Every year, 30 to 40 children, usually under the age of 6, die after being left alone in cars. Their deaths (usually by suffocation), are slow, torturous, unspeakably tragic. In some instances, they are the result of clear-cut neglect, but more often, they occur because of a change in routine — usually the father drops off at daycare but today it’s the mom and she is tired or harried and forgets the kid is with her and leaves him there for hours. I was aware of these tragedies long before the day I left my son, because, like most anxious, at times over-protective mothers, I spend a not insignificant portion of my time reading about and thinking about and worrying about all the terrible things that can happen to the two little people I’ve devoted my life to protecting.
I know that on a 75-degree day, a closed car can become an oven. I know that a home with an unfenced swimming pool is as dangerous as one with a loaded gun. I know how important it is to install car seats correctly, to adjust and fasten the straps regularly. When my kids were babies I always put them to sleep on their backs, though they hated it. I treated small, chokeable objects like arsenic, put up gates on all our stairways (not the tension-rod kind that can be pushed over, but the kind you bolt into the wall). I immunized them against everything immunizable, sliced their hotdogs lengthwise and removed the casing, made sure their plates and cups were BPA free, limited their screen time, slathered them in sunscreen on sunny days. When my more carefree friends say things like, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I usually have an answer. Sometimes I fantasized about moving with my family to a sun-drenched island in the Mediterranean where my children could spend their days frolicking freely on the beach without worry of speeding cars or communicable diseases, but I never confuse this fantasy with the reality we live in, the reality of risk and danger, the reality that terrible things happen to good, well-meaning people every second of every day.
There are many extreme examples cited in this article, I would admit but at least, there are people who care enough, there are organisations that would step in to ensure that children are protected, that they are safe.
Over here in Singapore, we have had parents who have gone to do errands, to work, shopping, and so on, and left their young children at home. Some of these have resulted in the children climbing on chairs to look out of windows and falling to their deaths. The parents were never charged.
We have parents who leave their children in cars and in Singapore, there is no winter, spring, summer, or fall. It is just HOT, HOT, HOT, HOT, all year round. The parents were never charged or even warned.
We have parents hitting their children in public and in Singapore, it is legal for parents to hit their kids. So, no one can do anything about it and no one does.
And over here in Singapore, the organisations that supposedly protect the welfare of children often step in only when children have been maimed or have died as a result of physical abuse. And not all of these cases go to court.
Children who commit suicide as a result of emotional/psychological abuse, by adults, as far as I know, have never been charged.
These are just some examples of where we are where children’s rights are concerned. Children’s rights and right to protection have a long way to go, over here in Singapore.