Sunday, March 14, 2010

Real life intruding in the online realm

I can't help but be appalled by the news of the South Korean mother and father who allowed their 3-month old child to starve as they obsessed over an online game and their virtual child. Yes, both parents had lost their jobs and their daughter was premature but to never have named the child? To have only stopped by sporadically to give her powdered milk? To have lost themselves so completely within an online world that they allowed their child to die here in the real world?

Tragic isn't the right word here. Sure, we use tragedy to describe events that cause suffering, death or destruction. The loss of life in Haiti and Chile were tragic situations.

But these parents and the thoughtless death of their child in favor of a virtual child named Anima?

Horrifying is the word I would use.

I think of how long and hard my wife and I have worked in the hopes of bringing a child into our family. I think of friends and family and those we've met through their stories on their blogs and their efforts, the tears, the heartache, and the joy that comes from trying to get pregnant or adopting and eventually succeeding. I think of how much I will treasure every moment when Plus One enters our lives. Hell. I even treasure those right now as we wait hopefully day after day, knowing that eventually our family will be blessed by a new arrival.

The idea that you could bring a child into your life and then be so careless, so disconnected, to permit your child to die is beyond my comprehension.

Our friends joke about the hoops we've had to jump through, the seemingly endless process, the legal maze that we must navigate to prove that we are suitable and prepared to be parents and how it's more involved than getting a mortgage and certainly not as much fun as the whole "having sex and getting pregnant" way of having a child.

But on the flip side, I see the stories about kids have babies, children who grow up in neglect, children who are abused, and I wonder if we might be better off if the act of becoming a parent actually was harder than getting a driver's license or a puppy from the pound or buying a gun.

No, I'm not really advocating that all prospective parents should be required to pass through the same legal path that my wife and I are following but I'm baffled by people who can bring children into this world and then go out of their way to ignore them, to hurt them, to allow them to pass almost unnoticed.

Sadly, accidents happen. We all know that. Horrifying mistakes can be made. I remember sitting at my desk, shaking, with tears in my eyes after reading Gene Weingarten's Washington Post story, "Fatal Distraction," a heart-wrenching look at the tragic, accidental deaths of infants who were forgotten in a hot car by busy, distracted parents and how the legal system responds.

This article was published six weeks before my wife and I decided to make the adoption journey. At that time, I didn't think that I would ever have the opportunity to be a father. I couldn't imagine what those parents were going through -- the sense of loss, the sense of responsibility, the sense of guilt, the sense of failure. All I know is that simply the thought of such a loss almost makes me physically ill. Part of me also couldn't imagine how a parent could have been so careless, so forgetful, as to have allowed that to happen. But then I see my everyday life with phone calls and e-mails and deadlines and I realize I've got no right to take on a "holier than thou" attitude and just have to reflect on how lucky we all are that horrible events like this don't happen more often.

It's because as parents and as prospective parents, most of us bring children into this world or into our families because of an abiding and profound sense of love and responsibility. We enter into an unspoken pact with our spouse, our family, our friends, and with that tiny child: we are here to nurture, to protect, to teach, to guide, and to love. And that's why the stories Gene Weingarten told are so devastating (as is his own admission) -- because those parents entered that pact and were doing everything they could to live up to it and something went catastrophically wrong.

And that's why the death of that 3-month old little girl in South Korea is so horrifying -- because the parents couldn't bring themselves to care and instead sought an escape within an online world with fake monsters and shiny awards that can never measure up to the real world and the real monsters who sit at the keyboard for 12 hours a day engrossed in the game.

And with that, I'm going to shut down my computer, ignore the TV, and go give my wife a hug and look forward to a time when I can spend time with Plus One in the here and now. I hope you'll all take some time to do the same.

1 comment:

Danielle said...

You're so right. I think we all feel that way at one time or another when we hear these stories of abuse or neglect and think, "How can these people take the gift of a child for granted?"'s unimaginable to me and I'll never understand it.