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I just had a rather sad conversation with my mum, she was informing me of this shocking case in Italy.
Father forgets to drop his 22 month-old daughter to nursery on his way to work. She falls asleep at the back of his car (like many toddlers do...). He drives on, immersed in his everyday thoughts and totally forgets to do it, assuming he'd already done it and drives to work. He parks the car, it's a very hot day, he locks the doors and makes his way inside the University where he teaches Veterinarian Surgery. Like every day.
Five hours later, upon returning to the car, the tragedy unfolds. Little Elena is fighting for her life, she is in a coma, induced by the overheated car and dehydration. Elena loses her battle to survive after three days and her organs are harvested and used to save more lives.
No verdict has yet been pronounced.
Somebody is calling for manslaughter.
Somebody else is calling for child abandonment.
The poor man's wife, eight months pregnant with the couple's second child, is defending her husband in front of a shocked country. Holding back the tears she said "He is a wonderful husband and father. He took a lot of responsibility to allow me to stay home and rest... Elena was his life and she adored him. This could've happened to anyone...".
I agree.
This little girl is not the victim of a neglectful parent, she is a casualty of the fast-paced, mechanical lives we live.
Actions repeated every day that overlap each other, actions repeated by default, without thinking, as the mind is busy worrying about those bills to pay, that much-needed pay-rise, that weekend seemingly so distant, that holiday we all need but can't afford, that school so expensive, those files still on the desk, that deadline that needs to be met no matter what.
I thought about my situation.
Since having Gabriel, I find myself double checking the stupidest things... Have I locked the car? Have I closed that window?
In all my worry to forget something, it turns out that more often than not I do indeed forget, and I find my car unlocked (luckily untouched...), the window open and a puddle of water on the floor, where rain has come in.
I forget to feed the cats, I go food shopping especially to buy something, and come back home with everything but what I went out to buy.
I am a stay-at-home parent, my patner travels a lot for work and my focus is all on my son, so everything else fades into grey sometimes.
Luckily, this is the extent of my absent-mindedness, and the most it will ever cause is a couple of slimmer cats and a water-stain on my wooden floor....
But what would happen if, together with a son, I had to deal with the pressures of a full-time job, daycare timetables, a partner that cannot help because of his health and the entire weight of my family's welfare on my shoulders?
I am not that optimistic.
Of course, I would be just like any other parent juggling work and parental duties and until something goes off silently in the head and tragedy strikes, I won't stop to think about what kind of life I live, dragging everything around with me, pushing, pulling, stopping, starting.
It's an atrocious turn of events, little Elena died as a casualty of the daily rat-race. My point is, this could really have happened to anyone.
Even me.
I could've buckled under pressure. I am not made of stone, although it's my duty to make my son believe that I am, that I can take it all, that I am the safety net that will always stop him from falling....
In today's society, if you can't do it all, you are a failure. But it's difficult to do it all on your own. Even more difficult is to stand back and realise that our main employers, the people that motivate us and push us to achieve and to strive, the people we really work for, it's them: our little ones.
I've never felt luckier to be a stay-at-home parent, my thoughts are with the other victim of this tragedy, that poor man, that will have to live with this for the rest of his life.

No verdict will ever be as atrocious as his situation...



Anonymous said...

This happened in Los Angeles a few years ago and the father was not convicted of anything. His suffering said it all. They had tried for years to have this baby and he simply was not used to having her in his car. She fell asleep and he drove to work even failing to drop her off at daycare (his destination before work). He was devastated.

Mickey Blumental said...

It's true that this parent will be punished enough with his own guilt, but I wouldn't say he wasn't guilty or that he was a victim. He screwed up royally and he'll be the first one to admit it.

I can say with 100% confidence that this will never happen to me. If anything, I sometimes get alarmed that my son isn't in his car seat when I drive without him as I have trained myself so well to always check on him to see how he's doing.

Regardless, it doesn't matter. They can throw him in prison or give him the death penalty, nothing will be worse than the guilt in his heart.

The Queen Father said...

Well, 10 bonus points for confidence to you Mickey... Only, don't you think that the poor man used to think exactly like you?
I never said he is not guilty (guilty of what needs to be established...), but out of this tragedy the victims are two, and the living one is not better off than dead.... But that's my opinion as a mere spectator.


Holly G said...

I completely agree with you. The point you made, "In today's society, if you can't do it all, you are a failure," I find especially poignant.

It could have happened to me too. And my god, if it ever did, I know wholeheartedly that no verdict could ever come close to matching the devastation of it.

This a tragic, beautifully written post.

I've now added you to my favorite reads list and I look forward to reading more from you.

Twins Plus One, Three Times the Fun

Nicoletta said...

Sto leggendo i tuoi post "vecchi" solo ora. Ti ho scoperto da poco. mi piace molto leggerti.
Trovo questo post atrocemente attuale. E' successo di nuovo in Italia.

Da allora ho messo il seggiolino di mio figlio (Gabriele ;-)) davanti vicino a me.
Concordo con te. E' una condanna il solo continuare a vivere per quei genitori.
Il nostro tempo ci sta distruggendo.