Today I am coming to terms with the fact that my daughter will never be safe.
It’s a dawn of realisation that I knew was in the post, but refused to acknowledge. A solid week of some of the most horrific news stories a parent could ever be exposed to has collided with my firsthand knowledge of the depravity of humans and the erratic and unpredictable nature of the mentally ill.
I feel shaken.
Children are brought naively into the world. Selfishly. Whatever your reasons: be it carrying on the family name, having a warm happy family in your dotage or, more cynically, to connect two people more securely or for financial gain. No-one has children for the sake of the children. I often hear people say that ‘there’s never a good time to have a child’. I almost always find myself asking ‘a good time for who?’.
Not everyone takes to parenthood naturally. For most it’s an incredible learning curve that turns everything you ever believed about the world upside down. For others it’s an unexpectedly frightening level of responsibility. Some parents chuck their newborns in a papoose and bugger off round the world. Others struggle to get to the corner shop and back.
As long as you love and protect your child to the best of your ability, the minutiae and problem solving aspects of child-raising tend to resolve themselves. And if they don’t, then there is always help should you need it. It’s the external, those factors outside of our control or understanding that no doctor, midwife, friend or that shitty old Gina Ford book propping up the sideboard can’t prepare you for…
It’s the sudden feeling of blind panic when they go out of your sight unexpectedly. Or don’t answer when you call.
It’s the wrenching feeling in the pit of your stomach when you hear your child cry in pain. And the bigger wrench when you imagine your child crying in pain, but you aren’t there to hear it.
It’s the stress-induced migraine that you constantly fend off, blindly reassuring yourself that your child is and always will be ‘just fine’.
The inner conflict that you feel when someone you don’t know shows your child kindness.
The mistrust of everyone. Everyone.
I’ve recently been imagining feeling all those feelings at once and it never ending. Because I live in absolute hope that it’s the closest I will ever come to understanding the feelings of the mothers of April Jones, Tia Sharp and every tragic girl who was branded, abused, drugged, beaten and sold by those seven evil bastards in Oxford. It makes me want to howl feral at the sky like a tortured animal.
From tiny tots to estranged teens, each one of those daughters was viewed as a simple object of gratification. Whether they were grabbed, dragged, coaxed or exploited is irrelevant. Our children are the weakest of our species. Our joy. Our lives. Our hopes for the future. Our Achilles heel.
To say that one can ‘lose’ a child trivialises and insults every pain a parent can feel when their child is stolen from them. It is a phrase of basic untruth. It isn’t loss. It’s oblivion. And to know that your child was crying in pain and that you were not there is an eternal torture that will haunt you until the day you die.
So before you throw away those pills, or gleefully torch the condoms, think. Not about money (although the little buggers are costly), but about the world. You’ll never have this chance again. You’re ready to be a parent, yes, but are you prepared to forever carry this fear heavy on your shoulders? Bringing a beautiful child into a world that is out of your control?
Didn’t your own mother always say ‘its not you I’m worried about, it’s everyone else’.