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The parental FEAR
Published: 08/08/2013

I remember as a child ignoring my grandmother as she called for me in the changing rooms of the swimming pool. I was mortified that she was calling out and as I was far from being ready I decided in my childish pique that I would reply when I was dressed. As you can imagine she was rather cross when I finally emerged prune-like and scowling from the warren of changing cubicles.

All sorts of things go through your mind when a child goes missing. I know that now as a parent. You have your child in your line of sight and then you are distracted for a second or two and they are GONE. My poor grandmother thought she had lost me, perhaps I had even been snatched, carted away and was at that moment crying my eyes out in desperation.

It is a TERRIBLE feeling and one I never really had before becoming a parent myself, when the rational gives way to the many 'what-if' scenarios. Obvious media reports like the horrific James Bulger case and poor missing Madeleine McCann affect our behaviour but so do the rumours. There is the anecdote of a missing little girl found in a US department store toilet dressed to look like a boy, with her hair part shaved off - rescued only because when her parent had gone to the store security they had immediately closed down the store causing the kidnapper to flee. It took me a while to go to a department store with my girls after that one!

It is quite the dilemma - giving our children the feeling they can explore this fabulous world we live in and thus letting them acquire the life skills necessary to grow and survive on their own (and I am talking the basics like safely crossing the road) at the same time letting them leave our protective circle.

Also, when do you kick into frantic parent calling the authorities mode? Is the child simply out of sight for a moment or two or is there something more sinister at play? It is such a hard one to judge. Our reactions affect our children, if we go off the deep end every time they are out of our sight then do we risk harming them more by making them scared to leave our side or the safety of 'home'? At the same time, as the anecdote about the missing child in the department store shouts out - the faster we move the more likely we are to save them.

I remember the first time I let my two older daughters go to the local shop. It was only a quarter of a mile round trip but it did involve crossing a main road which I practised with them before hand. Unbeknownst to them I made a note of the time they left and watched out for them practically the whole 20minutes they were gone! They were happy when they returned but it was more of a milestone for me than them. Letting go isn't easy.

When I look back I realise that my girls have not done half of the things I did when I was a child with my brothers. We often went off for the day cycling and exploring - with no mobile phone. Was the world a safer place or were our parents just better at letting us go? And really, have they missed out??

I guess the roads were safer because there were far fewer cars. I also wonder if the internet for all the good it does has meant that some disturbing mental issues have been exacerbated by people connecting with others rather than seeking help. Also instantaneous access to information has its drawbacks - it is much harder to live in an innocent bubble of ignorance now. Even at the supermarket my 7 year old is subjected to horrible images on the covers of DVDs. They are marked 18 but the boxes are placed right next to the children's section! I can't ever remember seeing such nastiness as a child.

The home entertainment industry has certainly blossomed making it easier to be at home and therefore harder to face the risks outside on a day to day basis. Electronic games, dvds, satellite, social networks etc all play their part in making home an easy and entertaining place to be. Easy to get swept into if we're not careful and the weather doesn't help! In my day there were 4 TV channels and limited, rather clunky videos. Do you remember the days when being outside was just more FUN??

Here is the link to another interesting blog, where a mum had the horrible experience of 'losing' a child. Fortunately it wasn't for long: