Saturday, 1 July 2017

Dear Woman in the Park....

You will probably never read this and very likely have no idea how much danger you put my son in today through a simple act of thoughtlessness.  You could have cost him his life.  You could have changed ours forever.

Today was a sunny Saturday morning, after an hour at soft play, we arrived in Newport early for a chiropractors appointment so we decided to stop off in a children's play area in Water Lane.  My son spent some time on the seesaw, then he tried for the very first time to climb the monkey bars - he was wobbly and we were standing either side of him and watching very carefully for any missed handhold or footrest as we know his balance isn't great - but we wanted to encourage him to try.  He played with some of the spinning toys for a bit, went back to the seesaw and was generally having fun. From time to time, another parent and child came into the park and Adam generally ignored them.

Then you came into the park, I didn't notice if you had a child with you but I remember you were dressed in a pink jacket or top. Adam loves pink and, in his usual innocent way, he rushed over to you more than likely intending to point to your jacket and say, "pink!"  Instead, as you saw him approaching, you opened the gate and held it open for him to rush through and take off into the rest of the park.  

What in that moment were you thinking?! A small child is approaching me, I don't know him or his carers, but it must be ok not just to let him run out of the play area but to actively invite him to do so by holding open the gate.

What were you thinking as you saw this child legging it off into the park with two parents running after him, desperately shouting his name? What were you thinking when, without any apology or effort to check if things were ok, you just walked away?

I can tell you what I was thinking - will my hearing impaired child know that I am calling his name?  Will my autistic child know that mummy and daddy running after him, calling his name, means he should stop?  Will my visually impaired child be able to see the moving cars in the car park or on the road?  Will this moment be the one that defines the rest of our lives because we cannot catch him and he is approaching the road.  

Did you even notice that we kept running and calling his name but that the small boy didn't respond, didn't slow down, didn't stop? Did it even occur to you that something was wrong or that your actions were the reason for it?  Probably not because I would like to think you might have stopped, offered to help or even apologised if you had.

Maybe you might have seen two panicked parents chasing their son through the park, into the car park and grabbing him just inches before he ran into the road in front of an approaching car.

Maybe you might have noticed that the anger the little boys dad showed in speaking and signing, "stop!" and "naughty!" to his son actually covered a desperate fear.  Maybe you might have seen the boy start to sob as he finally realised something was wrong.

Maybe you might have seen the little boys mother falling to her knees and clinging to her son as they both cried.

Maybe you might have seen both parents shaking - visibly, all over - as they strapped their desperately vulnerable, disabled son into his special needs car seat because there, they knew he would be safe.

Maybe you might have seen them sitting in the front seat of their motability car with their heads in their hands, not speaking for a long moment before they were capable of driving safely.

Maybe you might have seen them entering the chiropractors with their son double strapped to his safety harness while his mother also clung to his hand.  Maybe that might have struck you as unusual.

Maybe you might have seen the receptionist noticing that both parents faces were dead white and that she offered them strong, sweet tea, realising something was very wrong, even if she didn't know what.

Maybe then you might have realised that holding open a gate, not just to allow, but to silently invite a child to leave a playpark was not only thoughtless but could have cost that child his life because you have no idea what sort of life he leads.

Thank goodness we caught him, thank goodness our son didn't run under the moving car and thank goodness he's currently napping beside me but it might not have been this way.  Today could so easily have turned out very differently indeed.

Dear Woman in the Park, I'd like to think you made a mistake, I doubt your actions were malicious but they were both thoughtless and dangerous.  So the next time a child approaches you in a playpark, before you open a gate to invite him through it....STOP and THINK about what the consequences might be. Look up, visually find the parents to check if it's ok, try to speak to the child or if you can't do any of these things, err on the side of caution and don't open the gate - please.