BY REBECCA PALMER
Davis Clipper Editor
BOUNTIFUL — I don’t always experience sympathy when I write about local crime, but this week has been a horrible exception.
It has been a reminder that we are all called on to act in compassion and understanding, especially toward parents with screaming kids.
The impetus has been the incredibly sad story of Aliyah Faye West, who was shaken and thrown on the bed by her frustrated father in Layton earlier this month.
She celebrated her first birthday in the hospital while suffering several complications such as stomach bleeding, clots in the legs and failing kidneys.
The girl who had barely started to live died on Wednesday morning.
My heart simply breaks for Aliyah’s mom and the life the girl could have had. The tragedy is incomprehensible. But I also hurt for the man who allegedly shook her, Tyler Ryan Geary.
We weren’t able to reach him for comment, but police told me that the 25-year-old man hadn’t been in any trouble since he became an adult. Based on that alone, I assume he was getting on the right track.
Then, he became frustrated while babysitting and the alleged shaking, which likely lasted mere moments, changed at least three lives forever. Police say he confessed.
I have since thought of my actions when left responsible for upset children, but also what I and others have done when we see others caring for such children in public.
It occurred to me that something all of us can do to cut the chances of this happening to any more children is to offer encouragement and support to anyone whose kids are crying in public.
The reason is clear: Dealing with a crying child, especially in public, is very stressful and embarrassing. All parents I have spoken with attest to this, and I’ve experienced it too. However, high levels of stress are one of the most common triggers for Shaken Baby Syndrome and other forms of child abuse.
Another problem that can lead to Shaken Baby Syndrome is the mistaken idea that when children are crying, the parents must be doing a poor job.
In my research for this week’s story, I was reminded that sometimes, children just cry. Even inconsolable crying doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong, and some children simply cry more than others.
Instead of focusing on the annoying sounds or becoming panicked that they can’t “fix” the baby, parents need to know that it’s sometimes OK to let kids cry. Remember, they’re learning to communicate.
Rather than glare or ask the parents to leave public spaces (in most instances), consider offering those parents empathy. If it’s reasonable, you might even ask if you can help. If that’s too awkward, perhaps you could say something like, “You’re doing fine. We’ve all been there,” or “It’s OK. The crying will get better with time.”
We can also help by being willing to babysit for stressed out parents for a few hours and by supporting education initiatives such as the Period of PURPLE crying campaign from Farmington-based National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. Watch these pages for upcoming fundraising efforts.
No child deserves the horror that comes from being shaken, and society as a whole can’t afford to let it happen. But as Michael Jackson crooned years ago, change starts with the man (or woman) in the mirror.
For the sake of our shared future, let’s all work together to make the difficult task of parenting easier.