The Fearful Parent

Liam asleepPrior to Liam’s birth I read many articles about SIDS. The disease terrified me. The fact that there was no explanation and only speculation on prevention of the disease really unnerved me. Even though his bedding came with it, no bumpers were in his bed, or for that matter blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals. To add to this fear, during my pregnancy I heard several stories of someone knowing someone whose baby died of SIDS. Liam was born in February and I kept our house at cool 67 (it’s recommended to keep bedroom Ava Asleeptemperatures cool as there seems to be a parallel between deaths in SIDS and overheated babies). After he was born I would check on him multiple times during the night. Liam was a silent sound sleeper.   On a few occasions I was caught (by my husband) sitting him up in his crib to wake him and once he opened his eyes I quickly put him back down. When Liam turned one a huge sense of relief came over me (SIDS is the leading cause of death among babies between 1 month and 1 year of age.) After Ava was born even though she was a light sleeper and the smallest disturbance would wake her, I checked on her all the time. I took all the same precautions as I did with Liam and when Ava turned one I breathed a sigh of relief. Until a week ago ….

I was on Facebook and someone posted an article about a two year old that died of Sudden Death Unexplained in Childhood (SUDC). SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood) is the sudden and unexpected death of a child over the age of twelve months, which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, is conducted. Similar to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), SUDC is a diagnosis of exclusion – given when all known and possible causes of death have been ruled out. I was heartbroken for the parents and felt the fear creep over me. I remembered in my head all of those times that I checked on Liam and Ava because they had slept longer than normal during naptime.

That is when I had to shake myself a little bit. I could easily let this terrify me. Being a parent is a balancing act of living and not letting the fear overtake and control you.  Finding the balance between being concerned and even at times fearful without it dictating how you live. It is something every parent experiences, but it is important to not let it overtake you. I think about Ava and Liam when they were babies and all though I did not obsess over it, I did think about it a lot. After reading the article about SUDC, I knew I could quickly get carried away with worrying. The problem is besides always being in a constant state of fear and unable to enjoy anything, you will also miss out on a lot of opportunities and experiences. Life is about the unexpected and the ever changing flow.   With that being said below are the few known facts about SUDC for informational purposes only. Read them and then go give your kids a hug and do something worth living for today.

Here are the known facts about SUDC:

  • Occurs in children over the age of 12 months. Is a diagnosis of exclusion- assigned when all known causes of death have been ruled out
  • Its incidence is approximately 1.2 deaths per 100,000 children. In comparison, the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is 45 times more common
  • We do not know of any way to reduce the risk of SUDC. Presently, SUDC cannot be predicted and/or prevented since its cause is unknown. Most SUDC deaths occur between the ages of 1 and 3, but researchers have looked at cases of children as old as 15.

Parenting Through His Eyes

I will never forget the day that Will and I witnessed a child being slapped.  My body was frozen unable to react to what was unfolding before me.  Somehow I rallied and finally was able to calm my then boyfriend now husband down enough to take a deep breath.

First let me explain we were at the West Point annual 1812 concert.  It is a wonderful event full of great music and fireworks.  A couple of blankets in front of us sat a family; mom, dad, and son.  As we sat on our blanket enjoying the beautiful summer day, we were people watching when by chance our eyes landed in the same area.  I have no idea what transpired prior to it, but the father’s reaction was a full force smack across the little boy’s face.

I think I might have literally gasped out loud, however I quickly realized Will was already on his feet; his gut reaction taking over and wanting to do something.  I quickly rose myself and pulled Will’s arm, in the opposite direction to take a small walk.  It was in that very moment I knew exactly what kind of dad Will would be.

From the very beginning I knew Will was good with kids.  In college he was a lifeguard and spent much of his time playing with the children at the local park.  I have to be honest that was one of the things I fell in love with.  It came so naturally and unforced for him.  But now here in that moment at West Point I knew something else very important about him, no matter what he would never hit our child.

A lot of people have different views on what is acceptable discipline for their children; however an act of violence should never be one.  I never understood the theology of getting a child to behave through hitting.  It isn’t respect you are establishing through that, it is fear.  Your child might not do something again but it isn’t because they understand, it is because they are scared.  Some people do not care about the reason as long as the end result is the child does not act up again.  To me it is more important that my child understands why instead of living in fear.

It still haunts me today about that little boy. Was that an isolated incident (I tend not to think so since it was done so publicly)? Should we have done something? I myself at the time was scared to get involved and maybe we should have. I am no perfect parent by any means. I lose my patience and at times have to leave the room to calm down, but I know I will never ever strike my child to get them to listen, understand, or learn. The only lesson a child will learn from hitting is fear and I promise that is not a lesson you want your kids to live with.