Wed Oct 26 09:47:17 SAST 2016

no one to blame for boy's death

By unknown | Oct 23, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

I CANNOT imagine anything more frightening and disempowering than being a parent.

I CANNOT imagine anything more frightening and disempowering than being a parent.

As a non-parent I am in absolute awe of the women and men who bring precious lives into this chaotic world.

Every day I encounter parents who epitomise grace and integrity as they nurture and mould their offspring into model citizens who will in turn enrich humanity. I am in awe of them.

But how do you raise children without a dark cloud of fear looming large at every turn? This world is a very scary place, especially for children.

This week tragedy struck an Eldorado Park family. What was meant to be a typical lazy Sunday afternoon turned into a nightmare when eight-year-old Gregory Neethling drowned in the Klipspruit while playing with his friends.

He was found 150m away from the spot where rescue divers began looking for him. After several hours of searching for the boy, rescue teams were forced to call off their search shortly before midnight on Sunday due to bad light.

I cannot imagine how the hearts of the parents must have sunk to desperate lows when the search was called off.

Predictably, some pointed that all-too-righteous finger at the parents.

"Where were they; why were they not watching him; how could they let him out of their sight?"

Come on, let's be real. That's not how we do things in the township. Children are taught to be exuberant and carefree.

Little Gregory was doing what was typical of young boys in that area - ducking parents and putting their "little masculinity" to the ultimate test to see who could jump off the biggest rock, swim in the deepest part of the stream and catch the biggest fish.

The little boys were just playing and that is what children do in a normal society.

And the townships are as normal as any place. Children do not grow up with adults watching them like hawks or following their every move.

Apart from the basic rules about where not to go and who not to play with, the set-up in the township is the healthiest form of socialising children and teaching them to be a part of a community.

Being a couch potato and staring at the TV, computer or video game is not as exhilarating as running around, climbing trees and swimming in a river.

This is what the little boy used to do every weekend. How were his parents supposed to know that his passion for the outdoors would put an abrupt end to his short life? It is just not fair to blame them now.

I understand the anger of residents who say this death could have been prevented had the area been secured.

Many children have died in that river and they do not want any more deaths.

Obviously, safety must be our uppermost concern when we raise children but something tells me accidents will still happen.

The authorities can't fence off every single public area and parents cannot monitor their children 24 hours a day.

And how do you refuse a little boy the chance to go out and bask in this summer sun with other children? Children are adorable but devious little things - they always find a way of sneaking out.

So what do we do now? In our fear do we stop children from being children? Do we keep them indoors and watch their every move? It's not possible.

Nothing stops residents and local authorities from raising awareness and starting a dialogue with schools and churches in the area.

A message should be sent to children who want to play in the river that it is not safe to do so without supervision.

This will no doubt be cold comfort to the parents who have lost a son they describe as lovable but mischievous.

As tragic as this event is, it could have a positive impact and save the lives of other children.

But to say that the parents should have known better is really being cruel and inconsiderate.

This was an accident and no family should have to go through what the Neethlings are going through.


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