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Tag archive for: parenting

Kids Left in Cars

This column won’t make you laugh. In fact, if you even crack a grin, then I’ve done something wrong. But I have to talk about this issue because it haunts me, and I need to believe some good will come from airing it.

Every year in this country, about 20 infants and young children die after being accidentally left in a car. Not left for 30 minutes while a frazzled mom runs into a Walmart. Not left for an hour while a delinquent dad ducks into a bar. Those are just bad decisions: deliberate and ill-advised.

I mean left for hours upon hours in a closed-up car, where temperatures can climb to 125 degrees, by otherwise responsible but disastrously distracted parents who forget that their baby is strapped in the backseat and so get out of their vehicles and go blithely about their lives while their child suffers heatstroke and dies alone.

It’s horrific. Gut-twistingly, skull-throbbingly unthinkable. Yet it happens all the time. It happened to babies in Virginia and Maryland over the Fourth of July weekend. It sounds like something that only happens to soft-headed imbeciles unfit to reproduce. But it’s happened over the years to a college professor, a cop, a rocket scientist, a clergyman, a nurse, a social worker, a pediatrician… It happens to protective parents who put foam bumpers on every sharp corner in their home and organized parents who start college funds while their babies are still in utero.

I know because it happened to me.

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No Children, No Comment

As far as breeders go, I like to think I’m pretty tolerable. I don’t preach to my child-free friends about the unparalleled rapture that is (but kind of isn’t) parenthood. I don’t scoff when they call their pets their “babies.” I don’t sneer resentfully as they jet off to tropical, adult-only vacations in fricking February, when it’s not even a school holiday and they have no natural right to be warm and free and happy. (Okay, I do that, but they don’t know it.)

What I definitely don’t do is ask people why they don’t have children. My nonparent friends say they get asked this question all the time — sometimes by relative strangers. No one with a modicum of manners would ask, “Why aren’t you married?” or “Why don’t you earn more money?” Yet childless adults who appear within an egg’s toss of breeding age are often asked to explain why they’re not helping to populate this poor, desolate planet.

The real answer is often complicated, but my put-upon pals like to have a short, simple response at the ready — something that’ll call off the procreative inquisition and let everyone get back to vapid small talk, for the love of god.

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My columns are collected in three lovely books, which make a SPLENDID gift for wives, friends, book clubs, hostesses, and anyone who likes to laugh!
Keep Your Skirt On
Wife on the Edge
Broad Assumptions
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