My heart recently skipped a beat as I watched in shock an online video showing kids younger than 10 years scuttling from end to end on the roof of a residential building over six floors high. I imagined what could go wrong if one of them missed a step; the image was horrifying.
As a father, I have seen how children, especially boys, can go overboard in their hunt for adventure, so such scenes hit home as I remembered an almost similar occurrence in my own backyard.
It was a warm Sunday afternoon when my son and I had just come back home from church when one of the kids he usually plays with came over and the duo immediately dove into their games.
Along the way the two slipped out of my sight and went unusually quiet, the calm that sends every parent scampering around in search of the ‘missing person.’ I was sure they had not walked out of the house so upon confirmation that all the rooms were empty, I was left with one place; the balcony.
My son's friend, let's call him Liam, was perched on top of the rails that surround the balcony, waving at an imaginary crowd below. My boy was slightly younger so I bet he lacked the experience or courage to join, or he tried but his then frail limbs failed him.
I froze for a minute or so before mustering the courage to tip-toe and grab the boy without making sighs that would have ticked him into a stupid move, then dragged both back into the house.
Frantic, I sat them down and yelled furiously about how dangerous that endeavour was, threatening to beat them silly if they dare try that risky game again. If that young had tumbled to his death from my balcony, I’d have had a never ending court case and neighbours that hate me.
I unceremoniously called off that day's play date, asking the friend to go back home until further notice. He walked out crying.
No sooner had I breathed a sigh of relief than my doorbell sounded. A light skinned woman with a burly figure stood at my door, arms akimbo, Liam clutched to her left leg with tears still rolling down his cheeks.
She had come to issue a stern warning against me raising my voice over her son because I had no moral authority to parent him on her behalf. That I should have walked to her house and reported the misdemeanour then let her scold the child.
I was also made aware that as a revered lawyer, she was considering suing me for crossing lines that should be respected. My attempts to explain that I did all that in a near death situation fell on deaf ears, maintaining that in law, which she practiced daily, testimonies of children always hold more water than those of adults.
So if her son claims that I mishandled him, then he would be believed by the courts. I mentioned scolding both, my own son included, and was told that if I raise mine like we are in a military camp, not all households do that.
In my little understanding of parenting, a child should be cautioned right when and where the mistake is so that he relates it to a wrong. This method of messing in Block Five and being warned about it in Block 10 did not make sense to me, but what did I know, I was staring a potential lawsuit in the eye for ‘parenting someone’s child.’
For a supposedly learned fellow, I felt let down that her love for the son had blinded rightful thinking as to realise that I have absolutely no reason to scream at someone's child, especially one who plays with my own.
And that is probably the folly of we modern day parents; we love our children so much that we see enemies in those who point out faults in them, even the glaring ones like walking on the roofs of high rise buildings or dangling on balconies like monkeys.
We have abandoned the days a child belonged to the community, where a stranger beat you on the road and dragged you home to your parents for further punishment.
That could also explain why a mature person, probably a parent too, chose to stand from a distance and record the video of minors toying with death without offering any substantial assistance.
We are only concerned about the welfare of our own children that we do not bother about the minor next, coupled with the existence of some parents who could pull a lawsuit threat on you for ‘intruding.’
I have since put an out of bounds on my balcony since that Sunday afternoon incident, but the image lingers in my mind to date.
For over a year now Liam has not come back to play with the friend, although they still live in the same estate; I guess he was told to avoid us because we are bad people.
The lawsuit too never materialized, hopefully because the woman realised she was being a buffoon and rescinded her decision.
I miss community parenting.