Know Thyself

It’s summer again, that time of the year when you hear tragic stories of children left in cars by their caregivers and forgotten, leading to their untimely deaths.  I’m not talking about parents who purposely left their children in the car, like the mom in South Carolina whose babysitter was suddenly ill but had to go to work or risk getting fired and left them in the car while she went to work.  I’m talking about people who inadvertantly forgot they had a child in the car, a father like Danny Takemoto from Benicia who took his young son to the babysitter but went to work instead.  The boy, Ian Takemoto, was found dead later that afternoon.

On the average, there are about three dozen car-related heat exhaustion deaths of children in America, but that doesn’t account for the number of children, maybe numbering in the hundred, who survive from near deaths because they were left in the car.  Many of these caregivers are community leaders like members of the clergy and teachers, not the stereotypical irresponsible spaced out junkie.

When my daughter was a baby, I was always worried about type of accident.  I knew my temperment and personality and also what I called a lack of maternal instincts, especially as a first-time mother who had never been responsible for a child before.  I always put some reminder of her in the front passenger seat, whether it was her diaper bag or a stuff animal, because I knew there was always a possibility that I’d forget.

Many people are quick to judge the caregivers whose negligence caused the deaths, but I think living with the guilt for the rest of their lives is heartache enough.  They say people should be able to remember that there is a child in their car, that if you can’t even remember this simple fact that you must not be capable of anything esle.  But sometimes we get sidetracked, especially if it is not the norm for the driver to bring the child somewhere.  Sometime these deaths occur when the parent who seldom drives the child to the daycare drove on that fateful day.  People are very tired and busy nowadays and very distracted.  Sometimes these infants had already caused the parents to be up all night because of the crying, so they are deeply sleep-deprived.  These accidents can happen to the best of parents, grandparents, and caregivers. 

There are now products on the market that assist in reminding people about the child in the back seat.  Child Minder is an alarm that sounds if the driver is more than 10 feet away from the car.  NASA is working on a system that does something similar, spurred on because one of their own engineers left .  If forgeting a child in the car is such an anomoly, I doubt companies or organizations would spend the time, effort, and money to create products to prevent these deaths.  I didn’t have access to these gadgets when my daughter was born, but I knew enough about myself to have a reminder in place.  By the grace of God, I never did.  And I hope the number of these incidents will lower with each passing year with all the publicity each occurrence generates.

Next time when you are in a parking lot, take a moment to look into the vehicles, particulary vans or SUV’s with tinted windows, to ensure there’s not a child alone inside.  Lisa Sopko does this because she is trying to prevent a similar death.  Her father-in-law left her daughter, Kiana, in his vehicle, and she died from heat exhaustion.

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