Unlike most viral illnesses and progressive diseases, this one is very unpredictable. It's a powerful illness that doesn't affect the physical body of the parent, but is a mental illness of sorts. It rarely has physical effects on the parent. It instead, directly vectors to their children. Their children suffer the horrible effects of this disease. Yes. Their children.
What is this viral illness infecting the brains of parents everywhere? It's called 'Perfect Parentitis' known to those who have been successfully treated for it as the 'it can't happen to me (or my child') disease'.
Symptoms include the following:
- A misguided belief that bad things only happen to other people or 'bad' parents. That 'it' can't or won't happen to you or your child. Otherwise knows as self-proclaimed immunity.
- A belief that you are a 'perfect' or 'good' parent, therefore none of those horrific tragedies you hear or read about could ever possibly happen to your child.
- An almost uncontrollable desire to preach your perfect parenting to anyone who will listen, usually by judging parents whose children have been injured or killed in horribly tragic but preventable accidents. Often on social media sites where a news story has been shared in an attempt to educate others so that particular type of tragedy doesn't happen to another child.
- Self-righteous judgement of others for their 'bad' parenting, followed by a lengthy explanation of how you are a good parent because that would never happen to you, usually with the words, "I would never ___________."
- The repeated use of mantras like these, often proclaimed on social media with sanctimonious conviction (which are also impossibilities in reality): "I'm always with my child", "I don't need to _____, because I'm always right there", "MY child never does __________ so I don't have to ______", "My child knows not to do___________", "I don't understand how ___________, could happen. I'd never __________", "I'm a good driver". And many, many more like these.
There is only one cure. Unlike other diseases and illnesses, it's a cure no one actually wants to get. The only known cure is the serious injury or death of your child.
Yes. You read that right. The only known cure is that the very thing you pride yourself on, your perfect parenting, your 'I never would do_________' and "That would never happen to me because..." preaching. Your parenting superiority complex is only cured when YOUR child, the one that you never let out of your sight, the one that you love SO much that you'd never forget them, take your eyes off of them, lose them, or whatever it is that you do so perfectly that other 'bad' parents simply don't do, falls victim to an accident.
If you are lucky, your child won't suffer a serious injury. Some have the most deadly form of the virus, and they pay for it with their child's life.
Luckily, there is treatment. It's called education.
It's a long term treatment plan that includes ongoing follow up treatment of pro-active accident prevention in and around your home for the safety of your children. This education is often provided by good parents who have lost their child to a horrible, tragic, preventable accident. Parents who carry such guilt and pain over the loss of their child that they share their story, they bare their soul, they lay it all out there, so that YOUR CHILD CAN BE SAFE. So you don't have to bury your child, ever. Parents like me.
If your child is lucky, once you realize you suffer from perfect parentitis, you'll seek immediate treatment. You will come down off your high horse of parenting superiority and realize it's impossible to be with your child every single second. That parenting is not 'easy'. You'll realize that ignorance is NOT bliss. You will realize that while you can't protect your child from everything, there are many, simple, inexpensive things you can do to make your home, car, play spaces and environment safer for your children. You learn that spending money on things that make your child safer is money much better spent than on that daily specialty coffee drink. You learn that things that inconvenience you are worth it when the potential consequence is the injury or loss of your child. You learn to admit you don't know everything and need to seek to learn that which you don't know.
Instead of pointing the finger at others and choosing to believe their child was injured or killed as a result of their ignorance or 'bad' parenting (and berating them for it), you will realize you are just like them. That 'it' could happen to your child, too. You will realize that the very thing which you are criticizing them for, *could* happen to you or your child, too.
Because you love your children as much as the next parent, and yes, as much as the parent who didn't know about the danger or made a horrible, tragic, mistake that led to the injury or death of their child, you will take action to prevent these type of accidents to your child. You will learn from the horrible mistakes and tragedies of others. You will take their advice and change the way you do things. You will seek further education. You will desire to make your child's environment as safe as you can because actions speak louder than words. They also work a hell of a lot better at keeping kids safe.
So where can you find this treatment?
- Take a parenting or child safety class
- Hire a professional childproofer. Child proofing is WAY more than outlet plugs and cabinet latches. They will point out dangers you didn't even know existed and provide solutions. Check out the International Association for Child Safety.
- Learn CPR and First Aid. Make sure everyone who cares for your child knows how to do CPR and basic first aid. Have a first aid kit in your home and car.
- Take time to explore Web sites like Safe Kids, the CPSC, and Meghan's Hope and the Meghan's Hope Facebook Page. Educate yourself and everyone who cares for your child.
Remember, treatment is not curative. It's lifelong. As you learn of new dangers and new safety recommendations and options, you must apply them. Reading about childproofing is not the same as actually taking the time to fully child proof. Thinking you *know* to check the back seat of the car before you get out every time does not mean you won't forget one day.
For example, securing only the dresser in your child's bedroom does not protect them from the danger of falling furniture. You must secure ALL furniture and ALL TV's. Or moving a child to a belt positioning or regular booster seat before they are tall enough and cognitively mature enough to sit upright, with the shoulder belt in the appropriate place, ALL the time, either because they want to get out of the car seat with a 5 point harness or because you *think* they will be 'fine', is dancing with danger. It's all fine. Until you get hit by another car and your child is ejected because they were in a seat that did not fulfill it's purpose, all because it was 'easier' for you and your child. Do you want to live with that?
A word on 'bad' parents
Are there 'bad' parents? Yes. Absolutely. But they are few and far between. Bad parents intentionally and willfully neglect or abuse their children.
The vast majority of parents whose children die in tragic accidents are not bad parents. They are good parents who are uneducated about certain dangers or dangerously disbelieving about the severity of the risk of the danger to their child. They may have had perfect parentitis. They didn't believe 'it' could happen to them. They might have been overprotective and vigilant and not even have known about 'it' until it happened to them. They did not willfully or intentionally try to hurt their child. In fact, they often *thought* they had done everything right. They are probably just like you. Go look in the mirror. YOU are that parent.
It is my greatest hope that parents everywhere learn about perfect parentitis and seek immediate treatment. It is my hope that you share the news about this epidemic viral illness with parents you know, so we can together, educate and safe lives. Perhaps we will turn the treatment into a new cure. A cure where no child ever has to suffer injury or death because of their parent's inability or unwillingness to change for their greater good.
The change begins with you.