I just spent a week on vacation with my husband and kids, my parents, five of my siblings, their partners, and eight of my nieces and nephews, all under the same roof. (That makes eleven kids under ten and twelve adults, for those of you keeping track at home.) And we survived, believe it or not, by taking a village approach to the kids and the meal prep and the chores.
The house we were vacationing in has a pool set off from the house across a wide yard behind a locked fence. That helped us relax about the pool’s safety. Still, all the kids were told they couldn’t be down there without an adult, and we all kept an eye on that part of the yard to make sure no overeager toddlers were sneaking in there anyway. If the kids weren’t in there, they were totally safe, right?
We forgot something.
My nine-year-old son was helping my husband unload some groceries from our car when he happened to hear some knocks on the window from my brother’s car, parked nearby. My four-year-old daughter and five-year-old nephew were stuck inside. They had decided to play in the car, got in, and got stuck in there. During a record-breaking heat wave.
They were probably only in the car for a few minutes; they escaped merely giggling about how hot they were. None of us are sure how long it had been; it wasn’t long enough for any of us to have noticed they weren’t around. Panicked, my father and I tried to impress upon the kids just how dangerous it was to have been in that car. “Do you know what could have happened?” I said. “You could have gone to the hospital.” “You could have been very sick,” my father added, since they weren’t really getting it. Neither of us could bring ourselves to say the truth out loud. They’re kids. It was our fault, not theirs, that they were in danger without knowing it.
And then last night on Facebook, my friend posted Ava’s Rule, the most important way I could ever spread the word about this danger. Five years ago, three-year-old Ava Rosemayer died in her family car, parked in her own driveway. Her parents, Sheye and Crayton Rosemayer, have created a website in Ava’s memory sharing the story of her tragic death and the very simple ways we can all protect our own children:
Always lock your car and keep the keys out of your kids’ reach.
Tell your children never to go into your car unsupervised.
Teach them to blow the horn for assistance if they ever are stuck.
Park in the shade whenever possible.
I will certainly be doing all of these things from now on, and I’m so grateful to Ava’s family for having the courage to share her story. I’ll be hugging my daughter extra-tight tonight.