Tragic Accident or Murder?

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It’s all over the news: A Georgia dad forgets his toddler in the car and leaves him there on a scorching day to come back and find him dead. Now police are questioning whether it was an absent-minded mistake or intentional. I’ve seen a lot of comments out there in the cyber world coming down real hard on this dad, immediately concluding that there is NO WAY a parent could forget and leave a child in the car and thus he’s guilty and it was intentional.

I have a really hard time believing that. What I do believe is that our world moves fast and our minds can wander; and sadly he’s not the only parent who has left their child in the car. Fourteen children have died from heat stroke this year from being left in the car.

I have a really hard time thinking that I could ever leave my child in the car, but I’ve definitely forgotten that the oven was on until I smelled whatever was toasting then burning. I’ve certainly forgotten my cup  of coffee on top of my car before. And I will admit, one day, I simply forgot to buckle my toddler into his seat. Lucky for me, he said to me before we were out of the daycare parking lot, “Mommy, I’m not buckled in.” Point is sometimes we forget.

It crushes me to think about this child suffering in the car. I also cannot imagine the emotional agony felt by a parent who loses a child this way, or any other tragic accident. I found this article in the Washington Post, written in 2009, about determining when leaving a child in the car is a crime versus a fatal mistake very powerful, and also saddening. The guilt these parents live with must be worse than death in many ways.

I wrote this blog back in 2011, reminding people to be aware of the heat and to not leave a child in the car. When I wrote it, I thought to myself, “how could anyone ever do that.” I still wonder, but I think it’s a reminder to me to slow down and pay attention to what’s around me. Are we are just running with too much on our minds? Is that anyway to live? As a parent who works, I’m busy. I have a busy almost-kindergartener, I have friends I want to spend time with; and am a wife, daughter and sister who wants to enjoy all that there is with those roles, but that makes my mind very cluttered, shall we say scattered. I think we all need to just slow down and be more aware so tragedies like this don’t happen.

Kidsandcars.org recommends the following things to help parents remember their child is in the backseat:
1. Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is placed in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that anytime the stuffed animal is up front, you know the child is in the backseat in a safety seat.
2. Put something you’ll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case on the floorboard in the back seat.
3. If your child doesn’t show up to daycare or school at the expected time, arrange to have an administrator call you to check in. Make sure all adults know your child’s routine and any changes you make to it.