Wednesday, 4 September 2013

This could happen to anybody

(Updated 21/8/14)

The house doesn't matter, the perfect dinner doesn't matter - the kids matter.

On one Sunday morning 5 years ago, I was crying inconsolably while hugging my 3 & 2 years old children. I called my husband, threatened him and told him I will not forgive.
I had just witnessed a devastating story shared on Oprah Winfrey's show: An overwhelmed mom's mistake.
On Aug 23, 2007, Brenda Shably had made horrid mistake. She had left her toddler, Cecilia in her car for many hours during the hottest summer time.
I am unable reiterate her story because it still gives me goose bumps and my mind starts wondering to places I don't want it to go. I hate such thoughts but I can't stop them either! 

What makes me angry is that I did it once - I can hear my heart pounding as I am writing this. I am lost for words and don't know how to continue... (Pause and breathing deep)

No! I did not let my child die in a car.
Thought I better clear the air before you start wondering but I did FORGET (yes I FORGOT, I don't know how it was even possible but I did!) my 6 months old baby in the car for a minute at 1 pm during when the sun is most unforgiving with its heat.

I am trembling as I share this because it was a terrible, horrible, horrific and horrid incident. I have spent many days after, trying to figure why and how could I have done it? I don't have an answer to that but I feel terrible each time I think about it. 

What happened:

As usual, I headed over to pick up my girls from their school with my baby safely buckled in her car seat and then to my mom's place for lunch. Once at my mom's, my girls excitedly leaped out of the car and ran inside leaving me the task of bringing in their school bags and some groceries from the trunk. 
As I was putting away the grocery in her fridge, my mom asked where is S?

Everything froze. I felt my head spin and legs wobbly. I dropped the bags and  ran out of the house to my car. It was the longest 20 meters I have ever ran and it was taking forever to reach the car.

She was awake and looking at me as I was frantically trying to unfasten her seat belt. Fat tears were rolling down my cheeks and I was shaking uncontrollably, full of fear and guilt. Flashback of Brenda's tragedy was playing in my mind and a loud prayer was being uttered. Everything was moving at snail pace and I could not make out the words my mom was saying to me.

There was and never will be, a good excuse for what I did.
No matter how tired and exhausted I may be, forgetting a child is unforgivable. Unlike Brenda Shably, I have no deadlines or impressions to set. I am a stay at home mom and my kids are my boss. I should be working very hard to impress them and it doesn't take a lot to impress them, especially at their age (toddler & tween). All they want is my undivided attention and love.

As adults we ought to know when to call it a day and get some rest. I sometimes find it hard to fathom how being tired can intervene and cause major disruptions in my daily routine - from forgetting to being cranky.
I seriously think that when a parent is handed a newborn, they should come with a warning sign that says 'Do not get too tired when dealing with young children'  just as how you would be advised when taking prescribed drugs - 'Do not operate heavy machinery after consuming this medicine'. 

It is easier said than done, I know because I've been there. It is a lot of work and being constantly tired is quite the norm with a newborn. So isn't it a blessing that many parents are given long leave from work? Getting 60 days paid leave is insufficient, I can honestly say now after spending close to two years with my children. It's a big sacrifice but it is worth it. Every day spent was worth it.

It could happen to anyone

In June 2013, I came to know that a 3 year old had died due to heatstroke because she was left in a car for almost 8 hours! This dreadful incident happened in a place that I pass by every day. I cannot stop myself from thinking and wondering how it must be for the mother of that child.

A teacher who witnessed the whole incident told me it is something she wish would never happen to anybody. She was mad and infuriated that the mother (her colleague) could have forgotten her child in the car. I was quiet and couldn't gather enough courage to speak up and tell her to stop blaming the mother. I wanted to share with her that I am guilty too. All I wanted to say was "Shut up! Shut up! You should help ease the pain for the grieving mother and sympathise with her", but I didn't. I cowardly kept my story inside me, locked and sealed but today I want to share this because I just saw a child safety film which got me screaming NO to the person who saw a child crying in a car but did not do anything about it!
That got me thinking, perhaps the person doesn't know the dangers of leaving a child in a locked car and that's why she walked away.
I knew then that I must share this.

I try my best'est to always be alert and well rested because I am dealing with precious cargo every day but you cannot know when lightning is going to strike. I have implemented an alert system (after the dreadful day and a mouthful of shelling from my mother) to remind me of all the small and big things.

I have set a reminder in my phone that asks me "Where are my children?" It has been set at specific intervals when I am getting in and out of the car most often.
I have also made it a habit to tell my husband if I am going out with the kids and he would call to check our whereabouts and ask about the kids.
I would do the same too when he is out with the kids. Thus far, this has helped us a lot in making sure we are aware and always know what each person is doing. It is like a checklist, each alert (hand phone reminder) and phone call is to check and make sure the kids are safe and well.

It is sad to know the statistics of this dreadful and AVOIDABLE accident. So please share this or just talk to the person next to you. You never know who this story might help and stop another car child death tragedy.

This is a reenactment and no one was harmed in the making of this video

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  1. This is one of those terrifying things. First, we all make mistakes. Some of them even life threatening. I remember when my then 18 month old daughter ran into the street without me even knowing she had left my side. Thinking about it now still causes me to shake. This is a very serious thing and blame should not be placed. We should find ways to help the parents and help to ensure it doesn't happen again. Sharing your story does both of those things.

  2. You and I are very lucky. Today I just heard news of a young child running over his toddler brother while backing the car. Every day,.we are reminded that it only takes a second for tragedy to strike.