Some children have no chance
Last week I edited a story about a 13-year-old girl who attempted suicide because she felt hurt by the comments her alcoholic mother kept making because a relative took in the child. Prior to the so-called adoption the child slept wherever night caught her, even in the cemetery.
At thirteen, a child is just beginning to understand the vagaries of life; many have just entered secondary school and some are now gaining new friends having shed those from nursery and primary school.
For girls it is the time when they are still becoming adjusted to the physical and emotional changes, when suddenly boys are not the monsters they believed and when the various desires rear their heads. But for this 13-year-old, all that had passed and she was left to fend for herself.
Anyone with children knows that at that age the appetite is gargantuan. Boys in particular would eat their parents out of house and home. That is the age when they grow as rapidly as they ever would. Girls also eat a lot and their body begins to adopt the shape that would remain with them for their middle years.
This girl did not have the good fortune to fight the hunger pangs because there just was not enough for her to eat. She could not look forward to much because there was nothing and when a relative took her in to give her a chance her mother decided that this poor child was not keen on staying in the home among alcoholics because she wanted to “take man.”
The girl opted to end her life and it is this that caught my attention. Under normal conditions people are scared of death. I am tempted to say that they are mortally afraid of death; they would beg for their lives and would promise anything. I saw it.
One day the police caught up with a man who was brave enough when he had the upper hand against hapless people but when the police caught up with him he was all jelly. He thought that they would kill him and they might have had I not been there. I did hear one of the policemen say that someone was watching. One of them looked over and said, “Hey Adam.”
I can imagine the last moments of Fine Man and Skinny. When the police and the army, along with members of the so-called Phantoms, caught up with Shawn Brown and his brother-in-law in a house in Subryanville there were some girls there. I reported on a conversation with one of the girls when the men knew that they did not have long to live.
The brother-in-law had just been released from prison having served time for murder. When the police and army came for him he said to the girls, “Pray.” He was scared. He died.
I have heard the people heading to the gallows often had to be helped. They were too afraid of what lay at the end of the rope. But this girl seemed to have no such qualms or, it could have been that the frustration outweighed the fear of death.
I have children of my own and throughout my life I always had control. I could never imagine any child under my roof being out of the home after dark while they were still children. I could never bring myself to see them suffer and often while my friends partied I always weighed the cost of the alcohol against getting something for my children.
And so it is that I try to imagine parents leaving their children to their own wiles. I thought about this girl peddling her body to get food in this day and age when AIDS is rampant. Perhaps she cannot even read and write because I am certain that her parents never considered sending her to school.
Of course she has an 11-year-old sister who is already cohabiting with a 35-year-old man. Indeed I have met mothers who told their daughters who just reached puberty that they should go out and help themselves.
There was this mother whose 13-year-old daughter became pregnant and aborted the foetus in the school toilet. The mother claimed that the girl was “own way” (wayward) and would disappear at nights. That could not happen in my house. Parenting skills have all but disappeared.
It seems as though increasingly the government has to do more than it should. It is already trying to accommodate some 600 street children; it is trying with single-parent mothers and now it must deal with children who are so frustrated that they want to kill themselves.
I did meet a suicide candidate once and my simple message to him was that he need not hurry. He had the option to kill himself so all he had to do was wait; that there need not be any hurry. He apparently took my advice because seven years later he is still alive.
This girl had no one to talk to and today, to make matters worse, her alcoholic mother took her out of hospital. The mother is not going to change so there is every possibility that the girl is going to kill herself; unless there is some intervention.