We read about these tragedies and we grieve with the families for the loss of a precious child. We can especially empathize with the loss of a child, probably the worst thing that can happen to a parent and a family. And we wonder how such things can happen.
Sometimes we learn of apparent mental illness, well hidden, and sometimes we are given explanations. But we still wonder, how can this happen?
I read about a boy who found a gun in a closet and was shot in the head; of six brothers and sisters who piled on an ATV for a ride, of the children killed when the ATV and a car collided head-on. How can this happen?
These are not deliberate acts, and I do not place blame. Things happen, and we all have longed for a second chance to change a series of events that led to tragedy. If only we could change the past.
Are we too busy to notice?
Still, I wonder, where are the protectors of the children? Who's watching out for them? Are we simply too busy with our lives to notice that there are holes in our yards and guns in our closets? Have we forgotten that children are, by their very natures, so inquisitive that they will find the holes and the guns if left alone long enough? Don't we realize that we need to keep our eyes on our kids every minute?
In my day, we had free run of our neighborhood at a fairly early age. We were warned not to talk to (or take candy from) strangers and to stay out of the alley, but other than that, we didn't worry much about our personal safety. But that was then.
I actually remember the specific summer that things changed for us. Suddenly, we weren't allowed to leave the yard without asking, and even then, we had to stay within shouting distance of home. After much grumbling and breaking of the rules, my older brother admitted to me that he heard our parents talking about a girl who had been "snatched" by a man in a black car. Looking back, I realized it was the end of the innocence.
When my children were small I was overprotective. I didn't ever want them out of my sight and I HATED letting someone else care for them. I was forced to deal with it when I returned to work and had to find a sitter. I investigated all the baby-sitters, I asked questions, I asked other parents, I dropped in unexpectedly, and I hoped for the best.
Even with all my paranoia, years later, after he was grown, my son told me one of his sitters had locked him in a closet when she felt he had misbehaved. I was shocked and heartsick hearing about it, even after so many years had passed and he seemed to have survived his ordeal without any apparent emotional damage. He and I have come a long way since those days before car seats and bicycle helmets became standard kid equipment. Now he's buckling up his own toddler and trying to protect her from the world.
My children had injuries and illnesses
Yes, my children had their share of injuries and illnesses. My son especially, was prone to boo-boos, some of them pretty serious. He managed to fall, tumble and bump; he had to get a few stitches and a cast. He was an active boy. He played sports, rode bikes and later motor bikes and four-wheelers. I spent many years teaching and preaching: "Don't touch;" "look both ways;" "don't do that, you'll put your eye out ... " I know all about how accidents happen so quickly that they can't always be avoided. I know how older children and young adults do things away from their parents that the parents would never imagine, despite our lectures and warnings.
But the small ones, they are ours to raise. We are their protectors. We are their parents, their grandparents, their coaches, their Scout masters, their teachers, their ministers, their neighbors and their friends. These little ones are in our care, our charge, and we are responsible for their well-being and their safety. We cannot forget them, no matter how busy we are, and we cannot neglect them, no matter what else we have to do. Children are surrounded by protectors and they are us. Are we doing all we can to protect these precious little ones? Are we giving the time and effort this most important job deserves?
My grandmother once told me that much of childrearing and childcare is common sense, as is much of success in life in general. Common sense tells us that if we are too busy to protect our children, then we are too busy. Period.