Somber Reflection

Jacqui and I have talked about how this blog has a tendency to focus so exclusively on the joys of parenthood that the aggravations and general stress of life are edited out, leaving a more idealized version of our lives than is totally accurate. This is probably true of social media in general. However, we were recently on the periphery of a tragic event that would seem disingenuous to brush under the rug.

Last Monday we were shocked and saddened to learn that a three-month-old baby boy named Karl died on his first day at the daycare Henry also attends.

The death of a child, especially one so young, is a nightmare scenario that every parent fears but avoids allowing themselves to fully contemplate. We can’t fathom the grief his parents are experiencing and can only offer our deepest sympathies to them.

Immediate news reports focused on the fact that the daycare was never licensed. This lack of certification gave the press something to latch onto and in the simplistic way that headlines and media narratives are created, “Infant dies at unlicensed daycare” was strongly implied to mean, “Infant dies because daycare was unlicensed”. In these facile reports, correlation became causation.

The local tabloid press further lived up (or down) to its reputation of pandering to the lowest common denominator by dredging up unrelated past legal and financial troubles and subjecting Maryellen to the vilification of the perp-walk ritual though she was never accused or in custody.

In response I temporarily took down content on this blog showing Henry’s experience at daycare in the hopes of depriving such negative press of candid photos. Aside from expressing condolences to Karl’s family, we didn’t respond to press inquiries or allow ourselves to be drawn into a crass debate in the aftermath.

Subsequent investigation has revealed no culpability by Maryellen or her staff and as of now points to sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS. It’s becoming apparent that this tragedy would not have been prevented by regulatory measures. Nevertheless the daycare has been shut down.

We were aware beforehand that the daycare was unlicensed. It didn’t concern us because the nanny candidates we considered also weren’t licensed nor for that matter are the friends and family who regularly babysit for us. Maryellen came recommended to us via word of mouth and had over a decade of childcare experience in addition to raising six children of her own.

We chose Soho Childcare over other more traditional daycares we toured because walking into Maryellen’s, there was an immediate, natural sense of community. It was like a second home to Henry for almost three years and it’s where he took his first steps. Much of Henry’s social confidence and independence is attributable to his experience there. We’re grateful and consider Maryellen and her staff an extension of our family. We still trust her and don’t think that trust was ever misplaced.

Below are links to donate to Karl’s parents and to Maryellen’s family respectively:

3 thoughts on “Somber Reflection

  1. Mark, thank you for your open, kind, logical and excellently written response to the tragedy at the daycare center. My heart, too, goes out to baby Karl’s parents and family and also to Maryellen. I know that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can happen anywhere and I’m so sorry it happened at all to baby Karl, I’m additionally sad it happened at the daycare where our Henry received such excellent care for the first 3 years of his life. I also think you were right to temporarily take down the photos and not give the press any additional unfair ammunition against Maryellen and her daycare. I am praying for everyone involved, especially Karl’s family and for Maryellen.

  2. I have thought of little more than this since hearing about it. I was appalled at how the media made point to pick certain pictures and stories of her life to skew the story in a certain manner that did not portray her in the loving and wonderful way I know her to be through meeting her and seeing all the many wonderful things she has done for our Henry Boy. Its very disheartening that she would have to endure not only the tragedy but the aftermath of attack. I pray for the family of little Karl and also for Mary Ellen and thank her for all she has done for Henry over the years. I know this has been difficult for all involved. This post was amazingly done Mark. Very thought provoking and honest and said what I think a lot of us have been thinking. My love to all of you!

  3. I struggled with how to write about this on my own blog. This is really an incredibly well-written piece. The events are heartbreaking on so many levels…and in addition to heartache for Karl’s family in their unfathomable loss, we all reacted to the tabloid-like misleading headlines that totally skewed the story. It is outrageously unfair for a woman who has devoted her life to caring for children in the most competent and inspiring way to be portrayed as somehow responsible for a tragedy that could have happened anywhere on anyone’s watch. I greatly appreciate your ability to tell the true story and capture what so many of us are feeling and thinking.

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