Yes, yes, us stupid non-parents, who have no idea and no right to comment on anything regarding childrearing. I'm so fucking sick of that meme.
Oh fiddlesticks, I'm thinking with your dick!
". . . the lower portion of the body was red to red-purple. . ."
" . . . a green discoloration of the abdomen . . . autolysis of the organs . . . what we call skin slippage . . . the core body temperature reaches 108 degrees when death ensues."
"The child pulled all her hair out before she died."
Baltimore, Md.: What about this idea for a preventative measure: (1) wear a wrist-watch that has an alarm feature, (2) every time you put your child in the car seat, set the alarm for 15 minutes after you expect to take him out of the car, (3) if you ever forget the child, the alarm should sound and notify you of your mistake. If you really want to make this work, use two alarm clocks -- a wrist watch alarm and a small travel alarm-clock that you carry in your pocket. Then the failure of one of the alarm clocks is not a fatal event. I use this technique when I put my dog outside in a fenced yard on a hot day. I don't want to ever forget that the dog is out there.
Gene Weingarten: I think there are two problems with this. The first is that there is a LOT of stuff you have to remember to do. The second is that -- I know this will sound odd -- some parents would just turn off the alarm, convinced they had delivered the child to daycare. I talked to 13 parents who had lived through this: Five of them told me they had formed a very specific, detailed memory of having dropped off the child.
The father in Chattanooga who is mentioned in the story: He essentially HAD that alarm. His car motion detector went off. He just shut it down and went back to work.
This is very strange mental territory we enter here.
On the day Balfour forgot Bryce in the car, she had been up much of the night, first babysitting for a friend who had to take her dog to an emergency vet clinic, then caring for Bryce, who was cranky with a cold. Because the baby was also tired, he uncharacteristically dozed in the car, so he made no noise. Because Balfour was planning to bring Bryce's usual car seat to the fire station to be professionally installed, Bryce was positioned in a different car seat that day, not behind the passenger but behind the driver, and was thus not visible in the rear-view mirror. Because the family's second car was on loan to a relative, Balfour drove her husband to work that day, meaning the diaper bag was in the back, not on the passenger seat, as usual, where she could see it. Because of a phone conversation with a young relative in trouble, and another with her boss about a crisis at work, Balfour spent most of the trip on her cell, stressed, solving other people's problems. Because the babysitter had a new phone, it didn't yet contain Balfour's office phone number, only her cell number, meaning that when the sitter phoned to wonder why Balfour hadn't dropped Bryce off that morning, it rang unheard in Balfour's pocketbook.
Not all cases of infant hyperthermia in cars are like the ones this article is about: simple if bewildering lapses of memory by an otherwise apparently good parent. In other types of cases, there is a history of prior neglect, or evidence of substance abuse. Sometimes, the parent knowingly left the child in the car, despite the obvious peril. In one particularly egregious instance, a mother used her locked car as an inexpensive substitute for day care. When hyperthermia deaths are treated as crimes, these are the ones that tend to result in prison sentences.
Then there is the Chattanooga, Tenn., business executive who must live with this: His motion-detector car alarm went off, three separate times, out there in the broiling sun. But when he looked out, he couldn't see anyone tampering with the car. So he remotely deactivated the alarm and went calmly back to work.