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.