Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Keeping Mum: The stuff of nightmares

L-R: Lillie, Jackson, Willsher Weekes. The two-year-old New Zealand triplets died in a fire in a Doha mall.Photo / Supplied
L-R: Lillie, Jackson, Willsher Weekes. The two-year-old New Zealand triplets died in a fire in a Doha mall.Photo / Supplied

Barely a week goes by in New Zealand without us having to relive the nightmare inflicted on one or other New Zealand toddler by those charged with looking after them.

This is a horrible reality for too many local children, as we all know, and I personally give Paula Bennett credit for at least having the guts to propose something different to what has come before. She has made bold steps in the right direction, and deserves credit for taking on the poisoned chalice of her portfolio, because that's what it is. No-one who is trying to help clean up the mess made in families by sadistic, wrecked human beings can ever get it completely right.

But for most people, including most parents - far from perfect, but striving to make our childrens' lives better - stories of of a toddler's liver and pancreas being split in two by a violent beating are simply the stuff of nightmares. Literal nightmares. I know these things exist and cry when I read about them, but feel utterly powerless to do anything about them. It soon becomes completely another world. I soon start turning the page when I come across these stories, because I can not process the information properly any more. It can not be reasoned away: there is no reason on this earth that any child should have to go through the violence that these kids do. No reason.

Unfortunately there are awful stories about children that creep through this self-imposed filter. They are equally as unjust as anything the beaten children endure but they are the types of things that could happen to anyone's children, whether they are loved and cared for properly or not. They show how capricious life can be and confirm all the cold sweats we put ourselves through as parents when we fret about keeping our children safe.

The first is the awful story out of New York about the nanny who stabbed her two young charges to death before turning the knife on herself.

Children from a loving home who, by all accounts, had been well cared for by that nanny for years, with little indication to the family at least that anything was amiss until this horrific, and completely irredeemable tragedy. There is nothing to take from this case in particular, as anyone can have the misfortune of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, when someone flips out. But it really is a scenario that will do little to quell the dormant - or not so dormant - anxieties of parents everywhere who leave their children with outside help for part of the day.

The other back in the headlines this week is the heart-wrenching story about the fire in a Doha mall that claimed the lives of New Zealand triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes. Here, a loving family entrusted their three beautiful children to the care of a daycare centre in a large, suburban mall, thinking like most of us do each day that such an activity is entirely safe. The children perished along with other kids and staff members as a result of mistakes in evacuating them during a fire.

Of course nothing will ever quell the complete and utter devastation these parents must feel at the loss of their children, but there is one thing we can do - as a nation - to try and get the parents a small amount of closure in the matter. The triplets' father Martin Weekes has asked the New Zealand Government, and John Key in particular, to pick up the phone and call country's head of state, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa Al Thani, and ask him to release information the government there has on the tragedy.

I think this is something that all of us can get behind, if only because as parents we would want exactly the same as the Weekes family if the unthinkable was ever to happen to our own children. Set against the vast injustice that the Weekes' have been subjected to, it is a small thing for our Prime Minister to do - and I hope he will.

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Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

Read more by Dita De Boni

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