If I had to pick one word that describes what it's like to be the parent of a baby, it would be consuming. As in, your baby consumes your life -- your every waking thought, it seems. When I think back on the months when my kids were very small, I feel like I had a 24/7 focus. My brain station was set to All Baby, All the Time. Which is why I cannot begin to understand how a father in Indiana managed to completely forget about his baby girl last weekend ... for several hours. In a car. During a record-breaking heat wave.
It's the worst kind of story, and one with the saddest possible outcome.
Eighteen-year-old Joshua Stryzinski had brought his baby girl to a friend's house last Saturday afternoon, before he headed on to visit his parents. That's the point where he apparently became "mixed up," and went into his parents' house believing that he'd left the baby with his friend.
The reality was that little Chloe Stryzinski, who was just 4 months old, was strapped into the car seat in the backseat of his car. She remained in the car for hours while Joshua visited with his parents, as temperatures outside soared to 104 degrees.
Joshua discovered her when he finally got back into his car to pick up the baby's mother from work. The 911 call -- which I'm not even going to link to, because I'm certain it's unbearably horrifying -- recorded "screams of anguish" as Joshua's brother begged a dispatcher to send paramedics to help the child.
As you can probably imagine, it was far too late. Chloe suffered third degree burns from the extreme heat (her car seat reached 119 degrees), and she was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
I have to say, I've covered some pretty terrible child-related fatalities before, but I think this is the worst. There are accidents where you can sort of imagine how they might have happened -- no matter how much you'd rather not do so -- and then there's something like this. How does a father take his baby from one house, drive to another and, in the process, forget the baby is in his care? How in the name of everything could he leave his baby in a car for HOURS while she died such an unspeakable death?
As it turns out, it's not as uncommon as you might think. In most cases, it happens exactly like it happened with Joshua: an otherwise loving and careful parent gets busy, or distracted, or confused by a change in his or her daily routine, and forgets a child is in the car. Fifteen to twenty-five times a year, a child is left in this way.
As one researcher said,
Memory is a machine, and it is not flawless. Our conscious mind prioritizes things by importance, but on a cellular level, our memory does not. If you're capable of forgetting your cellphone, you are potentially capable of forgetting your child.
Joshua told police that he was used to knowing his child was in safe hands: "The normal routine is that someone is always watching my kid." Something happened that day, and he just ... lost track. I can't imagine it. I'm sure most of you can't either. As awful as it is to assign blame, it's even more uncomfortable to struggle with the idea that someone may not be at fault here, because the results were so horrific.
Joshua Stryzinski has pleaded not guilty to neglect of a dependent resulting in death. I don't know what will happen to him, but I can't imagine that the law can deliver a punishment worse than what he's already experiencing. I feel sorry for him, and for what he must be going through. But mostly I feel sorry for that little girl, and for the rest of her family who must be wondering the same thing the rest of us are: how could this happen? How?
Do you think it's at all understandable that a parent could forget their baby in a hot car?
Image via The Greenfield Daily Reporter