Blaming the Parents of 5-Year-Old Crushed to Death Won't Keep Our Own Kids Safe

Charlie HoltWBTV_News/Twitter

What was supposed to be a nice family lunch at a popular restaurant on Friday turned unbelievably tragic when a 5-year-old boy got his head stuck between a wall and a table bolted to a slowly rotating floor. Both staffers and patrons at Atlanta's Sun Dial restaurant tried desperately to free little Charlie Holt, but his injuries were too severe and he passed away at the hospital later that day. Now, people online are cruelly blaming his parents for the tragic accident.

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Charlie's mom and dad were only a few feet away when the accident happened, according to police reports.

"I simply think he lost sight of his parents and panicked, and found himself in that situation," Warren Pickard, a spokesman for the Atlanta Police Department, told reporters. "A small child doesn't know what to do in those moments."

So true, as every parent knows. The absolute worst can happen in a matter of seconds, even in the middle of a crowded room where mom and dad are close at hand. It's the kind of freak accident that none of us can truly prevent, no matter how cautious we are. 

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Charlie HoltWBTV_News/Twitter

Such a sweet boy. Charlie's parents expressed their sadness in a statement that's sure to bring tears to your eyes:

"The family asks for prayers and privacy right now to come to terms with this tragedy," the statement reads. "No words can express their loss. If you have a loved one, please give them an extra hug today."

Just heartbreaking. These parents are suffering the unthinkable, and they did nothing wrong. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of people who seem to think they have the right to judge them, as is evidenced in the comments on the Huffington Post's Facebook page about the incident:

"Restaurants aren't playgrounds, they are places for dining. I've seen so many loose kids nearly trip the wait staff. If they can't sit down and enjoy a meal at a restaurant, then they're not ready to eat at a restaurant."

"This is a good reason to not let your bratty kids run wild in a restaurant. Especially dumb ones that manage to get themselves wedged in between the wall..."

"Ah, one of the reasons I don't eat out much is because of how people let their kids run around in the restaurant. A five year old should not be 'wandering' anywhere. I was taught to act like a human being public, especially sit down restaurants. I am sorry he died, but it was preventable. How did the parents think it worked?"

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As a mother of three, I find that the cruelty -- and ignorance -- of these comments absolutely blows me away. Have any of these people ever spent time with a 5-year-old child? And why are these people assuming that this poor boy was "bratty" or running wild? He might have just gone to look out the window for a second. The fact that Charlie was momentarily out of his seat doesn't mean that he "wasn't ready to eat at a restaurant," and it doesn't mean that his parents weren't keeping a close eye on him, either.

No parents expect their children to suffer a fatal injury when they take them out to eat, even if the restaurant does rotate (safety mechanisms immediately shut off the floor's rotating function when Charlie got stuck, but the damage was apparently already done).

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The truth is, sometimes horrible things happen to kids and it's nobody's fault -- not the parents', not the people who own the restaurant's (as other commenters have suggested), and certainly not the child's. That's what makes parenting so terrifying. We're always vulnerable, whether or not we want to believe it or like to think about it. But placing blame on innocent grieving parents for their child's accidental death doesn't protect anyone from suffering the same fate. And it won't bring that child back.

In a later statement, Charlie's parents, who have set up a memorial fund to honor their little boy, said:

Charlie Holt was the sweetest, most accepting, and lovable child who had a hug for everyone. He never met a person or an animal whom he did not immediately love. Everyone was his friend. His thirst for knowledge and adventure was infectious. Everyone so loved sweet little Charlie. 

Charlie's parents have a long and sorrowful road ahead. They must feel as if they're stuck in a nightmare. The last thing they need is the judgment and hatred of strangers. My heart breaks for this family, and for all families struck by tragedies like this one. 

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