Disregard for Hands-On Parenting

There appears to be a growing disregard for actual eyeball-to-eyeball hands-on parenting.

Christine, a new stay-at-home parent to a two-month-old daughter, emailed me immediately when she saw an article from Parenting magazine by Melissa Balmain posted on CNN.com about the deaths of infants forgotten in cars. I read the article and share her disgust.

The main story is about two people, married, with a comfortable house in Virginia, and two well-paying full-time jobs.  On top of that, they decided to adopt two babies from Guatemala.  According to this report, “..the end of August and start of September, 2007 had been stressful.  Twenty-three-month old Juan and his four-year-old brother had been sick on and off.  The mother’s days and been blurs of work, day care, doctors, business trips, visits with relatives and anxiety.”

The story then goes on that the older boy was home with the dad and the mother was supposed to drop an ill younger child off in day care.  She went to work, had a “normal day,” talked with her supervisor, ate lunch at her desk, drove to the supermarket and shopped for dinner and continued on to the day care center to pick the younger boy up.  That’s when the child was found dead in the back seat, having literally cooked to death in the heat of the locked car. 

Now, I don’t have sympathy for the parents.  I just don’t.  I don’t agree with the article that whitewashes these incidents by saying it is normal to forget things when you’re in your habit rhythm – a lapse in memory that you’re a parent only occurs when being a parent is an accessory rather than the main deal.  Let’s look at her stressful month of September:  business trips, day care, work, visits with relatives and anxiety.  How many of those factors would have been eliminated if she was a stay-at-home mom?  Answer:  ALL OF THEM,  and the child would likely be alive.

I wonder if it is accidental that all the stories I’ve read about babies cooking to death in the back of their parents’ car are the result of parents forgetting to drop them off at day care on the way to work.  Fobbing off one’s sacred responsibility of child-rearing and protecting to hired help tends to make one not have focus on that child.  Just sayin’.

The article talks about the “reptilian” or most ancient part of the brain which directs our habits, and habits dominate over short-term plans which are ordered by the more advanced brain regions.  If that excuse is so, then parents should put their reptilian brain into parenting and not business trips, work, and day care drops and pick ups.

The article ends up giving suggestions so you won’t forget your kid to die in your back seat while you are busy with what is more important.

1. Put something that really matters to you – like your cell phone – in the back seat with the child.  Do you realize that means that your cell phone is more important than your child?

2. Keep a teddy bear in the baby car seat.  When you put your kid in the seat, put the teddy in front, so you’ll see it and remember you have a child.  After all, you’re a “busy employee.”

3. Ask your child’s child-care provider to call you on your cell phone if your kid doesn’t get there.  Oh, so now the day care, minimum-wage worker is more responsible for your kid than you are?

4.  Put visual cues in your office and home reminding you to check the car seat.  Gee, I thought parental love and bonding did that.  Guess not.

My bottom line?  Don’t have ‘em if you won’t raise ‘em.

If I were in charge of adoptions, no one without a spouse at home would be allowed to adopt a child.  Children are not accessories.  They should be the main deal.