I almost couldn’t read the story when I saw the headline: “A three-year-old boy has been found dead amongst the inflatables in a Queensland play centre.”
It is every parent’s worst fear. That million-to-one stroke of appalling bad luck. The death that happens on a normal day, when a family is doing something fun, in a place that is meant to be safe.
Hunter Young’s grandparents took him to Inflatable World in Toowoomba on Sunday as a treat. Soon afterwards, he was found unresponsive and suffering head injuries. He was given first aid and rushed to hospital, but on Monday, his parents made the heartbreaking decision to turn off his life support.
As a parent, you do everything you can to keep your child safe. You strap them into child safety seats in the car, you hold their hand as they cross the road, you put a helmet on them when they ride a bike, you take them to padded indoor play centres. But there are no guarantees. A random accident could steal them from you at any time. That is the fear that every parent has to live with.
Inflatable World. Image via Facebook.
Whenever a horrible, horrible tragedy like this happens, some people's first reaction is to blame the parents, or the grandparents, or whoever was looking after the child at the time. It has happened this time, with commentators on Inflatable World's Facebook page blaming the grandparents for not supervising the child.
"The relative should be charged with negligence causing death," one person posted.
I sit here wondering, perhaps, if blaming the parents or carers is the way some people deal with their own fear. "This only happened because the parents weren't doing the right thing," they tell themselves. "I always do the right thing, so it won't happen to me. I won't lose my child like that."
Well, it can happen to anyone. I have seen my children have accidents in playgrounds when I am standing a metre away from them, my attention fully on them. Children are unpredictable. Other people's children are even more unpredictable.
I remember the first time I took my daughter to an indoor play centre for a birthday party. Within a few minutes, she had disappeared from my sight, somewhere among the slippery dips and climbing equipment. I panicked. Had she fallen from a height and was lying unconscious somewhere? Had she slipped into a gap and been suffocated? Had she somehow escaped from the centre?
Of course, she was fine. I remember the other adults at the party laughing at my instinctual panic. We were in a safe place. I should just relax and let my daughter run off and have fun.
But no place is totally safe.
Hunter Young. Photo via Facebook.
This, to me, is the worst thing about being a parent. You cannot guarantee your child's safety. The stories I read of children dying in random accidents stick in my head. A child falls on the stairs at school and is fatally injured. A shelf falls on a little boy in his home, crushing him to death. A car veers onto the footpath and kills a young child walking next to his mother.
Your whole life can be destroyed, in an instant, by something totally out of your control. You are so vulnerable as a parent. That is the price you pay for having something as wonderful and beautiful and magical as a child in your life.
Right now my heart is full of grief for the parents and grandparents of Hunter Young. They did nothing wrong. They are the victims and we should all grieve for them without blame.
My heart is breaking for them.