Monday, May 14, 2007

Sorrows and lessons from little Madeleine McCann

I hadn't intended to write on this subject but Twenty Major raised a few important questions and we found ourselves in total agreement in our respective comments. His brief article has provoked considerable healthy debate.

As parents who have three daughters who were once Madeleine's age, my wife and I are filled with sadness and sympathy for the parents and the little girl. It's a living nightmare for each one of them. What form of humanity is out there to do this? Whoever did this were once children themselves but must have had a bizarre upbringing.

Having said the above, I cannot help but comment on the fact that it is highly irresponsible to leave children this age unattended in any dwelling. Especially in a foreign holiday resort with such a huge mixture of non-locals and easy access to all sorts of further places to take kidnapped children. I think of the sacrifices so many of us parents make as the kids are small to ensure they are safe - it is a tiny price to pay in reality. They grow so fast and when they are older they don't want to go on holiday with you anyway - as we ourselves have discovered.

If your small daughters are pretty and look different to the locals, they do attract attention. I've noticed this in the past on our own holidays abroad. An example we had was in Turkey when our youngest was just 11. She was getting a lot of looks and friendly comments from some local men. It seemed innocent and I'm sure most of it was. I actually found the Turkish people very nice, but holiday places also attract different types of local people and foreigners. One guy serving us in a restaurant called my daughter a little princess and patted her head a lot. Another guy jokingly offered me a camel for her! I carefully avoided the quip I might have used at home that she was worth at least two camels. You must be careful in these places. The notion of us leaving her in the apartment without trusted adult supervision in these foreign holiday places would be beyond comprehension. I don't buy this checking her every 20 minutes idea. It's not remotely enough and 20 minutes is a very ill-defined term when you're chatting and having drinks.

Madeleine's parents will not read this article and even if they did I'm sure they already now know the lessons privately anyway. The media have - understandably I suppose - not made a major factor of the non supervision of the child in order not to hurt the parents more. This has the side effect however of almost implying this practise as acceptable. So if by speaking the raw truth I can somehow encourage anyone with small children to be very careful on holiday abroad - then it's worth me saying it.

I deeply hope for a good ending to this horrible episode and all other similar cases.


grannymar said...

John how I agree with you. I have avoided saying anything so far.

I consider parenthood as a privilage and have been heard to complain about latch-key children in the past.

I remember my husband saying to me during early pregnency "once this baby arrives we will not be able to run the roads" We didn't and never regretted it. Childhood passes as in the blink of an eye

I am now glad to have taken parenthood so seriously both at home and on holiday.

Twenty Major said...

Well said, John.

Dario Sanchez said...

It's a disgrace that shit like this can happen. I may not be a parent, but it's not so long ago I was a child, and the pain of separation from parents at that early age is pretty dman traumatic.

It's terrible that people could take a child for nefarious and frankly inhuman reasons ...

Omaniblog said...

Yes, well said. You have said it all, sensitively. Thanks.

John of Dublin said...

Thanks all for the comments.

I'm full of sympathy for the parents and child and all the evil is with the abductor. But it's also true that a moments carelessness can ruin the happiness of a lifetime.

John of Dublin said...

I notice that Martina Devlin speaks a huge amout of sense on this subject in todays Independent

I've an increasing respect for Martina as a writer.

Mary in Vancouver BC Canada said...

John, you write from a place of compassion.

I've come to realize that the: [product of love] (is=)[compassion]

I remember when I was a little girl of no more than 5 years old my parents loaded the kids into the little station wagon and went to Loblaws in Toronto, Canada.

They forgot to count heads before leaving and left with 4 children not 5. When I realized they had left I became terrified and started to walk down Yonge Street toward the grocery store some miles away.

It was not long before a police car came up beside me and a policeman was kind and gentle and did not place any more terror into this day than already existed.

With a five year old's direction and description of my family we were united fairly shortly after being found.

My point is that they let their guard down for one moment and this story could have had a very different outcome.

The McCanns did the same, they will forever live with this knowledge. Till Madeleine is found, I hope we can focus on her safe return. After will be the time to look at the cause, and the punishment if any. I now feel, like you the tragedy set in motion is we share their hope, sorrow, and potential joy when she is found.