Friday, May 11, 2007

To err is human.

Recently my brother, 8 years older than me, and as it happens, celebrating a birthday today, revealed to me that when I was a child, and he was officially babysitting me, used to put me to bed and then nip off to the pub. He would then have a drink with his friends, and pop back from time to time to check that I hadn't suffocated, drowned or burned to death.

Until the time that he told me this a few months back I had been completely oblivious to this. I was, I think, quite a "good" child. It would never have occurred to me to come downstairs for instance, once put to bed, and so, even if I were reading in bed, I wouldn't have noticed that the house beneath me was quiet. Very quiet!

When he told me this story, we both fell about laughing. We didn't dwell on the safety issues that might have been at stake, and to be honest I was not a tiny child. I just thought how funny it was that he had pulled the wool over my eyes for all these years.

I also thought back when he said this, and remembered that on one occasion, a summer's evening, I was reading my book in bed. My brother stuck his head round the door and told me off for reading in the half light, and put the light on! I was so shocked because I thought that I was going to be told off for reading at all. It's all relative though isn't it? He knew that he was bending the rules, and I knew that I was bending the rules. But, concerned for my eyesight, he made sure that the light was on while I read - and he (presumably) nipped back to the pub across the field to spend his babysitting money.

My parents too, when we were on holiday in Spain, me aged six, used to put me to bed and go down to the bar in the apartment block for a drink. Every so often one or other parent, or one or other older brother would pop back to check on my safety.


I was fine.

I was asleep, and blissfully unaware.

I was lucky too, in that there were no funny people lurking about, either in the rural village I lived, or on holiday in Spain, who wanted to steal a child.

As parents ourselves we have always eaten with our children in the evenings on holiday. We customarily eat together as a family anyway, and so when on holiday we just extend that. If it is late we don't worry, in that they are on holiday and the odd late night won't hurt. Similarly, Continental Europeans are far more laid back about children in restaurants, and as such it is never been an issue to have them with us.

But, I also think that it is very sad that parents are not able to trust society to be able to leave children asleep in what is effectively a hotel room, and go into the restaurant for something to eat. Realistically it should be as safe as having food at home once the children are in bed.

It should be, but sadly it isn't.

Equally I think that none of us as parents can cast stones at the McCanns. It may not have been the wisest choice to leave them unattended as it turned out, but which of us parents can honestly say that they have never made a mistake when it comes to child rearing? I have five children, and have made plenty of mistakes over the years - and there but for the grace of God have been fortunate in the main. There isn't a day that goes by though that I don't worry about my children, or pray that they will return safely to me from their school buses or school trips or whatever else they venture forth in.

When they go out in the morning I say to each of them: "See you later". If I don't say it, or if they don't respond, it niggles at me all day until they return. If they are going on a school trip I always say "don't let the coach driver crash, don't drown in the swimming pool, don't get run over."

"Yes Mum! Goodbye!"

I drive them all mad with it. Hubby thinks I'm a nutcase. Which I probably am. It's my safety net though. We all have them. I, in my funny sort of way, believe that I am keeping them all safe by willing their safe return........

There is not a family in Britain whose hearts have not been touched by the story of little Madeleine McCann. I am so sad for those parents, and for the little girl. How frightened she must be.

Don't though, let us ever forget that it could have been any one of us parents who made a mistake.

To err is human.

Please can she be returned safely and unharmed?


Beccy said...

Sally what a beautifully written post, you've bought tears to my eyes. I totally agree with you. I have been guilty of leaving my children in a hotel room alseep whilst I have eaten or had a drink in the restuarant/bar. Every 15 minutes myself, Joules or our friends checked on the children who slept soundly throughout.

My thoughts are with Madeline and her family. I really hope she is found and returned safely soon.

Eliza said...

i'm not a parent but every time i think of Mrs Mcann it makes me well up, because i think of how much my mum loves me and my sisters. And to imagine her heart broken, is heartbreaking in itself. beautiful post. x

Asha said...

Thank God nobody harmed you Sally.But then society was different at that time,lot safer.I used walk miles alone to meet and play with my friends.Now I won't let the kids walk to the next block alone.Sad,isn't it?
Hope that little girl comes home soon too.We all do make mistakes but nobody deserves to lose a child.
Great post Sally.

Ignorminious said...

What a very moving post! My mother always used to worry about me when I was out of her sight. I think she probably still to be honest, although really she needn't.

I don't think those parents did anything wrong. It is a terrible feature of the world in which we live that children can be at such risk all the time.

My thoughts are with that family.

enidd said...

sally, enidd is off to find out more now. you are her link to uk news, thanks.

Wendz said...

I, too, didn't know of this story and had to Google it. It's terrible and I cannot begin to imagine how her parents are feeling - I know that the few times I lost Fabien in a shopping centre, when he was little, I was ill and icy with terror. It's just the most awful feeling. Paralysing, really.

It can happen to anyone, yes.

Thanks for posting this. Let's just hope that they find her fast, and unhurt.

Damned sickos who took her.

Sally Lomax said...

Hi Beccy

Absolutely. There but for the grace of God go all of us.

Hi Eliza

I know. I think that we can all relate to that.

Hi Asha

I agree....

Hi Ig

It is sad. Children should be free to play out, and that's becoming less safe all the time.

Hi Enidd

Glad to be a news source. Makes me feel important.

Hi Wendz

Sickos indeed.

Alice Band said...

Sorry I can't even think about that poor little girl and her family. The thing is, didn't they deserve, after having a baby then twins in quick succession, an evening enojoying some innocuous tapas? Why must they be punished. It makes my heart bleed.
As for my own OCD mantra with my kids? Every morning at the front door I say, "Love you, work hard, watch the road". Without fail. I'm scared not to say it now!

Karmyn R said...

It is sad that in this day and age we cannot have the same liberties with our children that our parents were able to.

I hadn't heard the story so had to look it up - anytime a child goes mising - just horrible.

It seems we, as parents, must be ever vigilant these days....never leave young children unsupervised for any amount of time. You never know when a predator is lurking.

Lisa said...

I hadn't heard of this, so also went to investigate.
I have goosebumps, those poor people.
It makes me sick to my stomach.
My parents' generation bemoan the fact that we treat our kids like they're in a bubble, but with predator-types everywhere, you really have to.
I may not stop holding my breathe for a while.

john.g. said...

Lovely, moving post Sally. I am desperately hoping for a good result on this incident.

On a lighter note, it's my Dads' birthday today. 78, the old bugger! lol. I noticed it was your brothers'.

pierre l said...

I agree with all the others that this is a very moving and well written post. I am much like you: not necessarily over-protective, but always wanting to make sure that they have said goodbye whenever they leave, and telling them to be careful, etc. Unfortunately (and this will happen to you soon with ED, if it hasn't already), they eventually go to University and you may have regular updates (and the knowledge that you would be told if something really bad happened), but it's no good waiting for them to come home at night because they are in a distant city for months at a time.
Like everyone else, I do really hope that the little girl will be found safe and well.

Sally Lomax said...

Hi Alice, Karmyn John Lisa and Pierre...........

I too hope that she will one found soon.

And on a lighter note too, happy birthday to your Dad John! It's my birthday tomorrow - well today actually as i write this. I'm now off to look at my profile to see if the number has changed yet!

pierre l said...

Happy birthday to you.