My community is grieving

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My heart goes out to my local community who is grief stricken after a horrendous accident this week.

Every parent’s worst fear became a reality this week when a young 10 year old boy was skateboarding on the road when a car driven by a P plater hit him.

After two days battling his injuries and multiple surgeries, the boy lost his struggle for life yesterday afternoon. His family has made the generous decision to donate his organs to help kids who are critically ill and as such his legacy will live on, although his life has ended too soon.

This boy is the same age as my son and I know at this age boys are fearless and don’t have very good road sense – twice yesterday my son walked behind a reversing car! I’m forever telling my kids to get off screens and be active outside, which is exactly what this boy was doing but in a horrific set of circumstances the inexperienced driver was unable to avoid hitting him – that’s not to say any driver may have been able to avoid the collision.

I can’t imagine the inexplicable grief this little boy’s family must be feeling. His young life cut short from an activity that boys everywhere do!

I also have a daughter a similar age to the driver, so I also have great empathy for this poor teenager who has to live with the guilt of being responsible for the 10 year old’s death. It’s scary when your child starts to drive independently as you no longer have any control over their safety.

We can’t wrap our kids in cotton wool, although after instances like this, we all wish we could. The purpose of this post is not to point the finger at anyone as being guilty, rather it is to reflect on how precious our kids are and how we have to live life to the fullest as none of us knows when our time will be up.

My sympathy goes out to everyone in my community who is grieving the loss of this little boy and I hope that the families of both this little boy and the driver are given support to help them cope with the unbearable stress they must be feeling.

(Image courtesy of stuart miles, freedigitalphotos.net)

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Stranger Danger

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The other afternoon my tween daughter walked to the local shops (about 300m from our home) with her cousin. It was just a fun little excursion to spend some pocket money on a chocolate bar after several days of exams! She normally takes her phone, she normally comes straight home and she is normally only gone about half an hour. As it started to rain and was beginning to get dark my panic level rose. She hadn’t taken a phone as she lost it a few weeks ago and her cousin doesn’t own a phone so I wasn’t able to contact either of them. Thinking my daughter may have gone to her cousin’s home I rang their home phone and it rang out, then I contacted my brother in law only to find out he and is wife weren’t at home. At this point real fear started to kick in. I walked to their house to see if there was anyone home. To my relief and simultaneous irritation my daughter and her cousin were home watching TV, totally oblivious to my concern.

As we made our way home I gave my daughter a stern talking to, telling her I was worried, as I didn’t know if she had come to any harm. Not half an hour later I saw a Facebook post about an incident the day before where two young girls had been approached by a stranger to hop in his car at the exact bus stop my kids’ use. Being topical, I thought it best to let my daughters know to be vigilant about keeping away from strangers given what had just occurred. I also thought it gave weight to my concerns that my daughter had felt were just me being over-protective.

Unfortunately the result from our discussion is that my tween daughter is now terrified of where we live. She is worried she will be abducted and wants to move house to a safe part of the world. What was meant to be a precaution has now turned into a real fear. If I had realized she would be so traumatized by the information, I would not have told her, but now the damage is done.

I had to explain that everywhere in the world there is a very small element of society where mentally ill people do things that are morally and legally wrong. We can’t live our life in fear of these people, we just need to be aware and not put ourselves in situations where we may come to harm. I also tried to put her mind at ease by asking how many times she and her friends had been abducted in her life – a grand total of zero! I also tried to appease her by telling her that due to the publicity this incident had received it is extremely unlikely that the perpetrator will attempt to do the same thing in the same place again.

I wish we lived in a world where kids could be free to roam and come home at sunset like we did as kids, but unfortunately that is not the case. I want my kids to grow in responsibility and freedom without having to wrap them in cotton wool, but more than that I want them to be safe. Kids need to know about ‘stranger danger’ without losing their sense of security. It’s a fine balance – one that at the moment in our household is tipped more towards fear than safety. I’m hoping as time passes, my daughter will feel a renewed sense of security and will live the carefree life of a tween, without worrying about being abducted. For my own peace of mind, we’ve replaced my daughter’s phone and stipulated that she is no longer to go for strolls to the shops without being able to contact me or vice versa.

I think the hardest struggle as a parent is walking the fine line between allowing your kids freedom and keeping them safe. If I had my time over again, I would still tell my daughter about the incident, but would be vague on the specifics so she wouldn’t realise it happened out the front of our house. Thankfully the kids who were approached knew the right thing to do and didn’t get in the man’s car to receive lollies. We can only educate our kids on what to do in this situation and then hope that no strange person preys on our innocent kids.

Have you had the ‘stranger danger’ talk with your kids?

(Photo courtesy of stock images, freedigitalphotos.net)

FIRST CAR

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Our eldest daughter is about to get her driver’s license and was less than impressed that we didn’t buy her a car for her seventeenth birthday, as many of her friend’s parents did. Although we can afford to buy a car for our daughter, we feel that it is more important that she learns a life lesson of earning money so she can appreciate the hard work that goes into paying for things. We also believe she needs to learn to save for a goal and in doing so hope that she will take better care of a car that she has had to work hard to earn. Kids need to learn that not everything in life will be handed to them on a silver platter!

We did however offer to match her dollar for dollar to help her save enough money to purchase a half decent car. Our bare minimum requirements for her car were that it had to have the safety features of ABS and airbags and that it mustn’t have an excessive amount of kilometers on the odometer.

Initially my daughter’s sole condition was that the car had to be black. After searching cars in her price range her criteria widened to become anything with wheels!

After a lot of searching, my husband located a car he felt fit the criteria (although silver not black). The owners were relocating overseas and were desperate to sell (always a good sign they are keen to negotiate!). When my husband and daughter saw the car in the flesh it was grubby but ran smoothly as it been serviced regularly. My husband made it his own little project to detail the car by washing, polishing and waxing the car until it looked as close to new as it ever will.

So now my daughter has a cute little silver hatchback car that gleams and she is beyond excited about being able to take advantage of the freedom that comes with owning a car. I just hope she will treat it with TLC and keep it shiny and clean.

(Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, freedigitialphotos.net)

FIRST DAY FAIL

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The kids went back to school this week after their long Summer break. The morning of the first day of school was a flurry of activity in our household, ensuring kids were wearing the correct uniform, had eaten breakfast and had packed their bags with all their labeled stationery, textbooks and workbooks.

As each of my kids backpacks seemed to weigh more than their body weight, I decided to drive my kids to school to help them get settled in their new classes.

As luck would have it, we arrived at school in torrential rain. Every other parent had managed to wrangle their kids into their car at the same time I had, so the traffic turning into our school snaked back a whole block. No parking spots were available once I actually reached the car park. After doing laps with increasing frustration, my eldest daughters opted to make a quick exit from the car to enter school. I barely managed to wish them well before the car door was slammed close and they ran through the pelting rain towards their classrooms and awaiting friends.

I finally managed to snag a parking spot and in torrential rain, tried to squeeze two children, 70 kilograms of textbooks and my oversized handbag under my compact umbrella.

We finally located the new classrooms, identified the new teachers and discovered which friends would be in this year’s class. Feeling relief that I had successfully managed (although somewhat saturated) to deliver my kids to school on time to start their new year of learning I left to consume a well-earned cup of coffee.

It was only later as I was idly scrolling through Facebook, that I noticed that I seemed to be the only parent that hadn’t memoralised the first day of school with a photo of my kids looking shiny and bright in their school uniforms. I was just glad to get all my kids the in car without a meltdown (mine not theirs) and then delivered to school on time, to even give a second thought to taking a photo.

I clearly missed the nostalgic photo opportunity clause in the parenting handbook. So my question to you is this – would it be weird if I took a day 3 photo? I mean what’s a few days between friends? I swear my kids haven’t grown in the last two days!

(Picture courtesy of digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net)

ROAD SAFETY

I will never forget the time I felt that I well and truly failed as a mother – it haunts me to this day.

When my daughter was a toddler I was standing at the side of the road chatting with another mother after collecting my eldest child from school. As we chatted my impatient toddler tugged on my hand whining that she wanted to go home. I offered her platitudes such as ‘soon Sweetheart,’ then returned to finishing my conversation. In a split second she yanked her hand out of mine and proceeded to run across the road towards our car.

In a high pitched scream I yelled her name. Thankfully she turned to look at me and in that instant an oncoming car slammed on their brakes and came to a halt with the side rear view mirror skimming past my daughter’s shoulder. Had my daughter not turned towards me and continued to run, she definitely would have been hit by that car. I have never felt such an array of conflicting emotions. I was simultaneously wracked with guilt by my lack of attention to her, angry at her for her reckless behaviour and overwhelmingly relieved that she wasn’t harmed. The ‘what ifs’ nagged at the back of mind for a long time. My momentary lapse in attention could have ended her life.

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I’m no stranger to the danger of children being hit by cars, as at the age of 6, I was struck by a car at a school crossing. Again a mother’s focus was distracted as she waved goodbye to her own children and in that instant her car hit me, sending me flying through the air. I was shocked but not badly hurt. My good old brown suitcase of a school bag (I swear it was fashionable back then), bore the brunt of the impact and was crushed, leaving me unharmed. At the time I recall being more distressed that my favourite book was trapped inside the suitcase than the reality of what may have occurred had I not been carrying that case. I was lucky to have not suffered broken bones or a head injury as I impacted the road.

Children are unpredictable and adults can be distracted, and this combination around roads can be fatal. Thankfully my personal experiences haven’t resulted in major injury or death, but they easily could have, had the circumstances been slightly different. 

After the incident with my daughter I bought a ‘monkey backpack/harness’ that I made her wear. I held her hand and didn’t lead her around like a puppy dog, but it gave me the backup of restraining her if she decided to spontaneously run off. I know plenty of people are opposed to children wearing harnesses, but give me a safe child in a harness any day over an unrestrained child in a morgue. It only takes a moment of distraction to result in catastrophic consequences.

My children are now older and have been taught road safety skills, but kids and cars don’t mix, so I still accompany them across the road every day from the school bus stop to home. As the saying goes, ‘It’s better to be safe than sorry.’

 

(Photo courtesy of antpkr, freedigitalphotos.net)

MOBILE

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I remember back to when my kids were just learning to walk. They would bump into things and were often covered in bruises. I wondered how I could keep them safe as they became mobile. Fast forward a few years and they learnt to ride a bike. I would run along behind them holding their bike seat as they wobbled, trying to get the knack of riding. They wore a helmet to protect them and I was there to grab hold of the bike if it careered towards a tree or pole. 

Now my eldest daughter has turned sixteen and has just got her learner’s permit to drive. Imagine the fear and worry you have over your child riding a bike for the first time and magnify it one hundred fold to feel what it is like to be the passenger in a car as your child takes to the roads for the first time. Easing the accelerator and brake on is a finely tuned art, as is turning on an indicator whilst preparing to turn a corner.

I must admit, I wasn’t the calmest of tutors when my voice rose an octave or two as I screamed at my daughter that when I say ‘stop’, I mean then and not as we are teetering on the edge of an embankment. I had to grab the wheel a few times to correct the car from being half up on the curb and half on the road. Furthermore, it took three attempts to park the car in the driveway (thankfully we were on a quiet one way street).

It seems that whatever stage your child is at in life, there are dangers lurking that can harm your child for the slightest error in judgement. The problem is now I’m literally along for the ride, holding my breath, hoping my daughter gets the knack of turning a corner without cutting it whilst also learning all those other fine skills that become second nature as we become experienced drivers.

I think back to the fear I had when she was learning to ride a bike and how she managed to master that without too many accidents. Now I hope wholeheartedly, like that learning process, she will soon be able to take to the road and drive safely, avoiding damage to herself, my car and of course, me!