It’s a mistake

Over my recent vacation to Canada to introduce our new baby to family we had one of those frightening moments.  He was sitting next to me on the sofa as I was watching him play with a toy.  Thus far he had been a pretty stationary baby.  He was starting to move more and I was paying more attention to him so he didn’t fall.  My aunt asked me a question and I turned my head and just like that I hear people yell out and I turned my head back to see him dive onto the floor, landing head first, his head bending backwards.  I picked up quickly and held him close, his cry was different.  My wife then grabbed him from me, not because she was mad at me (I think) but just her own motherly need to hold him.  I was on the verge of tears.  My head was swimming with thoughts that I had broken his spine and he’d be paralyzed or that I had caused some other brain damage…perhaps even fatal.  Thankfully he was fine, although if he gets a B in math class I’m sure I’ll feel responsible.

In reflection I thought about how quickly such horrible tragedies can happen.  What if the fall had been a bit harder?  Hit a different part of the head?  At times, life seems to be a matter of fractions of seconds and millimeters (inches for my American friends). It made me think about some recent stories I read about parents who have lost their children.   Earlier this year a bookcase killed a 3 year old girl as she tried to climb it and it tipped over killing her.  These kinds of things happen often enough now that we should be more aware, but there are literally a lot of possible dangers out there and I am not sure it’s possible to prepare for every one of them.   Very recently, footage at a London train station showed a baby carriage blowing onto the tracks as the parents stopped to help someone with their bags.  Fortunately the mother was able to get the carriage off the tracks in time, but the stroller literally gets turned by the gust of wind caused by the approaching train and quickly ends up on the tracks.   There is nothing remarkably different about these two events other than some fortune in spotting the trouble before it was too late.  I am sure there are many more parents who have been fortunate that a similar accident has not killed the child only injured them.  Or perhaps they caught the impending accident in time by catching something before it fell or moving the child out of harm’s way.  Perhaps when the child was a little younger and lighter, or the bookcase a little heavier they saw it teeter a bit and said “Hey, I should secure that.”  The positive outcome is most often the outcome.   Children can take more bumps and bruises than we think, and tears are often temporary.  No child dies from crying no matter how much we don’t want to see those tears.  But we simply can’t predict or foresee all possible dangers.

These two incidents and the one I experienced are good examples of how habit influences our lives.  We often get used to routine and what we consider as usual that we don’t take into account the unexpected.  After 7 months of my son not trying to roll off the couch you come to sort of expect that it won’t happen, even if that seems stupid in hindsight.  I am sure the parents who lost their daughter to the falling shelves, never thought she would try to climb it, or never had seen her try before.  I’m sure all of us who are regular train travelers are well aware of the gust of wind that rushes ahead of a train, especially in an enclosed station.  How many of us might think about how that wind might push a stroller?

The routine can even lead to more unfathomable mistakes.  Such as not realizing your child is in the car seat behind you and leaving them in a hot car for hours.  If you are a parent or just a compassionate person it takes just a second to imagine what the infant must have gone through.  There is no way your mind can take you through that slow death.  You will hit a wall before it gets really terrible and all you know is that unspeakable darkness comes after.

These incidents unfortunately also end up serving as a reminder of the lack of compassion that is so visible in society today.  The comments that people make to these parents are truly horrifying.  Scores of “perfect parents” who think they’ve done everything right and would never make the mistakes these parents did.  These perfect parents are calling for the gallows instead of realizing that the person you are criticizing is in a massive amount of pain.  If it could be displayed as a physical wound it would be a chest wound to the heart with the patient ending up in the intensive care unit in critical condition.   And how “perfect” are these parents anyway? Have these parents never had their kid fall? Driven over the speed limit with their kid?  Driven in a busy city with their kid?  Have they never lost their kid in a crowd?  Have their kid’s sweaty hand slip from their grip in a dangerous situation?  Did they never have to watch their kid after having a couple of drinks, perhaps affecting their judgment or reaction time?  There are more possibly dangerous scenarios than I can list, and the fact that nothing ever happened to them during that time is the only reason they are not one of these tragic stories.

Now don’t get me wrong.  There are terrible parents out there.  There are parents who do unspeakably horrible things to their children, or who are just irresponsible and are neglectful to their children causing them great harm, mentally, physically, and sometimes fatally.  It is actually the harm to children that led me away from the idea of their being a loving deity out there, but perhaps that is a post for another time.  The point is that the death of a child is always a horrible thing regardless of how it happens and so it is understandable that we would get angry.  That feeling, however, does not give us the right to lash out at other people in pain.  We all make mistakes, and many of them go unnoticed because nothing bad ever comes close to happening while we are making them.  You want to get angry, direct that energy into something useful; education, better safety standards, helping others.

These perfect parents, even if it were possible often sound like the kind of parent who hovers over their kid, never letting them play just because they might get a bruised knee and keeping them so far from danger that they are more likely to get brought down by the simplest things in their adult life because they’ve never had to cope on their own.  And here’s the rub – as parents we must walk that thin line between protecting our children and giving our children the freedom to overcome their own obstacles in life.  Children need to face fear, and they need to solve their own problems and make mistakes while doing it.  Children also need their parents to be good people, and not just good guardians.  The London couple helping out somebody with their baggage is a great act of kindness that kids need to see.  If you think that you are a positive individual who is a good role model for your children then part of you must continue to be the person you’ve always been.  Kids may take over your life, but you are not your kids.  You have your own identity and, again, if you value yourself then part of being a good parent is just being what you think is a good human being (good luck in getting an agreement on that anytime soon).

Finally, I want to quickly express my concern for the trend in wanting to criminalize every parent for these mistakes.  All the details of the case rarely get reported and unless you are intimately involved in the case you really don’t know the truth.  Furthermore, even though many parents do not face criminal charges thankfully for these horrific mistakes, some do simply because they don’t have what society considers having a “good character”.   Maybe you occasionally do some marijuana, maybe you flirt a little with other girls or had an affair. Maybe you just aren’t a rich white person.

All I can tell you is that had my son truly been severely injured or killed in his fall, I can guarantee you that no prison would have walls stronger than the one I would have built for myself.  Nothing you could say would be harsher than what I would be telling myself.  I will guarantee you that you do not love your child any more than I do and though your negative judgment would be despicable, I would still never wish on you such pain in my anguish.  So if you can’t direct your anger and sadness to the loss of a sweet child into something helpful at the very least remember the golden rule, which I hope you are teaching your children, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.”

14 thoughts on “It’s a mistake

  1. ryan59479

    I’m glad he’s okay! Babies are surprisingly resilient. I used to be terrified of holding them until I realized that there wouldn’t be 7 billion of us on the planet is babies were more fragile than the finest porcelain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. I think with the comments people make they assume that most parents are out to harm their children. We wouldn’t have 7 billion people on the planet either if that were true!


      1. Babies are very resilient and FALL a great deal. The physiology of a baby is to handle all the up and coming falls! Crashes into chairs, climbing over the crib onto floors, banging their heads and much much more.
        I use to work in Denver Childrens Hospital ER, it is incredible what babies do with all the orifices of their bodies, knocks everywhere on their body. And these were not the children who had 10 to 20 some surgeries and lived with shunts. For the most part, they are more resilient than the grownups.
        Not to say a parent should ignore them; a good parent will keep an eye on the child, for children as you will learn very quickly are extremely curious!!!!!!
        You are a loving father Swarn and I am sure the first happenstance took more than your breathe away. Get ready for much more!! Cheers

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you MicheleElys. I am sure there will be many more falls. My purpose for writing the article was more to question why people have such anger towards the parents for whom tragedy befalls them given how easy it is for any of us to make mistakes. And that sometimes in a blink of an eyes our entire world can fall apart even to the best of people.


          1. Thank you Swarn. Yes, our worlds can collapse in a blink of an eye, even when it is not a mistake! Why people blame – pick anything, any person in our lives is all too easy. Unfortunately this venue never resolves the problem, only to make life and relationships worse.
            Is it the way we are reared in American society. Since I grew up in Europe, when tragedy befell a person, as I remember the entire family came together and so did the socialistic system to help individuals. We lack support in the US.
            Your babies fall was a slight example and a positive one, everyone gathered immediately. Why the anger towards either people befalling tragedy or those whom are alienated due to tragedy is an interesting subject.
            There is great fear in the US (as I have seen it and study reactions) that tragedy is contagious and we all must be perfect, which is unrealistic. I had known this through my private practice of those whom felt egregious shame from the detours in life.
            And then I was part of that tragedy, taking me over 10 years to recover and come back to regular life and the rebuilding of my life. To view me, no one would know what I had to go through. And it was without telling but a handful of people. Even then I was ostracized, or vicious gossip that had no founding. Very interesting to go through, now on the back end.
            You baby has great parents, educated, more aware and loving; the most essential ingredients in life. Cheers


      1. Thanks for the link. It’s amazing how much we’re learning about concussions. There will be no football for my kids. If they want to play sports, they can try something more sensible, like boxing.

        As for my daughter, as far as we could ascertain, she didn’t suffer a concussion either of those times, although she was less than a year old, so there was only so much we could tell. Any time she bumps her head now, I tell her to be careful because she might need it someday. I think she thinks that I’m joking.


        1. Oh Chris, I thought you were joking because you usually have that twisted sense of humor! I am sorry that you are learning that it did cause problems. I guess I hope that doesn’t happen for Dhyan, but yes avoiding things that sports where concussions are common seems sensible in general!


          1. Chris, Forget the football that is for sissies!! And boxing, too much spit!! For for FULL CONTACT KARATE!! at least you know you have completely creamed your opponent while falling after your leg is twisted our of joint!!


      2. I was joking about the effects manifesting. As she’s approaching three years old, she’s become somewhat disobedient, prone to hysterics, and does strange things like pee in her toy box. The long term effects of concussion, probably not, but I’m no expert.

        If I was serious I wouldn’t have ended my sentence with ‘…’ . That’s how you can tell. Don’t feel bad about not knowing. My former boss would often say, “I can never tell when you’re serious.” I would usually respond with something sympathetic sounding, but completely unhelpful like, “I can imagine how frustrating that must make you feel.”

        She did fall on her head a couple times, though. One time, similar to what you described, she fell off a bed onto a hardwood floor head first. Her neck went kind of sideways. It wasn’t pretty. Fortunately, that was under Christine’s watch so I didn’t get in trouble. Although I did get in trouble for having the car with the car seat so Christine couldn’t drive to the hospital if she needed to. (Ironically, I was driving to the hospital at the time.) It just goes to show that, when you’re the dad, it’s always your fault to some degree.

        I’m spending far too much time on your blog today. I’m supposed to be working…

        I really am supposed to be working, so the ‘…’ isn’t a hard and fast rule.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I can always tell you are joking in person. Intonation is lost in text. lol Yes, I agree it is always the father’s fault to some degree, especially since I’m less paranoid about these things. I try to be really supportive when he hurts himself under Maggie’s watch to lessen the blame I get. lol


        2. Chris, I was not frustrated, but I do not feel it is something to joke about when it comes to injuries. For the most part concussions in children are not long lasting. But I have known some teens, that for the rest of their lives they are seriously engaged. And some adults, many commit suicide for the grueling part the outside world does not see, is heinous every millisecond of the person’s day.
          Glad Swarn knows you are the joker. Cheers


  2. Oh my gosh! I can relate.

    I have raised so many kids it will be strange when they are all gone. Two marriages, in the first, 2 kids one mine the other mine too just not biologically. The second marriage was something akin to the Brady Bunch. I had 2 kids, the new wife had 3 kids (2 young teens the other 3.5), and we made one more.

    So I understand as well as anyone, that those incidents happen quicker than a bolt of lightning from the sky, and despite our best efforts to minimize them, they are going to happen here and there. Fortunately as you now know kids are pretty tough.

    …and yes these days people are a little too quick to jump on the News Network Bandwagon and condemn someone before they have relative facts. Granted there is too much abuse, neglect, and malevolent parental situations out there. But, there is also this thing known as “shit happens.”

    We had to remove our coffee table from the living room a long time ago. The little ones kept whacking their heads on the damn thing, we were afriad people were going to start thinking we were doing it! We still do not have a coffee table, don’t even miss it really.

    …I will never forget the time our youngest, he was maybe 4, was walking up the steps out front. The steps meet up with a concrete porch. I was too far away to do anything, as he tripped on the top step, falling headfirst on the concrete, and hit with a sickening “slap!” that turned my stomach, I just knew we were headed for the hospital. He got up like nothing had happened. It didn’t even leave a lasting mark. We kept a close eye on him for several hours and did not let him go to sleep in that time, but it turned out allright. Though he has come home with a few B’s on his report card…

    All I can tell you from my experiences is, enjoy the ride. 🙂


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