When I was only nine years old, and living with my mom and my brother in the Hollywood Hills of California, our traditional Sunday dinner was interrupted by the sound of screeching tires and a huge explosion.
We raced outside to see that two cars had collided head-on in the middle of Franklin Avenue. Hubcaps were still spinning on the pavement as we ran over to see if we could help. A fire was just starting in the Volkswagen, and the other car was on its roof. My mom was five feet, five inches tall and weighed a hundred pounds at the most, but she somehow found the strength to pull the passenger, a six- two man, out of the burning VW and drag him twenty feet away, where she ministered to him until the police and fire and ambulances finally came.
But the driver of the VW was not so lucky. I guess he had banged his head pretty hard and was nearly unconscious. When I walked up to ask him if he was okay, I looked inside the car. His feet were on fire. A minute later, the whole thing burst into a big flame and he disappeared in it. I could not take my eyes off him. Now, of course, I wish I had.
Once seen, never unseen. The images that seared across my retinas that night so many years ago are with me today and will be with me forever. My mother would tell you that she told me not to look, but how could I not?
Today, when I am watching television with my boys, I am overwhelmed by the images that have become so commonplace. It’s not just the news or the spectacle stations, but all the crime show ads and Court TV and CNN.
In films, on television, in the newspaper, on the Internet, in everyday life, disturbing visuals are everywhere. Protect your little people from sad sights that will stay with them forever. Cover their eyes if they are too young to do it themselves, and teach your children to cover their own eyes as soon as they can. There is no good reason for your child to know the morbid details of the passings and the horrors that are captured and broadcast these days.
Once seen, never unseen.
Excerpted from Parking Lot Rules & 75 Other Ideas for Raising Amazing Children by Tom Sturges Copyright © 2008 by Tom Sturges. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.