The Thinking 
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The Fatally Distracted Parent

April 12, 2010


THIS ARTICLE is almost too upsetting to read. The Washington Post examines the relatively rare, but increasingly common, incidence of children who die when they are left unattended in the back seats of cars during warm weather. It’s horrific. One child reportedly pulled out all her hair before succumbing. Some of the parents have faced criminal charges.

All of the cases appear to involve parents or relatives shuttling children to day care or babysitters. An investigator blames poor cognitive processing:

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.

That’s right. Drop off and forget. This whole way of life is criminal. Our entire culture, not the parents themselves, should be indicted for child neglect. If parents can’t remember when their babies are in the back seat of the car, how can they care for them day after day? For every baby neglected this way, there are thousands who are neglected in smaller, less noticeable ways, leading chaotic lives, shunted around like packages and suitcases. This is a wrong way to live and anyone living this life must sense it. But again, these parents have suffered and I don’t think it’s fair to charge them with murder. The deaths of these children should weigh heavy, like millstones, on all those who trumpet women’s liberation and the casual destruction of home.

Notice the mention in the story of a mother who is an Army veteran. Her frenetically over-scheduled life, with children conceived through artificial insemination while her husband is in Iraq, is desolating. It’s a chilling story. Our culture may shower children with material things, spoiling them with spurts of focused attention, but it remains profoundly hostile to the young.

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The Purloined Lunch

April 12, 2010


Twenty years ago, I began making my husband lunch every day, a bag lunch though I rarely packaged it in the traditional brown bag.

Women have made lunches for their husbands for eons, long before there were factories or corporate campuses or high-rise office buildings. Farm wives heaped the table at noontime. Men in India carried their tiffin in metal holders to keep it warm, a practice which has possibly declined due to the large-scale departure of Indian women for the office themselves. Making lunch for a working man is as old as time. It seems a mundane and perfectly ordinary thing to do.

But, it isn’t a mundane and ordinary thing to do anymore. It seems beset with political overtones. I knew that making lunch for my husband everyday would not win me the esteem of others. Read More »

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