Jevonte Thomas, brother of Tatiana Smith, puts down a candle where her sons Terrion, 8, and Donel, 9, drowned in Hobart on June 14, 2014. | Jim Karczewski/Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 26, 2014 6:19AM
What was your reaction to the drowning of the two brothers in that water-filled pit in Hobart, specifically after you learned the circumstances behind their deaths?
Was it shock or disbelief over how they died? Was it astonishment over the fact they were unsupervised in a potentially dangerous setting? Did you think the property owner should be held liable? Or was it kneejerk blame of the boys’ mother for allowing them to be there in the first place, or for not knowing where her children were?
Be honest, at least with yourself.
Here’s why I ask. Many people — too many people, I say — have blamed the boys’ mother (and father) for neglect of the two young brothers, ages 8 and 9. Here is a sampling of such feedback I have received from my social media readers.
“Where were the parents?” asked Cindi L. “These kids shouldn’t have been running around without their parents.”
“As tragic as this was, a lot of the blame has to rest on the parents,” said Marlin G. “My kids were rarely out of my sight at that age.”
“I believe the parents, in part, are responsible,” said Joellen Z. “The children were out of their sight in a place where a known danger existed.”
“Parents are responsible for the actions of their children until the age of 18,” added Randy D.
“There is no way in hell I would have let my kids out of my sight at that age,” insisted Christine S. “The mother should be held responsible, too.”
“What about parents knowing where their kids are?” added Sheri G., echoing the summation of many people, and many parents.
Is this how you feel, too? I had mixed emotions about this incident and also about the ripples of societal judgmental in the wake of the boys’ deaths. However, I always circle back to my days as a young parent of two young kids and how many times something could have happened to them — on my watch — but didn’t.
I dodged more bullets than a superhero, I tell you. Not because I was being neglectful or irresponsible as a parent, but because I was lucky. Or fortunate. Or blessed. Take your pick. I’m convinced that other fathers and mothers have been similarly lucky at times with their children. But they conveniently forget those moments.
Did I ever turn my back for a few minutes while my kids swam in a pool or lake? I’m sure I did. Did I ever let them hang with friends whose parents I didn’t know well enough? I’m sure I did. Did I ever think they were one place in our neighborhood when, in fact, they were at another place? Guilty as charged, your honor.
I try to keep this in mind when I think of 8-year-old Terrion Smith and 9-year-old Donel Smith, who weren’t as lucky as my kids to escape the clutches of a tragic accident (remember, it was an “accident”) and a young death.
More important, I try to keep this in mind when I think of the boys’ grieving mother, Tatiana Smith, who paid the ultimate price for what happened. She will now have to live with her lifelong wreckage of regrets, 20/20 hindsight and endless “what if’s” until she joins her boys in heaven someday, which I’m sure is the only thought keeping her buoyed at this point.
Call this situation neglect if you wish. Call it poor parenting if you must. Call it irresponsible guardianship if it makes you feel better about your parenting. Or if it makes you feel more secure about your kids’ safety, wellbeing and future.
Me? I call it a sad situation, any parent’s worst nightmare, nailed home by the most somber sight in this world — two tiny caskets.
Sure, I’d like to pretend that such a tragedy could never have happened on MY watch as a younger parent. But I know better. And so should many other parents who, like me, benefitted by being a little luckier than they’d like to admit.
Let the ones who’ve never been blessed with such good fortune be the ones to throw stones at this mother. I don’t have the stones to do it.
Best, worst of NWI
I asked and you answered.
What are the best, and worst, aspects or amenities of living in this region? Here is a small selection of your responses and thanks for sharing your insights with me.
The best: Lake Michigan and its many beaches was the most popular reply, along with the Indiana Dunes and other natural resources here. Other feedback included our proximity to Chicago, dining options, fine arts communities, plentiful parks and seasonal weather.
Also, our “melting pot” demographics, though I liken it more to a salad bowl, reasoning that we don’t actually melt into one unified soup but, instead, cohabit with each other like lettuce, tomatoes and croutons.
The worst: Our elected officials, wintertime weather, potholes, drug use, crime and poverty, too many trains, high gas prices, lack of public transit options and lack of accessibility for people with disabilities. Oh, and being the “red-haired stepchild” of the Hoosier state, unwelcomed by Indiana as well as by the Chicago region.
Kerry Paris of Lake Station aptly amplified a common refrain from many readers: The best and worst of this region are the same thing — the steel mills.
“They provide a great life to so many families, yet they pollute our air, land and water, and make those same families sick,” she said.
You didn’t miss a thing
Several readers asked about my on-air interview with Terry Fator, the celebrity impressionist and ventriloquist who performs his show at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
Fator was a special guest on my latest Casual Fridays radio show, which you can listen to online here, lakeshorepublicmedia.org/ventriloquist-terry-fator-joins-casual-fridays/. Fator was funny, insightful and, surprisingly, humble. Thanks for tuning in, eventually.