Georgina Guedes

There are more things under the sun...

2011-12-09 11:20

Georgina Guedes

As a parent, you literally make hundreds of decisions every day about the wellbeing of your child. Until you have become a parent, or I suppose taken up some sort of childcare profession, you actually can’t comprehend the intensity of this ongoing analysis and decision-making, but as soon as your baby is handed to you, the world becomes a very different place.

I am not a neurotic mother; I’ve seen other parents pale or twitch at some of the stuff we let our little girl get up to, but even though I am fairly relaxed, my head is filled with the knowledge of all the dangers that the world poses to her wellbeing. I’m convinced it’s something to do with the hormones released at birth – the moment they hand you your new baby, everything becomes terrifying.

What you do next is entirely up to you.

Yesterday, I went to visit a friend who doesn’t yet have children. Her porch door was open, so I immediately checked outside to see if her pool net was on. It wasn’t, we agreed to keep the door closed, knowing we would probably get caught up in chatter. I then quizzed her about any other doors that might be open in the house. She secured the front door, and we then got on with our visit. This is the FBI-like securing of any location I do every time I venture out with my children.

As a mother, I have made lots of decisions about my child’s physical and mental development. I have chosen not to let her play in a bouncer or a wheeled seat, as these are bad for their immature legs and stunt development. However, I do have friends who have chosen to use these items anyway, and although I disagree, I don’t feel that they are neglectful.

Being non-judgemental about other parents who are doing their best and making their own decisions in the framework of risk and possible outcomes is a hard task when your own decisions feel so right, and some of them extremely hard to come to. However, there are some instances of shocking parenting that are so inexcusable that no amount of rationalisation will save them. Those parents make my livid.

So, I read the story yesterday of a woman who left her two children in the sweltering heat in the back of her BMW in a parking lot in Vereeneging with no small amount of rage. After passersby noticed the children crying and called Netcare 911, the car window was broken and the children had to be taken to a hospital and given oxygen. The mother, upon her return, punched a police officer for breaking her car window.

First of all, everyone knows that it gets extremely hot in a parked car with no ventilation. Her children were six months old and just short of two, so not yet possessed of great reasoning or problem-solving abilities. She left them for more than half an hour in the sweltering heat while she went shopping.

As a mother of two children of similar ages, I know what challenges are presented by the need to get around quickly and easily. In fact, I’ve accepted that “quickly” and “easily” are not terms that apply to my ability to complete even the simplest of daily tasks. But no matter how inconvenient it may be to my plans, I would never leave a child in the car, even to dash to an ATM when the car is parked right beside it.

This woman also drives a BMW, so she should be able to afford help or access the internet to do her shopping online. If not, she doesn’t have her priorities straight. And while it’s not easy to manage two small children in a shopping centre, it is possible (I know). Nothing excuses what she did.

Never mind the fact that we live in South Africa where crime is a reality, and there are other risks to our children’s lives beyond just the sun. I’m glad this woman was arrested, and I hope that whatever happens next educates both her and anyone else who would be so stupid about the serious danger posed by their actions.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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