Monday, May 21, 2012

Do not make light of your child's safety

RECENTLY, on my way to work in the morning, while waiting to make a U-turn at the underpass near the Abdullah Hukum LRT station, I noticed a little girl about 5 years old running along the skirting of the building.

Walking behind her was a woman, probably in her 30s. It could have been the girl's mother since there was no one else at the ground floor of the station.

The woman did not appear concerned over what the little girl was doing. She was so engrossed with something on her handphone that she was not even looking where she was going, let alone pay attention to the little girl who was a leap away from the rush-hour traffic.

The first thought that came to mind was the safety of the child. If something were to happen, there was no way her mother, who was at least 30 metres away, could do anything to save her.

My thoughts were not of the girl being abducted. I was thinking of the obvious dangers on the road that morning.

With the heavy traffic at the time, a dash onto the road could have spelt instant tragedy for the young child and her family. And who would be blamed then?

When a tragedy befalls a child, we read of parents rationalising the incident by accepting it as fate.

Society, in cushioning the impact of the grief and not wishing to add more pain, also absolves itself of the guilt. We should not blame the parents, they have suffered enough, we console them.

But why not, especially in obvious cases of sheer irresponsibility like what I saw that morning?

It was not the first time I had come across such acts of irresponsibility. I had seen many parents take their eyes off their children in shopping complexes and supermarket, areas they presume to be safe just because they had been there countless times.

God knows how many times I have heard the public address system announcing cases of young children who had "lost" their parents. Sometimes, there were several cases within the hour. In most cases, the parents get so engrossed in their shopping, they did not realise their children had wandered off.

Once, I happened to be at the information counter when a crying child was brought to there. Minutes after the announcement was made, a woman with the child's several older siblings in tow came to claim the 5-year-old boy. I asked the mother if she was not worried that the boy would be abducted.

The mother replied that her son was mischievous, and without even thinking, said: "Maybe it will teach him a lesson not to wander off next time."

I was speechless when I saw how she had justified her lack of attention, and irresponsibility. Indeed, if the child had truly gone missing, the lesson would have been hers to learn, and one probably too late to benefit from.

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