Yesterday I got back into the blog sphere and spent a little time having a look at blogs I always use to catch up on. I popped over to one, the lovely lady who started me on this blogging quest infact, BareNakedMummy or BNM for those in know and she has changed her blog to pink to reflect her thoughts and prayers for little April Jones.
This reminded me of a conversation I had with my 2 boys aged 6 and 8 (nearly 9).
I think of myself as a bit of a nightmare mother as I don't really ever let them out of my sight and when I do, I am very on edge and in reality I am spying on them. Its tough as I know I have to start giving Little Man some responsibility and independence but Mini Man thinks it is unfair his older brother gets it and he doesn't and at 6 he doesn't really understand the whole 'he is older than you' thing.
Since moving back up North and seeing some of my old friends with their kids and how much more relaxed they are, I am trying to make a conscious effort to not smother mine so much, for example, in the summer we took them to a local woods with the dogs which has a beck. My friend was happy for her 10 and 8 year old to walk down the 'secret' wooded path while we went the easy way down the side of the field. Although we were at the side of this secret path and could hear them, we couldn't see them and there was a fence or hedgerow between the wood and the field - they were literally only 10-15 feet away. I ended up letting my 2 run down this path as well but was on edge the whole way and breathed a sigh of relief when they appeared at the end. We then let them paddle in the beck and I couldn't rest when they disappeared round the bend, they can all swim but I wasn't happy and felt I needed to justify my need to follow them and be able to see them using my 6 year old as the excuse.
April going missing has just highlighted my reasons for my distrust. I use to work as a forensic scientist which is where my fear comes from in the first place. One of the reasons I left the job was due to its harrowing nature, and now I am thinking 'you know what, I don't care if people think I am neurotic, at least I know my kids are safe'.
I shudder though when I think what we have been drilling into the boys for years
'if you lose mummy and daddy and don't know where we are, you go into the nearest shop and to the lady behind the counter and say you have lost us, or if there is not a shop nearby, you find a mummy or daddy with children and tell them'.
And there is the scary part - 'a daddy with children'. Mark Bridger has children. He has children a similar age to April. His children were at the same school. He had been to parent's evening. He was known as a Dad by the other kids at the school.
I asked the boys at tea, the night Mark Bridger was arrested what they would do if they were out playing at someones house, and someone who they knew, like someone elses dad/uncle/someone they saw in the school playground/a neighbour turned up and said 'your mummy has asked me to pick you up as her car has broken down or she cant make it'.
Both boys thought quite hard and both said they would say No - but in reality would they?
We are now practising my mobile number nightly and have told them if that ever happened they must go into their friends house and tell the parent, or school office etc. They must also say they want the person to phone their mummy and the boys must speak to me - my phone is never off. If the person doesn't know my number then they definitely have not been sent by us.
Its so hard, you don't want to scare the living daylights out of your child or have them growing up scared of their own shadow but at the same time, how do you keep them safe?