Some days ago, a little boy here in Sweden died. Children do that now and then, however much we don’t want it to happen, but in this particular case the boy didn’t die due to an accident or to illness. No, he died due to being forgotten. After having spent the entire day strapped into his car seat he was lifeless, and no matter the efforts made to save his life, this little boy was beyond saving, dehydrated after a day in an overheated car. You see, his father forgot to drop him off at the day care centre on his way to work, and so the sleeping boy was left behind when his father rushed off to deal with the daily challenges of his job,
I can’t even begin to imagine the hell his father must be going through at present. To lose a child, in whatever manner, must be unbearable, but the pain must be exponentially worse when it’s your fault. There’s nothing we can do or say, nothing society can do, that comes close to the constant punishment this man will impose upon himself for the rest of his life. I feel so sorry for you; I feel sorry for your son, for your wife, but mostly for you, because how are you to survive in a world that must have gone a permanent black?
I guess this father was a pretty regular guy; work, family, some spare time, more work, maybe a house to maintain, kids to enjoy. work. Like most of us, he was juggling multiple balls. Like most of us, he dropped one. It’s just that most of us don’t drop balls quite as priceless as the life of our child. He forgot. Not only did he forget, but when he remembered – because he did remember, rushing back with his heart in his mouth – it was too late. He doesn’t deserve our recrimination, our finger-pointing. He deserves our pity.
The debate following upon this little boy’s death has centred round the question “how could this happen?”. Some are quick to tar the father as negligent. Some blame the staff at the day care centre for not calling to find out where the boy was. Some say cars should be fitted with an electronic device that would set off an alarm of a living being is trapped in it on a hot day. But most of the time it comes back to the parent; was he good enough, did he take his role as father seriously, and really, would this have happened if it was the mother driving the car?
OF COURSE IT COULD HAVE HAPPENED IF THE MOTHER WAS DRIVING THE CAR! Our gender doesn’t make us infallible, and the insinuation that just because we’re mothers, not fathers, we would never, ever forget is ludicrous. We live in the same world – at least last I checked. Men and women in our neck of the world have the same set of challenges to handle; work, kids, more work, house, chores, kids, kids, work. Oh, and let’s not forget that we must preferably keep fit, eat right and have an interesting hobby or two.
Take a step back and regard the rat race that goes for life these days; we are inundated with information, we work longer and longer hours, we are expected to be available, on line, 24/7. And at the same time we want to nurture our babies, we struggle to create a sense of home with home cooked meals, home baked cakes, Christmas traditions, summer traditions, everything traditions.
We roll meatballs while in a phone conference, we curse under our breath when the kids come home from school thrilled to bits because they’ve just gotten the part as the Giant Moth in the school production, because how are we to find the time to make the costume? The successful junior athlete is our pride and joy, but it is damned difficult to work his training schedule into the already too busy day, and hey, what happened to MY time, why am I constantly inundated in so much stuff? And yet, for all this, I believe each and every one of us would loudly state that the single most important thing in our life is our kids. And it is, but boy are these offspring time thieves, and we are so tired, and the boss is so demanding, and the economy is a constant worry, and, and, and… Of course we could all forget; we’re humans, not machines.
Men make wonderful parents. So do women. Mothers and fathers love their children, want the best for them, do their best for them. But all of us could forget – or waver in our attention. Children die all the time; through misadventure or illness, through war and famine. Some children are the victims of horrible abuse, but most of those dead children were loved – irrevocably – by their parents. A little boy is dead. His mother and father are devastated. Yes, it was his fault. He doesn’t need us to tell him so.