"The Golden Rule of Parenting is; do unto your children as you wish your parents had done unto you!" -- Louise Hart
At least twice last week, in two different parts of the country, parents had failed their child with debilitating results.
The one case we've all recoiled in horror about is the death of Alan Fernandez, 5, in front of Tuolumne Elementary School just outside the Ceres city limits. Dissect the circumstances in which the child died and we all can painfully learn that routine is often where tragedy is birthed. And other parents can learn from a formula in what NOT to do when picking up your young child at school.
The second tragedy - which I will get to in paragraphs later - occurred in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho on Monday, March 24.
We have a dead child, a kindergartner, who was run over by a Modesto muni bus because the child ran out into Herndon Road. Every parent needs to understand how unwise it is for any adult to park a vehicle across the street from the school and allow the child to walk across the street without an escort. The child in this case, we are told, got excited to see his mother parked on the other side of the street and didn't stop and look before crossing. He darted out in front of the slow moving bus.
Yet, each day after school in Ceres you see a similar scene repeated over and over and over. Parents routinely drive as close as they can to the front of the school, stop in the middle of traffic and wait as the child climbs in or out all while stopped on a public street blocking traffic.
It would be an easy excuse to blame Tuolumne Elementary School for not having a parking lot. In reality, most of the schools built in the Valley in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s came without parking lots. Excuses don't save children but preventative and pre-emptive actions do. A child cannot be trusted to do the right thing in traffic, so the parent must do it for them.
None of us can comprehend the horror that was experienced as a mother watched helplessly as a Modesto transit bus slammed into her precious child. I believe all of us share her grief over the heart-wrenching loss. However, his death can serve as a reminder that all of us who drive - especially parents - have a role to play around schools.
What is it going to take for mothers and fathers use common sense in the times that children are both dropped off at and picked up from school? Do the schools need to release each small student at the gate only to a guardian or parent on is out of their car rather than run the risk of letting them potentially scatter across roadways?
We have state laws that call for motorists to stop when school buses put on their flashing red lights. Why then do we allow so many careless and dangerous practices around schools?
A little boy is dead. All of us can learn from it and know the difference between dangerous careless actions and an unpreventable accident. What happened outside of Tuolumne Elementary School was not an unpreventable accident ... it was and is a recipe for disaster.
So is neglecting and beating your child.
A former Stanislaus County teenager was arrested in Idaho on Monday, March 24 after he murdered his father and brother in a horrific crime that occurred after years of physical abuse. The perfect storm, which started in Waterford many years ago, spilled over into the Idaho community after the family recently moved there. Detectives say Eldon Samuel III, 14, had "mentally prepared himself" for the alleged double homicide for eight months.
Samuel admitted fatally shooting his father, Eldon G. Samuel, Jr., 46, and younger brother, Jonathan Samuel, 13, after calling police to report the crime he committed. Reports indicate that the father often beat his son and had spoken about zombies after taking medication. The elder victim apparently fired a round outside the home before going back into the house where they began fighting. The father pushed Eldon Jr. and then the boy fetched the .45 caliber handgun and aimed it at his father's stomach and pulled the trigger. To make sure dad was dead, Eldon Jr. fired twice into his dad's face and once in the head.
Admitting hatred towards his brother, Eldon Samuel III then hunted his brother who was cowering underneath a bed and used a shotgun to shoot four times. He then picked up a knife and stabbed Jonathan "numerous times." Samuel told a detective that Jonathan still appeared to be alive after the stabbing, which prompted him to use a machete to strike Jonathan approximately 30 times.
He also told the detective that he identified with the Grand Theft Auto V game character of "Trevor" as "kinda cool" because he "has anger issues and often shoots other characters in the game."
A staff member who knew the child as he was attending school in Waterford knew that Eldon was a troubled young man.
What the child did was wrong. Absolutely wrong. But given the history of physical abuse, we can see what gave him cause to commit such a heinous crime against his own family.
Child maltreatment, which includes both child abuse and child neglect, is obviously a major problem in our country. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over a million children are victims of maltreatment annually. Over 500,000 children suffer serious injuries, and about 1,500 children die, making child maltreatment the leading cause of deaths from injuries in children over a year old. In addition to this appalling immediate toll, child maltreatment roughly doubles the probability that an individual engages in many types of crime.
If crime induced by abuse costs society about $6.7 billion to $62.5 billion annually, wouldn't it make sense to start a dialogue about preventing maltreatment, such as randomized trials of nurse home-visit programs that start in infancy which costs about $4,000 per child, or about $16 billion.
We won't ever live in a perfect world. I get that. Tragic things happen in this world and no amount of law can prevent dangerous things from occurring to children. But each of us can analyze what occurs in the bad and use that for useful instruction in the way we conduct our lives. Each life is precious and it would behoove us to put that belief into practice. I fear, though, that the words of Douglas Adams will hold true: "Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so."
How do you feel? Let Jeff know at firstname.lastname@example.org.