This morning I was in the library browsing through the shelves, when I became aware of a small child calling ‘Mummy’ in an increasingly panicky tone of voice. It was a little girl, probably about 2 ½ or 3 years of age, and by the time I turned round, her eyes had filled with tears, and she was twisting her head this way and that, desperately shouting ‘Mummy’ at the top of her voice.
I went over to her, crouched down and asked if she would like me to help her find her Mummy. She nodded, still crying, and reached for my hand. I asked her name (Molly) and looked around, fully expecting to see a panicked mother appearing any second, searching for her daughter.
When, after half a minute or so, nobody had appeared, Molly and I went into the children’s part of the library where I was aware a mother and toddler session was taking place. It was quite busy, and Molly was still crying, so I stopped in the middle of the room and asked loudly ‘Does anybody know who this little girl belongs to, she’s lost her Mummy’.
General concern ensued, but nobody knew her, or whose child she was, so Molly and I returned, hand in hand, past an exit door directly onto the street, into the main part of the library. We looked around a bit more, but no sign of anybody who had lost a child. We went into the adjoining café, and I asked again loudly for Molly’s mother. No reply.
I crouched down again to comfort Molly, who was by this time sobbing quite loudly. To be honest, I was quite worried myself by this point that several minutes had gone by and nobody appeared to be looking for her.
I was at a bit of a loss what to do next, so headed for the main entrance of the library to speak to one of the staff. As we entered the main hallway, Molly broke away from me, shouted ‘Mummy’ and rushed over to the desk, where a couple (presumably her parents) were chatting away to the librarian. She grabbed hold of her mother’s leg, looked back at me, and the biggest smile came over her face – ‘Here’s my mummy’, she said to me.
Her mummy, completely oblivious, continued her conversation with the librarian.
I went over, tapped her on the shoulder, and said ‘Is Molly your little girl?’. ‘Yes’, she replied, looking a bit non-plussed. ‘Well, I’ve just spent the last few minutes looking round the library with her for you, because she was lost and crying’. ‘Oh, OK,’ the mother replied. Clearly not in the least interested.
So off I went.
But I can’t stop thinking about that little girl. I just know that, when William was that age, if he had disappeared from my sight for more than about 15 seconds in a public place, I would have been as terrified as he was. And I think most parents would be as well.
Had I not been me, had I been somebody who wished to cause harm to that child, I could have been out of the door with her trusting little hand in mine, away up the street, into the adjacent car park and into my car, before those parents had even realized that she was missing.
It’s food for thought, isn’t it?