After Tragedies Involving Children, Don't Be So Quick to Blame
In the past week, a few tragic stories involving kids in our community have landed on my radar screen. They all involved freak, unfortunate accidents — the kind that can happen to anyone of us at any time, without warning.
In my former profession, I was a newspaper reporter who covered stories in court. These were the worst of the worst and often involved children. It’s never easy hearing about violent and awful things that humans do to each other, but when kids are involved? It is impossible to sit there and not feel for the child or his or her family. When I became a parent, I struggled during the day and cried into my pillow at night.
The thing I often noticed, though, when covering these cases — and I’ve seen it this week, too — is how quickly outsiders are to blame the child’s parents. An innocent 14-year-old is shot in broad daylight in her front yard in a gang-related shooting? “Why did her parents let her hang around outside?” newspaper readers say in the comments, A 7-year-old riding a bicycle gets hit by a delivery truck in a market parking lot? “Where was his mom?” people demand. A 5-year-old chokes at daycare? “Why didn’t his parents teach him better?” they wonder as they gather around the water cooler.
I’ve often said that the biggest challenge and main responsibility of parenthood is keeping these kids alive and uninjured. With two rambunctious little boys, I feel that any day that passes without a trip to the emergency room is a successful day. Because, no matter how many times you tell them to look both ways before crossing the street or don’t put anything in their mouths, they will still forget. They are young, they are reckless, they are naïve and they lack common sense. They are just kids.
And as much as we wish we could be with them every second of every day to protect them from any and all harm, that’s just not possible. We can’t both raise them in a bubble and teach them independence and self-sufficiency.
Accidents can happen to any of us. Instead of second-guessing grieving parents or making them feel worse, we should instead be understanding, sympathetic and offer whatever support we can. When these tragedies occur, the only thing we can do is try to learn from them: talk to your kids again (and again) and, as often as you can, hold them close and tell them you love them.
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