Had my heart broken again this week. A young mother ‘lost it’ and hurt her child, finally dropping the 3-year-old girl off a 3rd floor balcony in a nearby apartment complex. The child didn’t die but was severely wounded by both the fall and what preceded the fall. She is currently in the Medical University Hospital in acute care and the mother is in jail. Merry Christmas. There have been all kinds of reactions to this news, as there invariably are. But my first thought is, if there had been someone to help, someone to call when the mother’s tension was escalating, maybe this could have been prevented.
I know from first hand experience that children can be overwhelming. There has been more than one occasion in my life as a parent, where I was overwhelmed and lost control. Luckily for me, I had a great support system: a husband/partner, friends and relatives I could call. My stepmother laughs over the many times she helped me hold it together long distance. And my own daughter tells me I frequently threatened to flush one or both of my children down the toilet or ship them in a box to their grandparents. Then I’d call my dad or stepmother and tell them to be on the lookout for a big box with air holes! But I didn’t do any of those things. Not because I’m such a wonderful person all by myself, but because there was a system to support me.
There needs to be a system. A few years ago another young mother in my community was giving her 1 and 3 year old a bath when the bus arrived depositing her 4 year old from preschool. She left the little ones in the tub to go out front and meet the daughter, but when she returned the 1-year-old had drowned. She was arrested. The community lambasted her. The police reported that her house was dirty, other folk said she didn’t deserve to be a parent. I don’t know this woman personally. But I can only imagine how challenging it was to have 3 children under 5. There were times my own house might have been shut down by DHEC for the piles of laundry and the other things I didn’t get to while just keeping up with two children. And I had help. I thought, “If only there had been someone she could have called to meet the baby at the bus stop.”
So this is the challenge: How can we support each other? How can we be there when a parent needs a minute to breathe, regroup, or meet the bus? There must be a way. I am committed to finding a way to help in my own community. There are so many people who retire to this community for the climate and the beauty. There must be a way that those of us who care can be available for those of us who need it. Not just at Christmas but all year long.