The other day Liam and I were given a reality check. I’m on holidays at the moment but can’t stop playing it over in my head.
We were in the front garden of our home which has a very high fence with a gate that my children can’t reach but an adult can easily open. We were having a morning of family gardening and Liam and I went inside to get drinks, hats, sunscreen etc. You know, the stuff you remember you forgot that you should’ve collected before you began. It appeared from the outside that we left all 3 of our children unattended but we have a large window we can see out on to the front yard and both had our eye on them. In all honestly, one of us should’ve stayed but we both ran inside remembering different items and having a bad parenting communication moment.
They were approached by an adult. Of whom I’m sure was lovely however we both asserted ourselves to go straight outside and make sure they knew of our presence. But, in a moment of thought, I grabbed Liam’s arm and said, “let’s just watch for a minute.”
So we stood there together watching to see how our children would react.
Malachy is sensitive, a people pleaser and pretty often he is polite. So he moved forward to the gate and started talking to the person. Then Cheska, who is often a show off, ran straight over too and started telling her name, her age and singing silly songs. Then surprisingly, Delphi walked over too. I was surprised by this as Delphi is shy and not very trusting of anyone outside those she knows well but because Malachy and Cheska were already there she also felt comfortable to approach the fence. That was then my heart sank. They were all smiling and talking to this person they had never met.
I don’t want to be a paranoid mother, I don’t want my children to fear the world and generally my children are extremely “free range.” When we went to China most Chinese people were quite frankly alarmed how much room we gave them to do their thing (a very big cultural difference.) But this scene worried me greatly. It was then I thought of poor William Tyrrell. It was then I realised my children could all quite easily have been taken from us if our fate had encountered the wrong person and we weren’t watching.
All this time I have had some sort of cognitive dissonance in believing that child abduction happens but somehow my children’s personalities would protect them, that we lived in the city where there are “too many witnesses” or that “this couldn’t happen to us.” We are not immune.
We both walked outside and the person said hello to us and went on their way. I wanted to grab my kids by the shoulders and say “don’t ever do that again!” But I didn’t want to frighten them. I just said, “please don’t ever talk to a stranger without mum, dad or a teacher being there.”
I’m not sure if Malachy completely understood what we were saying but I know for certain my girls didn’t understand…
Edit: I have had a lot of diverse feedback about this post. My advice to my children was extremely basic and not well thought through but it was a knee jerk response to what I had seen and that I was trying simplify the message for two 3 year olds. In hindsight, the issue is more complex and this one sentence of course doesn’t really address enough.
I am in no way an expert in this field. I am just another parent who is feeling my way as things like this arise. I never live in fear of what I see on the media but from personal experience, adults aren’t always kind to children even if they appear to be. I also know that like most parents these days, I have my children online and I am cautious of the implications of this. I also don’t want my children to live in fear and I want them to enjoy interacting with people.
I welcome advise, expertise and personal experiences to my blog. Thank you if you take the time to do so. But please, no nasty, non productive commentary. I am honestly trying to learn, better myself as a parent and create conversation for others to also do such.