If you had asked a mom-to-be a few decades ago what her biggest fear was about becoming a mother, the answer would have been related to sleepless nights, breastfeeding or cleaning poop. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? Who isn’t concerned about whether they will be able to get a full night’s sleep till their child turns 18? Fast-forward a few decades to the world we live in today and if we ask a mom-to-be the same question, chances of her biggest fear being related to her child’s safety will probably be very high.
What is our role as a parent in ensuring the safety of our children? Safety begins at home; I am sure this is something that we can all agree on. There is only so much that we can expect other caregivers, schools etc. to take responsibility for. The primary responsibility of their safety is very much under our control. There are situations where sometimes their safety is not under our control but we need to do the best we can. We are all aware of the various incidents that have taken place in schools across India, the most recent being at a school in Delhi where a Class 2 boy was the victim. I don’t think I need to go into the details because they were splashed all over the news and internet. However morbid and outrageous these crimes may be, each one teaches us a lesson.
One of the first things I looked at while selecting a school for my elder son was the safety aspect. For me, a good education and other factors play second fiddle. Most schools have CCTV cameras to monitor the halls and classrooms. However, is that enough? It is important to also evaluate how vigilant the faculty members and helpers are. I am sure all schools have safety guidelines or laws by which they are supposed to abide by. For example, my elder son’s school insists on only the parents coming to pick up the children when school lets out. In the event of another family member or caregiver picking up the child, one of the parents is expected to send an email the day before with the name and photograph of the person. Without any confirmation from the parents, the teachers do not let the child out of the gate with anyone. This was something that immediately made me realise that my child would be in excellent and more importantly, safe hands. I have personally seen this precaution be put into practice. I was also comforted by the fact that I did not see many men entering and leaving the school building. Whether your child is a boy or a girl, the safety precautions to be taken remain the same. Gone are the days where boys were believed to be safer than girls; recent incidents in schools have proven that. Now where does our role come in?
Growing up, there wasn’t a day when my parents sent my sisters or me to school with the driver alone or with a caregiver who hadn’t worked with us long. There were a few months where we were sent to school in the school bus. I remember my mother doing a full background check on the bus driver before we even set foot in the bus. Did it take time? Yes. Was it a tedious process? Of course. But it was ultimately worth it. A parent’s worry and concern can never be questioned because it is in the best interest of the child. Trust is a funny thing. You may trust a person to do many things for you but no one other than immediate family or a baby-sitter who is considered family, will ever be good enough to take care of your child. That is just how parents are wired. Not everyone has the privilege of having immediate family in the same city to take care of their children, so they turn to others. I attended a Child Abuse Awareness workshop in Chennai recently which opened my eyes to so many issues that I had never deemed important. The speaker talked about establishing certain ‘trusted people’ for our children. They can be grandparents, baby-sitters, aunts, uncles and so on but the list should not be an endless one. A good idea would be to have these trusted people drop and pick-up your child from school if you are unable to. This is not to say that every person who is not a part of the ‘trusted people’ list is set out to harm your child. Someone once told me that you can never trust anyone but yourself whole-heartedly. Unfortunately, it would be impossible to live life without considering others as trust-worthy. However, we need to pick and choose the people we trust our children with. Problems arise when young children are sent to school with drivers alone and no other supervision. Drivers often do not make the trusted people list. My belief has always been to avoid an unfavourable situation completely rather than trying to salvage it once it occurs.
You know what they say – reality is a b****. I am not being an alarmist and trying to scare you all but we do have to be pragmatic. We always think “it could never happen to us.” I know I always did. But each passing year has made me not only older but wiser. As my elder son is only 3 years old, I prefer to drop or pick him up myself or else have an immediate family member do it. I also wait and watch to make sure he enters the school building before I walk away. My son is a car buff so it is very easy for him to turn around and get into anyone’s car if they try tempting him with candy. After all, which child doesn't love candy! So, we have cautioned him not to get into any stranger’s car unless his parents are with him. Direct questioning never works with young children so during his and my playtime, I try and get some information out of him about how school was that day. The replies often give you a good sense of whether your child had a good day and more importantly a safe day. Feelings of insecurity and fear become evident in the way your child plays and in his/her actions.
Every parent has their own set of measures to ensure their child's safety; you have now read some of mine. I would love to hear from you all on what yours are.
Hi! I'm Antara and I was once a 'let's get the party started, consume a bottle of Rose Champagne on the weekend' kind of girl. Now at 33 and a mom of a teddy bear looking 2 year old boy (with another little bundle on the way), I am still that 'let's get the party started, consume a bottle of Rose Champagne on the weekend kind of girl.'