Thursday, September 01, 2005

Suffer the little children

THERE IS something seriously wrong with the world when a quick glance at the BBC website on a Wednesday afternoon flags up three stories of inexplicable neglect or cruelty to children.

Yes, you've guessed it. It reached 4.30 on a Wednesday afternoon and the weekly panic about what exactly I'm going to write this column about this week kicked in, so I began my usual trawl of websites- from the weird and wonderful to more serious pages of online news services.
And as I clicked on the Beeb, I immediately saw three stories that made me realise that there simply was no other subject I could write about this week than the ongoing madness in this world that leads mothers to kill their children, or leave them neglected while they put their own needs first.
The first story was that of the murder of baby Alexander Gallon who was killed when arsonists set fire to his home. The news announced a 21-years-old woman had been arrested in connection with his death.
The fact that someone could willingly set fire to a house with a baby still inside was shocking enough- the fact that the person in question could well be a woman seemed even more shocking. Women are supposed to be nurturing creatures, surely?
But then reading on down the page, it's clear we are not perhaps the selfless creatures we would once have thought. The next story was that of 24-years-old Kelly Ann Rogerson who left her children (aged 4, 2 and 11 months) in the care of a teenager while she went on her second holiday to Turkey in the space of a month.
While the report stated the children were well cared for, I have to ask why any mother would think it acceptable or right to leave her children (basically who are still babies) in the care of a teenager while she swans off for fortnight in the sun?
And that was quickly followed up by a story of a woman who had appeared to jump in front of a high speed train with two children, thought to be her son and daughter. Both the woman and the young girl died instantly; the boy- thought to be three years old- is in a critical condition.
Now God knows what drove this woman to take such drastic action, but it is hard for any right minded person to comprehend the sense of desolation that must drive anyone to take the life of their own child.
While obviously my experiences as a mother colour to some extent my views on cruelty to children, it is not my maternal instinct that makes me react with anger or disbelief to such stories- it is the human side of me, that which simply knows the difference between right and wrong.

Childhood innocence
A quick look around in the world today shows that childhood innocence is not protected as fervently as it was back in my day. (Not that I'm ancient or anything, but I am a child of the late 70s/ early 80s).
I'm sure bad stuff happened back then. I'm sure mammies went on holidays without their wains and I'm sure some desperate souls took the lives of their children, but it didn't seem as common and it seemed to evoke more of a reaction than it does now.
My mother often recalls our early years with affection (I'm sure she is wearing super strength rose tinted glasses). Like many families in Derry of that time, we didn't have two brass ha'pennies to rub together. We lived in a wee council house in Creggan and Christmas came courtesy of the Derry Credit Union. Holidays were infrequent and there was never any talk of a break somewhere foreign for us children, or indeed for my parents.
But my mother maintains these were happy times, and for the most part I remember them as being such. Of course we knew of stranger danger, but we could still walk to school without fear for our lives- and you didn't do an in-depth vetting process before allowing your children to visit the neighbours up the street.
But, without a doubt children came first, or at least to me it seemed this way. And if the papers carried stories of neglect to, or murder of a child it was greeted with utter shock and condemnation the world over.
Sad to say but Ms. Rogerson, who went away on holiday without her kids, escaped without so much as a prison sentence. I'm sure we are all horrified at the death of Alexander Gallon, but next week I doubt we will be able to remember his name- because there will be another case to take our attention- just like we moved on from the deaths of Jamie Bulger, Sarah Payne, Hollie and Jessica, Victoria Climbie and countless, nameless, others.
We all know caring for children is hard work. Similarly we all know that there are more pressures on the family unit now than ever before. There are few and far between families who can afford to make the decision have one parent stay at home to mind the wee ones.
But what we seem to have forgotten in all of this is that our children rely on us for everything- from food and water to a sense of security and affection. It's time we all start focussing on those core values again and allow our children a childhood they can remember for all the right reasons.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...