Nothing scares a parent more than ‘nothing happened’

Lifestyle

Nothing scares a parent more than ‘nothing happened’

Those ‘thank goodness’ and ‘what if’ moments are the things of our nightmares

Journalist

There is an incident that haunts me every time my brain cruelly brings it to the front of my memory. At a dinner at a hotel recently, a babysitter was arranged for the children while the adults ate in a separate room. The kids were well catered for: a movie, pizza and a handful of friends to create chaos. The babysitter was watching, and in cellphone contact. We made sure she had airtime to phone us. 
But midway through dinner something told me to check in on them. My five-year-old was not in the room. Panic. Cold-hearted panic. Minutes later, in which I cannot recall if we moved or remained frozen, not knowing where to begin to search, she appeared out of the elevator doors. Laughing and suddenly shy, she whispered that she’d gone on a little ride in the lift, just up and back down. She was just checking on us, and the movie room was close to the elevators.It was the most frightening parenting moment of my life. I was infinitely glad she was safe, livid at the incompetent babysitter who I couldn’t even look at. I felt guilty that we had chosen the freedom of an adult dinner.
But mostly, I was thankful that “nothing” had happened. The “nothing” is the frightening part.
Suddenly, a simple dinner is not a simple dinner anymore. It could have turned into a Madeleine McCann situation, or worse. Because children, like women, are under siege in the world and especially in South Africa. We cannot let them walk the 900m from school to home just in case “something” happens. Because in a single newscast yesterday, my heart crumbled and my brain took me back to that moment of panic: a three-year old and necrophilia mentioned in one report; a nine-year-old shot in a hijacking while on the school run in another.
Two completely different issues, but all symptomatic of a broken world. Crime, physical abuse, bullying, malnutrition, obesity, mental illness, inadequate health systems, poverty. All of these are problems that affect children worst.  Are we to turn into hyper-vigilant ninja parents to protect the children that we brought into this awful world?
A reporter covering one of the horrible events said the cries for the death penalty are not a short-term solution. She said she does not have the answers to what the solution could be. Does anyone?
It is an obvious statement, but societal ills start in our society. If we want to see change, we have to start it off. Perhaps random acts of crime are unavoidable, but we have to do our damnedest to try.
Maybe it starts at home? In teaching and educating, loving and nurturing children who do not add to these ills, we can start somewhere. Contributing to the economy, in a way that can alleviate poverty and crime, might be a way forward. 
Does anyone have answers? Anything, to save our children.

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