I’m sure like me, you’ve all been haunted by the tragic story of the missing 5-year-old April Jones. I simply can’t get her out of my head and her little angelic face in her blue school uniform is imprinted in my mind and will be forever more I suspect. Much like the image of pretty Madeline McCann which is still as fresh in my mind today as it was five years ago when she was first abducted from her bedroom that fateful night in Portugal. Some stories stay with us don’t they?
And I know that if I can’t get these little girls faces out of my head, if I’m haunted by what might have happened to them, then I cannot fathom how their parents are managing to hold onto their sanity. I assume that they have no choice but to cope as best they can for the sake of their other children. And to hold onto the hope that one day their children will be found and justice will be done.
Years ago I read a story written by an author, Elizabeth Stone. She said when discussing the momentous decision to have a child that ”it is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” I didn’t understand what she meant properly at the time, but now I do, for my heart has been proudly on display for all to see since the birth of my children. I now understand the depth of love a parent feels for their child the very second they touch them. But I believe Elizabeth meant a lot more. For to wear your heart outside your body is a dangerous thing as it can be hurt so very easily. So alongside the wondrous joy and awe children bring us, beware if you are about to embark on parenthood, because when a parent loves their children with their whole being, it brings a high price – endless worry!
We spend every day doing our very best to make sure that the every need of our children is met. We keep them warm, we blitz and blend every Annabel Karmel recipe we can lay our hands on, we wipe their noses and kiss away every boo boo they have, and hold them close, letting them know how much they are loved. Every hope, wish and desire we now feel is wrapped up in the happiness and safety of our children. We want nothing more than to protect them, we can’t help it. And sometimes the mere thought of someone or something out there harming them sneaks into our brains and we shudder with fear. So we banish the thought quickly.
We spend everyday worrying needlessly about silly things – do they watch too much t.v., are they getting their 5 a day, do they have a temperature, oh no, not another bug. But aside from these mundane worries, we now have a much bigger worry to face, one of the biggest fears for any parent. With every newspaper and TV talking about little April, how can we not allow the unthinkable worry into our minds? What if a stranger abducts my child? This fear grows bigger with every reporting of another white van seen cruising in our towns or villages. Since April’s abduction, I have heard of two such sightings in Ireland. So we clutch our children’s hands more tightly and whisper with our loved ones about having a chat with our children again about ‘stranger danger’.
I’m sure that the last thing on April’s mothers mind last week when she said her daughter could go outside and play with her friends, was that a predator was only moments away ready to snatch her precious child. For the rest of her life she will forever more be haunted by that decision. A simple error of judgement at most. It’s understandable that a parent would feel her child is safe playing with friends in such a close-knit community, outside her own front door. But how could any parent know that such evil lived among them all? I don’t allow my children play outside unaccompanied. Not yet anyhow. I am as yet undecided as to what age is an appropriate age for unsupervised play. My husband and I are thinking 18 at the moment. I have read harsh judgemental comments made and tut tut’s muttered about the fact that April was outside that late. And I’m sure if April’s mother could go back in time, she would not make the same decision. But there is only one person to blame for whatever happened to that precious little girl, the evil despicable predator that took her.
I’ve thought a lot about error’s in judgement this past week. They are funny things really, sometimes we get off scot free, other times, we pay a price. I made one a few weeks ago. Here’s the thing, I forgot to lock our front door. My 2-year-old can now open the door and took advantage of its unlocked state and decided to go for a stroll. I was changing my babies nappy and glanced out the window and saw a flash of Amelia’s hair go by. Thank god for that vibrant red. I was seconds scooping up my son, putting him in his cot and running out the door and grabbing Amelia, just as she had reached the road. The fright I got had me shaking for hours afterwards. What if I had been in the kitchen cooking and didn’t notice her missing for a few minutes? She could have been knocked down or someone could have grabbed her, anything could have happened, it doesn’t bear thinking about. So for me, my error of judgement worked out O.K. Fate was kind to me. Suffice to say, our front door is always locked now.
I’ve spoken to my friends who are mothers and many have similar stories. What I like to call ‘little errors of judgement that fate forgave’. I think that as parents, we have a responsibility to share these stories with each other, so we can learn from them and keep our children safe. And then once that is taken care of as best we can, we need to stop worrying about the silly things, because as parents we are doing a good job, our children are happy, safe and are loved so very much. And after all that’s what really matters.