Dr. Sara responds to reader comments on Forgotten Baby Syndrome
Every so often, one of our articles hits a nerve—and based on the many passionate responses we received on Facebook, my last article on Forgotten Baby Syndrome: Why parents leave children in hot cars hit a whole nerve bundle. We always welcome feedback and even disagreement here at Bundoo, and I thought this was a good opportunity to talk about how parents treat each other. Many of the commenters felt strongly that when a child is injured or dies due to hyperthermia after being left in a hot car, it is murder. Very few commenters expressed empathy for the families that claim to have forgotten their child.
To me, it felt like in many cases the readers confused an explanation with an excuse. In fact, explanations are essential to increasing our understanding of something, even something as terrible as forgetting a child in a hot car. Explanations are the first step toward preventing it, because while it might be easy to simply demonize parents who forget their children like this, no deaths will ever be prevented if we refuse to understand how it can happen in the first place.
After reading the comments, I went back to Dr. David Diamond, professor of psychology, molecular pharmacology, and physiology at the University of South Florida, Tampa. Dr. Diamond is arguably the national expert on Forgotten Baby Syndrome. His research formed the basis of the article, and here’s what he had to say about the outpouring of response:
“Some people, perhaps the most vocal, have a ‘me versus them’ mentality, which is that, ‘I am a good parent and I would never forget my child—only bad parents forget their children because they are thoughtless and negligent.’ This is a false distinction. I’ve sat with these parents in their homes and in the courtrooms. I’ve seen the suffering they endure on a daily basis. They constantly relive the day they forgot their child, wishing they could have that day to live again, this time to remember their child in the car.
I have known wonderful, attentive and loving parents who have forgotten their children. In an ironic twist, some have been as judgmental as your readers. They are parents like Lyn Balfour, who considered herself immune from forgetting her children and then became a member of the group of parents that had forgotten their kids. Here is an interview with her.
Finally, I can say from personal experience how easy it is to forget a child. No one can adore a child as much as I love my grandchild. But one day I was driving with my wife, and my 6-month-old grandchild was in the backseat. When we arrived at our destination I exited the car, ready to go to the store, and then my wife said to me: “Did you forget about the baby?” I had completely lost awareness that my grandchild was in the back seat. If I had been alone I might be one of those parents your readers judge so harshly. Imagine the irony and the headlines: ‘Memory expert forgets grandchild that dies in his car.’
All I can say to your readers is that this is a tragedy that truly can happen to anyone. We need to understand how this can happen and take steps, including developing technology, that can stop good parents from forgetting their kids in cars.”
Food for thought. I welcome your continued responses.