Last week Danny Takemoto left the house for work, taking his 11-month-old baby son, Ian, to be dropped off at day care. Around 3:00 he got a call from his wife: how come, she wanted to know, Ian never got to the center? Takemoto gasped, raced out his office and down to his tightly locked-up car, where he found the infant, dead of heat stroke.
My first reaction to this story was profound sympathy for Danny Takemoto. Not that this is the first time an infant or child ever died in a locked car; according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, it happens about three dozen times a year, usually when a father or grandparent forgets, like Takemoto, that the child was there. When a mother leaves a kid in the car, she’s almost always drunk or stoned.
Pondering my reaction to Takemoto’s forgetfulness, I tried to put myself in his shoes, but immediately realized that I would never ever forget my kid was in the car; I doubt that any sober mother would. I’m not saying this to boast, or to claim moral superiority; it’s just a fact of motherhood. I remember riding in the car with my babies, relieved when they fell asleep in the back, leaving my mind free–a rare luxury. Still, I was never completely unaware of their presence for even a second. I am so tied to my children, I sometimes wonder if the umbilical cord was correctly cut. I’ve heard the mother-child bond described as a “silver cord,” something to do with the invisible connection that remains of the cord after it’s severed.
Fathers have no such cord, invisible or otherwise, and live with a freedom that no woman will know once she’s borne a child. I’ve heard women complain, in Mommy and Me groups, that “his life has hardly changed,” while she has a whole new agenda. Even the most involved of daddies, those who share nighttime feedings, split child care fifty-fifty—even these daddies don’t have that almost physical attachment mothers retain forever. (I think I can vouch about forever, since my kids are in their 40s and I’m still psychologically bound.) Even when a baby is given up for adoption, the woman remains aware of his or her presence in the world.
I’ve often envied fathers their freedom from this sometimes suffocating attachment, seeing it as just another aspect of male privilege. Thinking about Danny Takemoto, whose baby died alone in a car, and who must live out the rest of his life bearing this burden, whose wife might never forgive him, whose friends, family and even neighbors will judge him, and who could even go to jail to boot, I’m thinking more along the lines of female privilege: the safety net given us by Mother Nature, the silver cord that helps us protect our babies.
Say a prayer for Danny Takemoto, or at least find it in your heart to forgive him.