In the last few weeks a national scandal has being discussed by literally everyone back in my home country, Italy. I can see it from my friends’ Facebook feeds where several different articles were posted by them regarding a recent tragedy known to the whole nation. A mother had left her 18 months old daughter in her car for 5 hours whilst going to work: the child had died due to the heath in the car left in a parking space under the sun.
Italians can really have some sordid deranged fun with this kind of news. Yes, they can. They like to discuss all the horrible details, make speculations on what happened and start using words such as ‘monster’ in no time. But deep down I am not even sure they really care about the topic, I suppose they are just looking for an impersonal scapegoat for all of their private issues, a topic of distraction to their sad little lives, or they simply don’t know any better, after centuries of catholic sermons, than to easily judge others.
I feel an immense compassion for that poor woman who lost her daughter and will not see her ever again for what was most likely a big mistake. I cannot be sure if she did it on purpose or she just forgot she had not left her at nursery before going to work. Whatever happened, no one in a sane state of mind would do such a thing, it seems so obvious to me that if they really wanted to kill their child they would find another way to hide it at least! I read a very interesting article regarding the matter, whose title was ‘when a mum breaks down’.
It explained how women recently become mothers run out all their energies but keep on looking after their child and providing for the whole family by working, cooking, doing the wash up and so on, most of the times with very little sleep, let’s not even mention with no personal gratification at all. There is also a phenomenon that makes your mind believe you have already done something out of routine, because you do it every day, when that day you may have actually not done it (lock up your flat, turn off the oven, put your child’s seat belt on).
When I started founding out about the news, the first thoughts that came to my mind were of all the times I forgot the window open on the balcony and, assuming it was closed, I was not supervising my kids to see if they were safe from following down; the occasions I forgot boiling water on the external hob in the kitchen with my kids playing happily just underneath it; those moments when I was lucky enough not have a car accident whilst the children were having a fight at the back and I was trying to calm them down whilst driving as I could not stop anywhere; the times I got distracted for a few seconds whilst chatting to another mum and I could not see one of them any more, with that anxious destroying remorse they may have been kidnapped by a pedophile; the couple of horrifying occasions were I turned my head for an instant and my baby was about to slip the head down the water of their bath…
In a mother’s daily life those mistakes happen constantly, not only you give them life but for several years you have to constantly protect them by 100 risks and dangers and remain mentally sane whilst doing so. Raising a child is such an immense responsibility that deeply increases chances to fail at something. And when you do, I can only say you were very unlucky, as it could have happened to the best of mothers, the ones that think about everything and never forget to do a thing. But we are not superhuman, we fail sometimes: most of the times when we make a mistake there is a higher power that looks out for our kids in those few seconds and they are safe again, some very rare times the tragedy happens and the only thing I can truly believe is that it was probably meant to be.
When I was 20, many years before being a mum, even if it was already a strong dream of mine, I would have been the first out there screaming justice: “Come on, how can you ‘forget’ your child in the car?! Surely you would not leave your phone not to get it stolen, imagine a baby!”. I used to see things black and white and know better than anyone else the kind of mother one should be, the one I wanted to be myself (and I was sure I would be!). Today I am not so sure anymore, not sure there is always someone to blame in such miserable stories, not sure anything could have been done differently to avoid those terrible events… That’s what they call the difference between expecting perfection from ourselves and doing our very best. There is not such a thing as a perfect parent, but there are good enough parents. All those other extreme situations just needs compassion and non judgement, for both the child and the mother.