Monday, July 23, 2012

Let's not blame the parents

This video of a Brooklyn, NY girl falling from the third story of a building as she danced on top of an air conditioner made the Internet rounds last week. That's bus driver Steve St. Bernard, on his way home from work, who caught Keyla. She was fine; he suffered a torn tendon in his left arm.

Perhaps your first thought was, who the heck was at home with this girl? That's what crossed my mind.

Fact: Her mother was at home.

Another fact: The girl has autism.

How could this mother have been so negligent? I wondered, and kept searching for articles online. As Keyla's mother, Saleema McCree, told a CBS News reporter, the girl was supposed to be taking a nap, but slipped out her window onto the top of the newly-bought air conditioner, through the plastic side vents. After a police investigation, no charges were filed against either parent. Said her mother, "All I got to say to people is don't judge what you saw because it wasn't that way at all."

I was ashamed of myself, placing instant blame on this mother. I should know better, as the parent of a child with special needs. While our children may be more vulnerable than other kids, we do not possess supernatural powers to protect them from themselves.

Judgment against parents has weighed heavily on mind this week, particularly after the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting. I felt sickened by accusatory comments flying around social media about what kids were doing at a midnight showing of a movie. Sample from Twitter: "Children's Hospital is treating six victims from the theaters, from age six to 31. WHO TAKES A 6 YEAR OLD TO A MIDNIGHT SHOWING?" Heather Spohr wrote about this victim shaming at Babble, asking people to stop blaming the parents on the "worst day of their lives" and do what they could to "make it better, not worse."

The parents of the little girl who died in that theater aren't to blame for her death; a mentally-deranged man named James Holmes is.

I haven't stop thinking about those victims, their parents and families. And I'm also thinking that this is all a sobering reminder to think twice before we place blame on parents.

Over on my Babble blog:

My mixed feelings about not being able to explain the Colorado shootings to Max


  1. Good point. And likewise the parents of the shooter, in all likelihood, who somehow end up in the center of the media circus for something someone in their family chose to do.

  2. I've just posted about this on WordPress. People love to chew the fat about whatever they see on social media, including the news. Firstly it's not our business and the parents don't need negativity like this at this time. What happened is a reflection on our society and we all need to look hard at ways to improve things and let those parents involved get on with the grieving process,.

  3. Great post. As the mother of a son with autism, who fell out of a second story window (at age 4 1/2) I understand. He was just enjoying watching the sunset over a lake in Michigan. Interestingly - when he got out of the hospital (3 days later) the window was the first place he headed.

  4. Thank you for writing this, Ellen. All too often these days, people seem to be long on blame and short on empathy for people who are going through a difficult situation.

    The mother of six year old Veronica needs our compassion and support. She not only lost her beautiful child, she herself was shot in the neck and reportedly is paralyzed. She had been living with her father, and Veronica was very close to her grandfather, but he died 8 weeks ago from leukemia. Going to the movie was a way to try to get their minds off their grief.

    And thank you, Anonymous, for pointing out that we also shouldn't start blaming the parents of the shooter. After these tragedies, you hear that a lot. As the mother of a young adult with schizophrenia, I can say that it's certainly not a simple thing to get an adult child psychiatric help.

  5. I am so glad that at this blog, other parents of children with special needs (of any kind, including psychiatric issues) are empathetic rather than accusatory. We don't find that elsewhere too often. Isn't it interesting how being SN parents has taught us NOT to judge other parents....a lesson that, all too often, other parents sometimes never learn.

  6. I think a lot of people start talking crap to make themselves feel better. The illusion of being a "better parent" than "so and so" because they would never do this, or they should have done that. Really? I can't keep my eyes on my special needs son 24/7. Have to at least go to the restroom, right?

  7. Perhaps one reason we/others do this is to distance ourselves? e.g. if I can point out how different this person is from me, than I can reassure myself that this would not happen to me.

    No, maybe not. People are just judging.

  8. Good post on your other blog Ellen, these acts of vilonce are difficult for any kid or adult to grasp but more so for someone with an ID. Here is a story: Back on May 22nd a guy dressed compltely in black with a gun robbed the bank across the street from the school and then went to the school. He was in the parking lot when the head football coach spotted a odd person and called 911. The police swerved from the bank to the school. The chase began across school propery and the school went into lockdown.I was in the Gateway (special ed)room at the time(i was in study hall)The kids mostly have autism and two have Down Syndrome. Trying to explain why we had to be quiet was hard. They didnot understand what a gun is/does or what a robbery is.The search was intenste. There were 6 police cars and 4 dog units and 1 helicopter. The scarist part was hearing feet on the roof.(there is a system of courtyards and ladders and the guy was ontop of one. The gun fired leaving a hole in the celing. We moved to the gym across the hall.Noone was hurt. That was hard to explain. Why someone would shot a gun,why someone was on the roof.Why we had to move. The lockdown ended at 6 pm. It lasted 5 long,frightning hours. Noone was injured. The guy is in jail for 30 years for many things.Oh and he was under the influence as well.

  9. All I could think about today when I saw the footage from Holmes' appearance in court. As a child psychologist and a mom, I can't help but think about James Holmes' mother. Did she help create a monster or did she love her son just as much as I love mine? I've been asking readers what they would do if they were James Holmes' mother. I'd love to hear your answer:

  10. I am not perfect. It's not because of my mom. It's because of Adam and Eve. Don't worry. Jesus died for these people

  11. Anonymous, that's a weird and disrespectful comment to leave here. Ellen and her family are Jewish, they don't need you to preach to them.


Thanks for sharing!

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