Two toddlers died a couple of weeks ago as a result of being forgotten in cars that got too hot in the sun. It is the kind of news that makes your insides roll in a tight ball, whether you are a parent or not, but more so if you are one.
The events are isolated, one could say, but not isolated enough. To say the issue is debatable is an understatement. That parents or caregivers forget babies or toddlers in cars, some experts say, it’s a brain glitch. But, others say, it is unconceivable. Sad reality: It happens.
No parent is without fault and parenting is one challenging journey, everyone agrees. We make mistakes, we stumble, often we think we’re doing a good job just to lose our footing shortly after and find ourselves at the bottom of the hill, ready for a new climb, ready to make it better the next day. Just like it should be.
But this goes beyond parenting mistakes. It allows no trying again to make it better next time. One cannot imagine the pain those parents experience, whether they are the ones who forgot the children or another caregiver.
While every case is different, courts often decide no further charges, since the consequence of the deed itself is the worst punishment; nothing can come close to the pain left by the disappearance of a child and under such gruesome circumstances.
To judge is not the answer and really, who wants to cast the first stone… The reason I have a hard time defining this as a brain glitch though is out of fear that when we accept such things as possible mistakes, then they will happen.
But here’s the big question is: How is it possible? Are we too busy, too overscheduled, too absent from the present moment? If we put a child in the car seat, how could we forget to take her out? If a child is in the car, are we not to acknowledge her presence like we would a grown-up’s?
What rush could cause us to leave the car without even taking a look back? What about the instinctual pull that keeps us connected to our children from the moment they are born, a must in keeping them safe?
Somehow this issue crosses the parenting realm boundaries though.
It is a stark reminder to be mindful. To be where we are when we are there. It’s becoming a thing of the past with each day that passes nowadays.
Stretched between various communication and entertainment devices, busy jobs, various appointments and social obligations, the mind does its best, but multitasking is a dangerous game to play when children’s well-being is at risk.
To be where we are with all that we are means to make the best of every passing moment. Whatever it is that you are doing at a particular moment, be honest with yourself and stay committed to being immersed in that moment, no exception.
When sharing a moment or few with another human being, our loved ones first of all, we owe it to them to be there. In early childhood our children are mindful. When they explore the world outside, they stare intently at all living creatures, they spend enough time to really see it.
When we read to them or tell them a story, they envelop us with attention, they keep track of words and story thread. They are there, listening, cuddled to us and living that moment. We should do the same.
Life is not kind at times. There’s deadlines, stern bosses and obligatory phone calls. We are tired and the mind wanders. Being mindful is often a challenge.
But we cannot afford to be anything less, and we cannot settle for mindlessness, the price is too high and it will ultimately rob of all moments to follow, or rather the capacity to enjoy them.
To be mindful has great rewards and while we cannot change the world or slow down its pace, we can adjust ours. Better yet, let’s make it a team effort to truly make it work. Let’s not allow anyone’s pain to become but a news item, and anyone’s memory to slip out of life with no proper heeding and learning from. We can all help prevent future mistakes of this kind.
Originally published as a column in the Saturday edition of the Kamloops Daily News on July 13, 2013