I wish I could say that I haven’t been playing the unfortunate drowning of a two year old over in my head, but I can’t. I am thankful, though, that I can’t make myself feel self-righteous and say that would never happen to me. Of course it could. I live in Florida. There are pools and large bodies of water everywhere. My personal fear of drowning is so huge that I have resisted, mightily, taking my son to the beach. He’s four. He’s lived here his whole life and he’s never been. We’ve promised a trip to the beach as a you’re a big boy thing when he fully transitions to underwear. I’m not pressuring him at all.

Here’s the deal, drownings can happen to any parent regardless of how vigilant you are, and to act as if you are immune or you watch your kids better than everyone else is nothing more than wishful thinking. A kid’s job is to try to escape his/her parents’ watchful eye, and most succeed at some points or another whether we admit it or not. We also have to take calculated risks with our kids in order for them to be able to survive on their own later. As an example, my four year old earned the right as a four year old to play in our backyard without Mom sitting out with him while he does it. Our yard has an eight foot fence all around it and he is reasonably safe, but yeah, he could fall off of his “play ground” and break something. I hope that doesn’t happen, but if I was outside with him, I couldn’t necessarily prevent him from falling unless I literally climbed everything with him. That’s foolish.

I also feel that it is ridiculous to suggest that it was negligent to ask her eleven year old son to take the two year old son inside. I had full babysitting charge of my sister by the time I was ten years old. As in, my parents would go out to dinner or to a party or whatever, and I would stay home and watch my sister for them. I was paid the amazing sum of 25 cents an hour, so you know I got rich doing this. I had a fully thriving babysitting business in my neighborhood by the time I was eleven. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking an older child to watch a younger child for a few minutes — or so we’ve been reassured by the thousands of Duggar defenders out there.

What I’m honestly worried about, more than the mother here, is the eleven year old. He was asked to take his brother inside and that implies keeping an eye on him until mom was finished taking care of the animals. To me, this doesn’t constitute an unreasonable request. I have animals who require daily care and attention. If I had an eleven year old child, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask that child to watch a younger sibling so that I could complete the care requirements for the animals that live in our house. Heck, in our house, the four year old is solely responsible for feeding the younger dog. She’s still alive, by the way, in case anyone is wondering :).

With everyone swarming and calling for the mother’s head, etc., etc., etc., has anyone really stopped and thought about the effect those words might have on her older son? Because, thinking like anyone would in this case, if his mother was negligent in the court of public opinion, surely he was, too. If I were that kid, I would be thinking that I must be responsible for my brother’s death because I didn’t keep him safe until Mom came in. And that truly worries me. It was an accident. It could have happened to anyone . . . ANYONE.

That it happened to an eleven year old and a woman who was taking care of chickens is a tragedy and shouldn’t result in the criticism that I’ve been seeing. It makes me so sad.

And look, you can say it still makes her negligent, but then you have to look at all the near misses and call those parents negligent, too. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that children sometimes die. Sometimes the circumstances could be prevented and sometimes they can’t.

I just wish people would stop Monday morning quarterbacking the situation and understand that there but for the grace of God goes you.

8 thoughts on “Befuddled

  1. I am not in Florida, so I have not heard this story, but I do have a friend whose 4 year old drowned in a backyard pool several years ago, also in Florida. They had just moved THAT day, and around 4 am, he woke up, let himself out…I don’t know the whole story, but I think she HEARD him go out, got up and went after him, and it was still too late. Were there things she could have done differently? Probably, but that’s true for so many of us about so many things in hindsight ~ parents,even mothers, are just people. I understand that this is the #1 or #2 cause of death for children in Florida.

    I too have been scared ever since. My husband has to take our 5 year old to swim lessons because I just can’t. But I know not letting him learn to swim is not the answer. Of course, here in Colorado, we let our kids climb all over big pointy rocks….

    People cling to judgement because they want to believe “that would never happen to me.” If only life actually that easy…

    • Yeah, it’s a big, scary factor. P and I were just discussing pools again last night. I’ve been arguing against for a while now. I think I’m winning, finally. I just want to join the Y. He worries about sharing a pool with other people — sigh.

  2. It’s not the 11YO fault that the parent was irresponsible. it is not a child’s job to be a parent it’s a parent’s no child should be left unsupervised.

    • Clearly, you’re missing the point. There’s absolutely nothing irresponsible about asking an older child to watch a younger child unless the older child is known to exhibit poor judgment, which I do not believe this one was.

      Ultimately, my point was those of us who get off on being judgmental (looking right at you, anonymous) should realize that we’re always one step away from an accident befalling one of our children and it behooves us to behave the way we would like to be treated were we in that place.

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