Eight children died last week in the United States because they were left alone in cars.
This article was originally published in May 2010, but I urge you to read it and repost it. We cannot allow this to happen anymore. Eight babies dead in one week. Completely senseless, completely preventable. We must do better.
Ah, summer…. The warm air approaches, a plethora of life explodes from the ground and the scent of suntan lotion hints at beach days ahead. Eagerly we await what is just around the corner: lemonade stands, watermelon seed spitting contests, oh yeah, and the sad reports on the news about yet another baby roasting in a parked car. Everything in this article you already know, but please take a moment to be reminded. Nobody ever expects these senseless tragedies to happen to them, yet somehow they keep happening.
The most important thing we need to do is to follow our own safety rules. I’m sure you have a list in your head.
1. Never leave a child or pet alone in a car.
2. Never drive distracted or drunk.
3. Always wash your veggies even if they claim to be prewashed.
4. Never allow children to play near a pool without a locked gate.
5. Don’t answer the phone while your children are bathing.
The list goes on. The problem is, even though we write these rules and adhere to them 99% of the time, we do sometimes fudge a bit in the urgency of the moment. The reason to never, ever break one of your safety rules is not because a tragedy may happen. It is because it probably won’t happen. Most likely you can run into the store for a quick purchase of milk while your baby sleeps in the car and NOTHING BAD WILL HAPPEN. We all know this. We know our neighborhoods. We know how quick this particular errand will be. We know ourselves. We know we would never forget our child. We can justify a safety cheat because of our knowledge of these specific variables. But when we do that, we miss the point of our own rules.
The reason it is so crucial to strictly adhere to safety rules is that breaking one and getting away without consequences normalizes risky behavior. Our comfort zone just got a bit wider, which means our child’s world just got a little more dangerous.
Think back to a time in your life when you were a bit reckless (probably your teens or early twenties). Remember your first tentative steps breaking the rules. You probably didn’t sneak out of your house, drink alcohol, lose your virginity and drive wasted down the highway all in one blowout night of first-time bad behaviour. No, most likely you dipped your toes into risk by driving a tad over the speed limit, or kissing a boy at a party. We break small rules, take small risks, before we work our way up to a big one. This normalizing process happens without our awareness. We may not even realize when we cross the line to seriously dangerous behavior.
Moms today are too busy. There are simply too many responsibilities heaped upon our shoulders. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out ways to lessen the burden for myself and other moms. Unfortuantely, I don’t have any significant solutions yet. What I do know is that if something has to fall by the wayside, it can’t be safety. In our society we are constantly trying to streamline and multitask. Good safety requires the opposite behavior: slowing down and taking extra steps.
But you already know this which is why you wrote the rules in the first place. Follow them, so that for summers to come the over-priced, extra-sugary lemonade you drink will come from your own child’s stand.
Please pass this article along to every parent you know as a gentle reminder. It is not breaking news, quite the opposite. But the whole point of this article is to avoid being the breaking news story. Have a beautiful, safe summer.
7 May 2010