My daughter spent her first day at the park last week.
Although it was from an Ergo carrier or behind the straps of a stroller, I think she enjoyed it.
I was glad to be there with friends, getting lost in the beauty of the day.
That is, until a mother’s cry brought me back to the jaded reality I had always known as a journalist.
She frantically yelled to us that her son ran across the park.
The panic kept her running, with her tears wiped away by the wind of each stride.
Within moments, parents, both new and experienced, banded together to find this child. Adult-sized sneakers, flats and flip-flops raced in the direction of every little boy with a red shirt, checking to see if it had Mickey Mouse on the front. Stroller wheels whipped fast on the same mission.
With each cry, I felt her pain.
And I knew every other parent did as well.
The pain in her voice echoed a fear of the danger that often lurks on a beautiful day — the dangers that can leave a child hurt, missing, or worse.
Luckily, that mother ran out of a mess of swings, slides and monkey bars holding her boy, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
Still, I don’t think it kept that lump from making its way down every throat — the kind that makes you swallow the thought that “that mother could have been me.”
I’m sure it also made parents like me, whose children weren’t walking, happy for the ability to keep those little hands and feet in our grasp.
And happy that they still like being there.
The whole experience scared me a bit, but it also taught me something: I will do anything to protect a child, especially my own.
Truthfully, I didn’t know I had it in me.
After all, I am my mother’s only child, and grew up being pretty selfish. I think I had to marry a man who was anything but, and suffer pains of pregnancy to learn that I was not the only person that mattered.
Now, with each day, I learn that the limits I will go to for my child go farther than I thought they did.
I learn that I will do whatever I can to keep her away from the kidnappers, abusers, and bullies of the world; and prevent them from making her a target.
And I learn that there are others willing to do the same.
There is power in those numbers.
Caring souls willing to do more than whisper are a force to be reckoned with.
And I love them.
They help me find moments in my jaded reality to simply enjoy the beauty of those days in the park.
I am passionate about doing what I can to protect children and prevent abuse year round. But April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
If you know or suspect any child you know is being abused, please report it to authorities.
And if you would like to know more about prevention, and how to do your part, check out the Child Welfare Information Gateway.