The Burlington case is still under investigation so I can’t speculate as to how this boy was left in the car. All I know is that he WAS left, and died from hyperthermia. I don’t want to talk about people who purposefully leave children (or pets for that matter) in hot cars on purpose, because that’s different. That’s abuse. What I want to talk about here is the auto-pilot lives we’re leading and how that can play out.
When I read these stories I too feel a flash of anger. It’s the deep seeded fear that we, as parents, carry. When we hear of a child’s death that fear can manifest as a burning heat. The kind that burns fast and hot and straight up your spine. It’s our natural instinct to protect.
That being said, we need to burn that off constructively. Comment section warriors aren’t helping these situations. Funneling our anger, heartbreak, and fear into attacks on these parents aren’t helping either. And don’t get me wrong, I’m right there with you. I too have to take a step back. When I read these stories I can feel that fire burning. Even now while I write this I can feel it simmering. I struggle to fathom a situation in which this can happen. Even when I hear it over and over again, I can’t wrap my mind around it. I want to scream “I WOULD NEVER!” from the rooftops too and maybe that’s true, but it doesn’t help the next person. My fear driven anger doesn’t help the next child.
So let’s talk about what we can do. We CAN start recognizing the difference between want and need. Time and time again I hear the excuse “it was outside their normal schedule”. I read an entire comment thread once of people telling tale’s of how they got to work on auto-pilot. They don’t even remember driving there. (Don’t even get me started on how dangerous that is.) They have so much going on that they can’t even keep it straight anymore. School, daycare, sports, dance, swim, clubs, in and out of the car, drive through for dinner, eat on the move, run run run run, crash.
Everyone needs to take a step back and re-evaluate what they need vs what they want. What do you value most. For me it’s a happy, healthy family. I’d like to think that it’s the same for most of us. Do you NEED a big house, expensive car, resort vacations, to be happy? Are those things of VALUE to you? Do those things help your children to thrive? Is being over-extended worth it? From what I’ve seen the answer is an overwhelming NO!
Children learn by example and it’s our job to lead the way. If we value family, health, and happiness, but they never see us take a break and enjoy those things what are we really teaching them to value?
Maybe they’ll grow up and remember that you went on an expensive vacation, or that they never had to share a room, but they might not remember you. The you that exists right now. The one that’s always on the go, always eyebrows deep in e-mails, always frowning in front of your dry-erase calendar. Instead of remembering that person, they might embody them. They might stand at that calendar, brow furrowed, trying to figure out how you made it all work so that they could cling to that one great memory of a vacation passed. Is that really what you value? Probably not, but look around you and see who’s watching. They can’t read your mind, they can only glean your actions. Show them what you value.
What’s my point here and how do they tie together? When we lose sight of what we truly value and begin to conflate need with want we lose track of ourselves and our time. We over-extend ourselves. Keeping up with the Jones’ is exhausting and confusing. Add in a partner and multiple children and balls begin to drop. That’s the moment auto-pilot kicks in. That’s the one lost drive to work. That’s when one parent has to take a kid to the dentist so the other parent takes the baby to daycare. That’s the day you drive to work on auto-pilot with a sleeping toddler strapped safely into the back seat. That’s the day your entire, confusing, over-extended, over-stuffed, over-exaggerated life comes crashing down around you. That’s the moment you pass from being the one who this could never happen to, to the one it did.
There are a million things we have to do everyday to keep our families healthy and safe. Sometimes they are unavoidable. I’m not ignorant to the fact that although I work extremely hard to stretch our dollars, I am extremely fortunate that my husband makes just enough to stretch. I’m also very aware of the privilege that comes with a Canadian birth certificate. Even when my kids are THE MOST annoying and we have to pass things up to make it happen, I am very grateful to be able to stay home with them. That’s not lost on me. And I’m no stranger to living under the poverty line. I grew up there too, and maybe that’s why I value time differently. The good memories I do have from childhood didn’t cost a lot. They were trips to the quarry, reading books in a willow tree at a family friends farm, skipping rope under the Easter sun with family friends, or spending the weekend with my cousins at my grandparents house. Sometimes I wished we had a vacation or a new car, sure, but as an adult those things are of lesser value to me than enjoying the day to day life I lead with my family. Of course those things would be nice but there’s a ranking system. Need vs Want. I try to live in the now, not in the uncertain future.
Nothing is promised. I urge you to all take a step back and assess your life. Are you happy? Are you thriving or just surviving? When was the last time you just sat? Just laughed? Made a bowl of popcorn, threw on a kids movie and snuggled on the couch? When was the last time you truly enjoyed your life? When was the last time your children got to witness it? If not now than when? What do you value most and what can you change to start living with your values in mind. What can you erase from the board to simplify your days. We need to stop living on auto-pilot. We need to stop needing what we want and start wanting what we need. We NEED room to breath and that means letting go of some of the wants cluttering up our airspace.
Take a step back. Take a deep breath…
What do you NEED?
A few things kids ACTUALLY value (to help build your new/leaner schedule):
-Good clean mud.
-The park, any park, all the parks.
-Parents who dress up in costumes, even a cheap pair of cat ears will do the trick. They’ll love it!
-Stupid Snapchat or InstaStories filters!
-Parent lead napping;)
-Any and all craft supplies, especially the good ones from your desk!
-Baking cookies together
-Listening to you read aloud.
-Living room dance parties.
-One on one time.
-Lying in the dark, chatting at bedtime.
-Breakfast for dinner.
-Family movie night in their jammies.
-Saturday morning cartoons.
-Alone time to unwind and decompress.
Ask them what they actually want to do and the answers may surprise you.