Tag Archives: society

When the Death of a Baby is Just a Symptom

Car Seats

There was a news story on the radio this morning about an 11-month old baby who died.

“The infant’s body was found strapped into the car seat of his father’s car, outside a child-care centre in Perth. The discovery was made after the father went to collect his son, and was told by staff at the centre that he hadn’t dropped the baby off that morning.”

The reporter went on to say that the infant’s death was being ruled a “tragic accident”. But I wasn’t really listening.

I wasn’t even there.

I was in that child-care centre with that father.

And my heart was breaking.

I’m there when he rushes in after work. He’s pressed for time, as always, because the day’s work ran longer than expected. I see his forced smile and his tired eyes when he greets the staff. He’s thinking about the next thing he needs to do, always the next thing, pick up the baby, get home for dinner,  put the little one to bed, so much to do, so much to do.

I’m there when the staff double-checks their records and says, “No, you definitely didn’t drop him off this morning. Maybe he’s with your wife?”

I feel the father’s confusion and fear. I want to lash out with him, to demand answers.  Where is my baby? I did drop him off! I remember strapping him into his car seat and…

And he was in a rush.

And he was stressed.

And he was driving on auto-pilot, his mind already on the work he had to do that day.

I feel the moment when it hits.

I feel it like a spider-bites and extreme heights and all-consuming darkness.

I remember strapping him into his car seat…

In my mind, I’m there. I’m there when the father turns and runs — runs! — out to the parking lot. He sees his car, parked just where he left it. And he stops.

Because he can’t do it.

He can’t walk a single step closer. The dread…

I feel the dread like a barrier of pain.

We both know what he’ll see when he looks into his car.

I remember strapping him into his car seat…

…but I don’t remember getting him out.

In my mind, I’m there. I see him take one step. And then another. Because the dread has hold of him now. It’s got him through the heart, and that hook is barbed. Oh, is it barbed. It draws him closer, closer, closer.

The tears run down his face. He doesn’t know. And if he did, he wouldn’t care.

Because he can see his little boy now. His little angel. So peacefully resting in a sleep that will last for an eternity.

In my mind, I’m there. I’m there that morning. That fateful morning, It’s so early, and the baby is asleep, and we have to wake him up and make him eat and get him dressed and put him in the car and there’s no time for cuddles and games and time. Not today. Maybe tomorrow. Or on the weekend. Yes, definitely the weekend. But today, we have to get to work, to pay the bills, to run the errands, to do, do, do, do, do, so hurry up now, hurry up, we’ve got to get you to child-care, and I need to get to work, and pay the bills, and run the errands, and do, do, do, do, do.

And as I watch the father stare through the window at the body of his beautiful baby, I know he’s reliving that morning, too.

And I know that he would be willing to do anything, give up anything, sacrifice anything, for just one more smile. One more cuddle. One more day. One single opportunity to do things slower, and be present in the moment, and do whatever it takes to not end up here. Here. Standing in the hot sun. Staring at the single greatest “tragic accident” of his life, and knowing that nothing, nothing, will ever erase the pain he feels right now.

He will be standing here for the rest of his life.

I love this man.

I love him because he’s me. And he’s you. And he’s every single one of us. Every person in this world trying to do it right, better, best, perfect for our families and careers and dreams and hopes and futures and everything we’re told we can have if we just work hard enough.

But that is a lie.

No matter how hard we work, we can never erase the mistakes we make, the experiences we miss, the time we waste in pursuing a financial dream that is not even ours.

The death of this child is tragic. But it’s just a symptom. It’s a symptom of the way we live. Or the way we’re so busy trying to do and have everything, we completely overlook the most important things in our lives in favour of more, more, more.

This is not an isolated incident. These types of infant deaths are becoming more common. Last year, 25 infants died when their parents forgot they were still in the car — and that’s just in the US. (I’d look for worldwide figures, but I just can’t bear to read yet another story of a parent’s worst nightmare come to life.)

I have lived this man’s horror today. I’ve been there with him in spirit. I’ve felt the stomach-dropping, gut-churning, finger-tingling terror of realisation.

I’ve cried for him.

I’ve cried for all of us.

And I’ve hugged my children tight, then played silly games with them — even though I had other, “more important”, things to do.

I encourage you to do the same.

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Filed under Life With Kids, Opinion, Random Stuff

The Thin Rainbow Line

Boys and DollsMy boys love cars and trucks. They dig in the dirt. They run around the house having sword fights and defeating zombie invasions. They like both pirates and ninjas. They also have a play kitchen, with a tea set and play food. They have fluffy toys and dolls and play at looking after babies. Last year, Big Brother spent weeks and weeks building The Ultimate Dollhouse out of shoe boxes, and then decorating it with matchstick furniture, frilly curtains, and artwork on the walls.

Both boys like trying on make-up and wearing my high heels. They also like making fart-noises at the dinner table.

Big Brother’s favourite colour has always been pink. He likes frills and sparkles and fairies. He likes having his nails painted. His ideal Treat Day is shoe shopping and a hair cut.

Or it was.

Because now he’s at school, everything’s changed.

His favourite colour isn’t pink anymore. Because “pink is a girl’s colour”.

He doesn’t like some of the music we used to listen to. Because “it’s girl’s music”.

He doesn’t want to hear stories about fairies and unicorns. Because they’re “girl stuff”.

He fights himself over his choice of clothes and activities. I can see it in his eyes and I can feel the tension in his body and the pain in his heart. And I can’t make it better.

I can tell him that boys can do whatever they want to do.

I can tell him that there’s no such thing as “boy stuff” and “girl stuff”.

But then he goes to school, and he argues with his friends, and he comes home feeling even worse than he did to start with.

“Mummy,” he said last month. “We were having a wedding in the sandpit today — not a real one, just a pretend one — and Schoolboy said that boys have to marry girls, and boys aren’t allowed to marry boys. And I said he was lying. And he said he wasn’t. But he was lying, wasn’t he?”

Because he’s six. And there’s no shades of gray when you’re six.

It’s not the legal concept of marriage he’s talking about. It’s the wedding that happens at the end of every fairy tale, the wedding that means Love. With a capital L. So I said, “Well, most of the time boys fall in love with girls, and girls fall in love with boys. But sometimes boys  fall in love with boys, and girls fall in love with girls. The important thing isn’t if they’re boys or girls. The important thing is the Love.”

“But Schoolboy’s parents said boys can’t marry boys.”

And then I’m stuck. Because I don’t want to tell my son that his friend’s parents are wrong. Or… anything else that will undoubtedly make its way back through the classroom to the parents in question. So instead I say, “Maybe his parents just don’t know any boys who love boys.”

And then he’s distracted by asking me about the boys I know who love boys, and the conversation trails off into me telling him stories of working in exciting places. Like retail stores.

And I don’t mind having those conversations. I expect to have many, many more conversations about love and sexuality over the coming years. Those conversations don’t make my heart ache.

My heartache is about gender roles.

It’s about my little boy feeling suddenly uncomfortable telling his friends he does ballet.

It’s about my little boy feeling ashamed for doing what he loves and being who he is.

It’s about my little boy coming to me a couple of days ago and saying, “Mummy, can I tell you something funny? Can you imagine (giggle) a boy wearing lipstick!”

And me not even realising why that’s supposed to be funny, and answering, “Yes.” And then waiting for the funny part.

But it wasn’t funny.

It wasn’t funny when I had to explain that boys are allowed to wear lipstick if they like it, and girls don’t have to.

I don’t like this sudden shift. I don’t like seeing my child having a great time playing with a toy, and then see him suddenly stop, put it down, and mutter that it’s a girl’s toy. I don’t like sending him out into the world and watching him struggle.

I don’t like it at all.

I wish I could wrap him up in love and paint his toenails bright rainbow colours and give him a ribbon for his hair and pink ballet shoes for his feet, and then let him run through the mud and build a city full of dinosaurs with lasers on their heads to fight the horde of brain-eating zombies about to attack.

I wish I could protect him from the gender-bias of the world. But I can’t. Not completely.

So I do what I can.

But I feel like I’m swimming against the tide.

No.

I feel like I’m using an umbrella to protect him from a tsunami, while walking on a tightrope above shark-infested lava.

But, you know what?

I’m going to keep walking that line, holding my umbrella in front of us, until my boys are strong enough to walk it on their own.

Because no matter how hard it is, my boys are worth it.

Worth It

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Filed under Life With Kids, Opinion

The Time for Change is Now

This is a post about the Newtown Shooting. More specifically, it is about the aftermath of the Shooting on Social Media platforms. Although I would very much like you to read what I have to say, I understand completely if you choose not to read on. Please come back tomorrow for more of my usual brand of blogging.

When I logged on to announce my return to the virtual world and share my happy holiday pics, there it was. Plastered all over my news feed and my timeline.

Children were dead. Shot dead while in the safety of their school.

Facebook and Twitter were full of exclamations of shock, horror, and disbelief; exhortations to hug your children just that little bit tighter; prayers and well-wishes for the survivors and the families of the victims. We, as a world full of people, were grief-stricken by the tragedy and we turned  to the internet in full-force to share the pain in our hearts and the knife of fear twisting in our guts: That could have been my child, or my school, or my son.

I didn’t comment. But I did hug my children tightly and let the outpouring of online grief wash over and around me until I could barely distinguish it from my own.

By the following day, the tone of the internet had changed. There was still grief and fear, but now those feelings were almost overwhelmed by anger.

Guns were to blame. Or mental illness. Or society. Or no one. Or video games. Or his mother. Or his absent father. The important thing was that someone or something was to blame. And we, as a world full of people, were going to shout our accusations into cyberspace until our virtual throats were hoarse and dripping with the blood of our impotent outrage.

I felt moved to comment, but what to say? All I really wanted was to dwell in my grief a little longer, and retain some ignorance and sanity in the face of a tragedy where the victim could have been my child, and it could have been at my school. I didn’t want to know the ages of the victims, or see their beautiful, innocent faces smiling at me from beyond the curtain of death.  I didn’t want to read the statistics on mass murders in the United States. I didn’t want to read well-written essays on mental health issues, or diatribes on the media’s glorification of violence, or the heartfelt and impassioned pleas to help the people. It doesn’t matter how, just help. Please.

I wanted to come to terms with what had happened in my own time and in my own way. I wasn’t ready to be forced into the open with my emotions still raw and my head full of rhetoric and hyperbole. So my message was simple:

As the days have passed, the grief-stricken out-pourings of pain have been smothered and hidden by righteous anger and vitriol aimed at society, guns, politicians, and, most of all, everyone who disagrees with our own points of view.

We, the people of the world, are filled with anger.

Anger at the gunman who committed this atrocity and will never pay for the crime in this life.

Anger at the society that raised and nurtured him and didn’t know or care that he was a risk to the lives of children.

Anger at the laws that enabled him easy access to weapons designed to kill, purchased to protect, and used to decimate the lives of not just the 28 victims, but also the lives of their friends and families.

And I believe anger is good. We should we angry. Because with anger come the drive for change. The desperate desire — no, need — to ensure this doesn’t happen again. To ensure our children are safe when we leave them at school. To ensure that we never have to face and overcome the horror of having it be our child, or our school, or our son.

So, I say to you: Hold on to that spark of anger. But don’t cradle it to your chest and let it turn into rage and bitterness and hatred. Use it.

Talk about how you feel.

Talk about the change you’d like to see.

Talk about what we, as the people of the world, can do to make sure this is the last time, the absolute last time, we have to come face to face with a tragedy like this one.

Talk about it in person, on the phone, over email, on your blog, on your social media platform of choice.

And when you’ve done some talking, stop and listen.

Listen to what everyone else is saying. Share their views, even if you don’t agree with them. Even if you think their solution is ludicrous. Even if it goes against everything you believe in.

Because the important thing is that they’re talking.

They’re not advocating a different solution to you because they’re crazy or deluded or too conservative or too liberal or too anything else. They’re advocating a different solution to you because they have a different opinion AND (and this is the important part) they care. They care just as much as you do. They care enough to talk about wanting to make a change.

We, the people of the world, need to stop yelling abuse at each other and start talking and listening and proposing solutions.

So you don’t want to lose your right to bear arms? Great. Show me a compromise; show me your solution.

So you don’t want to pay extra to improve the quality of care available to the mentally ill? Great. Show me a compromise; show me your solution.

So you don’t want to lose the right to watch violent movies and play violent computer games? Great. Show me a compromise; show me your solution.

Don’t stop talking.

Please.

Whatever you do, don’t stop talking.

But don’t use your righteous anger to attack other people with a different opinion who feel the same need to prevent another shooting as you do, use your anger to make a difference.

The blood of one child is too high a price to pay for social change.

Twenty children are dead.

The time for change is now.

Triumph of Evil

 

 

 

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Filed under Opinion

Monday’s Top 10

I know, I know, I promised to catch up on last week’s Top 5. But by the time I’d read all the previous week’s posts it was Thursday, and I had another 90 new blog posts sitting there to be read, and it was just all too hard. So I decided to just move on and give you a double dose of linky goodness this week with the Top 10 posts I’ve read over the last two weeks. I hope you enjoy.

Billie Jo Woods explores her writing process in Ogres Have Layers and Novel Writing Does Too. What do you think — do you “pants” it all the way through, or do you write in carefully planned layers?

Alexandra Sokoloff (a fantastic author who draws on her experience in screenwriting for her novels) posted about Key Story Elements and Lessons from Musical Theatre. I’m a very auditory learner, and being able to put all the parts of a story into the context of exciting musical performances really works for me. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Aly Hughes has a weekly “vs” column where she looks at two different ways to do something and compares/contrasts the two. Last week she tackled the Hand Writing vs Typing debate with some interesting points. Personally, I’m more comfortable typing than hand writing — but only because my handwriting looks like a frog fell in blue ink, splotched across a page and then died an ignoble death. Also, typing is quicker. What about you?

My very good (real life) friend recently started her own blog (I’d like to think she was inspired by my pure awesome, but I’m pretty sure the two things are unrelated) named A Mediocre Bunch of Boring. She raises an interesting question this week: Who Wrote the Rule Book on when women have to move from miniskirts, high heels and flirting with bar-staff to sitting at home in a house dress plucking hairs from their chins? It’s a great series of questions (I’ve provided my own answers on her site), and I highly encourage you to check them out and support a new blogger.

April of That Nolen Chick is a prolific blogger, writer, and mother of four kids. She’s always got something interesting to share, and this week was no exception. Check out her Eleven Things Not to Do — especially because it includes a quote about Sicilians and death….

Thinking about Valentine’s Day yet? (It’s tomorrow. Just in case you didn’t know.) Lily from Bedtimes are for Suckers shares with us her ideas for Valentine’s Day Hearts for Parents… Without the Bullshit.

Remember when children belonged outside and you didn’t need TV or the government to tell you that? Remember when we spent hours away from home and our parents only had the vaguest idea of where we were? Remember when you could go visit your friends and you didn’t have to bring your mom with you? Mommy Rotten brings a little nostalgia to the blogosphere this week when she asks Remember When…? I loved this post — and it definitely got me thinking about the lack of freedom our own children have these days.

Remember when going for ice cream was just going for ice cream? A single or a double in a sugar cone? Tracy of Sellabit Mum remembers those days before we had the choice of 352 TV channels and 58 types of mints at the CVS check-out lane. Sure, it’s nice to be able to choose between the 5,789 pairs of black pumps available online, but what effect does that have on our children? In Tracy’s words: I Blame our Ungrateful Society on Baskin Robbins.

Kvetch Mom is also asking questions. In her case, the question is: How many two year olds get attached to a marble? Look, as someone who has had to listen to a similar cry of “AQUEEN! AQUEEN! WHERE YOU, LIGHTAQUEEN!?”, I completely empathise with her situation. And really, don’t we all have those stories of odd things our kids get attached to? (In Big Brother’s case, it’s been everything from a paper airplane to a snow globe.) Check out The Marble and Other Unsafe Lovies.

Don’t you just hate it when your children use your own rules against you? Yeah, me too. But sometimes it’s just so darn cute. Tricia from Critters and Crayons details just such a moment when her four-year-old daughter said, “Mum, You Need to Invite Dad to the Peace Table.”

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Filed under Top 5