Precious Cargo

Posted on 05 August 2010


As precious gifts, children are meant to be cherished.  Innocent human beings, they look to their elders for life’s basic necessities and, just as importantly, guidance, love, and protection.  These truths should be obvious.  It boggles my mind, then, when I witness mindless acts that place little ones in danger.


Driving down a busy commercial street the other day, I yielded to jaywalkers.  The ones I truly wanted to throttle darted across the street encumbered by baby strollers and dragging toddlers by the hand.  Were their errands vital enough to put the children’s lives in jeopardy?  Most drivers strive to be vigilant, but accidents do happen, particularly when thoughtless parents and guardians facilitate them.  It takes a few extra minutes to wait at the crosswalk while the traffic light changes, but those minutes can mean life or death.


There are times when those behind the wheel are at fault; drunken drivers fall into this category.  Three sheets to the wind, DWIs rarely seem to injure themselves.  As police reports nationwide attest, the drunks usually maim or kill those who are blameless.  Kids riding along with inebriated adults are at risk, and so are those in other cars.  I was once acquainted with a woman I thought to be a bit slow.  She was a very nice lady, but I sensed that there was something not quite right about her.  A few weeks after our first meeting, her niece informed me that the woman’s entire family had been riding in their car, obeying the rules of the road, when a drunk driver struck them.  The woman and her husband survived, but her father and two little boys — her only children — were killed.  What a terrible heartache to bear!


Alcohol is not the only addiction plaguing youngsters.  Drug users have been known to keep their stashes where curious young hands can get to them, resulting in irreparable damage and even death. 


And let’s not forget people who leave their children unattended in public places.  Where I work, I often see customers who dash from their cars and into the store, leaving their children behind to make a quick purchase.  Their frantic glances through the store window are not enough to ensure the children’s safety. It’s an inconvenience to remove the little ones from their car seats and secure them again. But it’s better to be inconvenienced than to lose a child to a kidnapper, child molester, or murderer.


A woman I know was once vacationing at the shore with her family.  She had fallen asleep under her umbrella, as had her family.  As the others slept on, she suddenly awakened with a strange, urgent feeling.  The moment that she sat up, a little boy about three years old passed her, carrying a child’s surfboard and heading straight for the ocean.  No adult was following him.


She took after the boy as he toddled on relentlessly, catching up with the child just as he put his board into the water.  Unable to swim, she prayed to find the right words that would bring the boy back onto the sand.  Thankfully, her prayers were answered.  She had planned to alert the police once the child was safe with her family.  But just a few steps before her beach blanket, an angry man appeared, barking at the child — as if it were his fault — “So there you are!”  Cautiously, the woman asked the little boy, “Do you know this man?” “Daddy,” he said, and walked off with the man.  Badly shaken, the lady wondered what may have befallen the little boy had she not been a good person.


Those of us who have fond memories of our childhoods may not be fully aware of the dangers that lie in wait for our children.  In days gone by, parents thought nothing of allowing their children to stay out late, particularly on summer nights, riding bikes and catching fireflies with their friends.  Neighbors once knew each other, communicating frequently and keeping a watchful eye on for each other’s children. Now we live at a frantic pace, in a world that has necessitated the passage of Megan’s Law and the institution of Amber Alerts.


If you are a parent or guardian, teach your children not to approach strangers, no matter how sweet their bribes may be (i.e., promises of candy or a lost puppy that needs to be found). And don’t make assumptions that routine situations are necessarily safe.


For instance, don’t allow a child visit a public restroom alone.  Predators armed with changes of clothing and scissors to cut hair can quickly alter a child’s appearance in order to spirit him or her away.  Young children cannot fend off adults intend upon snatching them and doing them harm.


Strangers are not the only threat.  Before giving your children permission to play at a friend’s house, get to know the friend’s parents.  Be sure that they are aware your child will be visiting or spending the night.  Most importantly, feel the parents out to get a sense of their character.  You don’t want your children in a home where drugs, alcohol, and/or guns are accessible. 


If someone else takes your child to the beach, remember the incident that I just related about the woman and the little boy.  Make sure that lifeguards are on duty, that the adults know how to swim, and that they don’t take chances when the tide comes in.  Water safety extends to the home.  Baths for young children should be supervised at all times.  Don’t leave a child in the tub alone, for it only takes a minute to drown in a few inches of water.


Also, be sensible in terms of your selection of toys, games, and general recreation.  As much as a child may desire a toy or wish to engage in a pastime, veto it if it is dangerous or inappropriate. Establishing and enforcing rules for your child’s protection is a key element in good parenting.  Scrapes and cuts are the byproducts of a normal childhood spent exploring the world; everyday accidents are often inevitable.  But, with caution and common sense, terrible tragedies can be avoided. 





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