I Won’t Stop Thinking About the Toddler in Georgia Who Died This Month (And I Hope You Won’t Either)

I Won't Stop Thinking About the Toddler Who Died in Georgia

I Won't Stop Thinking About the Toddler Who Died in GeorgiaThe article showed up in my Facebook news feed between a picture of my cousin’s dog and someone’s rant about the World Cup. The headline said “New information in case of father accused in toddler’s death,” and without thinking too much I clicked on over to check it out.

Staring back at me was a candid photograph of a smiling, blonde, 22-month-old boy who looked strikingly similar to the smiling, blonde, 22-month-old boy I had just kissed goodnight a few minutes earlier.

Reading the article, I learned that in mid-June the toddler from Georgia had died after being left in a sweltering hot car for seven hours. The boy’s father says he accidentally forgot to drop his child off at daycare that morning, but investigators recently announced they’ve found evidence suggesting the death was a homicide: In the search history on the dad’s computer, someone asked Google how long it takes for an animal to die in a hot car.

Reading those words—and seeing a photo of a now-deceased child who looked like he could be my son’s brother—sent a shiver down my spine. For a split second I thought about my own boy trapped in a hot vehicle and felt my heart plummet to the floor.

“I don’t want to even think about it,” I shuddered. Even just a few moments of imagining my child suffering was more painful than I could bear.

So I quickly hopped back over to my Facebook news feed and scrolled away, banishing the terrible thought from my mind and instead focusing on puppy pictures and soccer scores.

That’s how we mothers often react to terrible tragedies involving children, isn’t it?

We hear a story or read a news article that gives us just a glimpse of that anguish and immediately jolt ourselves away, because the mere two-second thought guts us, bringing us to our knees.

We have to turn away just to make it through the day.

And yet, for some reason, this time is different for me. Maybe because the poor little boy was the same age and the spitting image of my son, the imprint of his face has been burned into my brain.

I realize now, I can’t just not think about it. I have to think about it.

As excruciating as it is, I have to allow my head and my heart to go there.

Why? Because it is the ache that I feel when I go there that spurs me to action—to do what I can to make sure this doesn’t happen again. 

The pain motivates me to raise awareness about the danger of leaving a child in a hot car, something that happens shockingly often.

The torment prompts me to take action to improve the mental health and wellbeing of parents and caregivers.

(I recognize that the details of this particular case are still unfolding, so I have no idea if the dad in question suffers from a mental illness. Nevertheless, the issue of parental mental health is a real one.)

Imagine if mothers all over the country—all over the world—were driven to action over the thought of tragedy touching our children. Imagine if we all allowed ourselves to think about that pain, and then took that awful feeling and did something useful with it.

We would become a legion of powerful advocates for a host of important issues related to child safety. Our influence would be an incredible force for change.

Think about how much pain we could possibly prevent just from allowing ourselves to imagine it happening in our own lives. 

So I’m not going to stop thinking about that poor toddler in Georgia. I’m not going to shake the image of his smile out of my head or expel the knowledge of his death from my memory. It hurts, oh my, it hurts. But it is that hurt that propels me to do something.

How do you react as a parent when you hear about tragedies happening to children? 

image via drouu

22 responses to “I Won’t Stop Thinking About the Toddler in Georgia Who Died This Month (And I Hope You Won’t Either)”

  1. I had not heard this news – so tragic. When I hear these kinds of stories I hug my children tighter, because I imagine the horrors happening to my family. It’s terrifying. I’m so relieved that it hasn’t, but scared that it could. And hurting for the families who aren’t so lucky.

  2. I was really shocked when I heard the latest news about it because I did think it was an honest mistake, as crazy at it seemed. But when I heard it now appears it was deliberate, I was heartbroken for the child and as always I wonder what would possess a person to do such a thing. I think like you mentioned, it boils down to mental health. I agree that our hurt should propel us to do something, not turn away.

    • Sometimes I know we have to turn away in order to keep functioning, but other times allowing ourselves to feel the hurt so deeply can lead to positive change.

  3. When my oldest son was two a little boy the same age in our city was beaten to death by his stepfather due to a potty training accident. I have never forgotten little Christopher Wohlers. I hugged my son a little tighter then and now with my nearly 22 month-old grandson living with me, I still find it incredible that anyone can hurt a child. I have to remember that not everyone has the ability to raise a child. While I have never left a child in a car, I try not to judge but instead make it a matter of prayer and action. The action being to be attentive whenever I am around parked cars. This is a new attitude on my part but if all of us get in the habit of visually sweeping parked cars, perhaps innocent lives will be saved.

    • YES! I have just recently started doing the same thing. I love how you replace judgment with prayer and action. That is such a great perspective.

  4. I have to admit that I have avoided this story because it was just too much for me to handle. You’ve got me thinking though. Why aren’t we talking about this stuff? It happens. But why? And how can we prevent it? There is so much stigma around mental health issues and yet so many people suffer. We don’t know the full story, but there has to be something to learn from this tragedy.

    • I hesitate to say “at least something good will come from this” because I don’t want to minimize the tragedy in any way. But if one other child can be saved, we should make it happen.

  5. I don’t even know why I have been following the story, but like you, I guess I need it in my mind – to make change. To be more aware when I’m walking through parking lots on hot days. I’m not saying I look through every car.. but well… sometimes I do in passing. I heard of a story once of a grandmother doing it. She was watching her grandchild and left the child in a hot or cold car (can’t remember which). It makes me nervous about my own kids going out with their grandkids, which is not something I used to think about.

  6. So now I read ANOTHER kid-in-car story, but this one thankfully wasn’t fatal. Still idiotic though. Basically some young nanny put a 3-year-old and a ONE-MONTH-OLD in a car, locked, while she got a TAN.

    Thankfully the children’s cries alerted people and police were called. The boy’s body had so much heat that the cop felt it through his bullet-proof vest.

    The nanny had a shoddy history too. Seriously people, do your background checks. But so so thankful that the children were all right and that good people stepped in to help.

    Honestly if I saw or heard kids crying in a car on a hot day I will not hesitate to bust open a car window if I can (after I call 911).

    • I am so, so glad to hear that child is safe. I agree, I would be ripping the doors off that car after I called the police.

  7. I’ve done the same thing you did at first, looked away, and quickly. It hurts. And one of my biggest fears is leaving one of my children in the car. I’ve literally started shaking at work, terrified that I’ve done it even when I know for sure that I haven’t. I want to pretend these things never happen because it hurts. But you are so very right, we need to focus on it to make change. I want to contribute towards a change.

    • It’s so hard because it hurts so much. I have been there too, shaking and panicking, even though I know my child is perfectly safe.

  8. Ever since I became a mom, I can hardly bear to read stories like these… they just break my heart in a million pieces and I cannot stop thinking about if that happened to my kids. I had a similar reaction to yours with a horrible abduction, rape & murder of a 10 yr old girl in the town where I live (I think it made the national news — Hailey Owens). The thought that a 10 year old can’t walk down the street in a residential neighborhood to go to her friend’s house without being snatched by a stranger, tortured and killed… God help us. Even now, almost a year later, I see pink and purple ribbons and banners that people have tied on trees and light posts around town and I nearly start crying every time.

  9. Stories like this stay with me too. I very rarely watch the news when we watch TV it is typically Disney and I am kinda thankful. I find it hard to let these stories go and I always try to see things from all angles. Did you ever come across #redballoonsforRyan? Oh my I cried the entire next day. I kept thinking about Hayden and Henry and it just shattered my heart.

  10. Oh Katie… this is good. SO good. My heart SANK as I realized at the very same time your words met my eyes, that your baby boy looks EXACTLY like him, and I had no idea the age. Wow.

    I absolutely get gutted with this stories. And you described so vividly what all moms do in response to hearing about them. I think about the people in this world that have made a difference… you nailed it. They had to allow the pain in… let it simmer and build to a boil that propels them into action.

    So what can we do?

  11. Stories like these break my heart. Whether it’s an accident or on purpose, a child is gone and many lives are terribly affected. I, too, want to look away because it’s just too much to think about. But you’re right; nothing will change unless we start those changes!

  12. Oh Katie, I hadn’t heard this yet…we’ve had a difficult week here and I haven’t been following the news. But hearing this is horrifying. Beyond horrifying. How anyone could do such a thing is beyond me! I just want to cry. It makes me want to hug my own kids tighter.

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