When Madeline McGann went missing I was furious. How could two well educated, to all intents and purposes, sensible people, think that it was OK to leave a 3 year old in a hotel bedroom on her own? I couldn't watch the news reports because I was so enraged with them. And then, something happened to me that changed my view. When I took my children to a swimming lesson one afternoon, I left the viewing gallery to get my youngest daughter changed. When I returned, my eldest daughter was nowhere to be seen. I panicked. Completely. The staff at the leisure centre were lovely and we combed the building until we found her. Her lesson had been moved to another pool, one that I couldn't see from the viewing gallery I was in. At that moment all of the anger I felt towards Madeline's parents dissipated. If they were going to spend the rest of their lives feeling what I had felt for only a few moments then who was I to judge them? Simply continuing to live was going to be a daily struggle for them.
For me, however, I still hadn't learned my lesson. A couple of nights ago my eldest daughter went home from school with a friend so that they could go to a halloween party together, organised by the local guide troop. I go trick or treating with my youngest, return home, thinking that I have two hours to wait until the party is over and I have to drive over and pick up my eldest. After about an hour at home I hear my phone ring. When I finally find it in the bottom of my bag, I have 5 missed calls from the school hosting the halloween party. I call them back and the security guard puts my daughter on the phone who relates,in a very subdued and upset voice, that the party is in fact next week and can I come and fetch her. Now, at this point I am imagining that my daughter is sat in a school she's never been to before, a 20 minute drive away, with a security guard. Hmmm. Blind panic ensues.
On the drive there, I am imagining the conversation I am going to have with the mum who dropped her off and left her there, and how I am going to have to try not to scream at her on the phone. I tell myself, it's not her fault, it's mine. I didn't hear my phone ringing. I should have had it close by me all the time.
When I finally arrive at the school, however, all is well. The guides were having their usual meeting so my daughter had simply sat watching their activities for the past hour whilst the security guard had tried, repeatedly to contact me. The other mum was blissfully unaware of any of this. Thank goodness I hadn't phoned her and ranted at her! The relief I felt was immense. I wanted to hold my daughter and never let her go. Needless to say, the mobile phone on the desk in front of me has not been out of my sight since.