Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Failures of Memory, Not of Love

Every parent fucks up.

Even the most devoted, loving, attentive mommy or daddy in the world can drop the ball occasionally when it comes to his or her kids. Sometimes kids go to bed unwashed or with dirty teeth. Sometimes lunches, homework, and backpacks, can be utterly overlooked in the rush to get out the door in the morning. Kids were occasionally dropped off in my preschool class with clothing inside out and/or backward, sometimes with mismatched socks or even shoes. Most of these occasions are met with amusement or, at worst, irritation as the parent frantically tries to undo his or her error while still juggling the myriad tasks that must be completed that day.

But there is one awful fuck-up that can never be undone--leaving your infant or toddler in a hot car to die.

You're probably thinking, No way that could ever happen to me. Those parents were stupid and negligent and never should have had kids in the first place. Well, I have bad news for you. You, too, are capable of accidentally killing your own children, not because you don't love them, but because you are at the mercy of a faulty organic computing system known as the human brain. You may think you've got your shit together and are an awesome multi-tasker, but you can screw up just as easily as anyone else.

Last summer, before I even started this blog, I read this Pulitzer Prize-winning article: Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of the Car Is a Horrible Mistake. Is It a Crime? Once I stopped crying, I started thinking. I had always assumed that this only happened to "bad" parents and there was no way I could ever make such a stupid mistake. Since reading this article, however, I have been vigilant about always checking the back seat before I leave the car, even when I know Han isn't with me. And that is why I encourage all parents to read it, to share the pain of grieving, guilt-stricken, tormented people and to imagine themselves in those parents' shoes. As agonizing as it is to imagine one of your fuck-ups leading to your child's death, doing so could potentially save your child and spare you and your family from a real-life tragedy.

The worst mistake we can make as parents is assuming that we are incapable of mistakes. Once we acknowledge that our brains are not perfectly-functioning machines, and that stress, exhaustion, and a full to-do list can weaken our functioning even further, we can start to compensate for our mental shortcomings. This flier lists simple things you can do to ensure that you don't end up like the parents in the article linked to above. Please, take a moment to look it over and think about what you can do to compensate for your faulty brain. Your child's life could depend on it.


  1. Wow - I had never thought of it this way before. No human is infallible, and the sooner we recognize this of ourselves as parents as well as employees/bosses/spouses the sooner we can set up systems to counteract our fallibility and try and prevent these situations happening as often as they do.

  2. Wow, that Washington Post article was just chilling. I'm among those who'd like to think that they could never, ever do something like forget a baby in a car... but then, I've walked out of the house without my glasses quite a few times, and those are supposed to be right there on my face.

    Very thought-provoking stuff -- thanks for sharing.