Millions of people have been riveted by a trial involving an innocent child, a young mother, and her parents. There have been thousands of articles written about it, television cameras have captured the visual details, commentators have ranted about it, organizations and advocates are blogging about it, people clamored to witness the trial, and thousands have devoured every tidbit of information they can find on the Internet, television, and radio. If you live in the US, and probably some from other countries, you know what I’m talking about.
Can you imagine what life would be like if every child got even a fraction of attention this one child has gotten, unfortunately only after a tragedy? I find it troubling that we only care when there has been a tragedy. (I would be remiss if I did not also note here, that the race of the child involved also impacts the level of attention received. There will no doubt be blog posts on that in the future.) Then people are outraged, assigning blame, and asking why. As is often the case, people are quick to point fingers. The mother didn’t care about her child. The grandparents forced a young mother to keep a child she did not want and could not provide for. The ubiquitous ‘system’ should have protected the child.
It is not just tragedies that attract this kind of attention, although they tend to get more than other circumstances. I’m guessing that most people have at least a smidgen of knowledge about sets of quintuplets born in the last decade or two. And quadruplets probably get attention locally and maybe even at the state or regional level. Triplets are likely known by name in their communities. In the case of multiple births, the attention often comes with gifts from businesses and offers of assistance from persons and organizations in the community.
But what of the child next door? Or down the street? Or the cousin’s child? Do they get this kind of attention? Are their parents showered with gifts and offers of babysitting services, clothing, and toys? Maybe for a few days or weeks. But generally interest quickly wanes as people revert to their focus on their own family, home, and work or school.
Personally, I think the place to start is in our families and neighborhoods. When we, as a society, are interested in nurturing the children and families nearest to us, just maybe we will have fewer child tragedies. It will be a great day when all children play under the watchful and protective eye of not just their parent or guardian, but their friends, extended families, neighbors, and the larger community. One day maybe people will be obsessed with the safety and well-being of the children next door.