7-month-old dies in hot, parked car

August 30, 2007

7-month-old dies in hot, parked car talks about the tragedy of “multitasking parents breaking routine and losing track of who had the baby”.

This is always a tragedy. No parent or anyone involved feels anything more than horror and sadness, and no matter what the outcome of responsiblity, I feel for the parent’s loss and the child’s suffering.

On a systemic and cultural level there is something going on here that strikes me. Something societal. Someone mentioned today that North Americans hate their children. Well, I don’t know about that, and I have no children of my own, so I don’t pretend to have an opinion. This tragic situation is blamed it on multi-tasking… which is unfair. Multi-tasking is doing more than one thing at a time. MIS-multi-tasking is trying to do more than one thing at a time and failing. That’s a problem. We have a crisis in terms of being present and attentive; people not thinking about where they are and what they are doing. To be a good multitasker you have to know who you are, what you can do, what you are doing and why. I watch people who are care givers to young children. They are multi-taskers, giving attention to a child, watching a number of other children, communicating with co-workers and parents, and also being responsible for a myriad of other activities. To do that you have to know what your job is… to give care to children and help them learn and grow in a positive and safe environment. You can’t do that if you can’t multi-task. Perhaps we need more multi-tasking who are paying attention, and fewer sequentially mono-taking individuals who forgot what is important. Multi-tasking can be a learned skill of the educational professional.

Another point is that we have the technology. Motion detectors and thermometers, a RFID tag that tells when a baby seat is in or out of the car. A myriad of fixes. Or proximity alarms… you lock your child in with the car seat using the same key as ignition. If the adult is more than 3m away from the car, but hasn’t unlocked the car seat, the windows go up and the alarm goes off. Or if the car is turned off and the child is in the car seat then the windows must open.

The problem is unnatural, as car windows are unnatural occurances, but there are solutions beyond blaming the parents, who are after all victimized by this as well. But the event itself is tragic; all the more so for the regularity of its occurrence.

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