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March 9, 2009 10:12 AM   Subscribe

This FPP, a Washington Post article about accidental hyperthermic deaths of children, has elicited some amazing responses, in particular this post by scrump.
posted by jokeefe to MetaFilter-Related at 10:12 AM (298 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Thanks for this, jokeefe. I would have missed that comment because I got tired of reading about how some people (many/most/all of them seemed to be non-parents) would never ever do such a thing and can't grok how it would happen.
posted by rtha at 10:27 AM on March 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Aside: In one sentence, you used "post" in three completely distinct senses (one of which is arguably wrong).
posted by Plutor at 10:29 AM on March 9, 2009


Every time I sneeze while driving my car I am thankful that it wasn't the exact moment a child on a bicycle darted out into the road. That was a great comment by scrump. He is a treasure.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:30 AM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


.
posted by kalessin at 10:34 AM on March 9, 2009


Indeed. I was not willing to read through that thread initially because of the subject, and would have missed that comment.
posted by odinsdream at 10:35 AM on March 9, 2009


What odinsdream said.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:38 AM on March 9, 2009


Its comforting to find that someone else shares the anthropomorphic image of a random number generator in the sky that determines whether or not I am to be ripped apart by the imaginary nailbombs that lurk on every form of public transport.

"I'm going to die....NOW! I'm going to die....NOW! I'm going to die...NOW!"
posted by Jofus at 10:42 AM on March 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Its comforting to find that someone else shares the anthropomorphic image of a random number generator in the sky that determines whether or not I am to be ripped apart by the imaginary nailbombs that lurk on every form of public transport.

Fortuna's Wheel of Fortune. Ironic that "gambling" is illegal in most states, when our lives are so influenced by the myriad wagers we make each day.
posted by terranova at 10:58 AM on March 9, 2009


It's unnerving and humbling to be called out like this: thanks, jokeefe. I feel like LarryC's comment about his briefcase was an absolute gut-punch, in a great way. His comment is what made me write mine.

Fundamentally, this was one of those cases where I probably would never have read this article if it hadn't been called out on MeFi: as good as it is, and as high-profile as the Washington Post is, and as much as I like Gene Weingarten, I don't read it, or him, every day. So Ike_Arumba really deserves all the credit for posting it in the first place. I was just reacting.
posted by scrump at 11:00 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a father myself I can say scrump nailed my reaction to the post before reading, and then after reading it.
posted by nola at 11:05 AM on March 9, 2009


Amazing comments among the riff-raff. scrump's description of his "Lost Year" brought back vivid memories (or rather, non-memories) of my own "Lost Year" - my senior year in college, when I was working 3 part-time jobs, taking a full course load that included 3 graduate level courses and two upper-divisional seminars, surrounded by people who had essentially graduated and were partying 7 days a week (which means I, too, was trying to fit in a social schedule of some sort). Like scrump, I am not bragging, but I never thought until now how little of that year I remember - my coursework, sure, and a few stress-free trips I took, but otherwise it's nearly blank.
posted by muddgirl at 11:09 AM on March 9, 2009


Aside: In one sentence, you used "post" in three completely distinct senses (one of which is arguably wrong).

The grammar nerd in me is tearing her hair out in shame, but the rest of me is going "huh". I know that I used "post" too often-- which is why I used the abbreviation FPP-- but I can't avoid using the word as part of the name of the newspaper where the article appeared, and comments in threads are commonly called posts. Where's the arguably wrong usage?

posted by jokeefe at 11:09 AM on March 9, 2009


I don't think my parents properly desensitized me. I have not been able to get the image of a baby ripping its hair out while it bakes in a car out of my mind.
posted by milarepa at 11:15 AM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


(I think the "arguably wrong" usage is calling what scrump wrote a post when it's actually comment.)

I also think it was a little dickish to point it out.
posted by kate blank at 11:19 AM on March 9, 2009


There's an argument to be made that a post is only the thing at the top of the page, to which a thread full of comments is attached. Ergo, "in particular this comment by scrump" would have dodged a bullet as far as jargony criticism goes. But given that "post" is used for comments and comment-like content in other places on the web, it's more of a local usage convention than a general one.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:20 AM on March 9, 2009


My font is smaller.
posted by gman at 11:22 AM on March 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


A great comment, deserving of this MeTa post.
posted by languagehat at 11:28 AM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


kate blank: "I also think it was a little dickish to point it out."

That's why I put it in small and in parentheses.

posted by Plutor at 11:28 AM on March 9, 2009


(Plutor sucks at badminton!)
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:31 AM on March 9, 2009


Thanks cortex. Is the reference unclear enough in the initial post that it should be changed to "this comment by scrump"? Because I'm fine with that, if it would serve the greater good. :)
posted by jokeefe at 11:39 AM on March 9, 2009


If you're going to amend the post, could you please add "Also, odiv is awesome!" on the end while you're at it?
posted by ODiV at 11:44 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not hardly. Besides, left as is it gives us pedants something to talk about in the small places beneath the thread proper.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:44 AM on March 9, 2009


heh heh, cortex said "pedant."

I'm only making jokes in small type because I can't bear the certain heartbreak of reading that article, though I, too, think scrump's comment is excellent.

posted by scody at 11:51 AM on March 9, 2009


Why are you whispering?!
posted by milarepa at 11:56 AM on March 9, 2009


Is the reference unclear enough in the initial post that it should be changed to "this comment by scrump"?

sorry about the twitch factor, but you need to work this out with your own personal deity or therapist, we don't edit.

posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:58 AM on March 9, 2009


Thanks for pointing this out, I am another who would not have read that comment because I couldn't bring myself to read the thread.

I grew up in the Phoenix area, where children dying in hot cars happened often enough that a couple incidents even stand out in my memory with specific details, and where backyard drownings were also all too common. I grew up understanding that even conscientious parents can make tragic mistakes. I avoided that thread in part because I could not have stood to read smug declarations of opinion from people who just don't and can't know that. But Scrump nails it.
posted by padraigin at 12:09 PM on March 9, 2009


Yeah, I avoided that article/discussion because I was afraid of simplistic moralizing that MeFi can do pretty often… So it was great to see that comment (and Larry's).
posted by klangklangston at 12:13 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Post vs comment derail is hereby abandoned, at least on my end.

I've gone back and read the comment by scrump at least five or six times, and it loses none of its power, imo. One of the things that you have to accept, as a parent, is that you cannot control everything; you truly are a hostage to fortune. The worst can happen to any of us at any time. Thanks for sharing that with us, scrump.
posted by jokeefe at 12:14 PM on March 9, 2009


Is "We should tie you to a post and flog you with a geoduck" appropriate usage?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:19 PM on March 9, 2009


thank you for that comment, scrump - I already got that it could happen to anyone, but it wasn't until I read your post that it sunk in that any stupid autopilot mistake could as easily have been any other - and I got chills remembering the time my mom left my sister at the supermarket.
posted by moxiedoll at 12:26 PM on March 9, 2009


By the way, out and out boo hoos in this neck of the woods since this MeTa was posted. Well met, scrump.

And my SO, meanwhile was laughing at his folly, having thought we didn't have a monitor in the house, misremembering throwing two out when in fact, only one was thrown out, and another is still sitting, right where it belongs, on the desk in the office, where we don't all the time go and see, so I called him THAT GUY and DINK 4 LYFE and A BAKER OF BABIES. I would never, ever think this couldn't happen to me.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:28 PM on March 9, 2009


I was going to say that scrump's comment didn't seem to be a good example of the randomness of a tragedy like this; it seemed rather to vindicate the commenters who believed there were significant parent-controlled factors that would make something like this more or less likely. But then he said it himself, on the MeFi thread, and I thought it bore importing:

LarryC's comment is a perfect example of a potentially catastrophic, momentary lapse of attention that could happen to anyone. Maybe my comment can stand as a useful example of how so many of us invite catastrophe without ever intending to do so, or even being aware of doing so.
posted by palliser at 12:40 PM on March 9, 2009


it seemed rather to vindicate the commenters who believed there were significant parent-controlled factors that would make something like this more or less likely.

but given that the factor is exhaustion, it really applies to anyone with a baby.
posted by moxiedoll at 12:50 PM on March 9, 2009


but given that the factor is exhaustion, it really applies to anyone with a baby.

He described himself as having a full-time job, plus a course of study that added 40-60 hours of work per week, plus an hour and a half commute to his classes. Plus the baby. I find my own performance as a parent (patience, watchfulness, good driving) to decline with every hour of lost sleep, and to decline precipitously if I don't make it up by switching sleep-ins off with my spouse on the weekends. In other words, 2+1+2+1 hours of sleep is bad (typical newborn, right?), 2+1+2 is worse (newborn plus need to be up at a certain time in the morning), and 2+2 is horrible horrible horrible you should really take my keys. And to do that nonstop, for a year?

I do get the sleep deprivation that comes with babies, but I bow to his experience in this field.
posted by palliser at 1:38 PM on March 9, 2009


but given that the factor is exhaustion, it really applies to anyone with a baby.

It is unconvincing that anyone with an infant or toddler becomes just as impaired as a drunk driver (e.g. suffering sleep-deprived black-outs like scrump), and if it was true, that would simply be a good argument for not letting parents with young children operate cars at all, because they would be a danger to themselves and others.

Either way, simple precautionary habits that can be learned even by the forgetful and the sleep-deprived, could all but eliminate this ever happening again. And now that I am aware of this danger, its likelihood, and its causes, I will now fully expect parents to engage in these simple habits. If they don't they should be found guilty of manslaughter.

A few "public hangings," to capture the attention of anyone that gives a damn and we can be sure that only irresponsible parents will be the ones responsible for this in the future. It's not a difficult thing to prevent once you learn about it. So parents should now be expected to learn about it.
posted by dgaicun at 1:42 PM on March 9, 2009


And now that I am aware of this danger, its likelihood, and its causes, I will now fully expect parents to engage in these simple habits. If they don't they should be found guilty of manslaughter.

Are you being sarcastic? It's hard to tell.
posted by chinston at 1:56 PM on March 9, 2009


that would simply be a good argument for not letting parents with young children operate cars at all, because they would be a danger to themselves and others.

That's not an argument that anyone is going to run with, though. Who is going to fund this new nationwide chauffeur service we'd need to address the problem? Are we going to time-lock or impound the cars? Etc. The problem of parents being tired but having to get on with their day is more intractable than that line of reasoning accounts for, pragmatically speaking.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:05 PM on March 9, 2009


I am all for the chauffeur service, though.
posted by Mister_A at 2:06 PM on March 9, 2009


Thanks for pointing out the comment. I couldn't do that thread, not with a six week old in the house.
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:23 PM on March 9, 2009


Every time I sneeze while driving my car...

This is a tangent, but I've often wondered what if, say, a Formula 1 driver had a big sneeze during a race. Or a neurosurgeon in the middle of surgery. I suspect the brain has some sort of lock-out to prevent sneezes during periods of intense concentration.
posted by exogenous at 2:26 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thank you for pointing out scrump's comment. I got through the article, but couldn't get through even half of the thread before becoming nauseated.

I can't imagine, I don't want to imagine, the pain those parents go through.
posted by deborah at 2:52 PM on March 9, 2009


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.
posted by agregoli at 3:01 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you being sarcastic? It's hard to tell.

No, I'm not being sarcastic. I consider it negligent homicide, because I now expect responsible parents to take simple precautions to prevent a horrible kind of death. This expectation is self-fulfilling, so I believe the more zero-tolerance you express in the short term, the less punishment will be necessary in the long term. Feasibly close to zero punishment after a brief period of social change, since I believe most parents will consider this a small sacrifice for such an important prevention. I guarantee you in five years the only cases you'd hear about anymore would be parents with a questionable history of abuse or neglect.

Who is going to fund this new nationwide chauffeur service we'd need to address the problem?

Most importantly parents=drunks is not true, so this is all abstracturbation, but: a car is not necessary to take care of a child, and even if it was then that underlines the fact that not everyone has the means to have a child. If you can't feed your child, social services comes and takes them away. And if this expectation of reproduction within either personal or welfare-assisted means wasn't feasible (and it would be), then we should simply be fair and legalize drunk driving, since this is the threshold of competence we have decided is acceptable for road safety. I am certainly not of the opinion that it's more ok to kill me with your car because you wanted to have children then it is you wanted to drink beer.
posted by dgaicun at 3:03 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I avoided that article/discussion because I was afraid of simplistic moralizing that MeFi can do pretty often

Yar, one of the worst things about MeFi. I read that thread and what I found astounding was that some of the replies were, logically, like this:
1) I read the article and find no fault in its logic.
2) Yet this does not match up with my gut feeling that this only happens to careless people, not careful/smart people like me and mine.
3) Therefore I conclude that you're all wrong, and
4) I see no problem with my reasoning.
posted by fleacircus at 3:05 PM on March 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Where did you get that from agregoli?
posted by nola at 3:06 PM on March 9, 2009


Yes, yes, us stupid non-parents, who have no idea and no right to comment on anything regarding childrearing

I too reserve the right to moralize and judge on any topic no matter how ignorant I am of it!
posted by fleacircus at 3:07 PM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


but: a car is not necessary to take care of a child,

Thanks for telling us what we need to take care of a child. Gotta go, I'm late for work and it takes a while to hitch up the horse and buggy
posted by nola at 3:10 PM on March 9, 2009


It's the judging someone as completely ignorant and having useless opinions about childrearing because they aren't a parent that I find offensive.
posted by agregoli at 3:10 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


(More than a few people in the actual thread and the first comment in this thread annoyed me. No other topic but parenting seems to generate these "you have no idea cause you haven't experienced it" kind of comments. No one has experienced everything there is on Metafilter, but you rarely see those kinds of "you don't know what you're talking about" kind of insinuations. Or maybe I read the wrong threads and they are there. I just fail to see how it's necessary to point out that any one commenter is or isn't a parent. )
posted by agregoli at 3:12 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I believe the more zero-tolerance you express in the short term, the less punishment will be necessary in the long term. Feasibly close to zero punishment after a brief period of social change, since I believe most parents will consider this a small sacrifice for such an important prevention

You're ignoring the possibility that in fact we are on the tail end of a wave of national paranoia about the safety of our children and wanting the close-to zero punishment you describe.

Having been 90% vigilant, we became 99% vigilant. Shit still Happened, if less often. And so maybe we look at the jump to 99.9% vigilant you propose and collectively say fuck it, we're not a society of fucking robots, 99% is plenty.
posted by fleacircus at 3:13 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


a car is not necessary to take care of a child

I think you misspoke, there. In my experience in America (outside of NYC and a few other cities) you do need a car.

Thanks, again, jokeefe for pointing out a terrific comment I would never have read for thread-fear. The best thing about the comment was that it filled in all I might have wanted to know about the article and thread - not logistically, mind, but on the level that really counts. I've dodged that bullet too, and some of those times I probably did not even recognize it... brrrrrrrrr.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:22 PM on March 9, 2009


No other topic but parenting seems to generate these "you have no idea cause you haven't experienced it" kind of comments.

I believe that, on rare occasions, I've heard some people say that men have no right to an opinion regarding the availability of abortion.

I'm sure non-parents can have informed opinions about parenting, but I do also think that we parents don't have to automatically respect that opinion unless you lay out some credentials for us. Namely because (1) how the heck do you know? and (2) really, why do you care? When someone holds a strong conviction regarding something the have no personal experience with and that doesn't affect them at all, I can see why others would be a little suspect of that opinion.

Not me, of course. I have all day. Please, continue on.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:23 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you can't feed your child, social services comes and takes them away.

Well, no, they won't: they'll hook you up with services so you can feed your child.

Won't feed your kid? Different matter, of course.

It's the judging someone as completely ignorant and having useless opinions about childrearing because they aren't a parent that I find offensive.


Honestly, I don't think I saw any of that. I did see a lot of judgy nonparents being judgy, though. (IANAP)

Oh, and I nominate dgaicun to be chaffeur.
posted by rtha at 3:26 PM on March 9, 2009


nola, look I'm not going to argue with you about what you feel is the "necessary" standard of living. Lots and lots of people don't own cars; I know many who don't. I lived in a country where almost no one did.

It's a hypothetical anyway: parent does not = drunk. I was once on codeine after getting my wisdom teeth removed; if I had needed to drive in that non-lucid state, well tough shit, it wasn't safe.

So if you kill someone I love while you're all dizzy and sleep-deprived from your colicky brood, well fuck you: you're an entitled menace, and you deserve to be punished.


You're ignoring the possibility that in fact we are on the tail end of a wave of national paranoia about the safety of our children and wanting the close-to zero punishment you describe.


I'm not ignoring it, it simply hasn't happened. You'll know it's happened when people start incorporating fail-safe precautionary habits (e.g. always putting their shoes in the backseat before driving) to counteract fallible human tendencies).

To get society there quickly, there has to be a sea change in social expectations and awareness about this problem, which will go together. So I have now modified my expectations accordingly.
posted by dgaicun at 3:30 PM on March 9, 2009

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.
I'm going to skip past the anger and try to engage with the basic issue you're bringing up, which is that a lot of parents don't believe that someone who isn't a parent can really understand what it's like to be a parent.

I'll confess to feeling that way myself, largely because of a run-in I had with a coworker shortly after I had my son. To cut to the end, he said "I've been changing diapers for my nieces and nephews for decades, I probably know more about parenting than you do". And I see this a lot: people who don't have children, and who have never been parents, who believe that their opinions on the subject of how children should be raised are as valid as those of actual parents.

I'm going to try to articulate why I disagree with this, and I hope you can bear with me and not view this as yet another attempt to dismiss your opinions: I'm telling you what it feels like from this side, in an attempt to engage with what you're telling me from that side.

My thesis is that changing diapers, babysitting, or even looking after young children for a week or more full-time is not comparable to the work of parenting, and the experience in the short term can neither be compared to nor usefully extrapolated to the long term.
  1. As parents, we are responsible, even when physically absent, for the welfare and long-term development of our child. We are also legally and morally held accountable for our child's welfare and development. If you, as a babysitter, screw up and harm our child, you will face certain legal sanctions, but we, as the parents who hired the babysitter and gave the babysitter responsibility for our child, will face much more severe censure.
  2. We, as parents, are never, ever "off duty". Even when we are separate from our child. We do not ever get time off, even if we're sick. Saying "I'm going to skip this teachable moment" or "I'm going to not have this debate" or "I'm not going to deal with my child's needs right now" is never an option for a parent. Or, more precisely, whether or not we choose to abdicate our parenting responsibilities, they always exist, and in many cases will be forced upon us if we publicly enough abandon them. Changing diapers is only one small (albeit highly visible) aspect of parenting, and that more or less falls under "keep them clean".
  3. It is very difficult for those of us who are parents to believe that someone who has not been a parent really understands the depth and breadth to which parenting takes over your life, largely because most of us are looking back at our glib pronouncements before we had kids and rolling around on the floor wheezing with laughter. Remember, always remember, that we were once you. A lot of us were even convinced we'd never have children, right up until we did. We have an intimate understanding of both sides of the equation: being without children, and having opinions on parenting, and then having children, and living the reality. With all due respect, if you haven't been a parent, you don't have the same perspective: all you've actually known is a life without children.
Theories are just that: theories. I suspect that many parents hold to the military aphorism "no plan survives first contact with the enemy", in that all of our wonderful theories went straight out the window when the rubber met the road.

Finally, I'll say this: I don't think non-parents are stupid, and I don't think you have no idea and no right to comment on anything regarding childrearing. I do think that many of you come off as people commenting without actual experience on something with which parents do have experience, and that can raise our hackles. And I think you can necessarily have only a limited idea of what's involved in parenting, and I weight your opinions accordingly: it's unreasonably for someone without children to expect me, a parent, to weight their opinions the same as I would weight those of another parent. Put simply, you haven't been there, you haven't done that, and I will always weight the comments of someone who has over yours. I don't think that's unreasonable on my part. And finally, you have a right to your opinion, but you need to keep in mind that you are someone with no practical experience in a field opining on how people who are actually doing the job should do their jobs.

I hope this goes some way towards explaining the hostility that can crop up in these discussions, at least from one perspective. I'm not speaking for all parents: I'm speaking for myself as a parent, and I'm sure others will chime in. I'm perfectly willing to listen to what you have to say on this topic if you treat me with the same respect I've treated you.
posted by scrump at 3:30 PM on March 9, 2009 [30 favorites]


"2) Yet this does not match up with my gut feeling that this only happens to careless people, not careful/smart people like me and mine."

That's really the crux of it, and with so many disagreements that I have here/with normative moralizing in general. It's the same impulse that drives irrational lionization of authority, and the same impulse that drives discounting things like minority experience and the value of privilege. Of course I got where I was through hard work, so that must only happen to stupid, lazy people… etc. Repeat ad infinitum.
posted by klangklangston at 3:31 PM on March 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm sure non-parents can have informed opinions about parenting, but I do also think that we parents don't have to automatically respect that opinion unless you lay out some credentials for us.

I guess I just don't understand the automatic disrespect.

Namely because (1) how the heck do you know?

Parents aren't the only ones with valid opinions about childrearing. Period. Full stop. Yeah, there are people who have no idea what they're talking about, like any topic. But that is not ALL of us non-parents, and I don't really see the point of dismissing anyone outright just because of a conditional.

and (2) really, why do you care? When someone holds a strong conviction regarding something the have no personal experience with and that doesn't affect them at all, I can see why others would be a little suspect of that opinion.

Uh, I care because I'm a citizen of the world and I care about human beings? Particularly the treatment of those most vulnerable in our society, which includes children? What I really don't get is the suspicion and hostility towards people who don't have kids in these types of discussions. Those comments assume that someone has no childrearing experience. They assume that it doesn't affect them at all (what, I don't know, love, or take care of any kids? Ever?), as you have done here.
posted by agregoli at 3:34 PM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm still nauseated from the few paragraphs I read, despite my better judgment, from the Post article. Nine month ago, before my daughter was born, I would have read and been upset about it but it would not have filled me with the white-knuckled terror and dread that it does now. And scrump's comment captures the change in me exactly. Although I think it's fine for people without children to have an opinion about parenting, I gotta say, I had no idea how much it would change me and I know I see the world differently now. I'll definitely listen to what the not-parents have to say, but I just can't make those comments be as relevant anymore. And unfortunately, I do have to drive much more now than I would like to.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:35 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


No other topic but parenting seems to generate these "you have no idea cause you haven't experienced it" kind of comments.

Oh yeah - I forgot: gender and race.

What's interesting about threads like that is how many people who have no experience with [parenting][being female] etc. will insist that their imagined version of those things is not only just as valid, but perhaps even more valid, than the actual experience of [parents][women] etc., to the point of denying the experience of people who have gone through/live that reality.

It's weird.

on preview, what scrump said.
posted by rtha at 3:36 PM on March 9, 2009 [11 favorites]


"Parents aren't the only ones with valid opinions about childrearing. Period. Full stop. Yeah, there are people who have no idea what they're talking about, like any topic. But that is not ALL of us non-parents, and I don't really see the point of dismissing anyone outright just because of a conditional."

Well, yes, but how do you know?

I mean, look, I'm not a parent here, and I confess that I have a whole wealth of opinions on how to raise children (especially when I'm on a plane or in a crowded space with one). But as far as backing up opinions, all I can say is that I was a kid once and I remember some of being raised, and that I've known some parents. While some people could probably claim extensive research, that ain't me. Is it you?

But people annoy me all the time when they think they know what it's like to be vegetarian or a writer or a liberal or whatever without actually being one, and I'd imagine that carries through to parents too. The opinions I get on vegetarianism are almost always facile, ignorant and wrong. I can only imagine how I'd feel if they were opinions on something that had actual, you know, consequences.
posted by klangklangston at 3:39 PM on March 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


"What's interesting about threads like that is how many people who have no experience with [parenting][being female] etc. will insist that their imagined version of those things is not only just as valid, but perhaps even more valid, than the actual experience of [parents][women] etc., to the point of denying the experience of people who have gone through/live that reality."

Well, to be fair, being female clouds reason with a fog of emotion, and most women simply don't have the necessary distance to be objective about their condition. Also, men have significantly more experience governing women, and that's got to count for something.
posted by klangklangston at 3:40 PM on March 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


I just fail to see how it's necessary to point out that any one commenter is or isn't a parent.

It's not generally difficult to tell.
posted by Wolof at 3:43 PM on March 9, 2009


being female clous reason with emotiond

This is 100% true. When it happens to hysterical, addlepated me, I say "Oh fiddlesticks, Im thinking with your dick!" I hope my sisters will pick up on this adorable witticism of mine; men love a little wit.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:49 PM on March 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


klang, I just scared the cats I laughed so hard.
posted by rtha at 3:50 PM on March 9, 2009


So if you kill someone I love while you're all dizzy and sleep-deprived from your colicky brood, well fuck you: you're an entitled menace, and you deserve to be punished.

A few questions for you:

1. At what point on the continuum of 'tiredness' does the act of driving become criminal? How do you propose to prevent this phenomenon? Is there an alertness test one could administer before driving?

2. What if you're tired for other reasons? You had to work late to meet a deadline...you're flight home was delayed...your neighbor was having a noisy party last night. Are you railing against tired drivers or just tired parent drivers?

3. How does it feel to be so self-assuredly perfect and mistake-free?
posted by rocket88 at 3:51 PM on March 9, 2009

Oh fiddlesticks, I'm thinking with your dick!
See, this is why I'm sad you didn't come to the Tahoe meetup. WE HAD SUCH PROMISE, YOU AND ME.

*sobbing*
posted by scrump at 3:51 PM on March 9, 2009


heh. Women. Try to post in italics on an exercise machine.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:51 PM on March 9, 2009


Parents aren't the only ones with valid opinions about childrearing. Period. Full stop. Yeah, there are people who have no idea what they're talking about, like any topic. But that is not ALL of us non-parents, and I don't really see the point of dismissing anyone outright just because of a conditional.

I would think when every single comment by an actual parent disagrees with you, then that would give one pause.
posted by empath at 3:56 PM on March 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


*NOT PARENTIST*
posted by empath at 4:02 PM on March 9, 2009


Parenting is like taking acid for the first time. You think you have a good idea of what tripping is going to be like. You talk to your friends, watch some other people doing it, read some books, listen to some Doors. You're all ready and you drop it. Then, about an hour later or so holyfuckingshit this is not what I expected. Parenting is about the same. Just as mind altering.

Also, I think everyone has strong opinions on parenting because most of us have parents and all of us have survived childhood, well, more or less. But, I think this is sort of like thinking you know what performing surgery is like since you had your appendix out. To be fair, you have some knowledge of the terrors of surgery (childhood). But, to also be fair, non-parents have absolutely no idea of terrors of caring for something 24 hours a fucking day for decades.

People often say parenting is a full-time job. It's totally not. Parenting is not something you do, like a job, or hobby, that you can put down whenever and go about your business and have a relatively clean psyche. Parenting is not something you do; it's something you become. Learning how to amputate part of your mind and give it to something else is not like a job at all.
posted by milarepa at 4:03 PM on March 9, 2009 [15 favorites]


I have not been able to get the image of [image redacted] out of my mind.

For the record, I had not actually read the article or the FPP because I didn't want those kind of images in my mind, but came here to read the awesome comment, and then I read yours, and now I want to go cry.
posted by davejay at 4:17 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


In an attempt to bridge the parent/non-parent divide, I'll ad my $.02 Cdn.

What I'm seeing here from the non-parents is that they don't like what appears to be knee-jerk dismissiveness from the parents. Speaking from a parent's point of view:

-I often (not always) find the advice of a non-parent to come from an equally dismissive place; it comes across as "Oh, I know what to do with that. You just need to do X, and all your problems are solved." That gets my back up, and may provoke a short-tempered and dismissive response.
-I often am as dismissive with other parent's advice as I am with non-parents. This is based on a) how their kids are behaving; b) my desired and preferred method of working with my kids; c) the ages of their kids versus mine (my wife went off on her doctor after he made a suggestion on how to deal with a problematic behaviour in our three year old - after all, his kid is only two, so what does he know?); d) the relative age difference between myself and the other parent (for example, advice from my parents is not always applicable to the current situation - there are different environmental factors at play than there used to be).

In general, I try to be open-minded, but a comment that goes something like "I'm not a parent, but it seems to me all that needs to be done is..." tends to trip several circuits in my brain. Raising kids is some complex shit, and while I knew that before I had kids, there is a deeper understanding now that wasn't there before. Which is not to say that non-parents don't have good ideas and insights; just that perhaps I need to watch my response to how the comment is framed.
posted by never used baby shoes at 4:18 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


At what point on the continuum of 'tiredness' does the act of driving become criminal? How do you propose to prevent this phenomenon? Is there an alertness test one could administer before driving?

Look, you are inappropriately extrapolating from my hypothetical ("abstracturbation"), which I have stated many times, is based on a dumb premise, not my own. I don't believe parents = drunk drivers. scrump referenced a study saying sleep-deprived physicians were just as impaired as drunk drivers, and these physicians approximate scrump's condition in his original comment. Meaning that scrump was basically driving his kid around drunk (and thus a poor object for sympathy in the context of the WaPo link). moxiedoll then suggested all parents basically share Scrump's condition.

I only argued that parents shouldn't be allowed to drive if moxiedoll's premise were true. The hypothetical doesn't even have much to do with the main topic, so it shouldn't be generating so many irrelevant replies.

How does it feel to be so self-assuredly perfect and mistake-free?

Please read more carefully in the future.
posted by dgaicun at 4:22 PM on March 9, 2009


Parenting is like taking acid for the first time.

Man, imagine what having children on acid is like the first time.
posted by empath at 5:05 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


This parents/non-parents binarism bugs. It's really a cruel affront to other guardians. I'm thinking of all the older siblings who've wound up as primary caregivers, for example. Explain to me how an absent father has more natural connection to his child and more understanding of the responsibilities and love of parenting than an older sister without any parents left, working to support and nurture her younger siblngs does.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:07 PM on March 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


All things being equal, sure, actually being a parent holds weight over someone without children.

But there's too many variables with being a parent. Some parents are great, most do the best they can, some are awful and have no idea what they're doing. They might know more what it's like to be a parent, but the fact that they simply have a child doesn't mean they know how to better raise a child.
posted by gtr at 5:19 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Either way, simple precautionary habits that can be learned even by the forgetful and the sleep-deprived, could all but eliminate this ever happening again.

This is wrong and stupid.

And now that I am aware of this danger, its likelihood, and its causes, I will now fully expect parents to engage in these simple habits. If they don't they should be found guilty of manslaughter.

This is stupid and vile.
posted by languagehat at 5:24 PM on March 9, 2009 [25 favorites]


Yes.
posted by nola at 5:35 PM on March 9, 2009


As a parent of four I know how one can agonize over the illnesses, injuries, and potential for harm that can seem always so close to MY children.

I think Scrump's post is a classic description of this agony. Yes leaving a child in a car could happen to him. He could lose sight of his child at the pool and that child could drown. He could entrust his child to a acquaintance and that person could harm his child.

Many horrible things could happen to his child. Yet just by reading his comment I know that despite stress and exhaustion Scrump is not going to leave his child in a car. Like most all of us except the 15 to 25 persons per year this will happen to he will come out of the car seat years without tragedy.

He and his partner will care for and love his child and in the night fear for their health and safety.

Then they will become teenagers and drive.

Parenting is hard, and as a parent you try to protect your child from all the injury and sadness in the world. You do your best and you will fail, sometimes miserably.

Our capacity to imagine ourselves the perpetrator or victim of a horrible action or incident is also from the same brain Diamond speaks of.

Scrum you are a good parent, don't let an article like this beat you down.
posted by pianomover at 5:36 PM on March 9, 2009


This is wrong and stupid.

Elaborate you ostentatious nincompoop. LarryC discovered his mistake when he grabbed his briefcase. There are pretty fail-safe ways to replicate this, to compensate for natural memory lapse. For instance putting your shoes in the backseat. You simply won't leave the car without your shoes, and you can't put them on without encountering the child.

Or shit, we should just do it your way!
". . . 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."
YAY! High five, bra!

This is stupid and vile.

Um... no it isn't? Wow, ma, look, I'm avin' a genu-wine argument!


Seriously, LH, do you like arguing like an asshole?

Pretend like you can have a meaningful adult argument from step-wise premises, or fuck off.

Don't waste my time with your empty, pompous cock-waving.
posted by dgaicun at 5:40 PM on March 9, 2009


Jesus, dgaicun. Get a grip.
posted by jokeefe at 5:46 PM on March 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Jesus Christ, dgaicun. Remove first the being-a-huge-prick from thine own eye, etc, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:47 PM on March 9, 2009 [24 favorites]


Um, no. languagehat get a grip. Fucking rude. And annoying.

It's just trolling to leave an empty turd comment like "U R STOOPID".

This isn't Youtube.
posted by dgaicun at 5:50 PM on March 9, 2009


Youturd.
posted by gman at 5:52 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


This parents/non-parents binarism bugs. It's really a cruel affront to other guardians. I'm thinking of all the older siblings who've wound up as primary caregivers, for example. Explain to me how an absent father has more natural connection to his child and more understanding of the responsibilities and love of parenting than an older sister without any parents left, working to support and nurture her younger siblngs does.

Seems to me that those people are now "parenting". An absent father is not a parent, unless you only equate "parents" with the biological mother and father. That eliminates many people I know and consider to be parents that are not the biological forebears of the child they are raising.

What the parents in this thread are saying is that if you have not been in the parenting role, you don't have that experience. Which makes perfect sense to me. It doesn't mean that you don't know anything about kids, because there are myriad and different ways to do exactly that. However, I don't think that you can equate being a day-care center worker or a teacher with that of parenting. I'm not saying one is better, but they have differently weighted roles and responsibilties. I don't think being a parent prepares one for the role of full-time kindergarten teacher either- in fact, I know it does not, not anymore than being an architect means you know how to be a general contractor.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:54 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Elaborate you ostentatious nincompoop. LarryC discovered his mistake when he grabbed his briefcase. There are pretty fail-safe ways to replicate this, to compensate for natural memory lapse. For instance putting your shoes in the backseat. You simply won't leave the car without your shoes, and you can't put them on without encountering the child.

In my state, it's illegal to drive barefoot.

Anyway, these safeguards are good and important, but it needs to be understood that they are only one variable, and one of the very few that can be controlled for, in the whole equation. Safeguards and habits do nothing for things like fatigue, distraction, change of habit, or any of the other things that also factor in to how and why good people think they have dropped their kids off at childcare when they haven't. It's dangerous to think that routine and habit are a fail-safe tactic; they may drastically lower the odds, but they do not eliminate all other variables.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:59 PM on March 9, 2009


I recognize and am also sometimes annoyed by the attitude agregoli identifies. It is also generally followed by reverse braggery of the, "You think that's careless? I almost fed my baby to a pelican!" variety.

In general, I think parents should respect opinionators of the child-protective kind and just figure, awesome, they'll call the police if they see someone hitting a kid; and by the way, what are your rates? The ones who think they'd know how to control a child's behavior, despite knowing nothing about child development except their own memories of what their parents "would have put up with," are safely dumped in Category Insufferable.
posted by palliser at 6:03 PM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


There are pretty fail-safe ways to replicate this, to compensate for natural memory lapse. For instance putting your shoes in the backseat.

The key word there being "pretty." Because what if someone is too sleep-deprived in the first place to remember the "pretty fail-safe way... to compensate for natural memory lapse"? You do realize how easy it would be to forget to follow through with the proverbial shoes-in-the-backseat, right? Say, because mom or dad is going on two hours of sleep as it is, and it's raining, and they're running late anyway? What's your "pretty failsafe" solution to that memory lapse? Pehaps public floggings (to accompany those public hangings) for parents who don't adequately set up elaborate chains of Rube Goldberg reminder-systems all the way from their front door to the back seat of their cars?

The point is that there is no 100% failsafe method that can successfully account for the literally limitless variation in events and circumstances that hundreds of millions of parents face every single day in order to prevent tragedies like this from happening 100% of the time. For you to keep insisting otherwise is evidence of either delusion or denial of an almost pathological level.

Also, mods: don't the last couple of lines of this crap fall into the category of why people are given temporary timeouts? Besides, I think dgaicun would appreciate the extra time to work on the patent for his Failsafe Invention To Keep All Those Asshole Parents From Accidently Killing Their Children, which I'm sure he's no doubt going to roll out any day now. (He'll be rich AND a hero!)
posted by scody at 6:23 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pony: before a failsafe car-door-bad-parent invention, how about a failsafe invention for every responsible gun owner who's ever forgotten their gun might be loaded and pointed it somewhere they shouldn't have?
Thought this thread might have needed that analogy. THXBYE
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:28 PM on March 9, 2009


By the way, are cops similarly entitled to discount the opinions of non-cops on the way they do their jobs?
posted by palliser at 6:29 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are pretty fail-safe ways to replicate this, to compensate for natural memory lapse. For instance putting your shoes in the backseat.

I think you missed the point of the (neuroscience portion of the) article. Fine, toss your briefcase back there. What happens when the confluences of forces that made you forget you have your kid with you thwarts that "failsafe" as well? What if you don't think to get your briefcase this morning for some reason? How many layers of briefcases will be required to avert hanging in your legal system?

By the way, that word failsafe... it doesn't mean a critical event can never happen. What it actually means is when the system fails (when you leave the child in the car on a hot day) the consequences are safe (your kid doesn't die). LOL ENGINEERS
posted by danny the boy at 6:29 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seems to me that those people are now "parenting". An absent father is not a parent, unless you only equate "parents" with the biological mother and father.

Well, yes, parent is a legal or a biological designation. Don't lets muddy the debate by using looser terminology than in necessary, it only makes emotions rise. If people want to talk about parents and non-parents, they are doing a disservice to guardians in the process. Maybe as a much older sibling with caregiving duties, I could still be eons from understanding what it means to truly truly parent, but you know what? I don't think eons. Less than eons. So ditch the binary, it's only used to alienate people.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:32 PM on March 9, 2009


The key word there being "pretty." Because what if someone is too sleep-deprived in the first place to remember the "pretty fail-safe way... to compensate for natural memory lapse"?

Then they shouldn't be operating a car, and need to suffer the fully justifiable legal repercussions of their negligent behavior if they harm someone. This doesn't even have anything to do with the ordinary memory glitch. This is just avoidable, irresponsible impairment. Don't drive a car if you are high or sleep-deprived!


You do realize how easy it would be to forget to follow through with the proverbial shoes-in-the-backseat, right?

You would have to be on drugs to go throughout your whole day not wearing shoes! This is not how the memory glitch operates. It doesn't make you retarded.



In my state, it's illegal to drive barefoot.

Sure, but you can have special "driving slippers" or whatever. That was just one simple habit. I'm sure an infinite number of other habits would be just as effective.

It's dangerous to think that routine and habit are a fail-safe tactic; they may drastically lower the odds, but they do not eliminate all other variables.

I don't see any way the driving slippers habit doesn't fully compensate for the very predictable cognitive glitch that causes this. But even if it isn't fail-safe, it seems reasonable enough, given the universal nature of the phenomenon, to expect responsible parents to now be aware of how it can happen to them, and take the simple steps to compensate for it.

All of these parents should now be charged with manslaughter -- zero tolerance-- just as all drunk drivers would be charged with manslaughter. The gravity of the new legal expectation itself would almost certainly eliminate the occurrence among everyone but the truly negligent, improving the net well-being of society.
posted by dgaicun at 6:33 PM on March 9, 2009


dgaicun I don't know if you're a parent, but being one myself I can say this story is a cautionary tale for people who are thoughtful, careful, and by any measure good parents to think about the real danger here. I like scrump started reading the story from a very judgemental place, but after reading through I really came face to face with how this could happen. I'd love to think I'd never do anything like this, but without ever considered it a possibility before I realize what a blind spot it could be. The reason this could happen to someone with a small child is because they are so young and can't speak for themselves. Because they fall asleep in the car and are so helpless without you. Falling into a routine is how this could happen, taking for granted even for a moment how much your child depends on you for survival, is how this happens. Even a dog can tell you when it needs to go outside, but a child can only cry, and if they don't you might not do your part for them as a parent. I could happen, god forbid. On preview: fuck it.
posted by nola at 6:38 PM on March 9, 2009


You would have to be on drugs to go throughout your whole day not wearing shoes!

Rant redeemed.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:40 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


“Either way, simple precautionary habits that can be learned even by the forgetful and the sleep-deprived, could all but eliminate this ever happening again.”

Actually habit can breed complacency. They can also mutate. I’ve seen a number of people working with firearms who have developed bad habits that rested upon precautionary actions. And you see that in folks who shoot all the time, they develop a jerk or a poor movement. You see it in fighters as well, they move to cover up before delivering a blow. And in hand to hand fighting often times an overreliance on the same set of movements over and over. A good habit made bad out of not considering predictability.

It can be done with ritual. But very few people have the tenacity or think they have the need to develop them. (I do, but I’m a ballbusting prick when it comes to certain safety matters – my kids, who will learn how to shoot well, don’t jump on trampolines f’rinstnce). That and I have a pretty poor memory and I’m otherwise fairly careless in my lifestyle(poorly made rack, spotless weapon). So I’ve had to develop habits with an attentive and intentive (devotional really) mindset: rituals.

But society doesn’t value that. We don’t teach people things like that. We focus on brevity. In almost all things, except work, it seems.
Indeed, I’d argue society’s (and your) desire for the assignation of blame is abbreviated thinking.
And I would say that it is that which is more responsible for children being left to die in the back seats of cars because we don’t value parent time – hell we barely give people time for vacation to nurture their child in the U.S. – on top of that, so many families have two parents working there often isn’t one caregiver with rote duties that he or she can ritualize.

Offhand my comment (in the thread) might seem trite, but most everything else relevant was either obvious (to most people) or had been said, and driving my kids around is one of the few things I do that I can make a ritual out of.
So I do.
But by no means is it simple. Excellence doesn’t come by doing something pretty well, it comes by consistently performing at a high level. That isn’t possible with mere habit. One cannot simply go to the gym and practice certain movements and become an Olympic gymnast. One must go into such a thing with full intent and ingrain the motion into how one moves. Not just 2nd nature, but one’s own nature.

Now this can be done, but often isn’t because we tend to prioritize other things that are seemingly more important (I’m thinking some of the thesis of Freakonomics here) and yet are merely more spectacular.
And I would argue that this is because society is engaging in abbreviated thinking.

Overlooked in the piece was the point that there’s no ‘clearinghouse’ for this sort of thing. And indeed, like many social problems, this one is being dumped on the courts for summary judgment instead of looking for rectification.

The only thing I can see that would work – given all conditions remain the same and kids can’t go in the front seat, etc. etc. etc. – is training. And the only method I can think of is developing rituals.

I do it for firearm safety. I do it when I teach people how to survive in dangerous situations. This is similar with the exception that it’s a banal sort of danger that people have become numb to (not their fault, you can become fairly comfortable even with gunfire as well).
And I’d argue that is because of habit. Because they go to the store and go here or there and there’s this huge child seat that in theory is supposed to protect children but in reality is just one more insulator from the reality of the danger that surrounds us all the time.
And we render thinking about it (because we’re habituated to not thinking much about things) to the courts. Which is another habit we’re into.

You can’t fault the ship for a raging sea. People will fail. No one will ever be 100%. We look at these infant deaths and think of ways to stop them – meanwhile 115 people died today in car accidents (some of them kids), and those deaths we accept as the cost of doing business.
Well, give people child seats, set certain conditions, don’t give them any time, force them to run around, this is what happens. This is a result of human beings acting in this social and economic landscape given these tools and under these restrictions – ‘x’ number per 100,000 will forget and leave their kids in the car.
It’s as simple a rubric as figuring out how many people will freak out in combat or fail to make physical standards or any number of other things.
Want to change the number? Either change the conditions or allow for change in the people.
I assume allowing for change when I mention going for rituals – but those do take up a lot of time. I open the door, check the back seat, unlock the childseat when I *know *, and I can see, there’s no child there. But I have the luxury of having that time and having my perspective.
Most people don’t think the world is that dangerous a place.
But any change would require teaching them. And that means, again, giving them time and making a social change.
You can’t single out any individual for a failure when the fault is in all our brain architecture and it’s only a matter of how the odds come up at any given time.
I’ll grant, that’s on the large scale. But not everyone is an Olympic athlete and you can’t blame people for not being one. I’m an exceptional case, but (as I mentioned) I’m sure I screw up in a lot of other ways. And it’s precisely because I don’t see the danger, and so for me it’s just a matter of odds and how the dice roll – just like anyone else.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:42 PM on March 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


I think you missed the point of the (neuroscience portion of the) article. Fine, toss your briefcase back there. What happens when the confluences of forces that made you forget you have your kid with you thwarts that "failsafe" as well? What if you don't think to get your briefcase this morning for some reason? How many layers of briefcases will be required to avert hanging in your legal system?

What happens you don't look both ways before crossing the street; just grab your kids hand and run out into traffic? Your kid dies. You are negligent.

It doesn't matter if it isn't "failsafe" there are many, many more people rotting in jail right now for rapes and murders they didn't commit, then would ever be unjustly punished for some series of reasonably mistakes resulting in their child getting baked to death. The important thing is that society forcefully signals its expectations about child endangerment in this context. Once it does, parents will enforce the norms pretty much independently, and the law can either loosen up, or stay the same, since the tiny number of people who will still be doing it, will be the negligent parents.
posted by dgaicun at 6:44 PM on March 9, 2009


I'm for charging them with a crime, what they did is criminal. Now good luck convicting them. Pesky jury of our peers.

We could do it Iranian style.
posted by pianomover at 6:55 PM on March 9, 2009


I don't see any way the driving slippers habit doesn't fully compensate for the very predictable cognitive glitch that causes this.

Because the cognitive glitch can happen with the driving slippers.

It's a testament to just how well our brains work that this horrible thing happens fewer than 30 times a year, really.
posted by rtha at 6:57 PM on March 9, 2009


The important thing is that society forcefully signals its expectations about child endangerment in this context.

Why? I think it's just as good to raise awareness and convince people that this could happen to them, and that the risk can be reduced by certain practices, such as dropping a purse/wallet next to the baby, or setting up a system where the daycare calls if the child hasn't arrived.

Why just as good? Because the prospect of being convicted of involuntary manslaughter and spending a couple of years in jail is nothing -- no, wait, listen, seriously, nothing -- compared to the prospect of realizing what you've done, sprinting to the car, and finding your child limp, unresponsive, gone.
posted by palliser at 7:01 PM on March 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Yes a thousand times yes
posted by nola at 7:08 PM on March 9, 2009


Seriously if I did something that resulted in the death of my child, you'd never get a chance to prosecute me. I'd eat a bullet within the hour.
posted by nola at 7:12 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


We could do it Iranian style.

"Eye for an eye" type revenge is no more "Iranian style" than your comment is "racist style."
posted by exogenous at 7:21 PM on March 9, 2009


Dude, if you guys are going to argue, take it to MetaTalk.

Oh. Damn you plain theme!
posted by ALongDecember at 7:27 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it's just as good to raise awareness and convince people that this could happen to them

This is how to convince them. There is no clearer way to communicate new expectations than to enforce them. It is no longer a friendly suggestion, it is now your basic responsibility as a parent, and a driver. Keep your buggy memory in check. Get a system.


Because the cognitive glitch can happen with the driving slippers.

You can't forget the driving slippers, they are always sitting on the pedals.

The important thing isn't that accidents don't happen, but that people are aware of their limitations, and the potential consequences of those limitations, and make good faith precautions to compensate for those limitations to prevent the potential consequences.

This state of being doesn't exist right now. People are not aware of why this happens, and thus don't take the necessary precautions. Legal modifications to reflect new expectations based on this information would cause sweeping changes in parenting behavior.

Stick the next Miles Harrison in the tin can for life. The more sympathetic and blameless the defendant appears to the public, the better. The more they'll identify with his preventable folly. After a few big news stories like that, I doubt there'd be even 10 cases of this a year. Parents will quickly internalize the new responsibility. It would save a lot of babby, and prevent a lot of tragic guilt, and a lot of unmendable heartbreak.
posted by dgaicun at 7:29 PM on March 9, 2009


Parenthood is, or at least feels, like a string of abject failures. You aim for perfection: perfect love, perfect protection. Of course, you fall miserably short of your goal. The successes are easy to pass over. The failures are what you can't forget. They keep you up at night. These people had catastrophic failures. So far, I have avoided catastrophic failure, but I tell you, I don't feel far from it. These people blinked and death occurred. No driving slippers, no back seat alarms can change that. Could happen tomorrow. Could have happened yesterday if I blew my nose at a different hour. The cars are incidental. You might be able to change the location or the cause, but you'd just be shuffling the deck. It's impossible to eliminate this. That's the mystery and misery of the world.
posted by milarepa at 7:31 PM on March 9, 2009 [11 favorites]


By the way, are cops similarly entitled to discount the opinions of non-cops on the way they do their jobs?

Sometimes, yeah.

It's a hard job, a cop can deal with a lot of shit and yeah, if you've never done it, you probably have no clue about the dozens of things weighing on their mind from minute, just so they can survive their shift to get back home to the SO. That doesn't mean they can't be questioned or do no wrong, but you is it really that hard to know that you and I have no idea of they go through on a day to day basis.

As a parent, I usually get pissed at non-parents when they offer comments based on a single situation and then want to either judge you or tell you how it should be done, usually both.

For instance, I get a kick out of watching my kid use a fork and knife well. She'll be busy cutting up a steak, babbling about something and I'll be thinking about the many dinners where me and the wife had to teach her how to use a fork and knife. Had to reason with her and explain why it was no longer acceptable her to use her fingers. Try reasoning with a child about manners and society when they don't have a concept things and try reasoning with them while helping them develop the coordination and motor skills to use a fork and knife. It's not a natural skill. Do this for several weeks, while agonizing over why she's not picking it up, wondering if something is wrong with her, if something is wrong with you, whether you're cut out to be parent. Then, one night, decide the hell with, it's becoming too much of a issue, let's just go to McDonald's, she likes that and we'll have quiet night enjoying each other as opposed to tears and screaming and frustration. Relay this story to a non-parent co-worker and comment how good it felt just to hang with the kid and relax. Then hear your co-worker subtly question if eating dinners at McDonald's is such a good idea. Try not to rip off their head.

This is the chasm that can't be crossed, unless you're a parent. It doesn't make non-parents evil or worthless and it doesn't make every parent decent and wonderful. But it does point out something that I think every halfway decent parent figures out in time: You're going to make a mistakes raising your kid(s), sometimes a lot of them and yet they don't matter in the end, even though you beat yourself for those mistakes. Like a Jackson Pollack painting, it's not the individual instances, but the sum total that matters. So when some yahoo wants to harp on this or that one thing that they believe matters so much, as a parent it's hard not to roll your eyes and say "yeah, whatever."

The funny part is that kid remembers none of learning how to use a fork and knife and when I tell her the story, she doesn't believe me at all. See, look, she can use a fork and knife just fine, I should stop being ridiculous.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:37 PM on March 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


You would have to be on drugs to go throughout your whole day not wearing shoes! This is not how the memory glitch operates.

That's awesome, coming from someone appears to be high as a fucking kite on ObdurateContin goofballs.

Let me make it very, very simple and black-and-white.

When I said this: You do realize how easy it would be to forget to follow through with the proverbial shoes-in-the-backseat, right?

...it did NOT mean this: What if you take your shoes off and put them with the baby in the backseat and then forget to put your shoes back on, thus wandering around work unshod? (though I think it's hilariously revealing of the kneejerk contempt with which evidently you hold most of humanity that THAT's what you assumed I meant.)

Rather, it meant THIS: What if you put the baby in the backseat but forget to take your shoes off and place them with the baby in the first place, thus leaving the much-vaunted failsafe method on your feet where they naturally belong?

If that's still not clear enough, I sincerely have to suggest professional help. Seriously, you appear to be pretty unmoored from a rational understanding of, I dunno, basic human behavior.

on preview: You can't forget the driving slippers, they are always sitting on the pedals.

*sigh* Except for the times you forget to put the driving slippers there. (see above re: Rube Goldberg contraptions. Hurry! Get on that invention, dude! Why are you posting here when you could be saving babies' lives from their unslippered parents?!)
posted by scody at 7:37 PM on March 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


I didn't mean to say we shouldn't try to protect at all costs with all our energy. But to me, that article was about much more than children being left in cars. It was about the horrible criss-crossing freakishness of life.
posted by milarepa at 7:43 PM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


exegenous, "Eye for an eye" type revenge is no more "Iranian style" than your comment is "racist style."
The link look the link.

and why is Iranian style racist? which race?
posted by pianomover at 7:46 PM on March 9, 2009


The more sympathetic and blameless the defendant appears to the public, the better. The more they'll identify with his preventable folly. After a few big news stories like that, I doubt there'd be even 10 cases of this a year. Parents will quickly internalize the new responsibility.

Do you have children?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:46 PM on March 9, 2009


I went into that thread judgmental (I'm a parent and the idea of kids baking in a car freaks my shit right out) and came out of it on the other side, unsure of myself and my judgmentalism. (judgementality? Spell-checker doesn't like either) I know it got heated in a couple of places, and I still disagree with some points on the opposite side of the spectrum, but it made me think. It kept me up half the night thinking. And thankful that my children survived being raised by my dumb ass, (so far.) Thanks to everyone who participated, even the boneheads.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:48 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


(on non-preview, because this thread is officially stoopid after the 20th comment, or so)
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:53 PM on March 9, 2009


Stick the next Miles Harrison in the tin can for life. The more sympathetic and blameless the defendant appears to the public, the better. The more they'll identify with his preventable folly. After a few big news stories like that, I doubt there'd be even 10 cases of this a year.

From great injustice, justice? The beatings will continue until morale improves? For God's sake, you may as well argue that capital punishment is a near-perfect deterrent for murder because what rational person wants to die? That line of thinking hasn't seemed to work out too well over the past several thousand years.

People are supposed to see that a parent is both "sympathetic and blameless", yet deserving of life imprisonment? Don't you think the inherent contradiction in what you're suggesting would either lead to an outcry NOT to imprison such people, or would allow the public to become complacent and continue to see these parents as the kind of bad, thoughtless people they could never be?

For a handwaving postulated 66% reduction in deaths each year, you would bring further immense pain to many families. And you would keep on doing this, year after year, because there would still be a few horrible, tragic cases each year. It would NEVER end.

Most people can't believe that they can forget something as important as their child until it happens to them, or someone they know, or until they've approached an article like Weingarten's with an open and careful mind. Educating the general public about the limits of memory, about how devices and habits can help, may save a lot of lives. I postulate, in fact, that once you manage to convince people that this memory hijacking COULD HAPPEN TO THEM, you could see at least as many, if not more, lives saved as in your scenario. But it won't save all of them, because memory is a motherfucker.

From today's live chat:
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.
posted by maudlin at 7:54 PM on March 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Do you have children?

On the Internet no one knows you are dog... so it doesn't really matter does it? I could easily say 'yes' or 'no'.

I want less children to die, and that is how to make it happen.


What if you put the baby in the backseat but forget to take your shoes off and place them with the baby in the first place

The driving slippers are on the pedals. You would have to deliberately step on them with your shoes to drive. Meaning you didn't forget, but deliberately refused to keep your memory in check.

Except for the times you forget to put the driving slippers there.

There is never a reason for them leaving the car or the pedals. They are always on the pedals, whether you are wearing them or not.



Because the prospect of being convicted of involuntary manslaughter and spending a couple of years in jail is nothing -- no, wait, listen, seriously, nothing -- compared to the prospect of realizing what you've done,

One more clarification, this is not why the legal punishment would change behavior. I realize that losing a child due to your own innocent mistake is worse than being punished for it with a fine or jailtime.

It is because it would change how future parents think of "innocent" mistakes in this context. Currently there is no frame of reference, no knowledge, and no expectations about what constitutes "innocent" and "guilty" behavior. This unambiguously sets that frame at the highest level of social authority. Not keeping your faulty memory in check through deliberate external methods is the guilty behavior. People are confused, and this lack of coherent moral authority on the matter contributes to that confusion. Right now there is no strong sense of reality, obligation, or consequence hovering over the matter.

Forceful, unambiguous laws would change that rather quickly.
posted by dgaicun at 7:56 PM on March 9, 2009


Here's a whistling puppy.

Here's a snoring duck.

Baby ducks in a bathtub for some reason!
posted by dirigibleman at 7:58 PM on March 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


There is never a reason for them leaving the car or the pedals. They are always on the pedals, whether you are wearing them or not.

... because you never take your car to a car wash for a wash and interior vacuum, or you never move them yourself when you're tidying the car, or someone else never borrows the car and kicks them out of the way.

And you never step into the car the next morning on mental autopilot and forget that the slippers are supposed to be there ...

People are confused, and this lack of coherent moral authority on the matter contributes to that confusion. Right now there is no strong sense of reality, obligation, or consequence hovering over the matter.

Each year, a few poor souls accidentally kill their own beloved children because they have no strong sense of reality, obligation or consequence. They are incapable of recognizing that the death of their child is a terrible thing because they are wondering around in a permanent state of moral confusion.

It's a fucking wonder the human race ever made it through the eons before Hammurabi set up shop.
posted by maudlin at 8:04 PM on March 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


It is because it would change how future parents think of "innocent" mistakes in this context.

Ok, Dgaicun, you're drifting well out of the realm of sensible and logical progression now. I just can't imagine your answers are still 100% serious any more...
posted by Brockles at 8:05 PM on March 9, 2009


I'm going to bed. Please don't get any blood on my screen.
posted by gman at 8:05 PM on March 9, 2009


On the Internet no one knows you are dog... so it doesn't really matter does it? I could easily say 'yes' or 'no'.

Or you could be honest and answer the question. If you're going to propose these ideas, I want to hear of your credentials, I want to know that you have a 21year old kid and never made a mistake. If you can't do that, then you're just talking outta your ass.

I want less children to die, and that is how to make it happen.

Not really. You're using rational reasoning in situations where it doesn't apply, where reason goes out the window.

Forceful, unambiguous laws would change that rather quickly.

It's done wonders drug crime in America.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:07 PM on March 9, 2009


Here's a Mexican wrestler fighting one of the guys from KISS!
posted by dirigibleman at 8:10 PM on March 9, 2009


Scrump's comment was very well written, touching, and yes, being a PARENT, I can relate. However, I also completely agree with a non parent in that thread. Does that mean I am now a BAD PARENT? Do I have to give away my "parent" card? Sell my "baby on board" sign? (oops. I have no "parent" card. Nor would I ever buy a "baby on board" sign. God I am such a failure.)

I left my firstborn in a car once, for approximately 5 minutes. It was right after he'd gotten through the waking-every-hour-with-colic phase, and I was sleep deprived, but I would never have considered it just an accident. I might have taken a bullet out of grief, had anything happened to him. But it didn't. I startled, and said to my friend (who was a NON parent, which is probably why I forgot my son, right?) "OMG WHERE IS THE BABY?" Then, without waiting for his response, I damn near knocked everything near me down to get back to my car, where my son was sleeping, in his carseat, and sucking on his pacifier.

I think whether someone is a parent or not is irrelevant, and simply mucking this all up. It is a highly emotional issue, and people will have vastly different opinions. Pulling out the "BUT YOU ARE NOT A PARENT" card is (to me) ridiculous. I am a parent. Therefore it is easy for me to get sucked into being objective, and to not always consider common sense, because omg it is my bayyyyybeeees. Seriously. This happens. Like the first time my son tripped on a playground and needed 3 stitches in his head. It was a non parent who took me and my son to the hospital. You know why? Because I was hysterical, and my son needed someone calm, to calm HIM down, and my friend was able to do that. Sure, after my oldest was a few years old and I had his brother in the mix, and then later, my last son, I got better at being calm. I am now pretty well practiced at it.

Anyway, I'm not the greatest mother, but my three sons are all well out of the infant stage, and are incredibly fine boys. I have never, ever, forgotten those 5 minutes that my son was in the car. I check the car every single time I lock it. Just a glance, but it's enough, and I have done that ever since that day.

The thing is, we live in a world with both parents and non parents. Everyone is near children at some time or another, and some people are simply better at it. Some people cannot emotionally bond with kids they haven't given birth to. Some can. Some shouldn't be mothers, but they are. Some should have been mothers, and mother other peoples' kids, but will never give birth to their own. Judging someone based on whether they have procreated or not is, forgive me, both incredibly naive and dense.
posted by routergirl at 8:10 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


From great injustice, justice? The beatings will continue until morale improves? For God's sake, you may as well argue that capital punishment is a near-perfect deterrent for murder because what rational person wants to die? That line of thinking hasn't seemed to work out too well over the past several thousand years.

Maudlin, see my comment above. It isn't fear of punishment that drives behavior, it's the understanding of norms that comes from authority. The law says this is being a bad parent, and it's something you don't do. That's some psychologically heavy shit. Once you know that, it is nearly impossible to not seriously second-guess your standards of dealing with the matter. People don't want to think of themselves as a "bad parent," or violate the social norms about what that means. And the law is an overwhelming force in that understanding. The ones who don't care are already freely negligent.

There is no "injustice" about it. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Setting the boundaries is justice, and it has to begin somewhere.

I think the law is a lot uglier and messier than you assume when you look under the hood.
posted by dgaicun at 8:11 PM on March 9, 2009


Thanks for posting this because scrump's comment was awesome, although I hate to see this MeTa devolving into a MANSLAUGHTER!/Parent vs. non-parent thread. So putting that aside for a moment...

I think the reason that scrump's comment got me so completely is that I too hear the bullets whizzing by, every day. What caused this to happen to me was training and then volunteering as an EMT. I did this for about a year until I realized I just couldn't hack it.

I've seen dead people, very obviously dead people. I've seen dead kids. What burned me out wasn't the blood and the gore, it was the not-yet-delivered birthday present in the backseat. It was the gym bag ready for an afternoon workout, or the takeout Chinese being brought back for dinner. What chilled me to the core was the fact that these people had no idea they would die that day until right before or right as this terrible thing happened to them. I know this sounds stupid or self-evident, but it bugged the shit out of me.

Some of them weren't at fault, some of them were. Some chose a bad time to search for something that fell under the seat, some probably just stayed up too late the night before and weren't at their peak mentally. None of them knew their number had come up, that today the bullet wouldn't miss. I suspect this is why, as scrump mentioned, the suddenly dying-but-not-yet-dead rarely muster up more than "Oh my God" or "Help" or the one that killed me most "Please don't let me die...I don't want to die". People that die in a traumatic fashion, in my experience, tend to spend their last moments bargaining with the inevitable rather than that "Tell little Johnny I love him" shit you see dramatized. YMMV.

Even the drunks or extremely reckless people torture me, because no one deserves to die on the side of a highway, stuck in a steel coffin or ejected and gurgling in 3 inches of stagnant water and fast food litter in a culvert. Even those condemned to die for the most heinous of crimes are treated better than that.

Before one allows themself to be so self-assured as to think that they'll never wind up killing themselves or anyone else, please remember that we've pretty much all done something that put us, or someone else, in the path of the bullet. Lucky for us, the gun wasn't firing just then...

There but for the grace of God/incredible luck, indeed. Between the original post and scrump's comment, I think a few of us have gotten a good reminder of that. I know I have.

This comment got kind of ramble-y, sorry about that. I also know this adds basically nothing to the hyperthermia discussion, so I'm glad I could put it here.
posted by rollbiz at 8:17 PM on March 9, 2009 [16 favorites]


“Seriously if I did something that resulted in the death of my child, you'd never get a chance to prosecute me. I'd eat a bullet within the hour.”

Which to me is the bigger problem. It’s my first reaction as well. But that’s the thing, we can’t allow you to blame yourself. The law has a duty to protect children (and render justice) but in a case like that its going to be more about putting the parent – who’s still alive and maybe has other kids – back together.
And as far as I can tell that’s where the massive failure is here.


“I want less children to die, and that is how to make it happen.”

No. You’re still depending on a single point of failure. I achieve a 100% success rate in several ritualized things. I could drop dead before I get my kid out of the car. If people aren’t looking at kids in baby seats in the heat, odds are I could lay there stiff while my kid dies too.
What’s needed is a wider approach with less chance of failure. Broader socioeconomic supports that facilitate parenting (as in – one person could stay home with the kid) and parenting skill sets would be more efficacious than coercion. No matter how successful the laws are, it’s still resting on one persons actions. Me, I like that launching the nukes rests on a procedure to be followed, and a number of people turning keys. Even ritual isn’t enough. You need oversight and teamwork to make anything truly fail safe.
And parents aren’t getting that. Compare the relatively small number of kids this has happened to to the numbers of kids who die in day care, or in schools. As a parent I can be even 100% but less children dying is still going to be dependant on broader support. Especially if we're talking 'guilty.' I think children's deaths are more a symptom of the choices we've made socially than anything a parent could do. Assigning blame here is just scapegoating.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:18 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is never a reason for them leaving the car or the pedals. They are always on the pedals, whether you are wearing them or not.

Except for the times you toss them over to the next seat (dear Liza, dear Liza). Seriously, dude: I wear driving mocs in the car most days, for the infinitely less important reason of trying to keep the backs of my high heels from wearing out. They do NOT magically "stay on the pedals" every time. They get moved -- they get tossed into the next seat when I'm in a hurry, or my mechanic shoves them under the seat when I take the car in, or a dozen other reasons. You are expecting The Slippers to magically generate an OCD level of habitual robotic precision every single time someone gets in the car, when normal human behavior dictates that this simply won't be so.

Of course, you seem to be weirdly unacquainted with normal human behavior, so I'm beginning to see the divide here.
posted by scody at 8:22 PM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


People don't want to think of themselves as a "bad parent," or violate the social norms about what that means. And the law is an overwhelming force in that understanding.

Loving your own flesh and blood and wanting to die if any harm comes to them, especially if it is because of your actions, is more primal and overwhelming than any law. Good people don't need the law to make them want to love, cherish and protect their children. Once they get the point that they could very well fall into this mental trap themselves, and that there are things they can do to reduce the risk, you've got as good a result as you're ever going to get. Adding prison on top of the lifelong misery for the few parents who still fail is just bloody-minded vengeance, not deterrence.
posted by maudlin at 8:24 PM on March 9, 2009


One more clarification, this is not why the legal punishment would change behavior. I realize that losing a child due to your own innocent mistake is worse than being punished for it with a fine or jailtime.

It is because it would change how future parents think of "innocent" mistakes in this context.


If you aren't trolling, and you honestly think that the only thing stopping even one of these parents from frying their child was not hearing about someone else getting a 10/20/50 year prison bid for doing so, there isn't much left to discuss.

I thought languagehat was being kind of a dick with his response to you earlier. Increasingly, I'm changing my mind...
posted by rollbiz at 8:27 PM on March 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


because you never take your car to a car wash for a wash and interior vacuum, or you never move them yourself when you're tidying the car, or someone else never borrows the car and kicks them out of the way.

Pick up the slipper, clean the pedal, put it back down before touching the other slipper. It's your responsibility to keep your memory in check. Deal with it, and stop making excuses. If you need rules on top of rules, then do that. There are a lot of jobs where you can't make mistakes, and you are accountable. Be accountable. Know your weaknesses and take the necessary precautions.

Each year, a few poor souls accidentally kill their own beloved children because they have no strong sense of reality, obligation or consequence. They are incapable of recognizing that the death of their child is a terrible thing because they are wondering around in a permanent state of moral confusion.

Not what I meant at all. They don't understand and haven't internalized what can happen and why. They don't think it, and they don't feel it. Moral authority will calibrate their reality and change their behavior. When the law says this is negligent, then the perspective will "click" with most people.

You may not agree with the law that homosexual relationships and smoking weed are wrong, but it has certainly forced you to confront and define yourself, your beliefs, and your behavior in relation to the "default" perspective. When most parents are confronted with a new default perspective that says that they are responsible for something it is almost fully in their control to be responsible for (e.g. keeping driving memory in full check through deliberate action), then they will voluntarily submit to that new perspective. Because it is true, and they'll know it; they'll feel it.
posted by dgaicun at 8:31 PM on March 9, 2009


"Forceful, unambiguous laws would change that rather quickly."

That's stupid. Forceful, unambiguous laws don't change that we still have intentional crimes. The death penalty doesn't eliminate crime.

"People are confused, and this lack of coherent moral authority on the matter contributes to that confusion. Right now there is no strong sense of reality, obligation, or consequence hovering over the matter."

This is deranged. People whose children die as a result of their inattention don't have a sense of reality or consequence hovering over the matter? Are you from an alternate future where men are raised in vats by teaching units? Are you sentient bacteria?

Ask a parent if they would go to jail to save their child's life. I can't speak first hand here, but I find it hard to believe what's killing these kids is a lack of laws against it.
posted by klangklangston at 8:38 PM on March 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


"It isn't fear of punishment that drives behavior, it's the understanding of norms that comes from authority."

You know, I don't often trot out the "fascist" thing, but… C'mon.
posted by klangklangston at 8:39 PM on March 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


YOUR SLIPPERS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY

okay, goodnight.
posted by palliser at 8:40 PM on March 9, 2009


Pick up the slippers
Put baby booster seat in briefcase
Drop shoes at childcare
Wear baby like a pair of moccasins
Ignition, clutch, put car in gear, drive away
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:45 PM on March 9, 2009 [12 favorites]


If you've never had a dgaicun of your own, you probably should keep your opinions to yourself.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:45 PM on March 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I want to know that you have a 21year old kid and never made a mistake. If you can't do that, then you're just talking outta your ass.

Arguments are based on logic and evidence. It doesn't matter who says them. Engage arguments on their own terms. How would "never making a mistake" support anything I've said? What I'm saying is exactly the opposite, humans are incredibly fallible, but still accountable.

If I accidentally swerve and kill someone tonight in my car, I am accountable for that.

It's done wonders drug crime in America.

People want to do drugs. People also want their children to live. In both cases it forces people to confront the default perspective, and it is harder to internally disagree against something when you sympathize with its aims. People would have to actively tell themselves why it is more moral to not try and take more precautions to prevent their children from dying in a car.

That doesn't strike me as an easy argument to win with yourself, if you truly care about your children.
posted by dgaicun at 8:46 PM on March 9, 2009


It is because it would change how future parents think of "innocent" mistakes in this context.

Seriously? A prison sentence is supposed to be more of a deterrent than losing your child?
posted by Pantengliopoli at 8:54 PM on March 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


"People would have to actively tell themselves why it is more moral to not try and take more precautions to prevent their children from dying in a car."

No, they would have to actively tell themselves that it is not legal to try to take more precautions to prevent their children from dying in a car. Morality does not originate in the law.

But again, why is this not adequately set against the pain of losing a child?

The only gain from this would be to use the publicity of prosecuting a case to gain more notoriety for the notion that it is bad and dangerous to leave children in hot cars. Since that aim can be accomplished by a less restrictive and invasive set of laws (basically, the set we have now, where truly egregious actions can be and are punished through the legal system), then it fails the practical sense of justifying having a law where there is none.

If you want your society's opposition to children dying in hot cars enshrined for the ages, the law is a worse place to do it than sculpture.
posted by klangklangston at 8:54 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


One suggestion that I saw in a linked article was that of keeping a stuffed animal in the carseat. When the baby is in the carseat, the stuffed animal is in the front, as a reminder. It's not perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than some inane slipper plan. I mean, during the times when I was working full time and my son was in daycare, I once showed up work having forgotten to put on a bra-- I was in fact wearing the same T shirt I'd slept in. I thought I'd gotten dressed, and I hadn't. That's the level of functioning you're dealing with during those long sleepless years.
posted by jokeefe at 8:58 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


driving slippers

what
posted by chinston at 9:01 PM on March 9, 2009


If I accidentally swerve and kill someone tonight in my car, I am accountable for that.

Yes you are, but that's not the argument here. You're arguing that if you accidentally swerved even though you weren't drunk or goofing off, and it was just a tragic mistake, you should be thrown in jail for the rest of your life. Not because you deserve it, but because it would cause more people not to make tragic mistakes. Is that right? You figure a majority of people would spend their entire time in the car, gripping the wheel in white knuckled terror, repeating "Ten and two, ten and two" to themselves as a reminder of where their hands should be...because they heard some story about a guy who got life without parole when his hand slipped from the wheel? Accidentally?

That would seem to me to be the gist of your argument and that's crazy, and I can't argue with crazy at this hour. I suspect that's why everyone else has gone as well. Goodnight.
posted by rollbiz at 9:02 PM on March 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yeah, people should be vigulent protecting their children. If they're not, lock them up and throw away the key. dgaicun, you've convinced me. The horror a parent will feel at being punished by the state for this will cause parents to think twice about letting their children die of exposure.
We can all rest assured that people will think twice before going through the 9 months of pregnancy, the painful (for women) delivery, and the first 4 months of not getting more than 2 hours of sleep a night, buying diapers, bottles, cloths, a crib, changing table, mobile, little shoes, stroller, car seat, child proofing the house, buying and reading books on child care, breast pumps, high chair, only to let the little one burn up in the back seat of the car.

This should take care of those thoughtless parents who obviously just brought this all upon themselves by not being more vigulent. And you should know since you're a parent, you know what it's like, you've been there and can relate to what it's like to be responsable for the life and well-being of a child.

Wait, are you Dwight Schrute?
posted by nola at 9:06 PM on March 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


They don't understand and haven't internalized what can happen and why.

I agree that many people don't believe that this memory failure could happen to them.

Moral authority will calibrate their reality and change their behavior.

EDUCATION and empathy with loving parents just like them who made terrible, unintentional errors will calibrate and change them at least as effectively. In fact, if you want to break through that denial, demonizing other parents through jail terms is the last thing you want to do.

When the law says this is negligent, then the perspective will "click" with most people.

No, when people realize how a neural quirk could cause their own child to die an agonizing death, and that this isn't something that happens only to feckless, drunken, congenitally irresponsible parents, then they are more likely to act to minimize the risks to their children.

You keep coming back to wrap the core of your argument -- that parents need the prospect of jail time to change their behaviour and reduce the chances of accidentally killing their children because loving their children isn't motive enough -- in new collections of words that don't change a damn thing.
posted by maudlin at 9:09 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Loving your own flesh and blood and wanting to die if any harm comes to them, especially if it is because of your actions, is more primal and overwhelming than any law. Good people don't need the law to make them want to love, cherish and protect their children.

Not what I'm arguing. People want to protect their children now, but don't understand how or understand what is "necessary". It's like vaccine guy in the another MetaTalk thread. He thought he was doing the right thing, but wasn't. There are a lot of people who act based on malformed notions (but not rigid ideology) of the right way to behave, and what the risks and consequences of those behaviors are. Moral authority is one powerful way to tame and redirect those beliefs.

Think of it like this, some mothers smoke and drink when they are pregnant, but still suffer the pain and guilt when those children are born handicapped. Other women don't do this. The culture a woman belongs to and her exposures can modify this behavior. Women that belong to educated and/or heavily church-going networks of friends, family, and neighbors are less likely to engage in harmful behaviors, and are more likely to engage in beneficial behaviors. The law is one macro-cultural framework that sets moral norms.


If you aren't trolling, and you honestly think that the only thing stopping even one of these parents from frying their child was not hearing about someone else getting a 10/20/50 year prison bid for doing so, there isn't much left to discuss.

Not what I'm arguing.


Seriously? A prison sentence is supposed to be more of a deterrent than losing your child?


Not what I'm arguing.


People whose children die as a result of their inattention don't have a sense of reality or consequence hovering over the matter?

No, most people don't realize how easy it is for them to forget something so important. How likely and severe the consequences. No they don't.


You know, I don't often trot out the "fascist" thing, but… C'mon.


Um, yeah, except I never said anything about the greatness of dictatorship. If you think the law is fascist, then you are an extreme anarchist.

If you think what I am saying is empirically wrong about the effect of authority and emotions in directing human psychology, then I can direct you to a large body of literature that says otherwise.
posted by dgaicun at 9:10 PM on March 9, 2009


Wait, are you Dwight Schrute?

Win.

Now I'm off to bed for real, even though someone is wrong on the internet.
posted by rollbiz at 9:10 PM on March 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


This whole conversation is strange to me as I've always considered it a general rule of etiquette that one simply does not give parenting advice to parents. It is just bad from to twist the knife when they are already cursed with the little monsters anyway.
posted by afu at 9:18 PM on March 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


You're arguing that if you accidentally swerved even though you weren't drunk or goofing off, and it was just a tragic mistake, you should be thrown in jail for the rest of your life.

The punishment should definitely be more than a slap on the wrist, but not nearly that harsh. There are way more contingencies in driving. Don't forget your child in the back seat is a far more singular and manageable problem to deal with. And for the record, I don't think the exposure deaths should be punished much more severely than typical manslaughter. The "tin can for life" was rhetorical.

EDUCATION and empathy with loving parents just like them who made terrible, unintentional errors will calibrate and change them at least as effectively.

Let there be both. I don't just think it should be illegal because it would completely reshape social expectations about necessary behavior, but because I think it is a just law. I think accidentally letting a child die of exposure in a car is negligent manslaughter.
posted by dgaicun at 9:31 PM on March 9, 2009


Yeah great goodnight.
posted by nola at 9:39 PM on March 9, 2009


Pick up the slipper, clean the pedal, put it back down before touching the other slipper.

Uh, yeah, I'm sure everyone's mechanics will appreciate you standing over them yelling this in their ears.

It's your responsibility to keep your memory in check.

You know, dude, if it was actually that simple, there would be no need for Magic Pedal Slippers in the first place. I mean, honestly, take a look at what you're proposing: you accept that there might be the one in a million chance that a parent could forget his or her child, but you refuse to accept that there might be a one in a million chance that the same parent could forget THEIR SLIPPERS.

Seriously, this is profoundly broken, robotic, emotionless thinking, no matter how much you try to take the "I'm Just Thinking of the Children While You People Make Excuses for Manslaughter" moral high ground. The vast majority of people do not employ the obsessively rigid thought patterns you evidently believe are a baseline of normal functioning. If you are in fact a parent, I hope something will eventually compel you to seek professional help, because I've seen close up the profound, lifelong damage your brand of enforced, unforgiving rigidity does to a child.
posted by scody at 9:40 PM on March 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


No, most people don't realize how easy it is for them to forget something so important. How likely and severe the consequences. No they don't.

Exactly. Which is why a campaign to teach people why, because of the human brain's foibles, it could happen to them - and here are some tips to help avoid or minimize those neural glitches - would be far more effective than threatening prosecution and jailtime in cases (like this one) that don't warrant it.

If a parent is capable of forgetting the kid in the back seat, what makes you think they'll remember that doing so might land them in jail? What makes you think they'll remember the slippers?

You seem to think the brain is a machine, that with enough backup plans, it will not fail. It doesn't work like that, as the article makes quite clear.


People want to protect their children now, but don't understand how or understand what is "necessary".


Good thing there's an expert like you around.
posted by rtha at 9:46 PM on March 9, 2009


This is wrong and stupid.

This is stupid and vile.


What a helpful comment! And you haven't been back since. Thanks for the shit and run, languagehat, it really helped fan the flames here, and it's a little sad to see it grab eight favorites.
posted by Kwine at 9:55 PM on March 9, 2009


You know, someone in the vaccine thread asked whether or not the immature, self-righteous attacks and posturing in abundant evidence there and elsewhere on MeFi had repulsed anyone into lurking.

The answer is "Yes."

Because sometimes it's simply not worth arguing with fools, so I refrain from commenting.
posted by zarq at 10:03 PM on March 9, 2009


Forgive me if this is missing, from somewhere in the cess of bad thinking and worse behavior above, a nuance to dgaicun's logic, but isn't it adequately determinative, by his reasoning, that these parents are not legally deemed unfit to parent before OR after these incidents? Doesn't that act as de facto proof that these behaviors are, by the law of our land, allowable withing the current definition of competency, and generally accepted as unavoidable to some small extent? If our legal authority is too lenient, and a religious moral authority or its spiritual, personal equivalent is too nebulous in its punitivity, what kind of system could he be advocating?

I say this from a point of view that's completely sympathetic to the fallibility of moms and dads and of the legal system... I sort of think if one case is prosecuted, they all should be, but that's not the way legal jurisdiction works, and that is evidence of a financial concern as much as anything. If you have a problem with moral judgments being made by bureaucrats, I dunno which premodern tribe to tell you to seek out.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:13 PM on March 9, 2009


I missed this above: You may not agree with the law that homosexual relationships and smoking weed are wrong,

and really, it needs a

what
posted by rtha at 10:14 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, right, and being gay and/or having gay sex is not actually illegal in the U.S.
posted by rtha at 10:15 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm still nauseated from the few paragraphs I read, despite my better judgment, from the Post article. Nine month ago, before my daughter was born, I would have read and been upset about it but it would not have filled me with the white-knuckled terror and dread that it does now.

Yeah, I could not finish the article either and am sorry I read a word of it, great journalism or no. When my son was born I was surprised how hyper-sensitive I became to any suffering of children.

When my son was six months or so I was up late with him one night and flipped on the TV as I fed him a bottle. There was some terrible old John Wayne movie on where Wayne and two other soldiers are struggling across the desert with a baby (for some reason). They ran out of water and the baby was thirsty. And I just started crying, for the very first time in my adult life. They don't have any water for the baby!

My son is nine now but if that movie came on right now I would change the channel.
posted by LarryC at 10:26 PM on March 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


but you refuse to accept that there might be a one in a million chance that the same parent could forget THEIR SLIPPERS.

Uh, no I don't. It's just not likely at all if you are truly motivated. More importantly it doesn't matter if it's fail-safe.

The vast majority of people do not employ the obsessively rigid thought patterns you evidently believe are a baseline of normal functioning.

I've been held more accountable at certain jobs for not making such slip-ups. I don't understand why parents should be held to lower standards than pilots. Children are more important than planes.


If a parent is capable of forgetting the kid in the back seat, what makes you think they'll remember that doing so might land them in jail? What makes you think they'll remember the slippers?

You don't "remember" the slipper, it is a strategy designed to bypass memory. There is nothing to remember. I don't know why such strategies are so offensive to people here. A baby pulling out all of its hair before cooking to death is more offensive to me. People should be held accountable for managing their memories when they volunteer for positions of extreme responsibility that put others at danger.

If being a parent is too hard because you have to buy some slippers (!) then for the love of God please don't be a parent.

Which is why a campaign to teach people why, because of the human brain's foibles, it could happen to them - and here are some tips to help avoid or minimize those neural glitches - would be far more effective than threatening prosecution and jailtime in cases (like this one) that don't warrant it.

I would like to see both. I don't see why it doesn't warrant a negligent homicide charge. We can't help that our memory is faulty, but we can help it if we choose to not use simple, available, virtually fail-safe methods to compensate for that. A self-monitoring strategy that is also demanded by many types of ordinary jobs. And so what if a parent just doesn't want to be inconvenienced by the slippers? Maybe the next mom would rather watch soap operas than make sure her toddler doesn't wander into the backyard and get eaten by the rottweiler. I don't see why forgetting your child in a burning hot car is less negligent than a lot of other equally preventable negligent behaviors.
posted by dgaicun at 10:35 PM on March 9, 2009


"Um, yeah, except I never said anything about the greatness of dictatorship. If you think the law is fascist, then you are an extreme anarchist."

Arguing that moral authority is embodied in the law is a fascist ideal. "Fascism reasserts the Rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual." Your aims are manifestly impractical, thus idealistic.

"If you think what I am saying is empirically wrong about the effect of authority and emotions in directing human psychology, then I can direct you to a large body of literature that says otherwise.

Well, despite the fun of sending you scrambling for cites, I'll point out again that arguing the state's role is that of offering deterrent by way of unnecessary harm is both stupid and illiberal.
posted by klangklangston at 10:41 PM on March 9, 2009


You don't "remember" the slipper, it is a strategy designed to bypass memory. There is nothing to remember.

The strategy only works if you -- wait for it! -- remember to employ it every time. The strategy cannot bypass memory because it is dependent on memory, no matter how many ways you try to deny it. Unless you are actually advocating a mandatory, nationwide system of Magic Driving Slippers, to be enforced by a new Federal Slipper Police.

If being a parent is too hard because you have to buy some slippers (!) then for the love of God please don't be a parent. [...] And so what if a parent just doesn't want to be inconvenienced by the slippers?

Okay, you've wandered into the territory of performance art at this point. The flaw in your otherwise brilliant plan has nothing to do with buying slippers. Nor are slippers an inconvenience; I myself believe that slippers are a wonder to ponder, a treasure to behold, and a joy to wear! BUT SOMETIMES EVEN THE FINEST SLIPPERS WILL BE FORGOTTEN, shoved under the seat when exiting the vehicle hastily. When then? O, pray: what then?

I know! Perhaps you could also come up with a nationwide system involving placing ping-pong balls on car antenna to remind drivers to make sure their slippers are in the proper place at all times! And don't talk to me about the onerous task of purchasing ping-pong balls, nor the "fact" that not "everyone" keeps their "car" "antenna" "up" "all the time"! Feh. If you don't want to buy some ping-pong balls and a non-retractable car antenna for the sake of your child's life, you should have thought of that before you had sex.
posted by scody at 10:58 PM on March 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Wow, a lot of tension here. I remember a long time ago being a witness to a multiracial argument where it was basically intimated that 'only black people understand what black people have suffered'. It got ugly, and what I remember was odd was that everyone had basically started off agreeing that no one, black or otherwise, should face discrimination, and ended up in a 'not black? well step back you judgmental bastard' shitstorm.

So not to get all 'But think of the CHILDREN' on anyone...

...but I say this to illustrate that I'm worried what is getting lost is that everyone on this thread is essentially, if not silently, agreeing to one good thing: which is that it's really important for all us (parents, not yet parents, not biological parents, etc.) to do what to help kids (and whoever is caring for them) to be safe, to not get left in cars, to not suffer unnecessarily.

I wonder, other than the possible punitive route, what kind of support, or community we would need to have to be able to do that. Accepting that perhaps sometimes there is nothing that can be done, because human beings make mistakes, what could be done (other than jail time) that would reduce that number to it's lowest amount. Someone mentioned it upthread - the societal support needed - and I wonder what that might look like.
posted by anitanita at 11:08 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The strategy only works if you -- wait for it! -- remember to employ it every time.

There is nothing to remember. The slippers never leave the pedals. You can't drive without purposely avoiding taking off your shoes (since you couldn't avoid seeing and/or feeling the slippers on the pedals), and you can't leave your car without purposely avoiding putting them back on. You are forced to either see the child seat or to leave the car wearing only your socks or ridiculous driving slippers. It would require far more than an ordinary kind of memory glitch for you to do this.

You really don't want this to work. It's a simple system that you are obtusely pretending to not understand. There are many other kinds of equally fail-safe ideas one could employ.

Unless you are actually advocating a mandatory, nationwide system of Magic Driving Slippers, to be enforced by a new Federal Slipper Police.

Nope, but if your child burns to death, you go to jail. Your memory, your child, your responsibility.

BUT SOMETIMES EVEN THE FINEST SLIPPERS WILL BE FORGOTTEN, shoved under the seat when exiting the vehicle hastily

Don't move the slippers. Strap them to the pedals when not in use, if you need to. It's really up to you to manage and customize the details of your own memory contingency system. I'm sorry it bothers you that I think a person can be held accountable for the life of a fully helpless human being they have volunteered to take care of.
posted by dgaicun at 11:32 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Lord. I hate to go to bed at this point but ...
posted by small_ruminant at 11:38 PM on March 9, 2009


You're not kidding small_ruminant. This has gone beyond the point of performance art.
This disagreement can only be solved through the magic of INTERPRETATIVE DANCE!
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:40 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


INTERPRETATIVE DANCE!

Hang on, I'll just grab my slippers.
posted by Wolof at 11:55 PM on March 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


But what if you forget your slippers?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:58 PM on March 9, 2009


I usually tie the slippers to my head.
posted by Wolof at 12:03 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


How would "never making a mistake" support anything I've said?

You write that this idea of yours would work, in fact you guaranteed it. So I want to know how old your kid is, whether you've used what you've proposed and whether it has worked flawlessly as you claim it would. If you can't answer the question and want to continue the "on the internet, no one knows you're a dog" train of thought to a guy using his real name, well, ok. Don't expect to be taken seriously though.

What I'm saying is exactly the opposite, humans are incredibly fallible, but still accountable.

No one is saying they aren't accountable, they're just recognizing that any half way decent parent is going to be destroyed if they're inactions result in the death of their child. Putting them in jail won't solve anything and it won't act as deterrent because these accidental deaths are, well, accidental. If fact, putting them in jail makes it easy, because they're not longer responsible for their life, they can wallow in their own guilt. Jail has little baring on a parent's thinking other than "Shit, the law says I can't kill my teenager."

Not a single parent is thinking "OMG, I should do X, otherwise I'll end up jail" they're thinking "I should do X, because it's good for the kid"

People would have to actively tell themselves why it is more moral to not try and take more precautions to prevent their children from dying in a car.

Parents don't sit around thinking of this shit, they're too busy raising kids.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:07 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know, I know, I should always tie the slippers to my head.

In my defence I have lost no more than three children per calendar year during the last decade or so.
posted by Wolof at 12:07 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


dgaicun: Your slipper memory trick is just another mental catch to make sure this thing doesn't happen. Will it work? Probably. The issue is that, on probability's side, people won't leave their children to bake in their cars. Statistics say it won't happen and the numbers are paltry in comparison.

But it happens - whether it's through the alignment of the stars, the piling of coincidences, the roll of the dice, or whatever. Think: A loving mother goes through her daily routine that she's been doing for the last five months straight. She is tired, stressed, and on autopilot. Because of a variation in the routine, a gear slips in her mind and instead of dropping off the child he stays in the car and she continues on her routine, unknowing. A similar slip would lead to forgetting to buy gas, or taking a route out of the way she wanted to go just because habit says otherwise. It's by chance that the outcome of this slip was fatal.

I've been blessed to not have this happen to me or anyone I know, but I've certainly had a slip of the mind once or twice and by circumstance I left my bag in class instead of anything more severe. Humans are fallible and will make mistakes minor and major. This is one of them.
posted by flatluigi at 12:09 AM on March 10, 2009


I rarely trot out this story, because it's one of scrump's "bullet by the ear" stories from when my son was only a couple weeks old, and it still pains me. I had been told that, as a breastfeeding mother, I should get out of bed, collect the child from his bassinet, and nurse him sitting somewhere quiet. I chose the living room. One night, when I was completely addled from lack of sleep from this routine, I almost dropped him when he unexpectedly wiggled more than I expected. The entire event happened in slow motion. I caught him a few inches before his tender, non-solid head struck the corner of the coffee table.

I had only been doing what I'd been told was the best thing at the time. Very soon after, I got some better advice (for us), and started just taking him to bed with me, despite the pros and cons of that, because I figured at least I couldn't drop him from exhaustion that way. (Now, my mother says I increased his chances for SIDS, but we just don't have that discussion anymore, thank you.) We both slept better; he gained weight.

I still remember the adrenaline shakes. I hate that feeling. It took me a long time to figure out that I wasn't a horrible mother from the outset; I was just exhausted and didn't know any better.

Both of my children, now getting closer to teenage years, have had injuries I could not have prevented, but they haven't been life-threatening (thank whatever dieties or luck or fate or whatever you ascribe to) or even needed more than one trip to the ER per kid. And I count myself very lucky. I've also educated myself on home first-aid and have a few doctor relatives I can call.

My good friend's daughter was in a car that got hit by a drunk driver on New Year's Eve. Broken jaw in three places, broken three ribs, cracked sternum, and broken pelvis (cleanly, thankfully). She miraculously made it through just fine. She's still got glass working its way out of her skin, but she's still gorgeous and healthy. Doesn't need a wheelchair or a walker now after only a few months. The sonofabitch who hit her... well, he's disappeared now and won't serve any time or pay any price for his choices. Seems he was driving someone else's car and there's no insurance and no penalties.

Hell, my daughter came in from playing a couple weeks ago after having climbed a tree and fallen, showing me this injury on her abdomen that at first looked like a gash, but was only a bad scrape. There I was shaking again, but getting my shit together just fine to get it cleaned up.

Shit happens to good people and to good parents and to people with the very best of intentions. Never, ever think it isn't random and won't happen to you or yours.

I guess the punchline to all this ranting is that I have NEVER known BONE-CHILLING FEAR like I have since I've been a parent. It isn't like the vast majority of parents don't know we're ultimately responsible for these other lives. It isn't like "well, I have this important cell phone call" and then just forget they have a child. We have to provide food and shelter for them as well, and it isn't like there aren't single-parent families or families where both parents have to work.

It's complicate and it's scary. A lot.
posted by lilywing13 at 12:11 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


gah... "complicated" is what I meant at the end, of course. Sorry for the rantings.
posted by lilywing13 at 12:14 AM on March 10, 2009


Here's a perfect example of why your slipper technique isn't foolproof. It's short paragraph from the original articlethat explains exactly how one mother came to leave her kid in a car. Note that there were numerous memory devices that would have indicated that the child was in the car, but on this particular day, everything came together in tragic way to fail.
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.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:31 AM on March 10, 2009


dgaicun, I don't think you're quite grasping the way this works. You're proposing this rule about "the slippers never leave the car."

Is not "Take the baby to daycare before going to work and don't leave him/her in the hot car all day" ALSO a rule for most parents? I mean, it's not like the parents in question never took their kid to daycare before. It's not that their sloppy, non-standard actions have resulted in tragedy.

People are trying to explain this to you: Parents already want to keep their children safe and take as many precautions as they can. Your slipper idea? Actually a good one! Would definitely help as a reminder!

But people WILL still forget, even if they use slippers. This is not a question of sloppiness. It's the way the brain works. When someone forgets, if everything else aligns, then a child might die.

You are proposing that the parent this happens to should be treated the same as a drunk driver. This is nonsensical. The parent wanted to protect the child. They were not criminally negligent, and punishing them as such is not going to protect any other children. Having big convictions for this sort of thing will, in fact, as people have previously pointed out to you, cause everyone to much more readily say, "Well, THOSE people just didn't handle their slippers properly. They moved them! Those foolish parents! I won't ever move MY slippers. It won't ever happen to me."

Do you see? The slippers aren't any more effective than the innate desire of (good) parents to protect their children. What will be more effective will be getting everyone to understand that these mistakes CAN and DO happen, and they SHOULD take precautions such as the Magic Slippers. Prosecuting the parents won't help, because it will only reinforce the idea that parents who allow their children to die of hyperthermia were specially, uniquely negligent, rather than simply unfortunate victims of a near-universal human flaw; organizations such as "Kids and Cars" from the article will help, because they can teach and show people that they, too, are subject to this flaw and should take steps to prevent it..
posted by Scattercat at 12:48 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


The driving slippers are on the pedals. They are always on the pedals, whether you are wearing them or not. You don't "remember" the slipper... There is nothing to remember. The slippers never leave the pedals. Don't move the slippers. Strap them to the pedals when not in use, if you need to.

Ladies and gentlemen: we have been trolled masterfully. I... am in awe. dgaicun, you magnificent bastard!
posted by danny the boy at 12:50 AM on March 10, 2009


Clarification: Prosecution isn't any more effective than the innate desire of (good) parents to protect their children.

I mistyped. Apologies.
posted by Scattercat at 1:00 AM on March 10, 2009


Having made it through the entire article (it does end on oddly positive note), the common problem in the deaths described was people working too much, being too stressed, 'causing them to forget some of the basics. If anything, it sounds like a further indictment of America's "workworkwork" culture. Most chilling is how many of the parents were distracted by cell phone conversations.

The article said 15-25 deaths occur each year, but the organization mentioned in it, Kids and Cars, has stats saying it closer 200 deaths per year, up from around 100 per year in 2001. Why the discrepancy and what are the statistics for other countries?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:05 AM on March 10, 2009


The best part of dgaicun's plan is that when wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.
posted by Damn That Television at 1:09 AM on March 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


You write that this idea of yours would work, in fact you guaranteed it.

"Feasibly close to zero" does not = zero. It = rare. There are good, simple systems that responsible and normal human beings to use to almost never make a predictable and devastating mistake like this. If it becomes a social norm people would pick up on it quickly.

If you can't answer the question and want to continue the "on the internet, no one knows you're a dog" train of thought to a guy using his real name, well, ok. Don't expect to be taken seriously though.

I won't be taken seriously by people who think the color of my eyes, my income, number of sex partners, or other criteria completely unrelated to the logical soundness of arguments I'm making are somehow important to said arguments. The last time I took a science quiz I don't recall the test asking me if I owned or rented my home to determine the accuracy of my answers.

Putting them in jail won't solve anything and it won't act as deterrent because these accidental deaths are, well, accidental.

It's negligent manslaughter, like drunk driving is negligent manslaughter. A drunk driver doesn't "mean to" kill a little girl either, but he is accountable because he engaged in behaviors we expect him to know had inexcusable dire consequences to others. Similarly we should expect parents to do what they need to do to prevent a stupid kind of horrible death for the small children in their care.

It isn't "accidental" if you avoid those preventative behaviors because they are inconvenient or unappealing to you.

Throwing people in jail will have an effect; it will have the effect of letting everyone know the law unambiguously views them as negligent parents if they don't take responsibility for their memories. Currently people do not think anybody thinks they are bad parents if they don't take preventative steps against this. So it's not even on their radar; it's not an internalized norm. Punishment is the ultimate norm internalizer

Note that there were numerous memory devices that would have indicated that the child was in the car,

The memory devices did not force her to look at the child seat before exiting the car. She was responsible for her memory.

Is not "Take the baby to daycare before going to work and don't leave him/her in the hot car all day" ALSO a rule for most parents?

People often forget the middle step, and think they already performed it. That is the glitch. The slipper strategy is designed to not rely on memory, and not to be vulnerable to the same glitch. Putting the slippers in the car is precautionary fore-planning, it's not something you can forget in the same way. You can't think you've already done it like you can with dropping your kid off at day care. The glitch works by "out of sight, out of mind." See LarryC's original briefcase comment.

You are proposing that the parent this happens to should be treated the same as a drunk driver. This is nonsensical. The parent wanted to protect the child.

So what? The driver wanted to not kill someone. The point is the behavioral expectations of society, not whether or not the person agrees with those expectations.


Do you see? The slippers aren't any more effective than the innate desire of (good) parents to protect their children

No, I don't see. One is not taking the necessary precautions against a predictable type of memory glitch, the other is taking the necessary precautions against a predictable type of memory glitch. The latter is a lot more effective, if not fail-proof.


Ladies and gentlemen: we have been trolled masterfully. I... am in awe. dgaicun, you magnificent bastard!

The best part of dgaicun's plan is that when wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.

There are simple, precautionary strategies you can use to almost fully compensate for routine kinds of memory lapse. You can deny this all you wish, it is a fact, and incorporated into many kinds of job responsibilities.
posted by dgaicun at 1:24 AM on March 10, 2009


dgaicun, did you read the article?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:29 AM on March 10, 2009


Yes.
posted by dgaicun at 1:32 AM on March 10, 2009


THE SLIPPERS ARE SUBJECT TO MEMORY LAPSE!

THE SLIPPERS ARE SUBJECT TO MEMORY LAPSE!

THE SLIPPERS ARE SUBJECT TO MEMORY LAPSE!

Holy schlamoley, boy, do you even READ these things?
posted by Scattercat at 1:33 AM on March 10, 2009


More to the point, as I amended afterward, the important thing is that prosecuting the parents will not help people remember things better. Using tricks like the slippers can increase the chances of this not happening, but prosecuting people who suffered from being human won't help put the slippers into use. It will just continue to make people think that those parents didn't do enough to prevent this from happening.

It will still happen. No matter what. Until the human brain completely changes.
posted by Scattercat at 1:35 AM on March 10, 2009


Yes.

Then it's odd that your arguing for something the article shows won't work. Putting the parents in jail won't solve anything.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:44 AM on March 10, 2009


I think the disconnect here is:

1) People forget their children in the car.
2) This is terrible.
3) Using a memory trick like the Magic Slippers would prevent a significant portion of these deaths.
4) Therefore, people should be prosecuted for leaving children in the car, in order to bring publicity and attention to the idea of using memory tricks.

The problem is that dgaicun is taking the position that sufficient use of memory tricks would render the situation impossible, and therefore it is justifiable to prosecute parents who leave their children in the car on the grounds that they weren't doing enough to prevent it and are therefore negligent. He is basically disagreeing with the statement that this sort of memory blip is fundamentally unpredictable and unpreventable, and thus is setting himself up in opposition to the entire premise of the article, which was that this sort of thing is tragic, but not necessarily avoidable, and that the parents who do this are not necessarily negligent.
posted by Scattercat at 1:51 AM on March 10, 2009


Then it's odd that your arguing for something the article shows won't work. Putting the parents in jail won't solve anything.

The article does not show this. In fact it says that deaths where the parents deliberately left the children in the car are the ones that "tend to result in prison sentences".

Punishing all the negligent parents is the first major step towards radically shifting social norms and expectations about letting small children cook to death in cars. There is nothing in that article to suggest otherwise. In fact the behavior of the parents in the article show that none of them used the necessary memory precautions responsible parents should be expected to take.

THE SLIPPERS ARE SUBJECT TO MEMORY LAPSE!

I explained multiple times why they are not. As I've stated many times, you are responsible for layering your memory strategies as much as need be. So tie one end of some dental floss around your key chain and the other end to the child seat. You have to untie it to leave the car. However much it takes to force you to look at the car seat before you leave the car.

He is basically disagreeing with the statement that this sort of memory blip is fundamentally unpredictable and unpreventable, and thus is setting himself up in opposition to the entire premise of the article,

The article does not argue or prove that memory lapses that lead to car deaths are "unpreventable". Nor is there research to support such an obviously illogical claim.

More to the point, as I amended afterward, the important thing is that prosecuting the parents will not help people remember things better. Using tricks like the slippers can increase the chances of this not happening, but prosecuting people who suffered from being human won't help put the slippers into use.

It would help them remember things better by changing how they view these memory lapses from unavoidable "accident" to preventable responsibility. It would establish the moral norms of preventability. Currently there are no moral norms of preventability. When there are, there will be (virtually) no more "unavoidable" accidents. But the norms need to come first, and those are most readily established through punishment.
posted by dgaicun at 2:13 AM on March 10, 2009


This may not be the arena for it, but has anyone actually tried driving with bare feet? Its the single most terrifying, impossible feat in the world and, I believe, is the only thing that prevents apes from learning to drive.

As it is therefore the only thing that stands between us and the Monkey Apocalypse, I move that it be forbidden from being enshrined in human law.
posted by Jofus at 2:51 AM on March 10, 2009


The only reason there's no "moral norm" of preventability is because, as the article points out, everyone thinks it can't happen to them.

The slippers CAN be forgotten, by any of the numerous suggestions people have given you so far: They are repositioned during cleaning, or by a spouse or mechanic, or removed after being damaged, or any of a number of possible mishaps. Nothing is foolproof; any ritualistic memory trick can itself be forgotten or malfunction. There is no way to completely prevent oneself from potentially forgetting because of the way memory actually works. You can minimize risk, but you can't remove it completely. You can't. It's not possible. Again, look at that sample from the article: Barfour usually had the diaper bag beside her, had the child visible in the rear-view mirror, had a baby-sitter who would call her if she didn't drop the child off. All of those reminders happened, through freak coincidence, to be disabled on that day. She should not have been tying strings to her fingers because she is obviously not a forgetful person, but is rather organized and focused. It was a series of random mischances combined with faulty neurological wiring.

No one here is arguing that parents who deliberately leave children in cars should not be prosecuted. We are saying that parents who do so accidentally are not "criminally negligent" and should not be thrown into prison, both for their own mental health and for the stability of their remaining families. More to the point, we are saying that these deaths are freakish and rare because the drive to protect a child is normally so strong that it takes a confluence of events to create the situation, and that prosecuting parents for "not doing enough" will do nothing to reduce the incidences.
posted by Scattercat at 3:02 AM on March 10, 2009


And for what it's worth, I quite enjoy driving in bare feet. You can really get a grip on the pedals with your opposable toes.
posted by Scattercat at 3:07 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, here, I'm going to go way up in the thread for a comparision.

Every time I sneeze while driving my car I am thankful that it wasn't the exact moment a child on a bicycle darted out into the road.

By your reasoning on memory lapses, someone who sneezed while driving and hit a kid would be criminally negligent because they had not done enough to prevent the incident. They should have dosed themselves every morning with cold pills and worn a mask while driving to remove the possibility of a stray bit of grit getting up there. Knowing they were susceptible to sneezing (a purely biological reflex with a complex evolutionary history), they should have refused to drive the car on any day when they had abnormally low or high mucus, or when any sort of pollen or other irritant was present. They should have pulled over as soon as their nose began to itch, or just braked to a halt in the middle of the street.

Do you see? Forgetting is a consequence of the physical structure of the brain. You can't avoid it completely any more than you could guarantee never sneezing again. You can minimize the risks involved in your daily life, but prosecuting well-intentioned, cautious parents over a catastrophic moment of forgetfulness is basically criminalizing the act of "operating a car while being human."
posted by Scattercat at 3:13 AM on March 10, 2009


The article does not show this.

Dude. I quoted an entire paragraph from it that showed how the techniques you speak of can fail.

In fact it says that deaths where the parents deliberately left the children in the car are the ones that "tend to result in prison sentences".

Nope and for reference, here's the entire paragraph that contained that phrase:
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.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:13 AM on March 10, 2009


Don't drive a car if you are high or sleep-deprived because you couldn't draw yourself away from a 12 hour argument on MetaTalk!
posted by gman at 4:15 AM on March 10, 2009


The slippers CAN be forgotten, by any of the numerous suggestions people have given you so far: They are repositioned during cleaning, or by a spouse or mechanic, or removed after being damaged, or any of a number of possible mishaps

I explained how you don't remove them during cleaning. But that is neither here nor there. You are dedicated to your own ideology of helplessness. The purpose is to plan for forgetfulness. Unless you "forget to plan" (which is negligence, not memory lapse), then you should be able to take care of it.

You can minimize risk, but you can't remove it completely. You can't. It's not possible.

And you can't put guilty people in jail for crimes like rape and murder without putting a significant number of innocent people behind bars for these crimes too. You can minimize risk substantially, and that is what's important.

By your reasoning on memory lapses, someone who sneezed while driving and hit a kid would be criminally negligent

Uh, yes, he would. But does this ever happen? I await the next commiserating Washington Post article.


Again, look at that sample from the article: Barfour usually had the diaper bag beside her, had the child visible in the rear-view mirror, had a baby-sitter who would call her if she didn't drop the child off. All of those reminders happened, through freak coincidence, to be disabled on that day

Balfour didn't plan responsibly. It wasn't expected of her, and she didn't know any better. Thought experiment: If you rewound time to before her son died, do you agree or disagree she would never have this "accident" again? Changing the law will make people know what is expected of them and why, in a way sort of like rewinding time. Laws are a "reality setter".

Dude. I quoted an entire paragraph from it that showed how the techniques you speak of can fail.

Balfour didn't use any deliberate precautionary techniques. There was just random shit that usually ensured she was aware of things. This actually supports me; if she would have taken control of her memory cues, planning and establishing deliberate cues, instead of just relying passively on incidental memory cues, then none of these incidental factors would have mattered.

Nope and for reference, here's the entire paragraph that contained that phrase:

'Nope' how? It says exactly what I said: "Sometimes, the parent knowingly left the child in the car, despite the obvious peril... these are the ones that tend to result in prison sentences."
posted by dgaicun at 4:19 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


This whole thing is bizarre as fuck and I'm not going to get involved with the core of it, but I just want to point out that someone who sneezes while driving and manages to hit someone during that time would not be criminally negligent. That event, while tragic, would not be a crime without some pretty hefty circumstances that make it more complicated than "they just sneezed".

Back to your already in progress programming.

posted by Stunt at 4:42 AM on March 10, 2009


This is the most amazing thread I have ever seen. It's like the scene from the "Kids in the Hall" movie, where Bruce McCulloch explains over and over and over again, "This is a drug... that gives worms... to ex-girlfriends!!!"
Except a lot longer and more infuriating.
posted by mustard seeds at 5:22 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


You cannot win an argument about human frailty with Mr Spock.
posted by h00py at 5:48 AM on March 10, 2009


not with, against
posted by h00py at 5:58 AM on March 10, 2009


SNEEZING IS NEGLIGENT. IF WE PROSECUTED SNEEZERS TO THE FULL EXTENT OF THE LAW, MAYBE PEOPLE WOULD THINK TWICE BEFORE SNEEZING.

This is just glorious stuff here.
posted by flashboy at 5:59 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


The very fact that people can't see that they are going around in circles, and that arguing the same point over and over again is futile, boggles my fuckin' mind.
posted by gman at 6:08 AM on March 10, 2009


(hi h00py!)

By your reasoning on memory lapses, someone who sneezed while driving and hit a kid would be criminally negligent

Uh, yes, he would.


Wow. No accidents on your planet are allowed. I don't think I want to live there.

Balfour didn't plan responsibly. It wasn't expected of her, and she didn't know any better.

From the Post: British psychologist James Reason coined the term the "Swiss Cheese Model" in 1990 to explain through analogy why catastrophic failures can occur in organizations despite multiple layers of defense. Reason likens the layers to slices of Swiss cheese, piled upon each other, five or six deep. The holes represent small, potentially insignificant weaknesses. Things will totally collapse only rarely, he says, but when they do, it is by coincidence -- when all the holes happen to align so that there is a breach through the entire system.

Planning is definitely something that is not expected parents. Just ask any of them.

And slippers are not just another layer in the stack of cheese. They're proof of adequate planning and therefore a defense against criminal charges.
posted by rtha at 6:19 AM on March 10, 2009


I'm quite surprised that someone, when faced with unanimous disagreement and repeated discussion of the flaws of their argument doesn't either accept that

a: They might be wrong

or

b: They may only be right for the way that their brain works as no-one (yes, no-one) else thinks that the slipper concept is flawless. Most don't even agree it is practical. Changing into slippers every day in a Toronto winter just to drive the car? Not a chance. It'd be more dangerous because I'd not be able to feel my feet for the first 10 minutes I was driving the car.

Which, incidentally, it's not. And this is from the guy that doesn't understand why people don't look in the back seat of their car while they leave it. I'd have thought I'd be the one person who commented in that thread that would have been likely to have agreed with dgaicun (from an outsiders perspective) but the slippers idea is laughable, enormously and unnecessarily complicated and has so much potential for either going wrong or being abandoned due to excessive time consumption that it blows my head up. Hardly anyone even agrees that it is practical. Changing into slippers every day in a Toronto winter just to drive the car? Not a chance. It'd be more dangerous because I'd not be able to feel my feet for the first 10 minutes I was driving the car.

People will only continue to use a routine if it is efficient. The slippers idea is the exact opposite of that. It creates a massive amount of complexity (strap them to the pedals? What the fuck?) to become 'foolproof'. Except it never will be fool proof. Who's to say that, on a mild day, the driver doesn't just get out of the car and wander off in their slippers (child in the car or not)? How do you prevent them forgetting to change their shoes back?

It's not foolproof. It's ridiculously complicated. That was why, to my mind, just getting into the ritual of checking the back seat quickly before leaving the car was suggested as a sensible solution - it makes forgetting the child enormously less likely. It may well make it less likely enough (excuse the shitty grammar) that the issue is solved for all but the most bizarre coincidences. I don't think it is ever possible to make this 'impossible' and there is no such thing as 'foolproof' for a system relying on memory. You just have to reduce the odds as much as you can.

And yes, I think you are trolling.
posted by Brockles at 6:37 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


gman - I know, right?

My brain flat out refuses to believe that there's someone on this planet who thinks that memory can't fail. dgaicun seems to be someone who never forgets anything - keys, milk, what time the movie starts, etc. - and all I can think is how awful it must be to live that way. A failure of memory is not a very human fact of life, dgaicun seems to be saying, but a personal, moral failing that indicates a lack of responsibility and planning.

A friend came to visit a while back and at the end of the visit we drove him to the airport. The airport exit is one slight bear-left from the connector I take to work (a bear-right ramp). We joked about how I shouldn't "drive to work" on the way to the airport, and yet, with him right there in the car, having just joked about it, I went right instead of left, purely by force of habit (thanks, lizard-brain!). We looped back and were at the airport about five minutes later than we would have been had I take the correct ramp the first time around, but I guess I should be grateful that he still wants to be friends, since I obviously failed to plan adequately and could have made him miss his flight.
posted by rtha at 6:42 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I really only have one thing to contribute to this and that is:

THREE TIMES IN MY LIFE I HAVE ACCIDENTALLY WORN MY SLIPPERS TO WORK AND IT TOOK ME HOURS TO NOTICE YOU STUPID ASSHOLE.
posted by kate blank at 7:04 AM on March 10, 2009 [18 favorites]


I don't think dgaicun is trolling, based on his initial comment, hence my responses. Not sure where the lack of comprehension is coming from on his side, it sounds like it's based either in emotion or in a rigid, engineering style of thinking than only think logically, but I'm content to agree to disagree at this point.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:24 AM on March 10, 2009


I've always looked at the memory lapse thing in terms of flushing the toilet, because for whatever reason that seems to be the thing I forget when I get overtired and overstressed. It's also one of those things that, for me, I almost always do but I don't actually think about doing. However, if I do think about it after the fact I can usually conjure up a memory of myself doing it, and since I almost always remember to do it, I'm usually right.

So when my girlfriend comes in to tell me that I forgot to flush, I've actually ARGUED with her over whether or not it was me, because I can actually dredge up a memory of doing something that I didn't do. I'd imagine this is probably because it's a task that doesn't change or look remarkably different from one time to another. I'd imagine it's much the same with dropping your kid off on your way to work.

Anyway, I will join gman and some others who are shocked that dgaicun is still at it, still talking about his/her magical fucking slipper plan, still arguing for heavy sentencing, admitting that there was almost definitely no intent or malice on the part of these parents but then equating them to drunk drivers, and so many more things that I'm getting too frustrated to go back and look for.

I think most of us can agree that our brains and memory systems are fallible and remarkably underdeveloped compared to the rest of our brains, that something so terrible could truly be an innocent mistake, and that there is no constructive function to locking these people up. It's not that difficult to believe for anyone who has ever in their life forgotten to do anything, especially when they've set up some system to do so. dgaicun obviously does not agree with this, and has become so fixated on his/her plan that it's all about the slippers and strapping them down and telling the mechanic not to touch them.

I'm so fucking done with having that conversation over and over. Good luck to anyone who carries the flag from here.
posted by rollbiz at 7:34 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, plate of beans slippers.
posted by rollbiz at 7:46 AM on March 10, 2009


I propose listening to death metal on your way to work every day. Therefore, you child will be crying the whole time and you'll know they are there. Problem solved. NEXT!

Warning: may cause hearing loss. Will not work if child is deaf or a Slayer fan.
posted by ALongDecember at 7:49 AM on March 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Having made it through the entire article (it does end on oddly positive note), the common problem in the deaths described was people working too much, being too stressed, 'causing them to forget some of the basics. If anything, it sounds like a further indictment of America's "workworkwork" culture. Most chilling is how many of the parents were distracted by cell phone conversations.

Just to try to re-rail: This is something that struck me, too, and that I think a commenter in the other thread was trying to get at (and got unjustly -- in my opinion -- hammered for). He said when he had young children, he was always interacting with the child in the back and was therefore very unlikely to forget about her. One of the things that seemed a little sad to me was how the morning rush turned the car into an office: the parents were in office mode before they even got there, and while they still had a little time with their child. Harrison, for instance, made 13 work-related calls on his cell phone during the drive. That seems like a lot of distraction when you're trying to drive.

I AM NOT ACCUSING THESE BEREAVED PARENTS OF BEING INATTENTIVE PARENTS. Just wondering if the circumstances that can make something like this more likely are also a little sad in themselves.
posted by palliser at 8:11 AM on March 10, 2009


"I don't think dgaicun is trolling, based on his initial comment, hence my responses. Not sure where the lack of comprehension is coming from on his side, it sounds like it's based either in emotion or in a rigid, engineering style of thinking than only think logically, but I'm content to agree to disagree at this point."

Yeah, see, and having gone round and round with him in a recent atheist MeTa, and having seen him trumpet bad science again and again in gender relations, no, he's really just like that.
posted by klangklangston at 8:22 AM on March 10, 2009


dgaicun : You are forced to either see the child seat or to leave the car wearing only your socks or ridiculous driving slippers. It would require far more than an ordinary kind of memory glitch for you to do this.

I think you are grossly underestimating the way memory works. Let me try to reframe this in a way that takes it out of this charged discussion.

My car's second gear doesn't work; when I'm driving, I have to shift from first right to third, otherwise I'll hear a terrible grinding sound that will stick with me all day. At first, it was a huge pain in the ass, I was constantly thinking about it when I was on the road, just to make sure I wouldn't forget and subject myself to that awful noise.

Eventually, I got so used to the new shift pattern= that I don't even notice it anymore. And this is why your idea of slippers won't work. Because the human mind compensates and overcomes minor inconveniences and reclassifies them as "just normal".

Sure, you can keep escalating as you suggested, trying things like dental floss or neon lights or whatever, but eventually, you will simply acclimate.

And you only have to forget once for it to be a tragedy. I'm not saying that your idea of trying to tie a string around your finger isn't without merit, but you seem to be arguing for this as if were a be-all-end-all solution, and it simply isn't.
posted by quin at 8:38 AM on March 10, 2009


I have no idea where that "=" came from.
posted by quin at 8:39 AM on March 10, 2009


I'm another parent who has driven all the way to work only to discover that I forgot to drop junior off at day care. It happens. Sure it can happen less frequently if we set up failsafes (the slipper idea is stupid and ultimately unworkable for many reasons), but mistakes can never be completely eliminated. We do out best, and our motivation to do our best isn't fear of criminal charges or public shaming.
dgaicun's attitude is so ridiculous he should best be ignored, but he reminds me too much of myself at eighteen to write him off as insane. I hope, for his sake, he's not much older than that.
posted by rocket88 at 8:43 AM on March 10, 2009


having gone round and round with him in a recent atheist MeTa, and having seen him trumpet bad science again and again in gender relations, no, he's really just like that.

Perhaps the humans who assembled his Robotic Brain System were wearing their slippers at work that day.
posted by scody at 8:51 AM on March 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


What would a failsafe for this problem ACTUALLY look like? One that doesn't rely on footwear? (I gave my feet in Nam, you sonuvabitch.)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:54 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I imagine that you would need a mechanism that would sense a child in the vehicle after the driver's seat has been vacated for more than 30 seconds and it would attempt a number of novel/ variable methods of getting the drivers attention; a phone call, setting off the horn, a text message, flashing the lights, etc.

The variable approach would help to prevent the acclimation effect I was mentioning earlier; if it was something (or several different things) whenever the problem was recognized, it might reduce the chance that someone would zone-out through it.

Hell, I should market this, it could finally be that thing that gets me rich!
posted by quin at 9:11 AM on March 10, 2009


What would a failsafe for this problem ACTUALLY look like?

Microchips.

A chip implanted in the child that monitors location and general health stats. When the child is more than X feet from the chip implanted in the parent, the adult gets a jolt every 15 (30? 60?) minutes, reminding them to see to the child. They also get a jolt/alarm is the health stats get out of wack. The various teachers/sitters/extended family etc will be able to reach the parent(s) via the cell phone implanted in their spine and powered by the electricity the body generates, ensuring it can never be turned off.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:26 AM on March 10, 2009


When the child is more than X feet from the chip implanted in the parent, the adult gets a jolt every 15 (30? 60?) minutes, reminding them to see to the child.

Fool. The jolt reminds them to CHECK THAT THE SLIPPERS ARE ON THE PEDALS.
posted by scody at 9:27 AM on March 10, 2009


My husband wore his slippers to work today. ON PURPOSE. Why won't he think of the CHILDREN??!!!!!???? I, on the other hand, successfully dropped our child off at daycare wearing Danskos the entire time. Go, me!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:33 AM on March 10, 2009


Quin, I'm not convinced a variable alarm is even necessary. Several companies make these. I just ordered a set.

From the original FPP article:
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.
Standard car alarms serve a very specific purpose. They are either intended to attract your attention so that you will intervene if you see your car being broken into, or they are intended to scare off a would-be thief.

I'm pretty sure the reason why the car alarm didn't jog that business executive's memory is he had no reason to make a mental connection between it and his daughter, locked in the car. On the other hand, if an alarm that is only used to alert you that your child is still in his or her car seat goes off, that should provoke an immediate response. Even if it's only a reflexive glance into the back seat.

Certainly it would be a far more practical and reasonable solution than slippers.

I wrote a note to Graco, Evenflo and Britax last night, asking if they have ever considered adding such an alarm to their seats. If they respond with anything worth repeating, I'll post it here and in the FPP.
posted by zarq at 9:39 AM on March 10, 2009


That's a good avenue to think about, zarq. What if there were a lighter plug for the carseat, and it beeped at the site of the seat and at a keychain dongle when the power supply had been diminished for 30 minutes? They could even package that functionality with a seat warmer for junior or something.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:47 AM on March 10, 2009


Anybody want to start a sweepstake on the number of joke AskMe answers involving slippers the mods have to delete over the next week?
posted by flashboy at 9:51 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


If these are the kinds of arguments and failsafes that we need to prevent 30 deaths a year, I'm eager to hear all the other mnemonic devices and routines to prevent the thousand things that kill 40, 50, or 60 people a year.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:54 AM on March 10, 2009


Ambrosia Voyeur: "What would a failsafe for this problem ACTUALLY look like?"

I'm really surprised this hasn't been seen as more of a marketing opportunity. Playing off the fears of new parents is a goldmine. Have you seen those ads where the germs are swarming out of the air ducts to KILL YOUR BABY!?!

I think a usable device would have to be something physical, that played into your normal routine muscle memory, so that once you were acclimated and habitual about it, it wouldn't be dismissible. I would sell a device that attaches to the buckle end of your seat belt. When you buckle your belt, you also string the device to the child's car seat. Now you can't undo your seat belt without disconnecting from the child. There's still room for error, but it does improve your chances, working to rely on reptilian actions rather than against them. I've never forgotten to buckle my seat belt. Even sleep deprived, it feels completely alien to drive without it. But I have forgotten to unbuckle it, trying to just get out when I'm distracted. It's not something I can forget to do.

But, of course I'm thinking of my car. I don't know how this would work in vans or SUVs. Back to the drawing board.

(on preview, I see this has been seen as a marketing opportunity. God bless America.)
posted by team lowkey at 9:56 AM on March 10, 2009


I'm eager to hear all the other mnemonic devices and routines to prevent the thousand things that kill 40, 50, or 60 people a year.

Weird Headache in Morning?
Carbon Monoxide Warning!
posted by scody at 9:57 AM on March 10, 2009


Weird Headache at Night?
Sailor's Delight!

I'm not sure I'm doing this right.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:01 AM on March 10, 2009


Keep track of your slippers
Or you'll bake your wee nippers.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:03 AM on March 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't think you're trolling either, dgaicun.

However, your insistence here that 'negligent parents' be punished no matter what exculpatory circumstances attend their actions approaches being the most ferociously irrational insistence of any kind I've seen yet on Metafilter.

Long ago, I concluded from your contributions here (often excellent, by the way) that you were probably adopted or at least not raised by a biological parent, although I was not able to find any explicit statement from you to that effect. If that is the case, do you think it might be paying a role in your insistence, your absolute insistence, that parents be punished for their mistakes with their children no matter what?
posted by jamjam at 10:03 AM on March 10, 2009


What if there were a lighter plug for the carseat, and it beeped at the site of the seat and at a keychain dongle when the power supply had been diminished for 30 minutes?

That's a really interesting idea -- especially for vans and SUV's which have lighter sockets in the backseat.

But the time frame would have to be shortened drastically. Temperatures inside a closed car sitting in direct sunlight can jump anywhere from 10-20ºF in the space of 10 minutes. Make it go off a minute or two after the power dies, instead.

They could even package that functionality with a seat warmer for junior or something.

I'd be extremely wary of a warmer. Kids under 4 are far more susceptible to hyperthermia than adults. Even a mild seat warmer could quickly raise their core temp to unacceptable levels. To say nothing of the potential electrocution hazard in the event of a car accident.

Now a repeating subliminal message system could have major potential: "Go to sleep on time! Don't grab daddy's glasses! Eat your zucchini! Don't pull your sister's hair!"

I'd buy it. :D
posted by zarq at 10:04 AM on March 10, 2009


Beer on wine?
Das ist fine.
Wine on beer?
THE SLIPPERS STAY ON THE PEDALS
posted by Damn That Television at 10:04 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Galoshes Aren't Frightening,
They'll Save You From Lightning!

posted by cortex (staff) at 10:14 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Completely offtopic, but this reminds me that the car need to be replaced or reworked, period. Automobile related fatalities are, in my opinion, unacceptably high. We need to find a better way to move around.
posted by ODiV at 10:14 AM on March 10, 2009


Well from a strictly engineering sense, a failsafe for this situation (kid forgotten in car on hot day) is something that would prevent the child from dying. So, maybe a temperature sensor that makes sure it never gets above 80 degrees inside the car? You can combine this with a life/motion sensor for the back seat.

So in the unlikely event that your car notices someone alive in the backseat and it gets too hot, your car rolls down all the windows for you. I think Toyota has/had(?), but is now getting rid of, a solar powered climate control thingy for the Prius that always kept the car cool. So maybe it just runs that instead, if we're getting fancy.
posted by danny the boy at 10:15 AM on March 10, 2009


Someone correct my math here:

My fumbling attempt at interpreting census data from an Excel file tells me that there are about 21,000,000 children aged 4 and under living in the US. This exercise would assume children older than 4 could release themselves from the carseat if needed, but that might not be true in reality.

Let's conservately say that half of those children go somewhere with their parent(s) in a car on each weekday in a year.

10,500,000 x 52 weeks x 5 work days = 2,730,000,000 child drop-offs per year. This is only one way and doesn't account for the return trip, as we don't normally hear of any cases where the child is picked up and returned home but then left in the car.

Using the higher number of 200 deaths per year that someone mentioned, a death would be a 1 in 13,650,000 occurence.

Using 30 deaths per year, the incidence is 1 in 91,000,000.

From the follow up Q&A at the Washington Post, a reader asks the author why he wrote this article:

My question is why would you write this story? Isn't there enough publicity about this when it happens. Why add to the guilt and shame of those involved and add to the painful empathetic response of parents everywhere?

Gene Weingarten: So it will happen less often.

So when it does happen, the poor, decent, terrible damaged people to whom it happens are not demonized by an ignorant public.


Could it happen less often? Theoretically yes, since there are numbers less than 30. Statistically, it's so rare as to be almost non-existent in the first place. Something like 99.99999997% of parents will not experience this. I think the second reason is the point here.
posted by peep at 10:22 AM on March 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Interestingly, all this seems to be about kids getting too hot in cars - ie only done in summer. Keeping a car cool (the additional benefits of the Prius system makes it excellent and should appeal to all) but how many of these incidents occur in cold climates? How many kids freeze to death because they are left in the car?

Odd how heat seems to be the only issue raised with any frequency (unless I missed something).

Keeping a car warm for any great period of time would be immensely harder then keeping a hot one cool, in terms of energy usage.

So in the unlikely event that your car notices someone alive in the backseat and it gets too hot, your car rolls down all the windows for you.

Then a guy reaches in, steals your car AND your baby. Not a good plan.
posted by Brockles at 10:25 AM on March 10, 2009


BTW, a technology/engineering solution is the route you'd go if you actually wanted to prevent the 30 deaths a year, as opposed to relying on laws or fallible human memory and tricks to get around it.

Whether the cost is worth it or not, is debatable. But arguing for laws or societal pressure or whatever means your goal isn't actually to save 30 kids per year. Which itself isn't particularly unethical as, on preview, peep points out above. But advocating for draconian laws or whatever... your ultimate goal is really something else.
posted by danny the boy at 10:28 AM on March 10, 2009


Then a guy reaches in, steals your car AND your baby. Not a good plan.

I think you're being facetious, but in my calculus it's more important to save the kid, dog, whatever, than it would be to prevent someone from stealing my kid's diaper bag. And by having the windows open it has the added benefit of drawing attention. I guess I am counting on car thieves to be human enough to call 911 if they see a forgotten baby. Hopefully not too naive of me.

I think it's a lot easier to survive being left in a cold car, since presumably the kid is already bundled up. But yeah, if that's the case, run the car/heater. Better to have an empty tank than a kidsicle... though I would think you could keep the car interior survivably warm for a really long amount of time if you manage it smartly. It's well insulated so the engine would only have to be on intermittently.
posted by danny the boy at 10:38 AM on March 10, 2009


Back when I was little, we didn't have car seats - we kids were just chucked in the back of the station wagon and left to fend for ourselves.

I don't have kids, so I've never set up a child seat in a car; I understand that you latch the seat to the car with the seatbelt, and then use a separate belt and latch that's part of the child seat to buckle the kid in, right?

What if there were some mechanism that, when you buckled the kid into her seat, was connected to the car? What if there were a noise - like the beeping that reminds you to buckle your seatbelt - that happens if you fail to unbuckle that belt holding your kid in the child seat? It would make the beeping once you've shut off the engine and taken the key out (or just when the engine turns off, for cars that are now keyless). It's not dependent on memory, because when you put the kid in the seat, you buckle the kid in, right?

Hmmm.
posted by rtha at 10:39 AM on March 10, 2009


So, maybe a temperature sensor that makes sure it never gets above 80 degrees inside the car?

Wouldn't you have to set up a network of temperature sensors and have them take an average though? Otherwise, if the sensor is exposed to direct sunlight during the summer months for even a short period of time, it would go off, wouldn't it?
posted by zarq at 10:40 AM on March 10, 2009


I'm sorry I read the article, I'm sorry I posted to the article. I'm sorry for reading this post and commenting within it.

There.
posted by pianomover at 10:43 AM on March 10, 2009


How many kids freeze to death because they are left in the car?

The thing about the hot car versus the cold car. If it's cold outside it's also really cold in the car and it's easier (I think) to remember "hey it's freezing, things in the car will be freezing" even though actually, the car will likely be a little warner than outside. When it's hot outside it can be broiling in a car, dangerously so, (passive solar gain and all) so the little trigger that would say DANGER is less apparent. Obviously we're talking a one in 91 million chance but my guess would be it's even a smaller chance in cold climates.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:04 AM on March 10, 2009


10,500,000 x 52 weeks x 5 work days = 2,730,000,000 child drop-offs per year.

Maybe only 13 weeks/year, for the summer months?

And leaving children in cars does happen much more often than that; it's a common thing for mall police to be called to a car where a parent left her kids when "just running in." And there was a commenter on the Weingarten chat whose error was, in fact, caught when a babysitter called to ask where the child was. After two hours, the child was in distress but okay. We can't know how often that happens.
posted by palliser at 11:08 AM on March 10, 2009


I think you're being facetious

No, I really wasn't. It's a fundamental (and to most people deal-breaking) flaw with the suggestion of opening the window. A fan (or series of) would be fine, but compromising the safety of the child (and the car) in one aspect is not a good solution for improving it in another. A liability minefield and also not a good solution.

I think it's a lot easier to survive being left in a cold car

I note you live in San Francisco. I live in Toronto. It takes a lot of energy to keep a car warm in -20 C...

But yeah, if that's the case, run the car/heater.

This is a massively more complicated system than a solar powered fan to cool, though. It transfers to one with a finite level of fuel to power it, for a start - you'd have to perpetually keep your tank topped up. What if you drove to work and the light came on? You'd not keep a car warm enough for a baby to survive in a Canadian winter on 4 gallons of petrol, that's for sure. What if there wasn't enough left for the 'emergency baby saving device' to keep the car warm long enough? Are we in the same position as forgetting the baby? Just forgetting to constantly fuel up?

There is enormous cost, complexity and safety/security implications involved in a system that starts the car without the keys in the ignition. It would be seen as a security risk by almost all of the car buying population, precisely because almost everyone would see no need for it (Not worth the risk) and the vast, overwhelming, majority would be right.

Wouldn't you have to set up a network of temperature sensors and have them take an average though?

Well in the middle of the roof would be the best place for it, fairly obviously. Calibrated accordingly, with a fan just circulating/changing the air in the car initially before the system decides to cool it. You'd only need one sensor then, as long as it was insulated from the roof itself or calibrated accordingly.


Technology is not the answer for this issue. I am not surprised, but still disappointed, that so many people feel the solution is to have someone else 'make something' they can fit and forget that will do this for them.
posted by Brockles at 11:12 AM on March 10, 2009


I Love You Because I Have To by Dogs Die in Hot Cars.
posted by klangklangston at 11:32 AM on March 10, 2009


Sometimes I drive my car without my seatbelt. I have a 2003 BMW 325i. It has an idiot light on the instrument panel, but no sound indicator. It's not that I forget to put it on, I'm just lazy and stupid like that sometimes (no, I don't have kids).

My husband drives a 2006 BMW X3. He has the idiot light plus a sound indicator that was probably used at Abu Ghraib. I always wear my seatbelt in his car just to shut the infernal thing up.

So - you buckle baby into carseat. Get in, turn on car, drive. When you turn off the car, you have 30 seconds to unbuckle baby, or the NOISE OF SATAN blares. Yes, sometimes you will wake up baby or disturb the neighbors because you couldn't get to it fast enough. Yes, sometimes you will have to idle the car while waiting for a friend instead of turning it off to save gas. But you will never leave the baby, and it doesn't depend on your memory at all.
posted by desjardins at 11:42 AM on March 10, 2009


geez, totally didn't preview. rtha's smarter than me.
posted by desjardins at 11:46 AM on March 10, 2009


You'd only need one sensor then, as long as it was insulated from the roof itself or calibrated accordingly.

It was the "insulated from the roof" bit that I thought might be unrealistic, which is why I didn't mention it. The entire roof would need to be insulated, not just the sensor. And even so, heat rises, so the temperature of the upper interior is likely to be warmer than in other places within the vehicle.

Technology is not the answer for this issue.

I assume you mean that a technological "fix" is not the answer, yes? Because the car seat alarm I linked to above is not a "fit and forget" solution.
posted by zarq at 11:51 AM on March 10, 2009


geez, totally didn't preview. rtha's smarter than me.

Nah, just speedier. Also, possibly, more likely to ignore work in favor of meTa.
posted by rtha at 11:55 AM on March 10, 2009


It would make the beeping once you've shut off the engine and taken the key out (or just when the engine turns off, for cars that are now keyless). It's not dependent on memory, because when you put the kid in the seat, you buckle the kid in, right?

The only downsides of that I can see is supplying power to the seat (there are rarely suitable outlets in modern cars), making sure it was idiot proof to plug the seat into power when it is put in the car, and having to latch the baby seat closed when you take the child out (so it doesn't beep every single time you get out the car and encourage you to get used to hearing it.

Sometimes I drive my car without my seatbelt.

Please don't do that. Seriously. You seem nice and dying would be bad. When I was a student, I went through a phase of deciding to be too cool to wear my seatbelt. Then, during my degree, we did a crash safety module for automotives. We watched a fair few crash tests (with the dummies like Mythbusters has - Buster, you know?).

Yeah, right after that I changed my mind. I'm big on seatbelts, now. I've never driven a car in the ensuing 19 years without a seat belt on. No matter how far I'm going. I've never once forgotten to do it, for those that don't believe people can make infallible rituals, as passenger or driver. The worst I've done is go for the 'wrong side' for the belt.

Anyone who thinks it is anything other than horrifically bad not to wear a seat belt should be made to sit through an hour or so of those videos.
posted by Brockles at 11:56 AM on March 10, 2009


The entire roof would need to be insulated, not just the sensor.

No, just mount it to the roof lining rather than the metal skin.

even so, heat rises, so the temperature of the upper interior is likely to be warmer than in other places within the vehicle.

Marginal, I'd suspect. At most, the fans would come on 2 degrees or so sooner than they need to. Not exactly a big deal.
posted by Brockles at 11:58 AM on March 10, 2009


The discussion of technological fixes and seatbelts means it is now the perfect time to break out the story of my grandfather, who in the 1970s A) refused to wear seatbelts and B) HATED the incessant seat-belt reminder buzzer made by my grandparents' Audi. Being both ornery and handy, he crafted a pair of fake seatbelt buckles that would fit into the slots without having to use the seatbelts at all, thus preserving his sense of principle ("I was flung out of a jeep during the war and I was just fine, so no one's telling me to wear a goddamn belt now") as well as his personal satisfaction at having defeated the Germans again.

Of course, this was also the same grandfather who threatened to hijack a plane with a spork. Ah, the '70s!

posted by scody at 12:15 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


The only downsides of that I can see is supplying power to the seat (there are rarely suitable outlets in modern cars)

I don't know about wiring and stuff, but you don't need an outlet since you're not plugging anything in.

making sure it was idiot proof to plug the seat into power when it is put in the car

see above - no power to the seat is needed. No weight sensor is needed either, because the alarm is only set when the seatbelt is buckled, and tripped when the car is turned off. IMO this is much simpler than solar panels and cooling devices and slippers and such, because the technology already exists in the front seat. How hard can it be to wire it to the rear seats?

and having to latch the baby seat closed when you take the child out (so it doesn't beep every single time you get out the car and encourage you to get used to hearing it.

no, when you unbuckle the car seat to get the baby out, the alarm stops. Why would you then buckle it again? And even if you re-buckled it for some reason, who cares, the baby is now out, which was the reason for the alarm in the first place.

You seem nice and dying would be bad.

Duly noted.
posted by desjardins at 12:29 PM on March 10, 2009


desjardins : Sometimes I drive my car without my seatbelt.

Before it became a law I rarely wore mine, and when it did, I railed against it and paid a couple of tickets for getting caught speeding without it.

But then I started driving a bit more aggressively (not towards other drivers, just cornering harder and such) and I realized that the seatbelt is not just a good safety device, it's a good restraint to keep you from sliding around in your seat when pulling some Gs searching for the apex of a turn.

After that it was a decided, I'd never not wear one, just because I can drive better when my butt is firmly planted in the seat.

Also like Brockles said, you're kind of awesome and it would be a waste to lose you to something as dumb as a car accident. I mean, fighting alien controlled zombies, that's how we want to go out. Something with style...
posted by quin at 12:30 PM on March 10, 2009


I don't know about wiring and stuff, but you don't need an outlet since you're not plugging anything in.

It is an electrical connection that sounds the buzzer. How else would it know when the car is turned off? If the seat isn't connected to the car electrically, it cannot have an electrical warning system on it. If it has it's own power system, then charging it up gets us right back into memory land.

no, when you unbuckle the car seat to get the baby out, the alarm stops.

Ah, misread that bit.
posted by Brockles at 12:41 PM on March 10, 2009


“There are simple, precautionary strategies you can use to almost fully compensate for routine kinds of memory lapse.”

I agree. With the caveat that it’s not simple. And not almost. Suffice it to say there exist techniques which can compensate for a lack of action under stress 100% of the time. I’m not getting into this slipper thing, it’s silly.

“The problem is that dgaicun is taking the position that sufficient use of memory tricks would render the situation impossible, and therefore it is justifiable to prosecute parents who leave their children in the car on the grounds that they weren't doing enough to prevent it and are therefore negligent.”

I also agree with this. Sufficient use of mnemonics aren’t enough anyway. But even with a technique that does render the situation impossible – it only eliminates failure under one specific circumstance for one specific individual. The odds of getting into an accident even when not sleep deprived are still higher than forgetting your kid therefore we do not, as a society, value parenting over, say, getting somewhere conveniently and swiftly.
We’ve built roads, but we don’t have a conceptual framework – an overwatch – for parents. If, f’rinstance, someone did stop and look in the car and see a kid, they could say something. But I’m saying more change the entire environment. Alter how we treat parents in the country – prioritize parenting so they get more support – e.g. more sleep = less mental errors. Change how we transport children. Shuttles might be nice. Hell, more public transportation alone would greatly reduce the odds of this happening. And I don’t just mean parents should ride the bus more, I mean trains, shuttles, buses should be more widely available. But that’s just on general principles anyway, myriad reasons why we should have more public transportation.
Point being – this is symptomatic of a lifestyle and method of behavior.
While I know for a fact it’s possible to achieve a 100% rate off success for certain behaviors under certain circumstances, that is limited in scope and is dependant upon only one person. There’s a lot of things that can happen to one individual that can’t happen to a larger group.
And so – whatever the technique and whatever its success rate it is inevitable that there will be misfortunes.
Driving alone is proof of that. People are (ostensibly) trained to drive. No one wants to get into an accident, and yet people die every day in car crashes and under ‘normal’ circumstances (that is, they’re not drinking, sleepy, etc.).
The problem there is – even if everyone were supremely well trained in driving, you still have a single point of failure, the individual. And you have thousands of them out there. Therefore it’s simply a matter of odds.
With public transportation you have a number of eyes on, say, a train, you have overwatch, you have computers. Even then you have the occasional accident, but it’s far less likely.
So my point being even with someone at a 100% performance rate, you still have unavoidable incidents because that single technique does not alleviate the entire spectrum of potential events that can occur.
No single consciousness can take in and respond to more than a given amount of information. Which is why we cooperate, why we act in concert and form teams to get certain things done. Therefore no single individual can be held accountable for all circumstances, there are things which are unforeseeable.


I can account for one task within a wide variety of choices, but I can’t create a ritual for every single act I’m going to perform that day.
I’m going to have to act on more than reflex – which means I’ll have to think at some point. And while errors in memory are, as I’ve argued, preventable through ritual, errors in reasoning are not.
One can literally think one thing and do another. You see this all the time when someone puts on their left turn signal and turns right. Plenty of other circumstances. There’s nothing to do to prevent those occurrences (although it can be mitigated, which is why the military is so regimented in its thinking – but I don’t want to live in that society).
So it comes down to what we value. And, as I’ve intimated, this is another area where we’ve done something similar to the corporate ethos of privatizing profit while publicizing risk. Only here we’re privatizing time and energy and devaluing parenting while forcing the responsibility on the public – for transportation, for shopping, for child care, all while expecting full contribution in other areas.
Ridiculous. Of course there’s going to be accidents. Maybe I can be superman, but I can’t be God. I can’t be at work and watching out for my kids at the same time. I can’t drive in such a way as to prevent all possible harm to my child. I can only mitigate risk. Well, that’s unacceptable to me. Why is it my responsibility to transport my child in a less safe conveyance (by car on the road) simply because other people value the illusion of freedom they get from their cars more highly?
If we really wanted to stop all possibility of leaving a kid to die in the back seat of a car we’d have more widespread public transportation (for starters).
You can’t make someone responsible for the system under which they operate if they’re working in good faith and don’t have the authority to change it.
Kids dying in the back seats of cars is one of the hazards we deem acceptable for our method of transportation. I don’t think there’s one parent among any of the people here who wouldn’t look back and wouldn’t trade their car for a shuttle or train system if it meant their kid was alive.
But I think it’s fairly obvious that a lot of other folks would not, since it’s not their kid. So it’s not the parents that are the problem.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:55 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


When you turn off the car, you have 30 seconds to unbuckle baby, or the NOISE OF SATAN blares.

Good idea. But some parents need a minute or two to get the other one(s) out. And by then the harried office worker is already in the front door.

Maybe it's an external alarm, too, that sounds after more like 5 minutes, loud enough that even in an office park ocean of deserted cars, someone would come to investigate.

You know what I like about this? I like that people would be ashamed to do this for a 5-minute dry cleaning run, or just to run into the store for a minute. Parents might change their intentional behavior, too, because of the Noise of Satan, just like you change your (very naughty) behavior (c'mon) when you're in your husband's car.
posted by palliser at 1:00 PM on March 10, 2009


Very late to the comments but I do think that there should be charges of criminally negligent homicide against the parent in this situation.

Here's why:

If a nanny, a child care provider, a baby sitter or neighbor left a child to die in a hot car, I think that they would be charged with criminal negligence. I think in many cases the parents would want charges brought against the person.

If that's the case, why shouldn't parents have charges brought against them as well? Should the parent avoid jail time (and I am NOT talking life in prison, but a sentence in the 1-3 year range) because they're a parent? Shouldn't they be held to a higher standard because they are a parent?

I agree that the deterrence effect is minimal for most parents, but the state, in this case, is also standing in the shoes of the victim. If a child is left to roast to death in a hot car, there is criminal negligence, no matter who is driving.

I say this as a parent with two small kids. And, by the way, as a parent of a child with special needs, this whole notion that non-parents can't comment on parents, kids or parenting is simply bullshit. I have had my kid helped in extraordinary ways by non-parents who worked with my son. It really does take a village. And parents who close their minds to non-parents and their perspective are as ignorant as people who criticize parents for being breeders. So, I, for one, welcome anyone's comments.

ON PREVIEW: I made a rule for myself with child number one. Never, ever, ever leave the child in the car for any reason. Any reason. No matter how inconvenient it was for me. Unfortunately, I see many parents who violate that rule. Should we be as forgiving when a parent continually leaves their kids in the car "just for a minute" and it eventually turns tragic?
posted by cjets at 1:08 PM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


It is an electrical connection that sounds the buzzer. How else would it know when the car is turned off? If the seat isn't connected to the car electrically, it cannot have an electrical warning system on it. If it has it's own power system, then charging it up gets us right back into memory land.

Argh... we are having some fundamental misunderstanding here. How do the taillights get power? I don't plug them in every time I drive. How does the trunk light come on when I open the trunk? How does my subwoofer operate? Obviously there is a way to wire power to these things - there is no reason that car manufacturers cannot also wire it to the rear seats.
posted by desjardins at 1:20 PM on March 10, 2009


Uhhh I can't resist this derail.

I was hit by a 21-year old drunk driver doing 105-110 on the freeway, and she plowed our car, travelling at 70mph, off the road and into a thirty foot ravine, where we flipped more than twice and somehow dodged a tree, suffering a little neck wrenching and a broken thumb tip from the airbag. And that was it. I remember every single second, including which windows broke in what order and how it felt to be held in place by the seatbelt as we flipped. WEAR THEM. It's not open for discussion. And don't tell me you don't wear them because I don't LIKE thinking people are inexplicably peabrained.

posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:21 PM on March 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Back seats of cars, sure. Sometimes there are situations without such easy technological fixes.
I can't count the number of times I've left a baby out in the sun, bungee-strapped to the back of my motorcycle, while I pop into the pub for a quick one.
Just for a minute, though.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 1:46 PM on March 10, 2009


But some parents need a minute or two to get the other one(s) out. And by then the harried office worker is already in the front door.

I understand the first sentence, but not the second. Say you turn off the car, and you unbuckle little Jimmy's car seat within the 30 second limit. You pick him up, go around to the other side to unbuckle Bobby's, but the 30 second limit has passed, and the alarm goes off. So you unbuckle Bobby's, and the alarm stops. Hearing the alarm for a few seconds will not kill you, in fact it conditions you to MAKE IT STOP by attending to your children, which is the whole point. You now have both children safe and sound. The end. There is no way you, the harried office worker, would be "already in the front door" while forgetting your kid(s) because either you unbuckled them, or the alarm went off and then you unbuckled them.
posted by desjardins at 1:46 PM on March 10, 2009


What happens after a year or two and the alarm breaks? Now you're got a conditioned animal that isn't getting its signal.

Maybe we should should slow down and quite making work the focus of our lives.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:57 PM on March 10, 2009


Maybe we should should slow down and quite making work the focus of our lives.

Slippers by morning?
Workaholics, heed warning!

Fedoras by night --
Ladies, take flight!
posted by scody at 2:07 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


“If a nanny, a child care provider, a baby sitter or neighbor left a child to die in a hot car, I think that they would be charged with criminal negligence. If that's the case, why shouldn't parents have charges brought against them as well.”

Speaking just for myself, I don’t have much dispute as to whether charges should be brought. For me the issue is – what then? Ok, you bring charges against a parent. Now what? Put them in jail? Are they going to care? Consider – on who’s behalf is justice being done? Justice is an abstract concept certainly, but it is not an end in and of itself. Who is satisfied by sentencing a parent if we know it wasn’t a purposeful homicide? There’s no real deterrent effect as there would be with a child care providing company (they could put in procedural guidelines, etc. but again – nothing can account for human error).
Additionally – why must this matter be addressed only by the justice system? I consider that a failure of our social programs that we don’t have the faculty to address this in any way but legally.
Whether charges are brought or not – it’s not enough. Same beef I have with folks who are pro-life. I’m philosophically pretty strongly pro-life. But I don’t think it’s a legal issue (so I support pro-choice when it comes to the law). The issue is saving children from being aborted, not assignation of moral responsibility. Or at least, IMHO, it’s the former that is a more important, and critically, more solvable problem. So, same deal here – how do we prevent kids from dying? That’s not going to be accomplished through responsive measures in the courts, but rather supportive and proactive measures in society.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:11 PM on March 10, 2009


Desjardins: When you turn off the car, you have 30 seconds to unbuckle baby, or the NOISE OF SATAN blares.

Oh, HELL no. What an idiotic idea.

I have TWO 13-month old babies. When they're awake, it's impossible to get ONE out of a car seat in 30 seconds after shutting off the car. ("Where's your shoe, sweetie? What about your sock? And stop eating your mittens! Give me back her hat!" It's winter in New York. They will stay strapped into that seat and in a warm car until I can re-dress them in all the articles of clothing they've pulled off during the ride.)

When they're asleep, the LAST thing you want to do is try to rush the process of extricating them from a car seat when you're *trying not to wake them*. Which happens a lot, by the way. Especially when they outright refuse to go to sleep and one of us has to drive them around for a while until they nod off.

Noise of Satan. Pffft. I'd rip the alarm out of the car with my bare hands.

Oh, and I'm not leaving a car running in an enclosed space, either. If my choices boil down to freak my kids out or expose 'em to potentially dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in a garage, then there's something fundamentally wrong with that picture.
posted by zarq at 2:18 PM on March 10, 2009


Before you go thinking that this only happens in hot climates, remember that the article documented one case where a kid baked to death in a car with ambient temperature of only 60F. It doesn't take sweltering heat.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:19 PM on March 10, 2009


Hearing the alarm for a few seconds will not kill you, in fact it conditions you to MAKE IT STOP by attending to your children, which is the whole point.

At the risk of stating the obvious, children typically react very, very badly to loud, scary noises. We're not talking about an adult, here. Scare a child of a certain young age badly enough they may literally cry for an hour or more. WAKE a child out of a sound sleep with a big, loud scary noise and they may literally be inconsolable, and cry and scream until they get sick.

The slippers thing was kinder and more realistic.
posted by zarq at 2:31 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


>> But some parents need a minute or two to get the other one(s) out. And by then the harried office worker is already in the front door.

I understand the first sentence, but not the second. Say you turn off the car, and you unbuckle little Jimmy's car seat within the 30 second limit. You pick him up, go around to the other side to unbuckle Bobby's, but the 30 second limit has passed, and the alarm goes off. So you unbuckle Bobby's, and the alarm stops. Hearing the alarm for a few seconds will not kill you, in fact it conditions you to MAKE IT STOP by attending to your children, which is the whole point. You now have both children safe and sound. The end. There is no way you, the harried office worker, would be "already in the front door" while forgetting your kid(s) because either you unbuckled them, or the alarm went off and then you unbuckled them.

If you've forgotten your child, you're already out the car door and several feet away within seconds.

If this is truly the type of noise it should be (enough to be heard from outside the car, many feet away, so that others could rescue a child left by a parent who screwed up), it would be insufferably obnoxious to have it go off within 30 seconds. There's no way to get out of the driver's seat, unbuckle and get a child out of his car seat, and get around to the other side to get another child, within 30 seconds.

In summary: TWO CHILDREN, TWO SETS OF SLIPPERS. Duh.
posted by palliser at 2:31 PM on March 10, 2009


If a nanny, a child care provider, a baby sitter or neighbor left a child to die in a hot car, I think that they would be charged with criminal negligence. If that's the case, why shouldn't parents have charges brought against them as well.

The parent thinks the child is in daycare, which is why the parent isn't looking for the child.

What is the nanny/child careprovider/babysitter/neighbor thinking all that time?
posted by palliser at 2:34 PM on March 10, 2009


Argh... we are having some fundamental misunderstanding here. How do the taillights get power? I don't plug them in every time I drive. How does the trunk light come on when I open the trunk? How does my subwoofer operate? Obviously there is a way to wire power to these things - there is no reason that car manufacturers cannot also wire it to the rear seats.

Well there is a wiring harness there, but it is not the work of a second to take a power feed off that to add an additional drain. It's not like a house where you just plug something else into the wall, there's no outlet - nothing to plug into. The fundamental misunderstanding is that 'just because' there are wires there you can just 'wire something into them'. The fuse system they run on may not necessarily be specified high enough to take the additional drain, nor may the fuse system. It may cause an additional load on the wiring system that makes it out of spec in terms of thermal loading (risking the loom catching fire). Worst case, possibly, but actually likely - there isn't much wiggle room in modern wiring harnesses.

So, basically, this would be extremely difficult to do as an aftermarket deal without using an (easy to kick out, inconvenient, fallible) 12 V lighter socket in the rear of the car (assuming it even has one) so this is an additional (standard) plug that would have to be agreed upon with car seat and auto manufacturers if this is to become widespread. The lead time for a new product to get into a new car? 5 years minimum for a new model, I'd suggest.
posted by Brockles at 2:35 PM on March 10, 2009


Consider – on who’s behalf is justice being done?

I think justice is being done on behalf of the victim, the baby. The state represents the victim. I agree that there would be no deterrent effect on most parents but it is the right thing to do. Juries can still find them not guilty and I'm suggesting a 1-3 year sentence.

So, same deal here – how do we prevent kids from dying? That’s not going to be accomplished through responsive measures in the courts, but rather supportive and proactive measures in society.

I couldn't agree more. There were great public movements to reduce smoking and drunk driving. The same sort of effort should be made here. A great public awareness campaign. And I'm all for any sort of device which could help parents.
posted by cjets at 2:43 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


how do we prevent kids from dying?

I don't say this lightly, but as a reminder: people die, sometimes through accidents or unfairly. Sometimes it happens to kids. Doesn't mean we should't try to prevent, but we should remember that death is part of life.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:49 PM on March 10, 2009


Smedleyman's comments should not go ignored. His main point is that parents need more support, period. No matter how much non-parents complain about the slack they have to take up for us breeders, our society is simply not set up to support families.

Between affordable daycares that are really warehouses, the near requirement that both parents have high incomes, and the expense of very simple things, it's amazing that people decide to have kids in the first place.

One quibble I do have with Smedley's proposed use of public transport - Ain't no way I'm letting my babies be transported by strangers. It may be just me, but I am absolutely paranoid on this point. It's only this last year I let my six year old ride the bus to after school care, and that was after meeting the driver and being assured of the checklists and processes involved.

I get that these can fail, too. But he's also big enough to call for help if he needs to.
posted by lysdexic at 3:07 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way, I also wanted to just mention that the attitude in this thread of "make a system and just fix yourself" really reminds me of the attitude that medical science had towards depression in say the 1950s. "What's that? You're sad? Well gird your loins and get over it. Put it aside and move on; come on, be a man. Look at all those people around you, they seem fine. Quit your bellyaching and get up."

On the subject of systems... How about this one: get one of those stretchy spiraly-plasticy elastic bracelets that some people use to carry keys on their wrists or forearms. When the kid is not in the car seat, the bracelet remains attached to the buckle/latch of the car seat at all times. When placing the kid in the seat, you first take the bracelet off the empty seat, put it on your wrist, then place the kid in the seat and buckle them. You do the reverse when taking them out of the seat, thus whenever the bracelet is on your wrist you know the kid is in the seat. So hopefully if you are at the office sipping on your cuppa joe and look down and notice this on your wrist, you instantly have the "oh shit" moment and rush back to the car hopefully without any damage done.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:14 PM on March 10, 2009


The parent thinks the child is in daycare, which is why the parent isn't looking for the child.

What is the nanny/child careprovider/babysitter/neighbor thinking all that time?


Parents leave their kids in cars for all sorts of reasons. They go in their house and fall asleep, go shopping at a supermarket, whatever. Day care is one of many scenarios.

As far as the nanny, etc. What is the parent thinking? Why should a nanny be held to a higher standard of care than a parent?

Parents forget. Nannies forget. Why do parents get a pass?
posted by cjets at 3:35 PM on March 10, 2009


I think justice is being done on behalf of the victim, the baby. The state represents the victim. I agree that there would be no deterrent effect on most parents but it is the right thing to do.

The child won't be brought back to life, there is no deterrent effect on the parents. I really don't see how that is the "right" thing to do. How can it be right if nothing is better afterward?

As far as the nanny, etc. What is the parent thinking? Why should a nanny be held to a higher standard of care than a parent?

Because it is their job. They are being paid to focus on one thing only and do it right, and at the end of the day they go home and deal with the rest of their lives. Parents don't have that luxury.

Parents forget. Nannies forget. Why do parents get a pass?

Ugh, did you read the article? Do you really think those parents that didn't do jail time are getting a pass?
posted by oneirodynia at 4:16 PM on March 10, 2009


Would you feel like you'd got a pass if you'd let your baby die in the car because of an unthinkable mistake but didn't get sent to jail for it?
posted by h00py at 4:19 PM on March 10, 2009


By the way, I also wanted to just mention that the attitude in this thread of "make a system and just fix yourself" really reminds me of the attitude that medical science had towards depression in say the 1950s.

You think being forgetful and being stressed is akin to mental illness? Wow.
posted by Brockles at 4:23 PM on March 10, 2009


Because it is their job. They are being paid to focus on one thing only and do it right, and at the end of the day they go home and deal with the rest of their lives. Parents don't have that luxury.

Right. Because if you're a nanny or child care provider you don't have a life outside of the child. You don't have a husband or kids of your own, or parents or other jobs or other distractions.

Do you really think those parents that didn't do jail time are getting a pass?

OK, unfortunate phrasing on my part. I meant they get a pass from a legal perspective but it came out wrong.

But I do find it stunning that you and others actually defend a legal system where nannies and other child care providers would be held liable criminally for this negligent act but parents wouldn't be. It's called selective enforcement.

If you took the position that no one, parents or nannies, should be charged with a crime, I could understand that, even if I disagreed.

But what you're saying is that parents who make an avoidable mistake that ends up in their child's death is somehow less liable than anyone who makes that same mistake.

At the end of the day, a child is a parent's responsibility. If anything, they should be held to a higher level of responsibility than anyone else. Not a lesser one.
posted by cjets at 4:30 PM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


You think being forgetful and being stressed is akin to mental illness? Wow.

You missed my point entirely. What I was trying to say is that the "just be more mindful" line of thought reminded me of the kind of denialist/dismissive attitude that medical science had towards depression and other mental disorders before they gained recognition in the later part 20th century as actual conditions that require treatment and not just "hey fella, stop being so sad, whatsamatter with you?" It's the attitude towards the condition, not the condition, that I find similar.

In other words, we should recognize that no amount of "just be more mindful around the kids" is really going to do much good -- we have to accept that our brains are not perfect, and that the economic realities of our modern society require parents to work more and take on many more tasks then they did previously, leaving them in prime condition to yield to becoming frazzled. Just as today we don't tell a depressed person to "just pick yourself up and stop being so sad" we shouldn't expect also tell a frazzled parent to "just be more mindful", we should encourage them to install more safeguards in their life, things that specifically don't rely on "just pay more attention" because it's exactly that aspect of our brains that is failing.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:51 PM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


“one quibble I do have with Smedley's proposed use of public transport - Ain't no way I'm letting my babies be transported by strangers.”

Not what I meant (I was thinking just mom or dad on the train with the kid with some oversight “Uh, don’t forget your baby”), but I’m sure there’s any number of solutions that I’m not seeing and circumstances that apply to different needs.
We all only have just the one perspective - by my own argument, more are required. So, any number of how’s. I’m sure I can’t see them all. But yeah, we're not even trying as a society. So the court thing to me is a moot point anyway.

In terms of that though - 1 to 3 years - whatever - that can't be a one size fits all thing like so many of our sentencing guidelines. Only reason I can see to put a parent away for this is to maybe assuage some of the guilt they feel. But otherwise I don't think society is doing its duty.
Again the emphasis is too much on one single point of failure that is vulnerable to error and misfortune whether it operates at 100% efficiency or less.

In terms of parents vs. nannies you have the difference of personal responsibility vs. contractual duty. A nanny that fails, human like anyone else, has failed to fulfill a contract – looking after baby. They are answerable to the parents for the life of the child as well as failing in their legal obligation. One can hold the nanny’s service responsible for not training them properly or some such.
The difference being – there’s no training for parents beyond the social support we set for them. I would argue pursuing legal action against a parent who through misfortune lost their child this way is akin to pursuing legal action against a suicide.
There used to be laws against suicide. This worked like ass until people realized what was needed was a different conceptual framework. Teaching folks how to deal with certain things.
Which is why I’m defending the ‘ritual’ aspect of the argument so vociferously.
It is possible to get out of depression through technique alone. Certainly sometimes one needs drugs and such but barring certain physical maladies for the most part therapy works.
Similarly – it’s perfectly possible to prevent this kind of occurrence through technique, but it’s not easy and, like working though depression, requires social support and such.
So you have an implicit chain there – depression, depressive acts, etc – suicide.
The focus, from the legal perspective, is on the end there. The death. Prevention should start far earlier up the chain.
So getting back to the nanny vs. parent thing – whereas there are supports in place or implicit competence for the nanny – there are no such guarantees for parents. There’s no state licensing for having a child. There is for day care and other operations. (Under certain circumstances one can argue that a parent could give their kid to a non-licensed nanny or babysitter or some such – I’d hold parents responsible for that. Any reasonable parent wouldn’t give their kid to someone they don’t trust or have some assurances about.)
In contrast – parents are afforded an assumption that they care about their child (under the circumstances in the article, sure seems they do, so let’s allow that for sake of argument) to a degree another caregiver doesn’t.
Being a parent myself I can attest to that, I’d move heaven and earth for my child and I see that in other folks.
So we know the negligence by a nanny and by a parent differs – substantially - in kind. It’s not just a matter of degree.
Which is reason enough to prosecute them differently.
But getting back to personal responsibility – the state can hold me responsible to the degree to which it supports my actions. If there is no allowance in my job for child care, if society is structured such that I have to miss all kinds of sleep, I can’t give my kid the full attention I would otherwise give.
So I would argue that the state bears some responsibility for prioritizing, say, revenues from business taxes, jobs, etc. etc. more than raising children.
So how can the state prosecute a parent for failing to do something the state itself is essentially interfering with?

All things being equal, they can stuff the tax breaks they give to parents. I want the time. But the laws aren’t set up that way.
I accept that it’s a parents responsibility to make sure their kids are safe.

But there is a statistical certainty that these things will happen whether a parent is perfect at making sure their kid is safe at all times or not. Not through any failure of the parent in how they act, but failure in how much, how little, when, where – all circumstances beyond their control.
And all circumstances which could be greatly mitigated by a change in the laws and what we value as a society.

So – barring abusive or neglectful behavior on the part of any given parent before something like this happens, one has to consider it the statistical aberration that it is.
And while I think it is a crime, and while I think it should be addressed by the courts (if the investigation doesn’t fully explicate the matter), I don’t think simply passing judgment of guilt or innocents is valid.
Hell, I’ll go one better – I think the court would be guilty of willful dereliction of duty if it found a parent innocent and let them go.
You can’t set up circumstances so that a given number of individuals will fail and so ‘x’ number of kids will die and then pass it off with pardoning the individuals who failed.
Might as well bring back scapegoating and ritual human sacrifice to the illusory control of the sun ‘gods’ over the seasons (with the parents placing their kids on the altar) because that’s what that is.
With the difference that our sacrifices are to the illusion that our lifestyles are somehow valid as long as we can determine the guilt or innocence of those we force to maintain that lifestyle to the detriment of their children.
As I’ve said, I’m 100% on this, but what I make an error in reasoning – drop my kid off at the wrong house, say, or the wrong day care, or misheard the day care address and I think it’s one place and its another. Or hell, it’s just a day care with a murderous pedophile in it. I don’t make this kind of mistake in checking the seat, but errors requiring higher thought can’t be guarded against by ingrained reflex. So what, I get prosecuted?
And prosecution doesn't help the other children who are in the exact same potential danger from parents who are otherwise conscientious, nor does it address truly negligent parents who only through luck escape serious harm to their children. A broad social focus, on the other hand, would.
As I’ve said – we’re too hung up on the kind of mistake and assignation of blame and not addressing at all * why* its occurring or how it can occur and how to prevent it.
And hell this is a very minor number of deaths, there are many other that occur, though no fault of the parents, because they’re not educated enough or a wide array of things. I don’t take my kid to McDonalds, but I understand parents who do. And I have the same beef (no pun int’d) there – our society is not set up to conveniently deliver kids healthy food. That a kid isn’t taught healthy habits is not solely the responsibility of the parents. Oh, they can do it. But again, you can’t hold one single point responsible for the working of the entire system. It takes a collective will with multiple perspectives to make something work on a large scale. Sending someone to jail addresses only that single person under a specific set of circumstances. That narrow a focus isn’t going to accomplish anything. Again straw vs. oar.

Lotsa writing there. Sorry. But it’s a convoluted point. Short version – we like cars and our go-go lifestyle so much we’ll let kids die, but we won’t stop doing what we’re doing long as we can point the finger and make some victim of circumstance take the hit for us.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:16 PM on March 10, 2009


"But I do find it stunning that you and others actually defend a legal system where nannies and other child care providers would be held liable criminally for this negligent act but parents wouldn't be. It's called selective enforcement."

I can either argue that it's not selective enforcement, as current laws punish both parent and non-parent caretakers (which is true), or point out that selective enforcement isn't a de facto wrong because we recognize that the law and the spirit of the law are not always in alignment (because we don't have a Hegelian executive to embody the pure soul of the law and never will).

So, we're back to the point where we already have laws that make egregious abuses criminal (as shown by prosecutions of negligent parents and caretakers), and little utility from adding a new law, aside from a boon to the slipper industry.

The argument that we should have a law because it's important for society to take a moral stand is fundamentally illiberal, and (at least for now) we live in a liberal republic and most of us like that. So, why should we tinker? The argument that it would save more babies is flawed, because it assumes that laws are the best way to promote awareness. If it would save more babies (dgiacun promised studies then winked off, no doubt in a sudden bout of self-realization) than, say, an education campaign, which requires no new criminal laws, fine. Then the weight of each life can be held against the potential for abuse and curtailment of freedom and the fact that we should always have a default stance against adding more laws. If it wouldn't, well, really, I already know how to masturbate. I don't need new laws just to make me feel good about myself.
posted by klangklangston at 5:18 PM on March 10, 2009


“So how can the state prosecute a parent for failing to do something the state itself is essentially interfering with?”

I should clarify – actively interfering with. By what it prioritizes. The state puts out the little ‘food pyramid’ b.s. and mandates certain guidelines for school lunch and so forth, but laws on healthy eating?
So this is akin to that.
I’m not arguing the state should get into telling people what they can and can’t do in their business, but you can’t have McDonalds be the most ubiquitous restaurant on the landscape with ‘happy meals’ with toys in them being advertised all the time – often in contrast to parent’s messages – and then hold parents *solely* responsible for their kids not eating properly.
No control, no responsibility. You want parents held accountable? Give them more control over the environment in which they raise their kids, more support in execution and create laws to reflect that.
As it is we’re going “Your kid died – that’s your fault because it can’t be mine.”
When’s the last time you offered to give a harried parent a ride? Or delivered some meals to new parents? I’m saying ‘you’ in the general sense, but where are programs like that?
Hell, where are any prevention type programs? Even the damned health care system is end-focused. But that’s where the profit lies, no? So what are a few kids lives as long as we don’t have to pay a bit more in taxes to cover educating or supporting new parents or counseling or transportation when we can just send them through the justice system?
And hey, bonus! More jobs for folks as correctional officers. Plus likely recidivism, since, as felons, it would be tough for them to get jobs. Too bad if they have other kids, but studies show children of felons and single parent families are more likely to commit crimes. Which, hey, is totally their fault, not societies for looking for the cheap fix.

It’s as simple as building a plumbing system man. We all know water runs down hill and nothing is going to change that. So treat human error on the large scale as a constant. Actuaries do. From there it’s just a matter of proper engineering. And form follows function.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:43 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can either argue that it's not selective enforcement, as current laws punish both parent and non-parent caretakers (which is true)

I'm not suggesting any new laws. I'm simply saying that the anyone who does this should be charged with a crime under the existing laws, whether they are parent or nanny or otherwise.

This will not solve the problem nor is it a deterrent. If there are extenuating circumstances, positive or negative, they should be considered.

But I don't think that the deep grief and remorse most parents would feel make them immune from prosecution. Everyone needs to take personal responsibility for their actions.
posted by cjets at 5:52 PM on March 10, 2009


But I do find it stunning that you and others actually defend a legal system where nannies and other child care providers would be held liable criminally for this negligent act but parents wouldn't be. It's called selective enforcement.

If a full-time caregiver who is also a parent did this, I'd argue that was criminal, too. It's not selective enforcement. It's a lot more mechanical than that. A parent who is supposed to take a child to daycare and then go to work has a momentary lapse: forgetting to drop the child off at daycare. Once he's at work, he's (in his mind) no longer responsible for the child. A parent or caregiver who just leaves the kids in the car while he's supposed to be taking care of them is doing it on purpose.

By the way, I agree that these parents are negligent in the sense it's used in the civil context -- failure to exercise a duty of care. But what's usually required for criminal negligence is a callous disregard for human life. Do you think that's met?
posted by palliser at 5:52 PM on March 10, 2009


A parent or caregiver who just leaves the kids in the car while he's supposed to be taking care of them is doing it on purpose.

What if they have more than one child? Or what they're shopping? Or any other scenario where it is not on purpose?

But what's usually required for criminal negligence is a callous disregard for human life. Do you think that's met?

Not according to wikipedia which states that:

But criminal negligence is a 'misfeasance or 'nonfeasance' (see omission), where the fault lies in the failure to foresee and so allow otherwise avoidable dangers to manifest.

This situation is an otherwise avoidable danger.
posted by cjets at 6:36 PM on March 10, 2009


I respect the underlying motivation for finding a crime here -- this baby is now gone, and the people who would have ensured justice for her after death, and who should have watched over her while she was alive, are the ones responsible for this. The state is the only party left to represent the baby. I also think in general, we're not quick enough to intervene on a child's behalf against the parents, and that this is not helped by the "you just don't get it because you're not a parent, so how could you know what neglect is?" attitude. Not every crying parent is an innocent parent. (Remember her press conferences?)

That said, there's a story behind these cases that I find convincing: the parent is supposed to drop the child off with an outside caregiver, by a momentary lapse forgets to do so, and spends the next several hours going about her day at work as usual. It's not forgetting about the child for hours, as I think a designated caregiver would have to do, it's forgetting about the child for the wrong few minutes. Is there a potential "story" I'm missing for the other parties -- a babysitter, a full-time parent?

Finally, I think wikipedia is wrong. The standard varies in its precise wording state by state, but it definitely requires something more than "avoidability," which isn't really a state of mind anyway. Here's an appeals court in Virginia, where the Balfour and Harrison cases took place, on the subject: “Inadvertent acts of negligence without recklessness, while giving rise to civil liability, will not suffice to impose criminal responsibility.... The defendant must have had prior knowledge of specific conditions that would likely cause injury to others.”
posted by palliser at 11:19 AM on March 11, 2009


I respect the underlying motivation for finding a crime here

And I respect the fact that you are trying to understand my point of view.

That said, there's a story behind these cases that I find convincing: the parent is supposed to drop the child off with an outside caregiver, by a momentary lapse forgets to do so, and spends the next several hours going about her day at work as usual. It's not forgetting about the child for hours

But we will have to agree to disagree. I think that the parent is, in fact, forgetting for several hours that a baby is in the back seat.

In my years of reading about kids who die like this, I would also suggest that these cases happen for many different reasons. Not just forgetting to drop a kid off for day care. A brief google search reveals that several children died on a saturday or sunday, clearly not a typical child care/work situation.
posted by cjets at 12:18 PM on March 11, 2009


In my years of reading about kids who die like this, I would also suggest that these cases happen for many different reasons. Not just forgetting to drop a kid off for day care. A brief google search reveals that several children died on a saturday or sunday, clearly not a typical child care/work situation.

You are totally right. A thorough investigation will always be necessary. I was just focusing on the fact pattern for the cases presented in the article, but I know the author of this piece was choosing only those with the "best" facts for his position. Some parents do this knowingly; some parents do forget about their children for hours.
posted by palliser at 12:37 PM on March 11, 2009


"In my years of reading about kids who die like this, I would also suggest that these cases happen for many different reasons. Not just forgetting to drop a kid off for day care."

Precisely.
And 13 kids - wtf? That's not parenting anymore, you're running a small outfit.
I'm thinking of DIs. The amount of flexibility and latitude in dealing with people - little people or adolescents or whatever, entrusted to your care radically shifts towards rigidity the more people you add.
With one kid, maybe you can let them get away with climbing on a table or something because you can stand there and watch them. With two, no way. You don't have eyes in back of your head.
With 13, I think you'd pretty much would have to run your house like a recruit training center. I couldn't imagine having a job.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:10 PM on March 11, 2009


The defendant must have had prior knowledge of specific conditions that would likely cause injury to others.

This, I think, is the crux of the matter. If you want less children to die, many more people have to know about the danger, and that strongly implies more parental punishment in the short-term (since "prior knowledge" is more unavoidable), and then less death and less punishment in the long-term as behaviors change in response to information and expectations.

Pretty much the only two reasons I think prison should exist are as a deterrent and to segregate dangerous people from society (I find the revenge motivation odious, and the reform motivation dubious). The theories and standards that underlie a lot of punishment are based on unscientific, rudimentary, and untested assumptions about human psychology, sociology, etc. Millions and millions of innocent people suffer because of faulty assumptions, but that is unavoidable. We just don't know, and our wrong assumptions are necessarily reflected in the consequences of both what we do and what we don't do.

So let this be my own possibly harmful, possibly beneficial, untested assumption... just don't pretend you aren't in the same rickety boat with your own assumptions: People can and will change in response to shifted legal incentives. If the assumptions of many here are correct then no amount of knowledge or education or incentives will change the incidence of this: a certain amount of people are deterministically doomed to forget through no fault of their own, and that number should remain roughly constant. If I am correct, the occurrence would dwindle down noticeably, and possibly disappear.

If I am incorrect, then the cost will be that a lot of parents who have already suffered the cruel misfortunes of the universe will have their misfortunes needlessly compounded by social stigma and punishment (the consequences of this will probably be higher for their families). But if others here are incorrect, the cost would be the sum total of suffering that was not prevented: all the children that suffer and die this way, all the abject parental, family, and community grief it causes.

I think the sum potential harm is greater if your assumptions are chosen. Regardless of how "stupid" and "vile" my assumptions are (not that I believe that is a fair assessment of what I have expressed here).

This is all a bunch of thought exercise anyways. I don't control the law, so settle down. Put on some nice slippers and relax.
posted by dgaicun at 3:14 PM on March 11, 2009


And my comment to the reader "you," not to palliser.
posted by dgaicun at 3:18 PM on March 11, 2009


The defendant must have had prior knowledge of specific conditions that would likely cause injury to others.

I disagree about what this means. I think it means the defendant has to actually know the child is in the car -- that's what I would call "the specific conditions that are likely to cause harm." Actual knowledge, not imputed knowledge due to the otherwise inexplicable absence of footwear.

But I think I'm about to be the last MeFite to sprain a finger muscle for a mistake. See you around!
posted by palliser at 4:56 PM on March 11, 2009


"So let this be my own possibly harmful, possibly beneficial, untested assumption... just don't pretend you aren't in the same rickety boat with your own assumptions: People can and will change in response to shifted legal incentives. If the assumptions of many here are correct then no amount of knowledge or education or incentives will change the incidence of this: a certain amount of people are deterministically doomed to forget through no fault of their own, and that number should remain roughly constant. If I am correct, the occurrence would dwindle down noticeably, and possibly disappear."

Again, you're arguing that the efficacy of the awareness brought by prosecuting these cases (and you're already assuming convictions) is higher in preventing deaths than an equivalent educational program without the prosecutions. You've roped yourself into a false dilemma based on a fetish for authority and what is likely to be dodgy social science (given your track record of misinterpreting the predictive power of studies on sexuality and studies on rape charge retractions).

So, no, despite your pretense to the one truth, my assumptions are just fine.
posted by klangklangston at 5:17 PM on March 11, 2009


So, no, despite your pretense to the one truth

Which contradicts everything I just said.

given your track record of misinterpreting the predictive power of studies on sexuality and studies on rape charge retractions

Uh huh. Everyone that cites those well-cited studies in the research literature "misinterprets" them in the same way. Paradigmatic science has the inconvenient tendency of actually articulating its paradigms, making such "misunderstandings" somewhat hard to do.

Please leave your baggage at the door, klang. I don't know who you are, I'm not interested in you, and I don't need you following me in every thread I comment in now, dragging in hysterical baggage you have from every other thread I've commented in. I don't need to be hectored into rehashing every disagreement you've had with me in the last three years in every new thread. Let it go.

This is my last comment for this thread. I've already said my peace.
posted by dgaicun at 6:07 PM on March 11, 2009


a piece about pieces of peace
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 7:48 PM on March 11, 2009


"Uh huh. Everyone that cites those well-cited studies in the research literature "misinterprets" them in the same way. Paradigmatic science has the inconvenient tendency of actually articulating its paradigms, making such "misunderstandings" somewhat hard to do."

Everyone who cites studies that "prove" the Holocaust didn't happen misinterprets them the same way.
posted by klangklangston at 10:25 PM on March 11, 2009


Regarding the Childminder alarm linked above, I examined both the pdf of the product's manual and the car seat of our ridiculously cute baby girl, and I don't see any way to make them work together. I infer from an inspection of the seat's current buckle halves that the alarm's buckle halves are closed loops, meaning that the straps can only be inserted by threading through the buckle halves and not by sliding them in through some side access. Too bad that the straps themselves are sewn into a closed loop, making it impossible to mount the new buckle without cutting something, which sounds like a major safety compromise to me.

So I guess it's back to slippers all the way down.

I read the original article with my sleeping daughter in my lap, before seeing it on MetaFilter. I tried to keep from actually crying on her, but I'm not sure I succeeded. Still, I'm glad I read it.
posted by NortonDC at 2:52 AM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Everyone who cites studies that "prove" the Holocaust didn't happen misinterprets them the same way.

Low, unpleasant, vicious, and way over the top. I wish you would cut this shit out.

Faint hope, I know, because being right entitles you to be any type of asshole you feel like being.

Cock a doodle doo!
posted by Wolof at 3:57 AM on March 12, 2009


This thread has been wanting in many respects, but one of them was not a mention of the Holocaust.
posted by palliser at 6:00 AM on March 12, 2009


NortonDC? She's beautiful! Congratulations!
posted by zarq at 11:41 AM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


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