, falling out of trees, making jumps for our bikes, cutting through the cow pasture, palling around with all the neighbourhood dogs and cats, digging cat turds out of our sandpile, falling in the river, etc…my parents watched over us with a sort of benign neglect and realised that they couldn’t keep us underfoot all the time. I worry that the helicopter parenting and fear rhetoric of today’s culture makes childhood less fun for everyone.

  12. Schmorgluck
    Schmorgluck May 2, 2012 at 4:34 pm |

    Reminds me of that story about a woman, in France, who forgot her baby-daughter in her car on a hot day. The girl died.

    Well, let me elaborate… The story as it was brought up in courts is that she was in a situation of stress for both professional reasons and familial reasons (one of her older childrend was gravely sick) and when she went to bring the baby to her nanny, she… had a bout of forgetfulness.

    She actually went there, but *forgot* to actually take the baby out of the car to bring her at the nanny’s. Then she went her way to work, and because her daughter was silent, and the baby seat was right behind the driver’s seat (due to an issue with one of the car’s doors) she didn’t notice anything unusual. It’s only when the nanny called her at work, a few hours later, in surprise of not seeing her, that the horrible truth hit her. She rushed out to her car, but it was too late. There was a rescue team there, but they were too late too – and actually had to protect her from the mob.

    This story was told on the blog of Pascale Robert-Diard, arguably the best courts journalist in France. She finished the story with the decision: the woman was found guilty, but exempted of any penalty (a rare occurrence).

    The reason why this makes me think of that story is that, in the blog’s comments, amidst discussions about the appropriateness of the judge’s decision (mostly), there have been some people, some parents of both sexes, who told stories of how they have been close to living something similar, but noticed the anomaly out of mere chance, and felt quite scared in retrospect.

  13. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date May 2, 2012 at 5:13 pm |

    Reminds me of that story about a woman, in France, who forgot her baby-daughter in her car on a hot day. The girl died.

    You can read the Pulitzer-prize winning piece by Gene Weingarten, which Nicole Cliffe and/or the commenters mention, but only if you are somewhere where you can cry.

  14. Jadey
    Jadey May 2, 2012 at 5:48 pm |

    You can read the Pulitzer-prize winning piece by Gene Weingarten, which Nicole Cliffe and/or the commenters mention, but only if you are somewhere where you can cry.

    I made the mistake of reading it while I was at work and had to lock myself in a room to sob.

  15. Tony
    Tony May 2, 2012 at 5:56 pm |

    the woman was found guilty, but exempted of any penalty (a rare occurrence).

    That’s the thing in cases like this, if it was a genuine mistake then she obviously wasn’t exempted of any penalty. She already paid a graver penalty than any reasonable person would impose in such a situation. Which is why it always upsets me when society further piles on in those situations. The only job of a court in such a case would be a finding of fact (also not always easy) that it was, indeed mistaken and not something nefarious.

  16. karak
    karak May 2, 2012 at 6:05 pm |

    My niece’s hair caught on fire; my cousin up-ended a bottle and slipped and cracked her head; the little boy I babysat clung to my leg and fell down a flight of stairs went I bent to pick him up; I jumped on a trampoline and snapped my ankle, then fell off head-first.

    It is nothing but pure, stupid luck. And the awful truth is a certain percent of kids are going to pull the bad card because that is the odds. Yes, sometimes someone is really a terrible parent, but in general… they just looked to the left instead of the right.

  17. j.
    j. May 2, 2012 at 6:16 pm |

    Awesome, let’s never punish parents for neglectful crap. That won’t encourage abusive parents to leave their kids to cook in the car all day, nosirree, then wail to the judge about how sooooowwwweee they are.

    Oh, wait, I forgot, according to modern feminism, parents can do no wrong, evar.

  18. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 2, 2012 at 6:32 pm |

    Awesome, let’s never punish parents for neglectful crap. That won’t encourage abusive parents to leave their kids to cook in the car all day, nosirree, then wail to the judge about how sooooowwwweee they are.

    Oh, wait, I forgot, according to modern feminism, parents can do no wrong, evar.

    The message here is not that parents shouldn’t be punished for being neglectful. I don’t know where you got that from.

    Also, please give us an example of a modern feminist who says that parents are necessarily perfect.

  19. Jadey
    Jadey May 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm |

    Awesome, let’s never punish parents for neglectful crap. That won’t encourage abusive parents to leave their kids to cook in the car all day, nosirree, then wail to the judge about how sooooowwwweee they are.

    Oh, wait, I forgot, according to modern feminism, parents can do no wrong, evar.

    Wow, A+ asshattery and an extra gold star in missing the point.

  20. j.
    j. May 2, 2012 at 6:39 pm |

    Wow, A+ asshattery and an extra gold star in missing the point.

    Yeah, so sorry that I don’t consider cooking your fucking kid to death in the car something for which parents should get a slap on the wrist because they’ve “suffered enough.”

    It’s really not that hard to not abuse or neglect your kids, folks. It doesn’t require being a “perfect parent.” And, no, I’m not a parent, for the record… I’m just really tired of seeing anything and anything parents do defended, and if I object, “OMG U DON’T SUPPORT TEH MAMAS!!!”

  21. Mezzanine
    Mezzanine May 2, 2012 at 7:06 pm |

    It’s really not that hard to not abuse or neglect your kids, folks. It doesn’t require being a “perfect parent.”

    Really?

    And, no, I’m not a parent, for the record…

    Ah. Right.

  22. Tony
    Tony May 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm |

    Making one mistake is not “abuse and neglect.” Abuse is active and intentional, whereas neglect is a pattern of activity that a reasonable person should have known would cause a problem. Any person, on the other hand, can make occasional mistakes and often the only thing that determines what happens is sheer luck. Someone I knew recently had their 2-year old die because he tried to climb on a dresser and accidentally tipped it over. Yeah, I would say it’s an honest mistake there, one in which the primary judgment is the parents on themselves and the primary ‘punishment’ is the loss of the child. Bringing punitive law or the further judgement of society into such a situation would be monstrous and cruel.

  23. Jadey
    Jadey May 2, 2012 at 7:19 pm |

    Yeah, so sorry that I don’t consider cooking your fucking kid to death in the car something for which parents should get a slap on the wrist because they’ve “suffered enough.”

    It’s really not that hard to not abuse or neglect your kids, folks. It doesn’t require being a “perfect parent.” And, no, I’m not a parent, for the record… I’m just really tired of seeing anything and anything parents do defended, and if I object, “OMG U DON’T SUPPORT TEH MAMAS!!!”

    Read the Weingarten article, then tell me if you think these parents did it because they were abusive and that criminal sanctions make any sense in these particular scenarios.

    Could an abusive parent deliberately leave their child in a car to die? Sure, humanity is full of examples of behaviour just that horrible or moreso, and there absolutely should be additional consequences for those individuals. But not every awful that happens is the result of someone’s controllable behaviour. These particular cases are ones where parents ran up against the limitations of their own cognitive capacity because the human brain takes shortcuts, and when we try to break established routines, we tend to forget things which are outside that pattern – and these things range from the absolutely trivial (the papers I forgot at work today because I had to come home early) to the absolutely crucial (the sleeping baby in the backseat your partner asked you to take to daycare today).

    It. Fucking. Happens. You picked a really bad example to grind your axe on.

  24. Jadey
    Jadey May 2, 2012 at 7:20 pm |

    SERIOUS trigger warning on that link, by the way, for description of serious injuries to and death of children.

  25. Andrew Pari, LCSW
    Andrew Pari, LCSW May 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm |

    Bringing punitive law or the further judgement of society into such a situation would be monstrous and cruel.

    Well, gee, I bet “j” could think of a good and fitting punishment for a parent whose unintentional actions (or no action whatsoever, just bad luck) killed their child when they wished to everything they believe in that it had been them instead.

    Go on “j”, take a crack at it.

    (I’m not a parent either. Just gots the empathy.)

  26. Jadey
    Jadey May 2, 2012 at 7:35 pm |

    In fact, so that people don’t have to expose themselves to more upsetting material in order to read the article, I’ll excerpt it:

    “Death by hyperthermia” is the official designation. When it happens to young children, the facts are often the same: An otherwise loving and attentive parent one day gets busy, or distracted, or upset, or confused by a change in his or her daily routine, and just… forgets a child is in the car. It happens that way somewhere in the United States 15 to 25 times a year, parceled out through the spring, summer and early fall. The season is almost upon us.

    Two decades ago, this was relatively rare. But in the early 1990s, car-safety experts declared that passenger-side front airbags could kill children, and they recommended that child seats be moved to the back of the car; then, for even more safety for the very young, that the baby seats be pivoted to face the rear. If few foresaw the tragic consequence of the lessened visibility of the child . . . well, who can blame them? What kind of person forgets a baby?

    The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.

    [...]

    David Diamond is picking at his breakfast at a Washington hotel, trying to explain.

    “Memory is a machine,” he says, “and it is not flawless. Our conscious mind prioritizes things by importance, but on a cellular level, our memory does not. If you’re capable of forgetting your cellphone, you are potentially capable of forgetting your child.”

    Diamond is a professor of molecular physiology at the University of South Florida and a consultant to the veterans hospital in Tampa. He’s here for a national science conference to give a speech about his research, which involves the intersection of emotion, stress and memory. What he’s found is that under some circumstances, the most sophisticated part of our thought-processing center can be held hostage to a competing memory system, a primitive portion of the brain that is — by a design as old as the dinosaur’s — inattentive, pigheaded, nonanalytical, stupid.

    Diamond is the memory expert with a lousy memory, the one who recently realized, while driving to the mall, that his infant granddaughter was asleep in the back of the car. He remembered only because his wife, sitting beside him, mentioned the baby. He understands what could have happened had he been alone with the child. Almost worse, he understands exactly why.

    The human brain, he says, is a magnificent but jury-rigged device in which newer and more sophisticated structures sit atop a junk heap of prototype brains still used by lower species. At the top of the device are the smartest and most nimble parts: the prefrontal cortex, which thinks and analyzes, and the hippocampus, which makes and holds on to our immediate memories. At the bottom is the basal ganglia, nearly identical to the brains of lizards, controlling voluntary but barely conscious actions.

    Diamond says that in situations involving familiar, routine motor skills, the human animal presses the basal ganglia into service as a sort of auxiliary autopilot. When our prefrontal cortex and hippocampus are planning our day on the way to work, the ignorant but efficient basal ganglia is operating the car; that’s why you’ll sometimes find yourself having driven from point A to point B without a clear recollection of the route you took, the turns you made or the scenery you saw.

    Ordinarily, says Diamond, this delegation of duty “works beautifully, like a symphony. But sometimes, it turns into the ‘1812 Overture.’ The cannons take over and overwhelm.”

    By experimentally exposing rats to the presence of cats, and then recording electrochemical changes in the rodents’ brains, Diamond has found that stress — either sudden or chronic — can weaken the brain’s higher-functioning centers, making them more susceptible to bullying from the basal ganglia. He’s seen the same sort of thing play out in cases he’s followed involving infant deaths in cars.

    “The quality of prior parental care seems to be irrelevant,” he said. “The important factors that keep showing up involve a combination of stress, emotion, lack of sleep and change in routine, where the basal ganglia is trying to do what it’s supposed to do, and the conscious mind is too weakened to resist. What happens is that the memory circuits in a vulnerable hippocampus literally get overwritten, like with a computer program. Unless the memory circuit is rebooted — such as if the child cries, or, you know, if the wife mentions the child in the back — it can entirely disappear.”

    [...]

    Fennell has met or talked with many of the parents in the hyperthermia cases, and some now work with her organization. She doesn’t seek them out. They find her name, often late at night, sleeplessly searching the Web for some sign that there are others who have lived in the same hell and survived. There is a general misconception, Fennell says, about who these people are: “They tend to be the doting parents, the kind who buy baby locks and safety gates.” These cases, she says, are failures of memory, not of love.

    Fennell has an expression that’s half smile, half wince. She uses it often.

    “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.”

    Fennell believes that prosecuting parents in this type of case is both cruel and pointless: It’s not as though the fear of a prison sentence is what will keep a parent from doing this.

    The answer to the problem, Fennell believes, lies in improved car safety features and in increased public awareness that this can happen, that the results of a momentary lapse of memory can be horrifying.

    [...]

    “This is a case of pure evil negligence of the worse kind . . . He deserves the death sentence.”

    “I wonder if this was his way of telling his wife that he didn’t really want a kid.”

    “He was too busy chasing after real estate commissions. This shows how morally corrupt people in real estate-related professions are.”

    These were readers’ online comments to The Washington Post news article of July 10, 2008, reporting the circumstances of the death of Miles Harrison’s son. These comments were typical of many others, and they are typical of what happens again and again, year after year in community after community, when these cases arise. A substantial proportion of the public reacts not merely with anger, but with frothing vitriol.

    Ed Hickling believes he knows why. Hickling is a clinical psychologist from Albany, N.Y., who has studied the effects of fatal auto accidents on the drivers who survive them. He says these people are often judged with disproportionate harshness by the public, even when it was clearly an accident, and even when it was indisputably not their fault.

    Humans, Hickling said, have a fundamental need to create and maintain a narrative for their lives in which the universe is not implacable and heartless, that terrible things do not happen at random, and that catastrophe can be avoided if you are vigilant and responsible.

    In hyperthermia cases, he believes, the parents are demonized for much the same reasons. “We are vulnerable, but we don’t want to be reminded of that. We want to believe that the world is understandable and controllable and unthreatening, that if we follow the rules, we’ll be okay. So, when this kind of thing happens to other people, we need to put them in a different category from us. We don’t want to resemble them, and the fact that we might is too terrifying to deal with. So, they have to be monsters.”

    I know this is more that fair use probably allows, but I really want people to be able to read at least part of the article without having to read all of the traumatizing personal stories. (If you think you can stand it, it is worth reading the full article.)

  27. Andrew Pari, LCSW
    Andrew Pari, LCSW May 2, 2012 at 7:35 pm |

    Oh, also a sister I never knew because of just exactly this kind of thing. I saw my mom torture herself over it until the day she died.

  28. j.
    j. May 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm |

    I have empathy for the kids who die painfully and in terror in the car. Not for the idiot parents who leave them in there.

    As for the ones who back over their kids in the driveway, maybe if they weren’t driving massive SUVs with tinted windows and either yakking on the cell or listening to their “entertainment system,” they could have craned their fucking necks around to look at the goddamn driveway.

    And, no, I’m not a parent, for the record…

    Ah. Right.

    Typical.

    Also, Gene Weingarten sucks.

  29. Azalea
    Azalea May 2, 2012 at 7:54 pm |

    I think there is a big difference between being lucky when you accidentally put your child in harms way and being lucky or even unlucky when you intentionally put your child in harm’s way; ie putting your baby on top of a bear. I’m not judging the person who does this but THAT is a cruel and incredibly fucked up thing to do to anyone who couldn’t defend themselves against a bear, epsecially someone you are legally responsible for. We can say, let’s not judge mothers for things they could not control or even simply being human but the whole NOTHING a mother does to a child is ever her fault even “abuse and neglect” (in scare quotes are we fucking serious here?!?!).

    I’m not on the side of throwing parents in jail for every accident but some accidents, some of them are entirely avoidable. People KILL other people with their cars and go to jail. They didn’t intend to kill another person, they may have even tried to prevent it from happening at the last minute but after twenty minuites of texting and driving they killed a woman an dher child. When a parent is with their child not paying attention to their small child in a place that is NOT child proofed for extended periods, that may not have been a typical accident. It could be a usual occurence of neglecting the child and the parent’s luck ran out..actually the CHILD’s luck ran out because no matter how much the parent suffer it doesn’t compare to losing your life because someone else didn’t give a shit about you enough to ya know, actually give a damn about your safety.

    Again, we can suppoert moms, goodness knows we moms need support. BUT not every mom is a good mom MANY are seriously fucked up! Being human doesn’t mean being a complete fuck up.

  30. umami
    umami May 2, 2012 at 7:54 pm |

    Awesome, let’s never punish parents for neglectful crap. That won’t encourage abusive parents to leave their kids to cook in the car all day, nosirree, then wail to the judge about how sooooowwwweee they are.

    I seriously think this is the worst comment I’ve ever seen on here. Worse than even the Next Top Troll comments. What kind of emotionally stunted empathy-bereft piece of sh*t do you have to be to describe the emotions of a parent who accidentally killed their child with “sooooowwwweee?”

    I know it’s already been called out but it’s so stunningly awful that I’ve gone into some kind of shock state from just trying to wrap my head around what kind of person would say this.
    It just really doesn’t bear thinking about. Hopefully I will succeed in not thinking about it, any moment now. Shudder.

  31. chava
    chava May 2, 2012 at 8:17 pm |

    Er, I think the bear thing was a joke, Azalea? (PLEASE SAY IT WAS A JOKE, JILL).

  32. Dane
    Dane May 2, 2012 at 8:17 pm |

    Yeah, so sorry that I don’t consider cooking your fucking kid to death in the car something for which parents should get a slap on the wrist because they’ve “suffered enough.”

    It’s really not that hard to not abuse or neglect your kids, folks. It doesn’t require being a “perfect parent.” And, no, I’m not a parent, for the record… I’m just really tired of seeing anything and anything parents do defended, and if I object, “OMG U DON’T SUPPORT TEH MAMAS!!!”

    *gets popcorn* Looks like we’ve got a live one, y’all.

  33. Revolver
    Revolver May 2, 2012 at 8:19 pm |

    Not a parent, but I have baby-sat and been in situations where it could have ended terribly (autistic toddler climbing out the window onto second floor balcony, two kids over their heads in the pool even as I sat there protectively). My parents had a child who died from SIDS while under the care of a babysitter. I can’t imagine living with that kind of guilt as a non-family member, let alone as a parent. So yeah, I think a kid’s death is a worse punishment than anything in the legal system for a parent in one of these situations. I shudder to think of the “what-if” hell they’re stuck in.

  34. Fenriswolf
    Fenriswolf May 2, 2012 at 8:40 pm |

    I think that was an excellent plan Jadey; I just shared the link on Facebook and included the top half of what you posted here.

    Not really contributing to the discussion here, beyond I agree with the article, and presume the bear comment to be tongue in cheek because… eugh; but too many commas later that article is *horrific*.

    I couldn’t actually finish it: the picture of the father on the top right and the description of how they die was way too powerful. I read about half. Thinking about it makes me want to curl up in a ball of pain imagining being one of those parents, and I don’t have or want babies.

  35. Matt
    Matt May 2, 2012 at 8:59 pm |

    As a child care person, YOU wouldn’t be getting off the hook for a kid dying in a car.

    Who wants to be that french women was not a lower class person, or a minority?

    Arguing moral luck is not really the best strategy. Moral luck accounts for drunk drivers too, among other crimes.

    Although you could probably get away with saying that its unlikely to happen again, depending on the person’s history. Again something that upper class privileged people rarely have to deal with.

    No parent should be let off the hook for something a domestic employee or teach or other non-parent authority figure also doesn’t get a pass on.

    Would you forgive a nanny for letting your child cook to death in the car? Props to you if you can answer yes, that’s very mature and logical. The nanny down the street got 3 years and the parents threatened to kill her. Of course she wasn’t a pretty, rich, white woman, so its not surprising.

  36. nouka
    nouka May 2, 2012 at 9:04 pm |

    Judgement keeps people on their toes.

  37. EG
    EG May 2, 2012 at 9:14 pm |

    Not forgiving is not the same thing as sending to jail–I wouldn’t forgive myself and, as mentioned above, would probably have to kill myself. That’s the wrong question to ask.

  38. dead
    dead May 2, 2012 at 9:18 pm |

    solution, don’t have kids

  39. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve May 2, 2012 at 9:25 pm |

    Er, I think the bear thing was a joke, Azalea? (PLEASE SAY IT WAS A JOKE, JILL).

    I believe it was just a hypothetical situation. Not a joke per se, but not serious reportage.

  40. Tony
    Tony May 2, 2012 at 9:33 pm |

    @Azalea, I put it in quotes because I was trying to focus on the definitions of the terms, which require intentional actions, not because I don’t consider them serious crimes.

    The bear example was an example of something that is obviously stupid and is *distinct* from what we’re talking about here.

    If you’re driving and someone sprints out from behind where you can’t see and runs in front of your car and you kill them, I don’t think there should be any criminal penalty for you. All of the examples you brought up they were 1) texting, which is a crime in most jurisdictions, 2) driving drunk, ditto, or 3) perhaps they’re going significantly over the speed limit in a pedestrian area. The problem is that all of these examples require you to do something intentionally stupid where it’s stupid because it endangers people. To me there’s a huge difference between that and accidentally hitting your kid because you didn’t know he was on the driveway, or forgetting to take the baby out of her car to the nanny’s. In that case no intentional decision was made to do anything at all reckless, what happened was entirely unintentional. I don’t think there should be any penalties for that, from a parent’s point of view.

    I do think there is some consideration of what the relationship between the child and the adult is. As I said earlier, if the parent is being deliberately neglectful, or if there is reasonable cause to believe the action was intentional, then it’s different. Also, if it’s not a parent or but a nanny or other professional that’s also different. No, it’s not because of class, race, or anything else. But simply put most strangers have less invested in the well being of a child than the parents– most of the time. They’re not taking care of the child for love, they’re doing it for money. I do think this puts a higher burden on them to be careful, as they’ve committed to a contract with the parents. It is as if my taxi driver got into an accident that injured me– the taxi driver would be liable to me for damages. But if my father got into an accident that injured me as the passenger, my father would not be liable to me.

  41. Fenriswolf
    Fenriswolf May 2, 2012 at 9:37 pm |

    Honestly? If I had a nanny I knew and trusted and that happened, I *would* want the same judicial “forgiveness”. Hell, I probably could forgive them… but I could never handle seeing them again if I could possibly avoid it.

    We can accept that fucked up things happen and there is *no* clean solution, AND have overwhelming emotions.

    Legally it’s difficult because there is a difficult to prove but important distinction between a pattern of neglect and one neglectful act with an awful outcome.

  42. Azalea
    Azalea May 2, 2012 at 10:14 pm |

    Parents sue and demand “justice” for accidents..all.the.damn.time. Why? Because when you have a responsibility to do something, accidents can happen but you aren’t off the hook for it. Jill as an attorney, if a paralegal made a mistake and you lost a case because of it and as a result of losing that case your client suffered IMMENSELY and irreparably, do you let it go?

    If someone “accidentally” shoots you in the breast, do you defend them when people say their negligence was criminal? If you wouldn’t why would you defend someone whose negligence cost another person, a person they were supposed to protect, their lives?

    A child squirming free of a parent’s hands and fatally running into traffic is MUCH different than a child who was left home alone running into traffic, or a child whose parent was too busy doing other things to notice their kid left the room, the floor, the home, the block and got hurt. Age of the children matter. Specifics matter.

    P.s. Yes I’ve gotten emotional. It enrages me when a child suffers at the hands of someone’s negligence or abuse and excuses are made for the abuser’s actions. Liek I said, mistakes happen, not all are criminal but there is a DAMN good fucking reason some of them are.

  43. umami
    umami May 2, 2012 at 10:22 pm |

    I think the bear thing might be true, I read something somewhere years ago (lol great citation I know) about how unsafely many visitors behave with bears in parks. The anecdote that stuck with me was one about how a family covered their baby’s arm in honey so a bear could lick it off for a lovely photo-op. They were surprised when the bear ate the child’s arm.

    So based on that my guess is that the reference in the original articule wasn’t a joke, but also that the parents who did it weren’t “cruel and fucked up,” just unspeakably clueless.

  44. chava
    chava May 2, 2012 at 10:48 pm |

    ARGH. I am never putting the baby in the car again.

    Someone should put that article on a list of things not to read while immediately postpartum. Alternatively, I should have had the sense God gave a kitten and not clicked on the damn link. Jesus.

  45. Li
    Li May 2, 2012 at 10:58 pm |

    I think we can accept that the punitive elements of the legal system are massively loaded in favour of those parents with various types of privilege. Certainly parents who are poor or of colour are much more likely to have their actions judged as being neglectful.

    But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to give people less compassion in order to even the load.

  46. Tapetum
    Tapetum May 3, 2012 at 12:27 am |

    Part of the point of the Weingarten article was that by lying to ourselves about these kinds of incidents (specifically infant hyperthermia, but it includes a lot of other things as well), we actually increase the danger to our children. Because we think “I love my kid. I’m not mean, clueless or incompetent. Therefore this won’t happen to me.” And then we don’t guard against it as well as we could, and more kids have preventable accidents or preventable deaths.

    Case in point – long before that article, I had a pretty good clue about human memory, cars and hyperthermia deaths (Cog Sci major, pregnant and moving to Arizona). Because I knew that I couldn’t rely on my memory and my magical mother love, I started the habit of walking around my car and checking all the seats as soon as I got out, whether or not there was, or was supposed to be anything there. So by the time the baby was born, my drilled automatic habit was to check the backseat every time. Which I would never have done if I believed that hyperthermia deaths were what happened to the children of stupid, neglectful people. Understanding made my babies safer where condemnation never would.

    Plus, you know? Crap happens. j – every parent I have ever met in my life has not one, but many near-miss incidents. A huge part of the reason so many are hateful and vengeful to the unlucky ones is that they don’t want to acknowledge that it was luck. Doesn’t mean we should encourage the impulse legislatively.

    If there is real neglect, non-momentary boneheadedness, abuse, etc. by all means, throw the book at them. In the case of genuine accidents of the “there but for the grace of God go I” sort, absolutely nothing is served by adding punishment (and this is true whether it’s the parents or the nanny, or anybody else.).

  47. Tapetum
    Tapetum May 3, 2012 at 12:31 am |

    Chava – I still walk around the car every time I get out to check if there’s a baby in the back seat – and my youngest is 12! Living in AZ when my eldest was born made me hyper-vigilant on the subject.

  48. Natalia
    Natalia May 3, 2012 at 12:50 am |

    J’s trolling. Ignore her.

    God, life just makes no sense sometimes. Sometimes, it’s just horrible. We look for meaning and we look where to place blame – but in one way, that’s only so that we can give ourselves some much-needed comfort.

  49. Schmorgluck
    Schmorgluck May 3, 2012 at 1:59 am |

    @Tony

    That’s the thing in cases like this, if it was a genuine mistake then she obviously wasn’t exempted of any penalty. She already paid a graver penalty than any reasonable person would impose in such a situation. Which is why it always upsets me when society further piles on in those situations. The only job of a court in such a case would be a finding of fact (also not always easy) that it was, indeed mistaken and not something nefarious.

    Yeah, and I think that was the judge’s reasoning. In the comments, some people did find the decision too lenient, but many more found that the woman should just have been acquitted (some even thought the case shouldn’t even have been brought to courts, but they obviously don’t know how the legal system works). I’m among those who think the decision was spot-on: I don’t think the mother would have accepted acquitment, but there was no point in adding a penalty to that tragedy.

    For those who can read French, here’s a link to the story.

  50. Alexandra
    Alexandra May 3, 2012 at 2:06 am |

    Hmm. When I was five years old and my brother was two and a half, our family went on a vacation. We’d stopped at a park in Taos so that my brother and I could let off steam at a playground. My father was at a bathroom and my mother was getting me a juice from the cooler when my little brother started to climb up one of those old-fashioned metal slides you never see anymore. Half way up he decided he was scared and tried to climb down, but he lost his balance and hit his head. He needed stitches, but thankfully was not concussed or seriously injured.

    When I was a little older, we were sledding in a park near home on an inflatable toboggan (the kind with no steering). It was my brother’s turn, and during the descent the toboggan veered away from the bottom of the hill and started toward the road – right into the path of a semi truck. The trucker saw my little brother coming, and my brother stopped just short of the road, but…

    There are so many “there but for the grace of god” moments in life. How many of us, when driving, have come close to hitting a pedestrian or vehicle because something distracted us – thinking about work or school, something on the radio, etc? How many of us have left the door open while fetching in groceries, and had a cat or dog (or toddler) slip out? Most of the time these little careless mistakes result in no harm to anyone; sometimes they result in a minor accident, and rarely they result in grievous harm or death to another person.

    What’s so shocking about the hyperthermia deaths of infants and toddlers is that people who are not naturally abusive or neglectful do terrible, terrible things to the person they love most and most want to protect. If you cannot see that as a tragedy not only for the child but also for the parent(s), I don’t know what to say, how to connect to you.

  51. Alexandra
    Alexandra May 3, 2012 at 2:13 am |

    Also @ matt – according to the linked article, the frenchwoman was a Laotian immigrant (who’d lived in France most of her life, I think – my french is mediocre schoolgirl french, not fluent).

  52. Norma
    Norma May 3, 2012 at 5:38 am |

    Can we all ignore j, who is clearly trolling on this thread and others? J’s lolcats-speak is making my eyes bleed.

  53. Norma
    Norma May 3, 2012 at 6:02 am |

    We can say, let’s not judge mothers for things they could not control or even simply being human but the whole NOTHING a mother does to a child is ever her fault even “abuse and neglect” (in scare quotes are we fucking serious here?!?!).

    No one here or in the articles discussed has suggested letting parents off the hook for abuse and neglect. We’re talking about accidents-will-happen mistakes, not intentional injury.

    Just to clarify: The terms ‘abuse’ and ‘neglect’ have specific legal meanings which do not encompass the situations in Cliffe’s or Weingarten’s articles. If a child dies from an accident like the ones in these articles, and the parent is charged, s/he’ll be charged with manslaughter or negligent homicide. These charges take into account the fact that s/he didn’t intend to hurt anybody. Not so with abuse/neglect.

    (This isn’t legal advice, obviously.)

    I read that Weingarten article back when it was first published. Just now I glanced at the first photo, and seeing that dad’s face again almost made me lose it.

  54. AMM
    AMM May 3, 2012 at 7:57 am |

    OP/Moderator:

    Could you put in a trigger warning on this post for the comments thread?

  55. Bridget
    Bridget May 3, 2012 at 8:21 am |

    Chava, I understand. I read the Jadey-edited quote from that article (thanks, Jadey!) but could not read the article itself. I just can’t handle things like that now that I have a baby.

  56. ks
    ks May 3, 2012 at 8:45 am |

    I couldn’t read the article either–I’d be a mess the rest of the day.

    However, whenever I read or hear about those sorts of stories, I always think ‘there but by the grace of (choose your deity).’ A lot of those accidents really are just flukes or sheer bad luck and I remember when my kids were babies (they are 10 and almost 7 now) and how exhausted I was all the damn time and how easy it is to just turn away for a second and then, bam, the worst happens.

  57. Rob in CT
    Rob in CT May 3, 2012 at 9:28 am |

    Both “watch that child” and “there but for the grace of FSM go I” are true.

    I’m fortunate that my 2-year old isn’t super strong & energetic. She’s little, and has to date done almost nothing that qualifies as dare-devilish. A friend’s 2 1/2 year old son, on the other hand? Daily occurrence. Their house looked like a fortress (defenses turned inward) for a while there. The kid was just fearless. Walk out of the room to get him his bottle? You’d find him halfway up the bookshelf.

    The kid-dies-in-carseat thing was something I heard about (didn’t read the details, deliberately) before I became a father, and it scared the shit out of me. I’d like to believe that I couldn’t possibly do such a thing. I actually do believe it. But look, total exhaustion is a powerful drug…

  58. Andie
    Andie May 3, 2012 at 9:56 am |

    My oldest daughter dropped my youngest on her head when she was a week old. She had been lying on the floor in her bassinet and I walked three steps into the next room for all of thirty seconds.. Long enough to have a nine-word exchange with my sister. I came back and my then-two-year-old was holding the baby in her arms, cross-armed and upside down. Panicked I yelled “PUT THE BABY DOWN!”

    She did. On her head into the bassinet.

    We laugh now. My youngest was screened-borderline gifted, so the joke is that my oldest may have saved the world from an evil-super-genius.. instead we got a run-of-the-mill really-smart-kid.

    In another incident, I was watching my nephew who was about a year old.. I had been doing a crossword, and he started to cry so I picked him up to comfort him, forgetting that I had put the pen in my mouth to free both hands.. missed taking his eye out by about a half-centimeter.

    When I was two or three I ran up to hug my dad.. not realizing he had a lit cigarette in his hand (back in the bad old days when people were totally cool smoking around kids.. indoors even! *gasp*). Since his hand was dangling at his side, it was just at the right angle to get me right in the eye.

    Sooo many stupid things happen that can have tragic outcomes that are not necessarily a case of abuse or neglect… just poor judgement and shitty happenstance.

  59. Schmorgluck
    Schmorgluck May 3, 2012 at 10:14 am |

    @Alexandra

    according to the linked article, the frenchwoman was a Laotian immigrant (who’d lived in France most of her life, I think – my french is mediocre schoolgirl french, not fluent).

    Quite accurate : given that she was 37 at the time of the trial (november 2010), and that her family arrived in France in the end of the 70s, she couldn’t be much older than five back then.

  60. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom May 3, 2012 at 10:20 am |

    Quite apart from anything else, one’s judgement is not at its best when one’s children are very young. Total exhaustion, to quote Rob in CT up there, is a powerful drug.
    When our younger boy was about 1 year old, he got a glass bottle of eggnog out of the fridge, dropped it, stepped on the glass and earned himself a quick trip to the ER for stitches. Yes, we heard him opening the fridge. We hoped he’d get what he was after without our having to assist (kid was walking from nine months or so; we were fairly tired). Not the best judgement on our part, to be sure. Could have been worse. Thankfully, wasn’t. He also used to climb up the kitchen counters to raid the cabinets. There is no toddler-proofing; there is only toddler-slowing-down-so-you-can-beat-them-to-the-hazard.
    Older son flung himself out of his crib as a young toddler and then took part of his toddler bed apart with a toy car (not on the same night).
    All parents, bar none, ALL parents have done stupid things that risked their child’s life. For most of us the cards fell the right way.

  61. Andie
    Andie May 3, 2012 at 10:34 am |

    There are things that can happen that you can’t even FATHOM would be a risk.. last year there was a case of a two-year-old who managed to pull a heavy marble tabletop (on one of those kitchen-island things) down on top of himself during a family gathering, with a horrendously tragic outcome.

    I don’t even think I could remotely anticipate something like that.. that a 2-year-old would have the strength to pull something like that down on top of themselves.

  62. IrishUp
    IrishUp May 3, 2012 at 10:48 am |

    Word, Andie. I remember a recent case about a mom who was traveling with her toddler. She locked the motel room door & went to take a shower. Somehow, kid got ahold of the car keys, out of the room, into the car (SUV IIRC) and managed to start it where it lurched forward through the motel room wall. HOW THE FUCK is something like that even on your radar????

    (TW, child death) Another family some years back lost their 4yo daughter @ a Cape Cod ice-cream place. The “fixed” bike rack in the parking lot – that kids climbed on all the time – had come loose somehow. Nobody realized it, and this girl climbed on in JUST THE ONLY WAY that would bring it toppling back onto her IN JUST THE WRONG WAY. Her ‘rent’s weren’t 10ft from her when it happened. She was dead before the EMTs got there. I can’t even.

    There but for Merciful Minerva go us all.

  63. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar May 3, 2012 at 11:16 am |

    Don’t we all remember what Dory said in Finding Nemo? “You can’t never let anything happen to him, then nothing would ever happen to him.”

    If it were even possible to shelter our kids from every risk that could kill them (and it isn’t), it would be bad parenting to do so. How can we prepare them to live in the world if we totally shelter them, babyproof the world and second-guess every bad decision they make?

  64. Adaquinn
    Adaquinn May 3, 2012 at 11:25 am |

    There but for the grace of God, go I.

    I do not have children, but I have been a day care provider. We are taught to always be vigilant and always be on an eye out for the hazard waiting to jump out at you. We were paid to be careful to the extreme with the kids. There are all sorts of safety measures and conditions that we meet that are far more than any household I’ve ever been in. We make sure that there are only so many children to every adult. We are utterly aware of where those children are at every moment. Everything is padded, sterilized or analyzed for the maximal safety/fun ratio.

    Kids -still- get hurt. They run and trip and fall into a piece of playground equipment and need stitches. They get their fingers caught in door jams of cabinets. Another child bites the fire out of them. They jump off of something 3 inches tall and land wrong and split their chin.

    I know parents who LOVE their child and protect their child and still have that “OH CRAP” moment. A mother who put her daughter in a carrier on top of the car to rush out and grab another kid who was running into the parking lot and then got into her car. She put the car in gear before someone started honking madly at her because they saw the carrier. There but for the grace of God. Her daughter is 13 now and the mom still gets chills every time she remembers that story. Every time someone reads something and says to themselves “I’d never let that happen to me or my family” I hope that they’re right.

    Because far too many people are wrong.

  65. Tapetum
    Tapetum May 3, 2012 at 11:40 am |

    Rob in CT – I nearly got turned into CPS by a neighbor with a child like yours because I had a child like your friends. Her toddler celebrated learning to walk by walking around in circles for hours without touching anything. Mine celebrated by climbing up the sofa and flinging himself off the back. She was certain I was neglectful because he was always getting a new bruise from his latest attempt to kill himself.

    I got her to back down by letting her babysit for an hour while I went and took the first long shower and completely zonked nap in ages. I came back to a kid with a black eye, a fat lip, and a tearful, very apologetic neighbor. In her “completely child-proof” house, with her sitting right there, he’d managed damage himself twice, and scared her another half-dozen times.

    Both of my kids were like this. I spent most of my first 4-5 years as a mother in a semi-exhausted, partially terrified haze, because any time I let one of them out of my sight, somebody got hurt.

    I don’t think either of them would have survived my parents, who were prone to things like sticking the 18-month-old up a tree to take cute pictures.

  66. rain
    rain May 3, 2012 at 11:56 am |

    I was always worried that, in an exhausted state, I would forget to put the baby and seat in the car after, say, loading up the groceries, and back up over them. So I got into the habit of the double and triple check before I drove away.

    *trigger warning*
    But my almost died incident ended up being about drowning. My three kids and I were the only ones in a small outdoor pool at a motel. The always careful, water-averse 6 year old boy was sitting on the wide concrete steps going down into the pool, the 4 year old boy was midway down the pool hanging onto the edge and standing on a little ledge that went around the pool, and I was taking the 2 year old girl around the pool for a ride. When it was the 4 year old’s turn, I took my daughter over to the steps. That took less than 10 seconds. When I turned around to get my son, there he was, suspended under the water, not moving. There had been no splash, nothing; he must have lost his footing on the ledge, slipped under, and inhaled water. I ran over (you know those dreams you have where you’re running as fast and as hard as you can but moving so slowly?), yanked him out, and sat him up at the edge of the pool. I looked to see if he was breathing, and he wasn’t. His eyes were open, staring ahead, glassy. I was about to jump out of the pool when he sputtered and coughed.

    Later, he said to me, “Mom, why didn’t you come get me when I fell in?”
    It’s been 10 years and it still makes me ill to think about how close it was. And I feel so sorry for parents whose kids drowned because they didn’t “maintain eye contact with their young children every moment they are in the (water)”.

  67. Schmorgluck
    Schmorgluck May 3, 2012 at 12:10 pm |

    I remember a comment on a blog, in which the commenter told of something that happened to him while driving his car. He hit a little girl on a bicycle who appeared suddenly from behind a house. Actually, he stopped in time and ended up barely touching her, and she fell without getting hurt. Her mother rushed to him and took him in her arms saying “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

    He asked why she was thanking him, and she said “I was in my garden with my husband, we saw you pass by and I asked him ‘who’s this guy who drives so slowly? Everyone goes way faster here.'” He was just respecting the speed limit…

  68. anon m.
    anon m. May 3, 2012 at 1:01 pm |

    This is a bit to fatalistic for my taste. In many countries there is a difference between negligence and gross negligence for a reason. Some parents simply need a lot more luck to raise their children alive than others.

    But I have a question: Are there any people here suggesting that if you accidentally run over your own kids you should be punished less than if you run over the neighbors’ kids?

  69. Jadey
    Jadey May 3, 2012 at 1:23 pm |

    Are there any people here suggesting that if you accidentally run over your own kids you should be punished less than if you run over the neighbors’ kids?

    No.

  70. Andie
    Andie May 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm |

    Are there any people here suggesting that if you accidentally run over your own kids you should be punished less than if you run over the neighbors’ kids?

    What? No. I don’t think anyone is saying that.

    It’s never happened to me but I think I would feel just as bad remorseful absolutely effing horrible if I caused the death of someone else’s child as I would my own. If not somewhat worse.

    But again, if it’s an accident, a fluke, and not a case of negligence or ill intent, I don’t think prosecution is necessarily justifiable.

  71. petpluto
    petpluto May 3, 2012 at 1:25 pm |

    This is a bit to fatalistic for my taste. In many countries there is a difference between negligence and gross negligence for a reason. Some parents simply need a lot more luck to raise their children alive than others.

    I think there are times when there is no real negligence, just tragedy. Accidentally running over your kid – if you looked and your kid just ran out after that glance back, no negligence. If you normally don’t take your child to day care or you traveled a different route and left your sleeping child in the backseat without realizing that was even a possibility, I don’t think there’s true negligence there. Even in Nicole’s case, there was a calculated risk, but I don’t know if it is negligent.

    When I was nine and my sisters were two, we came back from a week at our camper to our condo. My parents dropped us three kids in the house and then went to grab the rest of our stuff. I was helping them by unpacking the cooler. I noticed one of my sisters was missing, and found her drinking (!!!) rubbing alcohol. Why she was doing that, I will never know. Long story short, poison control was called, I got hit for the first and last time in my life, and my sister was alive to almost strangle her twin with kite string a mere four years later (that incident also ended well, with the string getting cut before anything truly bad happened).

    I think sometimes we’re too quick to see a tragedy as following something the parents could have done differently. But kids are they’re own little people, and because of that they find new and interesting ways to almost kill themselves without trying no matter how many barriers you try to set up. And parents aren’t super human. They can be acting within the bounds of acceptable human behavior, and horrible things can still happen.

  72. Matt
    Matt May 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm |

    This is a bit to fatalistic for my taste. In many countries there is a difference between negligence and gross negligence for a reason. Some parents simply need a lot more luck to raise their children alive than others.

    But I have a question: Are there any people here suggesting that if you accidentally run over your own kids you should be punished less than if you run over the neighbors’ kids?

    This question, or similar ones, are perhaps the most interesting to discuss. Its pretty much the question I was asking about the nanny or other hired person, or something like a teacher or school official.

  73. Tony
    Tony May 3, 2012 at 1:40 pm |

    Are there any people here suggesting that if you accidentally run over your own kids you should be punished less than if you run over the neighbors’ kids?

    Jadey, Andie. I was saying it… sort of. But I admit that it relies on this notion that within families, relations aren’t at arms-length.

    If you accidentally break your own leg, there is no societal punishment, right? But if you accidentally break someone else’s leg, they can sue you for damages, right?

    I think there can be some presumption that within the same nuclear family, people’s interests are not distinct and atomistic but actually overlap. So accidentally breaking the leg of someone within your family is in a gray area between breaking your own leg and breaking the leg of a stranger.

    If you accidentally run over your own kid, there are two damages: one to the kid, and one to yourself. Society can step in on behalf of the kid, but there is no need for society to punish you for the damage to yourself, because it’s inflicted by the nature of what happened (just as if you’d accidentally killed yourself). On the other hand, if you accidentally run over the neighbor’s kid, there’s again two damages, but in this case, the damage to the parent would need society to step in to remedy. Their grief is not automatically self-remedying. Does that make sense to anyone at all? I thought it would seem to be pretty intuitive.

  74. Schmorgluck
    Schmorgluck May 3, 2012 at 2:09 pm |

    On the other hand, if you accidentally run over the neighbor’s kid, there’s again two damages, but in this case, the damage to the parent would need society to step in to remedy. Their grief is not automatically self-remedying. Does that make sense to anyone at all? I thought it would seem to be pretty intuitive.

    In such a situation, there’s a civil case along with the criminal case. And civil responsibility is distinct from criminal culpability (which, by the way, is why I find the notion of punitive damages rather puzzling).

  75. jillian
    jillian May 3, 2012 at 2:25 pm |

    If you accidentally run over your own kid, there are two damages: one to the kid, and one to yourself. Society can step in on behalf of the kid, but there is no need for society to punish you for the damage to yourself, because it’s inflicted by the nature of what happened (just as if you’d accidentally killed yourself). On the other hand, if you accidentally run over the neighbor’s kid, there’s again two damages, but in this case, the damage to the parent would need society to step in to remedy. Their grief is not automatically self-remedying. Does that make sense to anyone at all? I thought it would seem to be pretty intuitive.

    this makes sense to me. whenever i agree to watch or be the supervising adult with my friends’ kids, I feel compelled to be more vigilant for their safety. like i’ll let my kids go to the bathroom by themselves but will walk friend’s kids there. i dont know if it’s that connection i have with their parents – like this a contract i made with you to place your faith in me – or if im just forcing myself to be more aware because i have to remind myself ive got 4+ kids to watch instead of just 2. or i know my own comfort level with my kids and when it’s someone else’s my first reaction is to play it on the safe/helicopter side.

    all my good mama friends’ have a “shit happens” attitude to your run of the mill kids playing accidents but one of my worst nightmares is something serious happening to someone else’s kid who is under my supervision.

  76. EmbraceYourInnerCrone
    EmbraceYourInnerCrone May 3, 2012 at 3:53 pm |

    I got an early introduction to the the guilt of “you can’t take your eyes off them for a second” when I was 9 at my Grams house when my Mom my Aunt and my Gram decided we all needed to go play outside while they had tea. Me, my 4 and 5 year old brothers and my 5 and 3 year old cousins. The 3 year old found a bottle of lighter fluid while I was pulling my brother the biter off my other cousin. I grabbed him and screamed for the adults and was treated to days of “Why weren’t you watching him?” He was fine, apparently he only had time to inhale a bit of the fumes but I was paranoid babysitting forever after that.

    As luck would have it I also had a baby girl who is like Tapetum @65’s kids. She crawled (not creeped, on all fours crawled) at 4 1/2 months , cruised around holding furniture at 6 months and walked on the day she turned 9 months. I babyproofed the entire house to an ridiculous degree including covering the tables with padding so she didn’t knock her baby teeth out when she fell or concuss herself. She still managed to climb out of her crib as a baby and got a black eye from the fall. Somehow we both survived her childhood and she is now 17 and has her license….and has had her first (minor)car accident. See what you have to look forward to!

  77. Erica
    Erica May 3, 2012 at 5:39 pm |

    This post makes me really uncomfortable. I don’t think the barrier between mistake and negligence is as clear-cut as some seem to think it is, there’s shades of gray and even the same act, perpetrated by different people, can be either one of those things, based on personal history (habitual drunk/inattentive driver vs. someone with a clean driving history, for instance). If you see it as kind of a spectrum where “left kid in the backseat of a car” is on one end and straight-up abuse is on the other, then that leaves a whole lot in the middle, and maybe there should be another axis for stupidity (putting honey on a kid’s arm would totally count as stupid).

    And, no, I don’t think that guilt is enough, not for some people. For one thing, some people DON’T feel guilt when they cause an avoidable death. Remember the old man who ran into a farmer’s market and killed a dozen people, and was totally unrepentant about it? I believe that was ruled an “accident,” not homicide. No, I wouldn’t give him a pass because it’s something I would do (which is possible, because I am a terrible driver) or something my grandfather would do. Because that crosses the line for me, from “honest mistake” to “basically murder,” due to the lack of repentance and just the sheer scale of it.

    As another example of where I think the fuzzy line should be drawn between mistake and negligence, I stood up for the mother in Atlanta whose son was killed on the road by a drunk driver because she ran across the road with him after getting off the bus, instead of walking half a mile to a crosswalk (that article appeared several months ago, don’t know how to find it), but I wouldn’t have as much sympathy for a parent who had a lighted crosswalk a hundred feet down the road and chose to cross against the light instead. I don’t know that I’d prosecute them for murder or manslaughter (the drunk driver is ALWAYS to blame), but I also wouldn’t think that it was “a senseless tragedy.”

    Because if we write off all of this as “honest mistake, I’d do it too,” then why prosecute drunk drivers? Haven’t most people driven with a few drinks in their system? Why not give a pass to someone who hits a pedestrian, after all, those people are so hard to drive around. I can give a parent a pass because I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to kill your kid but when it comes to children that aren’t yours, or adults, or whomever — slippery slope, man.

    And also, shaking our heads and saying “it happens to everyone” potentially keeps us from developing ways to prevent these things from happening. No, you can’t cover the world in bubble wrap and I wouldn’t want to, but you can look at an intersection where someone was killed and say “hey, we should put a pedestrian walkway here.” Or, “hey, maybe 90-year-olds shouldn’t drive.” If it’s just a senseless tragedy in a senseless world, why fix it? If it’s a preventable tragedy in a mostly sensible world, then it’s your duty to fix it. I still don’t know why they can put a DVD player in a car but can’t develop a sensor that tells you if there’s a kid in the backseat, although it probably has something to do with people not wanting to be reminded that hyperthermia exists.

    (Yes, these examples are all traffic-centric but that’s largely what the thread’s focused on.)

    I remember a comment on a blog, in which the commenter told of something that happened to him while driving his car. He hit a little girl on a bicycle who appeared suddenly from behind a house. Actually, he stopped in time and ended up barely touching her, and she fell without getting hurt. Her mother rushed to him and took him in her arms saying “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

    He asked why she was thanking him, and she said “I was in my garden with my husband, we saw you pass by and I asked him ‘who’s this guy who drives so slowly? Everyone goes way faster here.’” He was just respecting the speed limit…

    As someone with a keen interest in cycling/pedestrian advocacy this anecdote pisses me off. It’s a sick, sad world we live in where someone is congratulated for doing the damn speed limit on a residential street. If he had been speeding and caused her death or injury I sincerely hope nobody here would be hand-waving it away saying “yeah, I don’t follow speed signs either, grace of God…”

  78. Stephanie
    Stephanie May 3, 2012 at 5:49 pm |

    I know all too well how quickly accidents can happen with kids. My youngest fell into the pool at her grandparents’ house when she was 18 months old. The only reason it wasn’t a tragedy is that I was watching her carefully, pacing her as I swam around the pool. My husband didn’t hear the splash, but he sure heard me scream.

    It could easily have been worse. Not two minutes before I had scolded my oldest who was trying to get me to pay more attention to her. I had explained to her that I really couldn’t take the chance of playing with her when her little sister was playing in the backyard with the pool right there. Shortly thereafter, the ball my youngest was playing with went into the pool and she followed without hesitation. Because I was there, it was nothing more than a dunk for her, a good thing given that this was the deep end of a 10 foot deep pool.

    Shook us all up quite a bit still. My mother-in-law said it was the first accident of the sort they’d ever had with the pool. MIL doesn’t swim, so I am understandably reluctant to leave the kids with them until they’re at least a little competent in the water. She watches them carefully, but with something like that she would have been helpless.

    I also had my very shy, rarely left my side at the time son almost run into the street at my mother’s house, right in front of a car speeding down the road. He was racing his big sister, and wanted to run to the side of the car his seat was on. He stopped behind the trunk just as this car comes around the corner. If my husband and I hadn’t been yelling for him to stop, it could have been bad.

    These things happen to just about all parents. It’s not negligence every time. It can be, but other times it’s just kids doing stuff because they don’t know any better.

  79. Rob in CT
    Rob in CT May 3, 2012 at 6:51 pm |

    Heh. This evening my daughter was flopping on our bed. I was right there with her.

    She decided to do a sombersault, but was aimed right off the bed. My wife and I jointly caught her as she was about to go flying.

    She actually knows about edges, and is usually quite good about them. That can lull you into a false sense of security. Well, not me, not this night, at least. But then I’m the parent who sucks in his breath in terror whenever she does basically anything with a non-zero chance of a fall. My wife laughs at me sometimes. I abide. ;)

  80. Lyn
    Lyn May 3, 2012 at 7:31 pm |

    Erica: I see why you’re uncomfortable! Thing is though, they have invented a sensor that will go off if the child is still in the car seat when the ignition is switched off – but, according to that article a few people have been talking about, it doesn’t sell because parents don’t think this will happen to them. If we acknowledge that memories are faulty, that leaving a child in a car seat is an accident that can happen to anyone, then perhaps the sensor systems will go into production. But, if we think that only terrible awful parents do this, that “I would *never* do that!” then there’s no need to see it as a problem and buy stuff to help prevent it from happening to *you*.

  81. Lyanna
    Lyanna May 3, 2012 at 8:20 pm |

    Erica, you’re attacking a strawman. Bringing up drunk drivers or the man who crashed into a whole farmer’s market, for instance. The latter definitely meets the definition of recklessness or even “depraved indifference.”

    What this thread is about is human fallibility that do not involve recklessness or negligence: lapses of memory, moments of distraction, and judgment calls to take everyday risks, which end in tragedy.

  82. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom May 3, 2012 at 9:06 pm |

    My gosh, I forgot the time younger son, as a toddler, made it out the door one morning and took a walk down quite a busy street in nothing but a diaper. We thought he was still in bed. Eight years later, it’s kind of funny.

  83. Erica
    Erica May 3, 2012 at 10:12 pm |

    Thing is though, they have invented a sensor that will go off if the child is still in the car seat when the ignition is switched off – but, according to that article a few people have been talking about, it doesn’t sell because parents don’t think this will happen to them.

    Then maybe they should be standard, like airbags and seat belts. This obviously happens often enough that it rises to the level of a real threat.

    And yeah, now that I read the post I can see that the farmer’s market example is off base but I think the one about crossing the street is apt (really wish I could find that old post). I just wonder where an honest mistake due to distraction/memory lapse ends and negligence begins. J is a colossal asshole but they have a point about cell phones and tinted windows and SUVs… owning/using those things doesn’t make you automatically negligent (well, cell phones do), but don’t they increase the risk that a mistake might happen? Or owning a gun, I’m sure that the vast majority of parents who keep loaded guns in their homes are not abusive or negligent but it does increase the chance that their children will die of an accidental gunshot by some huge percentage I don’t want to look up right now. Like yeah, accidents will happen, but say, if you regularly drive around a huge truck with unsecured kids in the bed, they’re going to happen a lot more often. And I would have a hard time feeling sorry for the parents in that hypothetical situation (much easier time feeling sorry for the kids), even if I don’t think they should be charged with murder. Again, I see this as kind of a scale, even if that’s maybe a cold-hearted way to look at it. (Also, what Azalea @29 said.)

  84. EG
    EG May 3, 2012 at 10:35 pm |

    I guess then that the issue is that we all do something–whether it’s cell phones or SUVs or tinted windows or not keeping a neat household or letting them sleep on their stomachs without flipping them over or crossing against the light–something regularly that another person could see as a risk factor. I’m not sure lifestyle or consumer choices should be on the continuum of neglect.

  85. ahmm
    ahmm May 3, 2012 at 10:57 pm |

    Erica,

    I sort of agree with you. Also, I think there is a difference between things which are almost impossible to protect against (like kids in the back seat) and things which are clear dangers, like drowning.

    There have been several “my child nearly drowned” anecdotes on this thread and I’m sympathetic to that but… pools are death traps. So many kids drown. Everybody knows that. Pools are not essential or necessary. Pools are not baths. So I’m kind of… shocked that anyone actually lets their children to wander around pools without being VERY CLOSELY supervised. I think it’s pretty negligent to be honest. Especially at 18 months (!) And I think that’s what some people are getting at. Since pools kill more children than guns do, I’m interested in where we draw the line at negligence. Because if an 18 month old found an unsecured handgun in her parents closet and ended up dead, we’d probably be calling for some prosecution.

  86. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date May 4, 2012 at 5:47 am |

    Erica, I don’t think that anybody is saying that there’s nothing any parent can do to reduce the risk of something bad happening to a child, so we all might as well just throw up our hands. The point is that there’s nothing any parent can do to reduce the risk of something bad happening to a child to zero. And so, to me, unless a person is a public health epidemiologist, asking about this stuff is just a way of explaining to ourselves, “A bad thing happened to them because x. I don’t do x, so a bad thing won’t happen to me.” But the world doesn’t work that way.

    And, like EG, I think it’s a bad idea to start calling common lifestyle and consumer choices negligent. As I’m sure you know, putting a child into a car is one of the most dangerous things a parent can do in the US. But millions and millions of people do it all the time. Are they negligent?

    And I also think that I, me, personally, would not like to be somebody who has less sympathy for a person whose child died as a result of riding around in a truck bed (which actually is not legal, at least in my state) than for a person whose child died as a result of [fill-in-the-blank circumstance that you don't find negligent].

  87. EG
    EG May 4, 2012 at 6:44 am |

    So I’m kind of… shocked that anyone actually lets their children to wander around pools without being VERY CLOSELY supervised.

    But that’s the point, isn’t it? “VERY CLOSELY supervised” doesn’t mean “standing within six inches of the child at all times with one’s eyes never resting on any other object of focus,” because it can’t, particularly when there is more than one child in the mix, because parents are human beings, as are children, and that’s simply not realistically possible. From what I can tell of these stories, the point is precisely that the children are being VERY CLOSELY supervised, and they fall in anyway.

    When I was some months old, I was in a doctor’s office, lying on the examination table. My mother had her hand on me. With her hand on me, she glanced out the window, and during that glance, I rolled over off the table onto the floor. The doctor yelled at her, but…I mean…how much more closely could I have been supervised?

  88. chava
    chava May 4, 2012 at 8:05 am |

    When I was five, my father was teaching me to swim. He left me on the steps with my little floaties on, got out to grab a towel and turned his back for all of ten seconds…

    In which time I decided I didn’t need the floaties, took them off, and jumped into the deep end. Yeah.

    And pools may not be “essential,” but learning to swim and be comfortable around water at a young age is a damn important life skill.

  89. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers May 4, 2012 at 9:28 am |

    I put my babies in the middle row of my van, where I could see them, and trained myself to check on them every thirty seconds.

    It was several years after they started going to daycare (as toddlers… they weren’t in daycare as infants) before I stopped sensing the presence of a “phantom baby” and freaking out every 30 seconds for a split second because when I checked on the baby, the baby wasn’t there… due to being a toddler in day care.

    You *can* avoid cooking your kids to death, but there are negative consequences to pretty much everything you do.

    Also, this is something that happens so often, I don’t understand why cars haven’t been designed such that, if the LATCH system is engaged and hooked in, and there is weight on the object that is LATCHed in, and the car is parked… the car alarm doesn’t go off within five minutes. We have cars that freak out because they’re on but the front seat belt isn’t clicked in; why can’t we have cars that freak out because they’re off but there are still ten pounds sitting in the infant car seat?

  90. Jadey
    Jadey May 4, 2012 at 9:47 am |

    Also, this is something that happens so often, I don’t understand why cars haven’t been designed such that, if the LATCH system is engaged and hooked in, and there is weight on the object that is LATCHed in, and the car is parked… the car alarm doesn’t go off within five minutes. We have cars that freak out because they’re on but the front seat belt isn’t clicked in; why can’t we have cars that freak out because they’re off but there are still ten pounds sitting in the infant car seat?

    Apparently this has been designed, but no one will manufacture it because they don’t want liability issues (according to the Weingarten article). For a failure to result in a horrific infant death, even once, would be a huge blow to a company, and that’s what they care about the most.

    I agree that people can train themselves into habits which make it strikingly unlikely that this will occur (although the base rate of occurrence is already incredibly low to begin with when you think about all of the times this could have happened and didn’t), but absolutely nothing provides a 100% guarantee that you won’t be subject to the perfect confluence of events that leads to making this relatively simple, horrifying mistake.

  91. EG
    EG May 4, 2012 at 9:48 am |

    Or automatically roll down the back seat windows?

  92. maggiemay
    maggiemay May 4, 2012 at 10:47 am |

    j is for judgmental

  93. jillian
    jillian May 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm |

    So I’m kind of… shocked that anyone actually lets their children to wander around pools without being VERY CLOSELY supervised.

    But that’s the point, isn’t it? “VERY CLOSELY supervised” doesn’t mean “standing within six inches of the child at all times with one’s eyes never resting on any other object of focus,” because it can’t, particularly when there is more than one child in the mix, because parents are human beings, as are children, and that’s simply not realistically possible. From what I can tell of these stories, the point is precisely that the children are being VERY CLOSELY supervised, and they fall in anyway.

    When I was some months old, I was in a doctor’s office, lying on the examination table. My mother had her hand on me. With her hand on me, she glanced out the window, and during that glance, I rolled over off the table onto the floor. The doctor yelled at her, but…I mean how much more closely could I have been supervised?

    i grew up near chicago and very few families had pools (and they were the aluminum above ground ones – very hard to accidentally fall in), now living in texas, almost every house built after 1965 has an in-ground one. when my husband and i were looking to buy a house, we didnt even look at ones with pools because our boys were 6mo and 3 at the time, besides not wanting the headache of the maintenance. there is a program called infant swimming that are drowning prevention lessons that very young children can learn so if they fall into a pool, they can get themselves to the edge. the first time i saw the video, i almost had a heart attack. obviously not a replacement for supervision, but some insurance.

    http://www.infantswim.com/

  94. jennygadget
    jennygadget May 4, 2012 at 1:48 pm |

    Pools are not essential or necessary….So I’m kind of… shocked that anyone actually lets their children to wander around pools without being VERY CLOSELY supervised. I think it’s pretty negligent to be honest. Especially at 18 months (!) And I think that’s what some people are getting at.

    You know, both my niece and nephew were taking swimming lessons by about 18 months. My sister used to swim in Junior Olympics swim meets and her daughter seems to be very much headed in that direction herself. She taught them to swim so young in part to teach them water safety but also to share that part of herself with her children.

    So, in addition to what EG said, I think what some of us are getting at is that what looks non-essential to you may not be as non-essential to the people that are actually involved in the decision.

    There is also knowing your kid. I doubt there was ever a time when toddler-aged niece or nephew were not closely watched at the pool, but I can promise you that by age three my niece probably needed the watching less than many kids twice her age. (Doesn’t mean she was watched less, just saying.) I also would have trusted her much more around a backyard pool than in a front yard. (Although, at age three kids just generally need watching.) This is the other problem with a lot of the “who would do that!?” questions – as has already been mentioned: kids are different.

    Jillian,

    That looks like a very good program. As I understand it, it’s also actually better in the long run to introduce children to swimming early on (if possible), they are less likely to have to unlearn fears or bad habits.

    fyi to everyone: One of the essential things to remember about young children and swimming is that since it is often a seasonal activity, they will usually need to relearn these skills every summer until they reach about age 5 or so.

  95. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll May 4, 2012 at 1:57 pm |

    I left my 4 month old daughter in her carrier by the car in the apartment parking lot once.

    I was a single mom, fucking exhausted working 2 jobs and going to school. At the end of the day I had to go to the grocery store. Got home, pulled the carrier out and set it down, grabbed the grocery bags full of stuff like milk….and forgot to pick up the carrier. Went upstairs, got the groceries put away then sat down. Then jumped up realizing I had left my kid downstairs in the parking lot.

    She was there, fast asleep and no one but the very awesome couple below me saw. They simply chuckled, told me to get some sleep and they’d babysit for a few hours.

    The attitude of those two wonderful women probably saved me from years of guilt.

    I called my mother and told her about it. She promptly told me about the time she set me in a walker, and I went ass over end down the stairs in it right before her eyes.

  96. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 4, 2012 at 3:40 pm |

    TW: injured kid, but one who recovered very well

    Warm June night. Put kids to bed. Husband’s band was practicing downstairs. Got into bed, turned TV & fan on, shut my door, relaxed. Ten minutes later, my then-8-y.o. burst through my door, telling me that my then-4-y.o. had fallen down the stairs and was crying.

    He said he wanted to “say goodnight to dad,” so he got out of bed and somehow missed the top step, and went tumbling.

    6 hrs later my husband called from the ER to say our son had a skull fracture and a small brain bleed, and they didn’t think they would have to do surgery, but weren’t sure. Also thought he might have fractured his first vertebra.

    Three days in PICU with him in a neck brace, uncomfortable and in pain and throwing up from morphine, undergoing x-rays and CT scans. No broken neck. Completely traumatized, though. For months.

    Me? It took me about 18 months of therapy, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, and completely withdrawing from friends to finally get back on keel.

    So, all you smart non-parents: Whose “fault” was that? Who should have been “punished” for it? Exactly what did my husband or I do “wrong”? Not know that this one time, our kid would break routine? Or maybe since fans and TV are noisy and not a necessity, I shouldn’t have had them on. Maybe my husband shouldn’t have been enjoying playing music with friends.

    Here’s a thought: Have kids, be constantly exhausted and overwhelmed, with a (hopefully temporary) loss of sense of self, work as hard as you can at being a good-enough parent, live through trauma (b/c yes, you will), and THEN come back amd explain how it’s just not that hard to not “let” something bad happen to your kids.

    It’s magical thinking to believe that parents can protect their children perfectly. No parent can. People are imperfect, and shit happens.

  97. Lyanna
    Lyanna May 4, 2012 at 4:10 pm |

    Erica: your street-crossing example isn’t really on point, because (as you yourself said), the actual real-life example didn’t involve negligence.

    You invented a hypothetical example that may involve negligence. And I’d still say it doesn’t necessarily, depending on the circumstances.

    Every situation has risks. Every lifestyle has risks. There are some risks that are manifestly unreasonable. And we can blame parents for not guarding against those. But there aren’t too many, and we should err on the side of not sending grieving parents to jail.

  98. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar May 4, 2012 at 4:29 pm |

    I don’t usually self-credential all the parenting hardship stories, but there are reasons I’m thinking “Tinfoil Hattie QFT x10^26″ right now. As a parent I’ve dealt with more kid surgeries than I have kids. I’ve spent more time holding preemies by the side of lexan warming boxes than I want to remember. Everything’s okay now, but when you’ve been on a first name basis with the receptionist, the nurse, the doctor; when you’re fed all your kids in the waiting rooms of your other kids’ doctors, when you’ve gone months on end without sustained sleep, in the drone zone just trying to hang on, it affects your perspective.

    There’s So Much just-world thinking in this thread, people trying to rationalize that bad things don’t happen to parents who are good enough. But … they do. Life and death come down to luck. Just like rape doesn’t come down to who leaves their drink unattended or who looks in the back seat of the car before getting in, parenting tragedies don’t come down to who really really really truly is the best mommy. If you think it does, be very glad your life experiences allow you that fallacious conclusion, and piss off.

  99. Andrew Pari, LCSW
    Andrew Pari, LCSW May 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm |

    I’m really glad you all raised the swimming pool (and there are MANY other accidental dangers in the home) as a serious concern. I have worked with so many paranoid parents who are afraid that there child will be kidnapped/raped/murdered by some random pedophile (or other similar event) while they fail to do basic things to secure the home.
    When I try to reassure them by showing them the statistical reality of child kidnappings versus preventable/tragic deaths, they wave it away in disbelief, so force-fed are they by the nightly news “Is your child in danger playing in the backyard?” types of stories.
    Tragic deaths are horrible, but when we fail to do basic precaution because our focus is on the fantastic, I worry about where our collective heads are at.

  100. Cara
    Cara May 4, 2012 at 5:49 pm |

    It’s really not that hard to not abuse or neglect your kids, folks. It doesn’t require being a “perfect parent.” And, no, I’m not a parent, for the record…

    Save yer drama for yer mama. Clearly that’s where YOUR issues lie. Talk to her directly, please.

  101. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 4, 2012 at 5:56 pm |

    Thank you, Andrew Pari. I see now that I should have removed my stairway. Also my TV and fan. Maybe my stove and oven, while I’m at it? Cars. No cars! No bathtub, no hot water heater. No electrical outlets! Should never have built the swingset! OMG what about the lawn mower? Years ago, two nearby 7-year-olds went into their shed and accidentally caused an explosion. It was AWFUL. So no more sheds!

    Yes. Children, tragically, drown in pools. What a horrific experience for the families, friends, and caregivers. Unspeakably cruel accidents.

    And, MOST children DON’T drown in pools. Horrible, tragic ACCIDENTS occur all the time. Might even occur again in my family. I can’t protect against all of them. Like all other non-abusive, non-neglectful parents, I do my best, and then I hope it is enough.

  102. Donna L
    Donna L May 4, 2012 at 6:20 pm |

    It’s magical thinking to believe that parents can protect their children perfectly. No parent can. People are imperfect, and shit happens.

    So true. Of course it’s not a good idea to let your baby crawl around on a superhighway to teach it how to get out of the way of moving objects, but sometimes, as so many have said, things happen.

    My ex and I waited until my son was 10 (he was both small for his age and was often rather absent-minded) before allowing him to cross the street for the first time. (We lived on a suburban street where a lot of cars tended to go way too fast, at the top of a hill with a blind curve where it was impossible to see a car coming until almost the last second.) We explained everything, had him practice repeatedly with a parent right behind, and had him cross at the least dangerous corner, where the blind curve wasn’t a problem.

    But the VERY FIRST TIME he crossed the street by himself, with parental observation from a distance, even though he did everything right, he was hit by a car that made a left turn right into him, and sent him flying onto the hood and into the street.

    And I know it was sheer luck that he landed on his side and not his head, and didn’t even break anything. I can’t think about very much, even all these years later, without my mind immediately going, over and over again, to what could so easily have happened.

    The woman who hit him was crying at least as much as he was; she said she didn’t see him. Was she paying attention as much as she should have? Who knows? Thank God it wasn’t an issue that needed to be investigated, not that I would have cared about that, or much of anything else, if it had. As it was, I felt sorry for her.

    It still makes me shudder to think about. And I was *always* hyper-vigilant as a parent; I felt and acted, from the moment he was born, essentially as if I had to guard him continuously from the stealthy approach of the Angel of Death. As if I were some 12th century Jewish mother putting amulets around his crib to guard him against demons. I know as well as anyone that there are no certainties, and that no matter how careful in life you are (as a parent or anything else), everything can be taken away in an instant. Even though, of course, I did what I could to reduce the odds. (Such feelings are not atypical when the child of a Holocaust survivor becomes a parent.)

  103. Cara
    Cara May 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm |

    Haven’t most people driven with a few drinks in their system?

    No.

    And also, shaking our heads and saying “it happens to everyone” potentially keeps us from developing ways to prevent these things from happening.

    Again, no. That’s not what happens.

    What happens is that people who have this stuff happen to them feel horrible forever if it’s bad, and for less long if it comes out okay. Saying these things happen to everyone (or could happen to anyone) is stating a fact. That’s all. It doesn’t prevent people from feeling bad and learning from their mistakes (or feeling horrible forever).

  104. Cara
    Cara May 4, 2012 at 6:39 pm |

    So I’m kind of… shocked that anyone actually lets their children to wander around pools without being VERY CLOSELY supervised.

    Oh, honestly. What part of “it only takes an instant” is going over people’s heads, here? Are there truly so few posters who’ve never taken care of small children?

    My sister and I took our kids to a water park. (No problem, our kids were fine, so was the kid I’m going to talk about). My sister was standing and watching the kids VERY CLOSELY. It didn’t register that the lifeguard was diving past her to yank another kid up who had been under the water a bit too long until the lifeguard had set the kid on the side of the pool.

    My sister was standing right there and hadn’t noticed that split-second the other kid was under the water. Why ever not? For one thing, SHE’S NOT A PROFESSIONAL LIFEGUARD.

  105. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date May 5, 2012 at 1:36 pm |

    But the VERY FIRST TIME he crossed the street by himself, with parental observation from a distance, even though he did everything right, he was hit by a car that made a left turn right into him, and sent him flying onto the hood and into the street.

    I feel a need to say, derail-ishly, that a 10-year-old being unable to cross a street safely by himself does not point to a failure in parental supervision. Or even a failure in self-supervision. It points to a failure in street design. Streets need to be designed for all people, not just for people in cars.

    /transportation activism

  106. synna
    synna May 5, 2012 at 8:09 pm |

    I have a couple thoughts on this issue, which may not be popular.

    Firstly, for non-parent/child killings, ie causing the death of someone else, (western) society has generally created two ways of seeing this – murder, if you deliberately cause the death of someone, and manslaughter, if you accidentally cause the death of someone. I feel like people are arguing here that a parent’s failure to supervise/take care of their children doesn’t fit either. I think it fits the latter category. Yes sure, you didn’t mean to kill your kid, but hey, you did, and guess what, that’s called manslaughter. Whether a person is charged or convicted is for the police/judicial process to decide, as flawed as they are.

    Secondly, intent is not magic, it doesn’t absolve one of the consequences of one’s actions. How many times does that get said on feminist sites when it comes to sexual harassment or other discrimination issues. Intent is not magic here either. Just because you didn’t mean to hurt someone doesn’t make you not responsible, or immune to punishment if you do cause harm.

    I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a parent who leaves their kid in a hot car and comes back to find them dead, it would be devastating beyond words, however, that doesn’t mean that they should automatically get a free pass from the law. What if they were babysitting some one else’s child? People would be baying for their blood!

  107. Tapetum
    Tapetum May 5, 2012 at 10:55 pm |

    synna – there is a bit of a difference in that most people do not continually do things that will get them killed if someone does not stop them. Indeed, if an adult is trying to commit suicide, that generally absolves a second party involved in their death of manslaughter (I.e. you are not held liable for hitting someone with your car if they jumped out in front of it, unless you were doing something else illegal, like speeding or driving drunk). The law generally recognizes that it’s hard to stop someone from hurting themselves if they’re intent on it.

    Small children can be extremely intent on doing things that will get them hurt or killed. That baby wants to roll over sooo bad. That pan handle is soooo tempting. The water looks soooo interesting! They may not be intending to hurt themselves, but they can be every bit as hard to stop as an adult who does have that intention.

    I wouldn’t argue that parents should automatically get a free pass when their child is hurt or killed – but the key word there is automatic. The law should also not expect people in charge of children, whether parents or babysitters, or any other adult, to be superhuman, which is often what we seem to expect.

  108. rain
    rain May 5, 2012 at 11:08 pm |

    society has generally created two ways of seeing this – murder, if you deliberately cause the death of someone, and manslaughter, if you accidentally cause the death of someone.

    I’m not a lawyer either, but a quick google shows that accidental death /= manslaughter. For an accident to be seen as involuntary manslaughter, there needs to be some kind of negligence or, as one definition put it, “an improper use of reasonable care”.

    More generally, I wonder how much overlap there is between the “your kid drowned because you weren’t watching them closely enough” crowd and the “bah! helicopter parents! back in my day, we were kicked outside to play and roam the neighborhood until suppertime” crowd.

  109. EG
    EG May 5, 2012 at 11:18 pm |

    Also, hey, society has failed to create lots of things that are needed. Society may have created murder and manslaughter as categories; that doesn’t mean that we’re obligated to use them and only them as categories from here unto eternity. Society fucks up a lot of things.

    And…”a free pass”? Seriously, what, precisely, do you think these parents are getting away with? A lifetime of horror and misery?

  110. suspect class
    suspect class May 5, 2012 at 11:26 pm |

    Manslaughter involves significantly more fault than simply saying that it’s someone causing a death accidentally. That’s something we call an accident. Manslaughter generally is an intentional killing with mitigation due to extreme emotional state, or a killing that is reckless, or occurs during a non-felony criminal act, and generally there’s also a requirement of showing something along the lines of “extreme indifference to human life.” That’s not the same as forgetting to take your baby out of the car when you go to the grocery store.

  111. Schmorgluck
    Schmorgluck May 6, 2012 at 1:03 am |

    @synna

    I have a couple thoughts on this issue, which may not be popular.

    Firstly, for non-parent/child killings, ie causing the death of someone else, (western) society has generally created two ways of seeing this – murder, if you deliberately cause the death of someone, and manslaughter, if you accidentally cause the death of someone. I feel like people are arguing here that a parent’s failure to supervise/take care of their children doesn’t fit either. I think it fits the latter category. Yes sure, you didn’t mean to kill your kid, but hey, you did, and guess what, that’s called manslaughter. Whether a person is charged or convicted is for the police/judicial process to decide, as flawed as they are.

    This is the way it is formulated in US legalese. Other legal systems use different wordings. In the example I linked above, the woman was charged for “homicide involontaire par négligence”, which I can translate, as literally as I can, as “unvoluntary homicide through neglectfulness”. I’m not sure how it would translate in US legalese. The judge condemned her, but took into account a barely legal exemption of “inattention” (“inattentiveness”), and actually her whole decision to exempt the mother from any penalty was almost illegal. Exemption of penalty is a rare occurrence in French courts, and it usually supposes the damage has been fully repaired. When a death is involved, there’s no possible “full repararation”. Yet, as pointed out by Eolas, a Parisian advocate who holds a blog for the purpose of vulgarizing the working of the legal system, any penalty against the mother would have been pointless in that case. He added that when there’s no better conceivable decision, the decision taken is the right one.

  112. synna
    synna May 6, 2012 at 1:19 am |

    @ suspect class

    I would argue that forgetting a baby in the backseat is showing a clear indifference to life.

    @ EG

    That ‘free pass’ is in reference to the law, not their personal suffering, as implied in my post.

    @ Schmorgluck

    I’m not from the US.

  113. Argenti Aertheri
    Argenti Aertheri May 6, 2012 at 3:14 am |

    Synna, did you read the Weingarten article? We aren’t talking about parents who “forgot” their kid while drunk or something, we’re talking about parents who don’t normally have a kid in the backseat forgetting that they do today, because other actual life stressors take over those fancy higher functioning parts of the brain and the reptile bits take over and they just drive to work and walk in and the change in routine of dropping the child off at daycare gets forgotten when “do routine” parts of the brain are handling the day-to-day stuff….basically, if you’ve ever forgotten where you put your cell phone/keys/glasses/etc, you could forget you’ve got a small child in the car — which is some scary ass shit and a good reason to call for car monitors to solve this, but not a good reason to demonize the parents as inherently neglectful. (This is much closer to not realizing the baby’s woken up until the baby cries than ignoring the baby once ze is crying…except when baby wakes up alone in the car, there’s no parent around to hear, no matter how much they’d come running if they heard)

    And to everyone with a more advanced psych degree than me, yeah I know I just massively simplified that.

  114. AnneT
    AnneT May 6, 2012 at 7:16 am |

    I may have missed this in the comments, but is anyone else disturbed by the attention being given to the tanning bed mom? Would I put a kid in a tanning bed? No, but remember that the whole incident started when a teacher noticed the child had a sunburn. And from the story I saw, that child has red hair (if you don’t know any natural redheads, they are usually the sort who can get sunburned easily).
    I have fair skinned children who use sunscreen but if they get sunburned, I wonder if I’ll get in trouble, if that’s the way we are going.

  115. EG
    EG May 6, 2012 at 8:52 am |

    That ‘free pass’ is in reference to the law, not their personal suffering, as implied in my post.

    Yes, I understood that. My point is that it’s a foolish phrase to use, because it has nothing to do with the reality of the situation.

  116. Azalea
    Azalea May 6, 2012 at 10:28 am |

    Synna I LOVE your comment. Im a parent, accidents happen. Not being able to stop my child from falling down the stairs is not the same as “accidentally” pushing him down the stairs to his death. Not being able to keep my child from getting into the car and STAYING there until he dies from the heat is NOT the same as PUTTING him in the car and carseat and LEAVING him in there to die.

    We werent talking about being jailed because your child pretty much committed suicide, we’re talking about killing your child with YOUR action or INACTION. Children are not suicidal, they do not WANT to die they are not intentionally TRYING to kill themselves, they simply don’t know any better. Being a parent means being responsible for someone else. Seriously, we say all the damn time how we cant put mothers on a pedastal but now suddenly they get a free pass on killing their own children because it was an accident? If a babysitter leaves a child home alone and the house burns down do we say ” well she couldnt stop the kid from killing himself!?”

  117. Azalea
    Azalea May 6, 2012 at 10:33 am |

    I may have missed this in the comments, but is anyone else disturbed by the attention being given to the tanning bed mom? Would I put a kid in a tanning bed? No, but remember that the whole incident started when a teacher noticed the child had a sunburn. And from the story I saw, that child has red hair (if you don’t know any natural redheads, they are usually the sort who can get sunburned easily).
    I have fair skinned children who use sunscreen but if they get sunburned, I wonder if I’ll get in trouble, if that’s the way we are going.

    Did you see the woman in question? Im a “light brown” woman of color and she is much darker than I am. This woman is white but her skin is literaklly burned from all of the tanning she has done. I would not trust her judgement with regards to tanning for ANYONE especially not a child. Tanning beds are not the same as the natural sun. You can sit under the sun for hours and not cook but if you tried that shit in a tanning bed it could be the last thing you ever do. Big difference. The issue was a combination of things not simply having a child with a sunburn.

    If this was the FATHER and not the mother, would you consider the safety of the child then?

  118. Azalea
    Azalea May 6, 2012 at 10:49 am |

    We aren’t talking about parents who “forgot” their kid while drunk or something, we’re talking about parents who don’t normally have a kid in the backseat forgetting that they do today, because other actual life stressors take over those fancy higher functioning parts of the brain and the reptile bits take over and they just drive to work and walk in and the change in routine of dropping the child off at daycare gets forgotten when “do routine” parts of the brain are handling the day-to-day stuff….basically, if you’ve ever forgotten where you put your cell phone/keys/glasses/etc, you could forget you’ve got a small child in the car — which is some scary ass shit and a good reason to call for car monitors to solve this, but not a good reason to demonize the parents as inherently neglectful.

    I disagree. I’ve forgotten my wallet, my keys, I’ve left a massive amount of cash on the metro, I’ve even taken off and forgotten my wedding ring. I have never EVER forgotten my children. They’ve fallen asleep in the car and we didnt forget. You’d have to close your car door without looking at the car to forget the child. Plenty of people take a child somewhere for the first time ever and do not forget the child. This seems to me like a problem that is unique only to specific people. This isn’t about luck it is about the way some people think.

  119. Cara
    Cara May 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm |

    I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a parent who leaves their kid in a hot car and comes back to find them dead, it would be devastating beyond words, however, that doesn’t mean that they should automatically get a free pass from the law. What if they were babysitting some one else’s child? People would be baying for their blood!

    I seem to be losing patience. Who the hell is saying they should get a free pass from the law?

    Most parents that did this would fucking cut their own throats on the spot when they realized what they’d done–unless they had other children, that is.

    All anyone is saying (aside from those who want to discuss the oh-so-interesting ideas about what the law would or should do to a parent who has this mental lapse, puke, “interesting”, my ass) is that, yes, parents’ brains are flawed. We can do everything in our power train ourselves to be like air traffic controllers but it only takes one slip for the plane to get through.

    And if you don’t have kids or have never been solely responsible for a child’s constant care day in, day out, for years? Shut up. Seriously.

    I hope to hell I’d never cook my kid in a car. I’m almost positive I wouldn’t. And, yes, once we’re aware of something horrible happening to some other kid we can add THAT to the unending list of shit we have to be constantly vigilant about.

    But there’s always something. The list keeps growing. The world keeps changing. It’s changing faster all the time. Pressures on human parents are changing all the time. It’s not the same as it was when kids were on the farm next to their parents most of the time. I’m sure that kids died in accidents at home back then, too. It just wasn’t broadcast all over the world in an instant when they did.

  120. DonnaL
    DonnaL May 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm |

    But there’s always something. The list keeps growing. The world keeps changing.

    I know. It’s overwhelming. I really have felt, ever since my son was born, that I have to be hyper-vigilant 24 hours a day, no matter how impossible it is. Maybe it’s partly because I”m such an overprotective, overanxious Jewish parent, but every time I hear about anything awful happening to anyone, even now that my son is over 21, I’m tempted to call him up and warn him to be careful. “Don’t climb mountains in the Himalayas! You could fall off!” When that awful, horrible thing happened a few years ago to that poor woman whose face was destroyed by her friend’s pet chimpanzee (she’s the woman who subsequently received a face transplant), I did actually call him up and warn him to stay away from chimpanzees. I can’t help myself, but I know I can’t keep doing this until he’s 40.

  121. Cara
    Cara May 6, 2012 at 12:25 pm |

    I have never EVER forgotten my children.

    Yet.

    I’m perfectly willing to say, I’m sure you never will.

    Me either. Yet. I don’t think I ever will.

    But being all outraged at some woman who did is just more mommy-wars, I’m-better bullshit that people are encouraged to do to each other. Why? To keep up interest in the news so the sponsors can sell more shit.

    Sure, let the law do what it thinks is best to a parent who forgot their kid was in the backseat of the car. But why do WE have to get all holier-than-thou about it? The child can’t be helped by that. If I think about the child’s suffering I’ll go stark raving mad. But that child won’t come back to life. Why assume that parent isn’t going insane, if strangers can’t even touch on it without feeling a bit crazy?

    I’m disgusted by the woman who put her kid in a tanning bed. Thank god the kid’s alive. The other people lost their heads temporarily. This woman did this on purpose. Big difference. But I have no control. I can’t call CPS. She doesn’t live in my community. I wouldn’t know about her without the news.

  122. Cara
    Cara May 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm |

    More generally, I wonder how much overlap there is between the “your kid drowned because you weren’t watching them closely enough” crowd and the “bah! helicopter parents! back in my day, we were kicked outside to play and roam the neighborhood until suppertime” crowd.

    Rain, I suspect there’s PLENTY of overlap. I see a Venn diagram with “Childless people” and “grandparents who don’t like their daughter-in-law” forming the center. And both groups saying BOTH things.

  123. Cara
    Cara May 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm |

    When I was a kid my father had a Jeep, the kind with the cloth top that snaps on over the rollbar. He took us for rides in it. This was before seatbelt requirements, before no-kids-in-the-pickup-bed requirements. Late 70’s.

    One summer day (hot black vinyl in the back, top off) we were leaving somewhere. I was the oldest, about 11. I had my little sister (about 3) on my lap, sitting on the sideways seat, holding her with one arm and the rollbar with the other. The vinyl was hot on her baby legs, you see.

    We were nearly home, paved road; my father accelerated to go up a hill. That tiny punch of speed yanked my sister from my arms and out of the Jeep. Silently. I held her against the outside back of the Jeep with everything I had and screamed for my father to stop.

    I don’t know if hitting the pavement at that speed would have killed her. At the time, I certainly thought it would have. My father seemed to think so, too. I’d never seen him shake like that before and never saw it again.

    Parents make mistakes. They make mistakes they don’t know are mistakes. They make mistakes nobody else would DREAM are mistakes–except people who’ve made the same one, and had something tragic happen as a result.

  124. Lyanna
    Lyanna May 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm |

    Azalea, seriously, that’s your argument? You’ve never forgotten your child, therefore anyone who does is criminally negligent? Give me a fucking break.

    I always close the car door without checking the back seat. If I have a child in the future, I might very well revert to the habit I formed through years of childlessness in a moment of memory lapse, and accidentally shut the door on my child in the back seat.

    It’s stupid to expect perfect memory from humans and then criminally punish them when they don’t live up to it.

    And are you completely obtuse, that you don’t understand that kids often take action that will get them killed? You say they don’t want to die, which misses the point. The point is they’re taking dangerous action, because they don’t know better. And parents can’t control that beyond a certain limited degree. Parents can’t watch every move the kid makes.

  125. Azalea
    Azalea May 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm |

    Are you seriously saying not cooking your child to death requires a perfect memory?

    Wow.

    Yeah, that’s bullshit. Seriously that is bullshit. Accidentally causing the death of anyone is tragic, for most people it makes them feel like shit. They may not be bad people but they did a truly fucked up thing. Not every drunk driver is some self absorbed assholes, some of them are people with stress and issues maybe alcoholism that needed to get from point A to point B didnt have money for a cab, a friend to call and couldnt walk to their destination. They drive, underestimating how drunk they are but they do and they kill someone. NO ONE questions whether or not the drunk driver fucked up! You CAN accidentally leave your child in a car, right now it is not criminal to cook a child with your car you simply say “I forgot” and all is forgiven as far as the law is concerned. But MOST parents who drive do not cook their children in their cars. The vast majority of parents do not cook their children in cars so it doesn’t take some super fucking human mental ability to NOT do this mistake/accident/tragic/horrible thing. My entire point in bringing that up is that I tend to be absentminded and routine oriented but my children are never lost in that. I have forgotten a request for a toy but never forgot that my child is someplace with me, even when the routinely rambucous two are sleep, or usunually quiet, or Im having one on one time with a single tot or or or or or or. Im just getting really fucking irritated at the idea that “anybody” could cook their children in a car, that’s bullshit.

    And how fucking obtuse is your ass to come at me, a parent, about the things that children do? I have toddlers, primetime for getting into dangerous shit, TWO of them! They’re still alive *gasp* they aren’t dying *gasp* and it didnt take some super fucking unicorn magical disney bullshit to keep them safe from what you think
    is such a difficult thing to do; not cooking them alive in a gotdamn car.

  126. Lauralot
    Lauralot May 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm |

    Oh for fuck’s sake. Have all the people whining about how they would never, ever forget a baby in a car actually bothered to read the damn article about hyperthermia? It quite clearly states that your brain stores the information “baby in the backseat” the same way it stores “cellphone on the dashboard.” Consciously, of course a baby is infinitely more important to us than a phone. But subconsciously, they’re exactly the goddamn same.

    Sure, maybe you’ve forgotten other shit, but not your kid. But that doesn’t mean you could never, ever forget a child in the back seat of your car. Even if you take steps to prevent it. Accidents happen. They can damn well happen to anyone, and stop pretending that you’re somehow better because you haven’t had a bad one.

  127. EG
    EG May 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm |

    Nobody is saying that it is difficult not to get your child killed. The point is that every parent will have a memory lapse about something; since most things won’t get a kid killed, it’s not a big deal. But the process of memory lapse is no different when it is something that kills the child. And, importantly, there’s no way to control what things you’ll have a memory lapse about, because if you could, they wouldn’t be memory lapses. So…the part about you’ve never had that particular kind of memory lapse? It’s not because you’re a great mother, though you may be. It’s because in that respect, you’ve been lucky.

  128. Chiara
    Chiara May 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm |

    Yeah leaving a child in car to cook is horrible and way careless. But often kids are out doing stuff by themselves and it’s not humanly possible or even healthy to have an adult watching them like a hawk all the time.

    Kids can do stuff that’s dangerous like jumping off sheds for example which a friend of mine did, or swimming in a river that has deceptive under-water currents. If kids hurt themselves in these situations it’s tragic but it doesn’t make the parents criminals.

    Just because you think you’re Mrs Perfect Mum or whatever because you’ve not had the misfortune of one of your kids doing some fucked up shit while you weren’t there don’t think you can go judging other people.

  129. Argenti Aertheri
    Argenti Aertheri May 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm |

    Azalea, normally I agree with you so much regarding the rights of children that there’s no point in me commenting, nothing for me to add, but *please* read that article, at least the last 2 pages, actually read wtf happens to these parents both when they forget the child, how that happens, and at trial, as plenty of cases do go to trial.

    It’s not that it requires perfect memory not to forget the child(ren) but that, when distracted and stressed and routine is changed, it’s far too easy to forget the child(ren) if you haven’t already established some system to prevent that — eg checking the backseat every time you leave the car.

    No, not cooking your child doesn’t require you be perfect, it does require you know the risk and how easy a mistake this is though (which is wtf my point about car sensors was, that, given this is far too easy a mistake for a human brain, we should let the more reliable car computers alert to children present)

    And not that it’s on topic, but some children are suicidal surprisingly young, I wasn’t out of grade school before my first attempt (call that a random fact of the day, ignore it if it’s too far OT)

    But Lyanna nailed how this happens to good parents:

    I always close the car door without checking the back seat. If I have a child in the future, I might very well revert to the habit I formed through years of childlessness in a moment of memory lapse, and accidentally shut the door on my child in the back seat.

    Please read the article’s last bits at least, where a NASA team has designed a computer solution to this after a co-worker lost a child to his car, where the memory-expert lost a child this way, where another expert is shaken that if he had had his grandchild and not wife with him he probably would’ve forgotten the child, etc — part of the problem here is parents thinking it can’t happen to them and thus shrugging off the very real danger. (and note and I grew up next to the ocean, I’m not saying no children in cars! or no children near water! I’m saying “damnit, put a life vest on that kid!”)

  130. Azalea
    Azalea May 6, 2012 at 3:45 pm |

    It’s really not that hard to not abuse or neglect your kids, folks. It doesn’t require being a “perfect parent.” And, no, I’m not a parent, for the record… I’m just really tired of seeing anything and anything parents do defended, and if I object, “OMG U DON’T SUPPORT TEH MAMAS!!!”

    The responses to this that act like this statement was remotely untrue were mind boggling. How could it be difficult to NOT abuse or neglect your child?

    Please read the article’s last bits at least, where a NASA team has designed a computer solution to this after a co-worker lost a child to his car, where the memory-expert lost a child this way, where another expert is shaken that if he had had his grandchild and not wife with him he probably would’ve forgotten the child, etc

    The article linked within the OP does not mention any of what you’re talking about here, its just a personal anecdote of a woman who did something she knew she wasnt supposed to do and her child was hurt as a result. That’s not a good example of “it could happen to anybody” because most people actually take heed to those manufacturer warnings.

    Last summer there was a man in the DC area who left his child in the car while he was at work, the child dies. The daycare was on his way to work. The daycare provider called him twice before he called back. There was no police investigation but many people didn’t think this was an accident. Yeah, I know, being such a busy man he usually did not take the child to daycare ok so mistake number #1 is understood. He says the child did not say a word or make a sound during the ride or when the car stopped so he didn’t remember the child was in the car, ok mistake #2. He didn’t have a reason why he didn’t answer the daycare calls fuckup #1 (you ALWAYS answer the calls from the people who you *think* have your child in their care, ALWAYS). Fishy fact #1 the child was the result of his wife’s affair with another man that he adopted.

    But you know, these things “happen to everyone” and there is absolutely no reason to think there was any difference between leaving his cellphone and his newly adopted child in the car…in the summer.

  131. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 6, 2012 at 5:13 pm |

    I think the odd thing here is assuming its an accident because if it happened to you it would be an accident. My parents laughingly tell the story of when they left me in the car as a toddler because I was always such a pain and came out to find that a concerned bypasser had broken their window to get me out. They told the police that they had simply forgotten me, of course, but “from then on we had to take her everywhere because we certainly couldn’t afford another broken window.” It isn’t always an accident. Some parents find their children an annoyance and don’t consider the consequences of their actions or don’t consider their children’s lives all that important.

  132. Alex S
    Alex S May 6, 2012 at 5:21 pm |

    It is the Weingarten article about parents forgetting their children in the car that everyone is talking about, Azalea.

  133. Argenti Aertheri
    Argenti Aertheri May 6, 2012 at 5:48 pm |

    Azelea, Alex S above me has the link to the article I meant, it’s linked in the comments on both this thread and the one linked in the OP, but I should’ve been clearer.

    you ALWAYS answer the calls from the people who you *think* have your child in their care, ALWAYS

    *that* is a point I will agree with you on, and I question why there wasn’t so much as an investigation given he ignored not one but two calls from daycare — ignoring the childcare provider is neglect, mistakes #1 & 2 are the beginnings of a terrible accident though (please do read that article, one of the mothers only realized wtf had happened when she did answer that call from daycare, but it was already too late)

    And Kristen J, I realize you meant “if it happened to you [as a parent]” but I have no real intentions on becoming a parent, and was a child once, so I read that as “if it happened to you [as a child]” and my parents did *plenty* of fucked up shit, so no, I don’t think it’s *always* an accident, but rather that it’s far too easy of a mistake to make and thus people should take “it could happen to me” precautions (eg always putting your bag in the backseat, thus ensuring you have to be back there and will check the car seat) — I’m sorry if my comments came off as “parents/mothers can do no wrong” cuz damned do I know that they can.

    Before I post my novella here though:

    Not all cases of infant hyperthermia in cars are like the ones this article is about: simple if bewildering lapses of memory by an otherwise apparently good parent. In other types of cases, there is a history of prior neglect, or evidence of substance abuse. Sometimes, the parent knowingly left the child in the car, despite the obvious peril. In one particularly egregious instance, a mother used her locked car as an inexpensive substitute for day care. When hyperthermia deaths are treated as crimes, these are the ones that tend to result in prison sentences.

    I don’t think anyone is saying that using a car as a play-pen/babysitter isn’t somewhere on the abuse/neglect scale. (and Kristen, I’m sorry your parents were such assholes, they make mine sound like half way decent people, and that takes effort)

  134. Lauralot
    Lauralot May 6, 2012 at 5:58 pm |

    The article linked within the OP does not mention any of what you’re talking about here, its just a personal anecdote of a woman who did something she knew she wasnt supposed to do and her child was hurt as a result. That’s not a good example of “it could happen to anybody” because most people actually take heed to those manufacturer warnings.

    Are you being willfully obtuse or are you just not reading other posts before you comment?

  135. Lauralot
    Lauralot May 6, 2012 at 6:02 pm |

    But you know, these things “happen to everyone” and there is absolutely no reason to think there was any difference between leaving his cellphone and his newly adopted child in the car…in the summer.

    Never mind, you clearly are being willfully obtuse and this proves it. No one is saying that leaving a cell phone in a car is exactly like leaving a baby in a car, despite your strawmanning. We’re saying that the subconscious files information about cell phones and infants in the same damn way, and therefore it is entirely possible to have memory lapses involving each, even if you’re a wonderful parent who would never intentionally abuse or neglect a child.

  136. Argenti Aertheri
    Argenti Aertheri May 6, 2012 at 6:23 pm |

    Lauralot, I don’t think Azelea’s being willfully obtuse, I think she missed the link to that article when it was first mentioned and thus assumed we’re talking about the OP — it’s an easy enough mistake to make, particularly considering this entire hyperthermia discussion is a derail/side conversation.

    And my point with how it “could happen to anyone” wasn’t that this is something that everyone does at some point, eg leaving your phone in the car/home, but that because it could happen to anyone if they don’t take precautions against it, everyone needs to take some level of backseat checking precaution. (“everyone” here is intended to include at least all primary caregivers for born-children, though starting to train your brain to check the backseat before you/your child’s mother gives birth is probably a good idea)

  137. Lyanna
    Lyanna May 6, 2012 at 7:06 pm |

    Oh, she’s being obtuse, all right. Her ‘argument’–it’s not really an argument at all–boils down to “Cooking to death in a car is really horrible and doesn’t happen all that often. Therefore, it must be the parents’ fault when it does happen.”

    It’s total crap.

    Yes, most parents don’t forget their kids in the car. Most parents don’t have tragic accidents of any kind. That doesn’t mean that all tragic accidents are the parents’ fault. Most aren’t.

    And yes, it does require perfect memory to ALWAYS remember if your child is still in the car with you. You may have gotten lucky and never forgotten it, but rest assured, your brain is capable of it.

    Your brain is also capable of failing to control everything your toddlers do. You don’t have any magical special good-parent powers that prevent accidents that happen only to bad parents. If you think you do, you’re a fool who confuses luck with good parenting.

  138. maggiemay
    maggiemay May 6, 2012 at 7:08 pm |

    my daughter, who is 12 now, almost drowned in the kiddie pool when i was right there with her—she simply lost her footing—another mom who was there alerted me 2 what was going on and i pulled her out
    when i was 6 wks old i grabbed my dad’s cigarette and blistered my fingers—my grandmother reamed his ass for it
    —-you know, i really think that the reason ppl are hypervigilant now is because of these mistakes that were made in the past—unfortunately all mistakes cant be avoided, especially by inexperienced ppl, and mistakes can have fatal consequences

  139. Lyanna
    Lyanna May 6, 2012 at 7:14 pm |

    Nobody is saying that it is difficult not to get your child killed. The point is that every parent will have a memory lapse about something; since most things won’t get a kid killed, it’s not a big deal. But the process of memory lapse is no different when it is something that kills the child. And, importantly, there’s no way to control what things you’ll have a memory lapse about, because if you could, they wouldn’t be memory lapses. So…the part about you’ve never had that particular kind of memory lapse? It’s not because you’re a great mother, though you may be. It’s because in that respect, you’ve been lucky.

    Quoted for a truth that’s being missed here.

    If you are a parent, there is a 99.9999999% chance that you’ve had a childcare-related memory lapse.

    That kind of memory lapse works the same way, as EG points out, whether there is a safety issue at stake or not.

    You haven’t cooked your kid to death in a car? Great–that means you haven’t had a memory lapse at the right time for that to happen. That makes you either (1) lucky, or (2) savvier-than-average about how memory works, so that you’ve given yourself some kind of system to help you remember.

    It does not make you a more caring parent than the people who do have a memory lapse at the wrong moment. It makes you, at best, more knowledgeable. More likely it just makes you luckier.

  140. Andrew Pari, LCSW
    Andrew Pari, LCSW May 9, 2012 at 8:36 pm |

    Tinfoil, not sure what I wrote that touched such a nerve, but I apologize. I was making a distinction between what we can control (even if it’s difficult to track everything) and what we can’t.
    I wasn’t saying people shouldn’t have pools (or sheds, cause you need somewhere to change). Just that covering pools (or similar such) can prevent a common accident and is less a focus for many parents than worrying about stuff they can’t control AND that happens far less often (rampaging neighborhood killer pedophile).

    If you saw my earlier comment, you know I’m NOT putting blame on parents/caregivers who had the tragic/unfortunate happen.

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