Marianna’s Blog; Keeping him safe

Making a safer world for kids and in particular my kid….

There is always a level of inner peace while my ten year old sleeps. Although tall for his age, in his dream state he is just a baby, all snuggled up and safe.

However while awake, similar to all parents of active pre-teen boys or girls, I struggle on a daily basis to get the balance right; the balance between keeping him safe and letting him develop his independence, explore his sense of adventure and to use up some of the never-ending energy that keeps him constantly on the move.

I strongly believe in an active lifestyle- he plays sports (predominantly soccer and cricket) and is encouraged to be outside. I detest seeing him inside moving from one screen to the next.

So although I am not convinced my approach is perfect, I see wisdom in prevention over cure and although I do not want him to feel that he is wrapped in cotton wool, stifled from experiencing life or fearful to try, I do believe education is the key to making the world a safer place for kids.  Why wouldn’t I arm him with knowledge on how to keep himself safe?  From the earliest age he has been shown how to cross a road, to look left and right and left again, to listen out for cars, to the point where it is now instinctual.  Not to run in car parks, to let a ball go without chasing it onto a road and to check the depth of water before he jumps in. To definitely climb a tree, but to look what is under and consider how high he should go.  He knows how to cook using a stove and an oven… the BBQ is next. The cooking still supervised for now, but practising every time for the day it isn’t.

He has bikes, scooters, a billycart-like contraption, but the rule is simple, no helmet equals no wheels.  Lastly, I try to stay vigilant and know where he is and what general activity he is up to.  At the end of the day, I am the adult, the parent and responsible to lead and guide where he is unsure or unaware.

So, will my approach work to make it a safer world for kids, and in particular my kid? Only time will tell, but I hope and think so.  I know a preventable accident can take split seconds to change lives and, by their very nature, were never meant to happen.  So I will keep teaching, showing and explaining so if one of those split seconds ever comes our way, he is prepared…….

Josie’s Blog: Justin’s Legacy

“So, how many kids do you have?” This time I’m asked in casual conversation by a friendly quasi ‘stranger’ sitting beside me in a seminar.

Do I lie? Do I tell the truth? Do they really want to know? I feel my throat swell up with emotion. I bite my lip so I can regain control. “I’ve had 4,” I decide, with a well rehearsed half smile.

“Wow 4!! How old are they?”

Ok, here we go again…….lie or the truth? “The eldest is 22, then 19 and 10,” I routinely reply.

I can hear the brain ticking, then a pause, followed by “and the 4th?”

“Well, he should be 15 ½ now but he died 12 years ago when he was 3.” Sometimes I cut to the chase and add, “He drowned in a neighbour’s swimming pool”- it saves a whole lot of time. Sometimes compassion pours out in a touch of my arm, a look saying ‘OH NO!’ on their face, the hand to the open mouth or an elongated sound of ‘aawwwwwww’ but more often than not I get an apology, the topic of conversation quickly changes and a sudden departure.

I remember the days when I was one of them. I belonged in a world of protection and safety, of security and comfort, of naivety, in a world which was seemingly unshakable. Yes, those were the blissful days of sweet ignorance.

My reality today is I’m lonely and alone with the memories of the nightmarish events of 14thJanuary 2000, the day my life changed forever. That damn pool gate was propped open with a volcanic garden rock!! What? Why? How could they? Such a preventable death of an innocent, spunky, lively, spirited little boy!  MY BOY!!!

And then………..

The rage

The blame

The hatred

The aftermath

The injustice

The collapse of a perfectly happy family  

The desperation

The finality

The loss

The depression

The sense of failure

The hopelessness

The torment

The head, the heart, the body aching

And I could go on about how dreadful, painful and inescapable, the tragic  grief was that followed Justin’s death… But I won’t, because when I couldn’t continue on like this anymore I I used every ounce of energy I had to make sure no other child in Victoria would ever drown needlessly again! I said NO – IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE THAT IT IS NOT AGAINST THE LAW TO PROP THE POOL GATE OPEN!!!  It took 3 long years but I did it… in Justin’s honour- I changed the law.

If I’ve learnt only one thing out of the terribly devastating experience of burying my son Justin, it’s that we (Justin and I) can make a difference. If I can educate parents to prevent even one more child drowning, then Justin is still alive with me in my mission, and his legacy.

And if you’ve learnt only one thing from this story it’s never, ever prop your pool gate open with anything- not a chair, not a rock, not a brick- nothing. The pool gate is MEANT to automatically shut behind you to ‘MAKE A SAFER WORLD FOR KIDS.’ I urge you to help Justin and I spread this message….

Sarah’s Blog: Our Newborn…

Sarah talks about her exciting but overwhelming experience preparing for the arrival of her first child…

When I first announced to friends and family that we were expecting our first child, everyone spoke glowingly of parenthood. They described the joy, the happiness, and the unconditional love for your new baby. Some, for whom the experience was quite recent, might mention the sleep deprivation, or the challenges of adjusting your lifestyle. So far, nothing we hadn’t expected. However as I look back, they all failed to mention one thing – the overwhelming sense of responsibility, some may even go as far as saying the fear, that comes with knowing that your baby’s whole livelihood comes down to you.

Every mother I know wants the best for their child, and safety is, of course, the number one priority. But when it comes to setting up for the new arrival, the wealth of information, and in some cases the strength of the marketing, can make it easy to second guess decisions. When purchasing the mountain of baby gear required, is price the best indicator? Opinions of the experts? Reviews online? Friends’ recommendations? Products endorsed by doctors, nurses, paediatricians?

For me, the anxiety started creeping in before my daughter even arrived. We hit the shops with the standard list; cot, change table, car seat, pram, etc. The list was long, so we decided to ease our way into it and start small; baby monitor.

Should be easy. Not so.

Would you like a motion detector? Camera? What about a night light? Music? Two-way microphone? How many handsets? Will the transmission frequency be secure? We knew then that we were in trouble. To make our decision, I canvassed everyone I knew, and spent more time than I like to admit Googling ‘baby monitor’. But I was still confused. And we hadn’t even gotten to the big stuff.

As it turned out, in most cases ‘the big stuff’ was more straightforward with the help of standards and regulations.  Knowing that what we were buying had a seal of approval from people far more experienced than us took the burden away and gave us assurance that we were in safe hands. And where these weren’t available, for example in the case of our baby monitor search, it was simply a case of researching as best we could, and applying a little common sense.

At the end of our shopping spree, we learnt a valuable lesson. Being a parent is scary. There is a lot of information out there, and if you allow yourself, it can become overwhelming. We know that throughout our daughter’s life, I’m sure we will come across this realization many times over, but by seeking out the right information and screening out the noise, we’ll be able to ensure we’re doing the best thing for our family, and helping make a safer world for our kids.