The theme of today’s post is regret. The inspiration, is the mother of April Jones who now faces a life-time of regret now that her daughter’s murderer has been convicted. It can happen to any parent, a few moments of distraction or untested faith that nothing bad will happen and then the worst happens, your child is gone. I can only imagine the gut-wrenchingly sick sensation when, after suppressing panic in the hope that they will be found, the realisation dawns on you that they are lost, perhaps for good. To then find out that they have been murdered is unthinkable. That they might have suffered at the hands of a stranger who they had initially trusted is completely unbearable.
Whether cases of child abduction and abuse has increased is uncertain, but what is certain is that parents need to be vigilant. We live on a road similar to that of the Joneses – a cul-de-sac with a green in the middle. I often see children playing on the green unsupervised, because children like to play with other children and parents trust that nothing bad will happen to them. I have even done it myself, on the proviso that my daughter is playing in a neighbour’s garden, not out in the street – but that doesn’t make a lot of difference. A front gate and fence is no barrier to a ‘friendly’ stranger. The risk of abduction scares me more than any other scenario. The case of the missing 17 year old is another example of a child’s continued vulnerability even in their late teens.
So what can we do as parents to protect our children? First we need to expect the worst rather than hope for the best. Gone are the days where you could let your children play outside unsupervised (as I did as a child). Second we need to empower them and equip them with all the information necessary to be vigilant themselves, third, we need to give them the tools to defend themselves if challenged, forget football coaching sessions and ballet lessons – bring on martial arts.
Finally I think more should be done to look out for one another’s children. I had an incident a while back when a boy I was looking after got off at the wrong bus stop and when his brother got off the bus, I asked him where his five year old brother was, “oh he got off at the earlier bus stop”. Thankfully it was only 30 seconds up the road and I drove like I was on a drag strip to get there and retrieve him. He was standing all alone next to a main road with tears streaming down his cheeks. I was saddened that not one parent had noticed he was on his own and looked after him until he was collected. Many of us lead lives in a bubble and to help someone else out is considered to be over and above the call of duty or meddling in someone else’s business – Jamie Bulger would not have died if someone had stopped the boys and had the courage to recognise that 2 ten year olds should not be in sole charge of a toddler and taken them to the nearest police station, or at least telephoned their parents to check their story. The British are particularly guilty of this introvert approach. We should also be setting an example for our children so that they feel it is right and OK to help someone in distress, or at least report it to an adult immediately.
As it stands at the moment, our children are vulnerable because of society’s approach to letting the world happen and to turn a blind eye to suffering for fear of misreading signs and causing offence. If people had the courage to go with their gut feeling I’m convinced the police would not have so many tragic cases on their hands.
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Thanks for reading.