I am reeling this evening. Not from toddler tantrums, not from the first day back at school. I have been on the edge of tears for much of the day, trying to keep my head focused on work and failing. None of my children are to blame. I’ve been crying for one small boy found lying face down on a beach in Turkey.
I know Aylan and his brother are the tip of the iceberg. I know this particular little boy, whose limp body we have seen all over today’s press, is just one of many thousands who have died this year. These other deaths have not been photographed and shared the world over, have not been the subject of an outpouring of public grief and outrage, but that doesn’t make them any less real. Aylan’s death would not be special in any way, apart from the fact that it has been seen. And, traumatic as it is, see it we must. We turn away far too often.
The political debate rages and those of us watching the unfolding crisis in horror do what pathetically little we can. We sign petitions, share stories and look up who we can send our donations to. But before that comes the gut wrenching emotional reaction to what we see.
I know my tears won’t help Aylan’s poor lifeless body, but I cannot get his image out of my head. You see, I have held my own tiny children in my arms. I know how it feels to have a little boy, to hold his hand and wipe his nose, to have his little legs wrapped around my torso, as I balance him on my hip. I know what a delight and a trouble he can be, what incredible energy he has, something us adults marvel over, wishing we could bottle it. To see all of that gone, nothing left but a tiny lifeless body, is almost beyond bearing.
I am, of course, thinking of my own little ones when I look at him. I am thinking of how soft their cheeks are, how infectious their laugh, how sharp their elbows are when they clamber over me. Maybe these things hit home harder when you are a parent of your own small children but I can’t imagine that anyone could look at that image and not think of other little ones they know. Aylan could be any of our children. We are just so incredibly bloody lucky that we live in a safe, affluent country. We are no more or less deserving of safety. It is just pure luck, that’s all.
Listening to the voice of the boys’ father on the radio – hearing how he struggled and failed to keep his family alive – I feel sick. To imagine being in that position is shocking and too horrific for words. We would all do everything we could to save our babies, even risk such incredibly dangerous journeys and slum conditions. Just think what they must be fleeing that is horrendous enough to force them to undertake such a migration with babes in arms.
But the cry that Britain is “too full” continues. The tone is slightly softer today perhaps, in the face of a wave of public opinion, but the answer is still that this is someone else’s problem. History will rightly judge our response harshly. Will this picture be a catalyst for the world to act? I am not hopeful. I have seen too much of the world to be hopeful.
Tonight, our house continues in it’s own little bubble of love and safety. It is full of the usual mayhem, always amplified on a work day, with all that catching up to be squeezed into just an hour or so. Snacks to be had, baths to be done. H gave me his report on his first day of school – it was awesome, apparently. M was full of the latest gossip from nursery and a tiny finger injury she had to show me ten times. My pudgy little T spouted general scribble and nonsense, as always. He was very proud of his newest word – popcorn – which he repeated endlessly.
I hurried them along when they were slowly munching snacks in front of the TV. I told them off when they squabbled in the bath. A standard night really. But I watched them with a shadow in the corner of my eye tonight.
They are my world, these three. One man’s world has gone dark today. I’m not religious but the saying “There but for the grace of God go I” says it all.
Tonight we cuddle perhaps just a little longer and harder than normal at bedtime, though they are in blissful ignorance as to why. And I am both deeply sad and thankful beyond measure.