>When a Child Drowns….

>It’s very easy for everyone else who wasn’t there to criticize and blame the parent or caregiver, the one who was “supposed to be watching.” I have been and will continue to be critical of how many people parent (or don’t parent) their children. In the Shellie Ross case, I think people are making some assumptions that I am not prepared to make.

I don’t know how big Mrs. Ross’s property is or where the chicken coop is in relation to the pool. 25 years ago, before cell phones and blogs and tweeting, the very same thing could have happened. Mom walks out to the chicken coop to check on them or gather eggs or feed them, the toddler walks away while she’s doing her chore and falls into the pool.

I don’t know if the critics have children. I don’t. I have cats. I keep a pretty good eye on them when I’m at home, but yesterday, hubby and I were having dinner on the sofa, watching a show on TV, and Petra jumped up on the kitchen counter maybe 12 feet away (and behind a wall, but not behind a door). She pulled down a burrito that was cooling on the counter and started helping herself to the contents. Hubby walked in with his plate and caught her at it.

Do I think that a lot of parents could play closer attention to their children? Absolutely. Mrs. Ross probably tweets from a cell phone, an accessory some people consider as important as their heads. If you make or receive more than three cell phone calls on an average day, I think you’re on the phone too much. I see people talking on phones while they drive, walk, bike, and use the toilet. They make and receive many personal calls or text messages at work. I recall hearing stories of children drowning in a pool or mop bucket or tub while their caregiver was on the phone. Doesn’t even have to be a cell phone; the old landline variety can be blamed for some of those deaths. A landline phone ties you to the wall where the phone is plugged in.

Mrs. Ross had her cell phone with her and was outside with her son. She says he slipped away in two seconds. Maybe it was really 30 seconds or a minute or five minutes, but it wasn’t long.

If you have ever turned your eyes away from a child in your care, what happened to Mrs. Ross could have happened to you, Twitter or no.

Bryson’s death is a horrible tragedy for the Ross family. Mrs. Ross will live with this for the rest of her life. She will second guess her actions. She will question her choices on December 15, 2009, for as long as she lives. She doesn’t need anyone else to do it for her. On that evening, her life was spinning and her heart was contracting in her chest and she turned to her friends for comfort. 25 years ago, she might have screamed for a neighbor. She might, even today, have called her mother or her sister or her best friend in order to ask for prayers, to express her grief and her horror and her fear. Instead, she texted. It’s second nature to her. That brief message took just a few seconds and reached many people who Mrs. Ross considers to be her friends.

I don’t know if her harshest critics follow her blog or her tweets or if they heard about that tweet second-hand. It sure didn’t take them long to hop onto the internet to tell everyone in their circle of cyberfriends what they thought of the incident. It’s kind of hypocritical, isn’t it? To condemn someone for spending too much time on the internet in an online forum. To chastise someone you don’t even know for not spending enough time with real people, from the computer in your house where you’re presumably not talking with a real person because you’re too busy typing. To do telephone interviews with magazines so you can get some attention from someone else’s tragedy.

My dad died two years ago. It was an expected death from cancer, and my mom and my husband were there with me. When he passed, we each took turns on the phone calling the hospice worker, the funeral home, the church, and family. It wasn’t long before I got online and sent some emails and posted on some forums. When you’re hurting and grieving, you’re in a daze, I’m sure even more so when it’s sudden. You need to do something but there’s nothing you can do. While the paramedics were working on her son, Mrs. Ross had to stand back, out of the way, and wait. She was restless and frightened and aching, so she tweeted. She asked people to pray for her son, because it’s all she could do at that moment.

So cut her some slack.

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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