It’s Sunday afternoon and I’ve just poured my second cup of tea. My little girl is upstairs sleeping and I finally have time to read the news. During the work week, I handle digital content for a handful of clients and after months curating content for an NGO that specializes in inter-ethnic conflict, I’m fairly up to speed with the latest news and international headlines. Prepping myself for another glimpse into the ongoing refugee crisis or the latest suicide bombing, I just didn’t see this coming.
Child Sex Scandal in Pakistan
Flashing across my news feed was the headline: “Pakistan stumbles upon its ‘biggest’ child sex scandal”, the latest post from Al-Jazeera.
After having a mini melt-down two nights ago after reading an article about a series of child killings in Pakistan, I was hesitant to click into the article, but old habits are hard to kick and I stand by the fact that it’s far better to be in the know. I might have been wrong. My heart sinks as I read:
“Shock and anger as police discovers 400 video recordings of more than 280 children being forced to have sex in Punjab.”
Innocent. Vulnerable. Scared. Abused. Hurt. Helpless. Poor. Suffering. Alone. These words flash through my head as the words “abuse” and “child” embed themselves in my subconscious. “How can they…? Who would…? Those poor…” My brain wants to find words to express the feeling of heaviness that has set in. Like a rock being placed at the bottom of my stomach, making it harder and hard to breathe. But I quickly realize that it’s not the usual empathy I have for vulnerable groups of people. This feeling that is beyond disgust. This desire to lash out that goes beyond revenge. This is happening because I’m a mother.
Aspiring Development Worker Turns Mother
I wanted to work with refugees. I always thought I’d end up working in a refugee camp somewhere as a project officer, ideally with the UNHCR, but I wouldn’t be picky. The end goal was to make a difference and who needed more help that those forced to leave their home for a multitude of reasons. But today, as I sit comfortably in my big house, out of which I work, in the pleasant suburbs of one of the world’s most livable cities, I realize that who I was before having my daughter is gone. At least that part. Because now I’m a mom. And now, every child could be mine.
The toddler who froze to death in Toronto after leaving the apartment unsupervised. The child tortured in Pakistan. The girls abused and impregnated by extremists in Nigeria. They are all mine. They are all children. I can’t stomach it. No one can. It doesn’t take a mother to condemn these type of acts. It takes a human being. But for a mother, every headline is another stone added to the pile, turning you into a heap of bodily ruin as your head slowly catches up and arrives at the realization that this world simply isn’t safe enough to protect your most prized possession. And even then, they’re only yours for so long until they’re released into the world to fend for themselves. No, it’s too much. How can kids be kids in a world where people abuse them and trade them and sell them, and… and… and.
Kids are Just Kids
One of the biggest takeaways from my time as a project volunteer in Tanzania was the idea that kids, wherever they are in
the world, are just kids. They want to be loved. They want to play. The want to learn. And they all believe in the good of people, before that’s destroyed. If they’re lucky, that belief is nurtured as they grow into loving, caring adults who understand the benefits of kindness and compassion. If however, that bubble is broken, they will never get that back. Wounds can heal, but innocence is lost, and it cannot be restored.
What I want more than anything for my daughter is health, love and a sense of wonder that lasts far beyond her childhood years. But that’s because she’ll grow up with financial security and a group of people willing to go to bat for her at a moment’s notice. To wrap my head around the fact that some children have nothing; nobody, no money and no security, is devastating. It’s heart-breaking. And it’s the sad reality for millions of children around the world.
And what can we do? We can donate to the organizations working on behalf of children around the world so that they may have a voice: War Child, Free the Children, Save the Children or UNICEF to name a few. And after our donation has processed, we can watch the news, wipe our tears and hug our kids.
My own daughter just woke up from her nap, surrounded by toys, fresh blankets and music to help her feel safe and sound as she drifts quietly off to sleep. And while my gut is still churning, I try to forget. For now, those dangers can’t exist. The horrors can’t take place. No child can be the victim of such wickedness. For that world cannot co-exist with the one I strive to shape for my baby girl. In this moment, the world needs to be butterflies, princesses, possibilities and dreams come true. At least until the night falls and my child is sleeping soundly once again.