Today I feel a darkness in spite of the blue sky and bright sunshine outside. My heart is broken for a family I don’t know. My stomach is sick for a father and child whose lives have been destroyed. I have wept for a mother on the other side of our beautiful country who has just suffered an unimaginable and unjustifiable loss.
When I first saw the Amber Alert, two days ago for little 2 year-old Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, it hit me hard. As a mother of a 2 year old and 3 year old, living just a couple of provinces away, this hit a little too close to home. I immediately empathized with this poor little girl’s mother and imagined the helplessness and panic that she must be feeling, the thoughts racing through her head and the desperation to find her baby. I pictured the vulnerability of this innocent, little girl and I was sickened thinking about the possibility of this happening to one of my own children. At this young age, children are completely dependent on their caregivers to keep them safe, to hold them close and to protect them from the evils of the world.
My son is 2 years old. He is just 4 months younger than Hailey. My daughter is 3 years old. She is just 7 months older than Hailey. They see joy and wonder in everything around them. I imagine that Hailey does too. Last night, my son was fascinated by a spider that crawled across his bedroom ceiling at bedtime. He giggled and called out “Hi Itsy Bitsy!” as he flipped through countless storybooks in the rocking chair in his room.
My 3 year old daughter picked a dandelion from the grass on the way up to the front door last night and proudly presented it to me, saying “Mommy, this is for you! Look at the beautiful flower! It’s so pretty!”
My kids love life and love people. All people. They wave and shout hello to complete strangers at the grocery store. They introduce themselves to the receptionist at the doctors office. They offer to share their snacks with the other kids at the park. They let the cashier at the pharmacy know that it is sunny outside so they are wearing sunscreen. They drop everything to run over and say hi to a puppy or a squirrel or a bird or a bee. They are innocent and pure and see the world and the people in it as beautiful. I would imagine that Hailey does too.
I cannot fathom my children being exposed to such evil. I also cannot understand how anyone could even think to hurt a child and take that purity and innocence away.
In our family and in our house, last night was a normal night. We had tacos for dinner, popsicles for dessert and we played in the living room until our 3 year old asked for “Blankie! Milk! Book! Snuggle!” in that exact order. (At which point we started our bedtime routine.) I kept finding myself thinking of Hailey, the little girl who is the same age as my little ones and is missing. I imagined her having a similar bedtime routine to my children, a favourite blanket, a favourite toy, a favourite book. I’m sure she is also wanting to snuggle with her Mommy and Daddy at the end of the day. I kept thinking to myself “Who would do this to her?” while praying for her to be returned safely.
I spent the evening watching my children play so innocently, singing songs, chattering back and forth, cuddling up on our bed after a warm bath to watch their favourite television show, completely oblivious to the evil that exists in our world and the monsters who walk among us. They have complete trust in this world. Rightfully so. They have no reason to worry. They are being protected and sheltered from harm without even realizing that harm exists.
As our 3 year old is getting more confident and finding her independence, I have found myself trying to teach her to be safe without scaring her by sharing too much of the dangers of this world. Just a couple of weeks ago, she ran off and hid from my husband and I at the mall. We found her within seconds (which felt like hours as my heart pounded in my chest fearing the worst.). Since this has been happening more and more often as she is becoming more independent, I quickly decided that it was time for a stern talk. I explained that if she runs away from Mommy and Daddy, Mommy and Daddy can’t see her and we won’t know where to find her. If we can’t see her, it will be harder for us to keep her safe. I explained that a stranger could come and take her away from us. The words seemed to just unravel out of my mouth, fueled by emotion, unsure of how to say what I needed to say while knowing that it was time for her to learn how to be safe in public places.
She immediately burst into tears as I finished and told me I had scared her and that she didn’t want to lose Mommy and Daddy. We exchanged big hugs and I held her tight, explaining that Mommy and Daddy would always keep her safe but that she had to listen and follow rules that will keep her safe too. I was so unsure as to whether or not I had done the right thing. My husband assured me that I had and that if understanding our reasoning for our rules helps her to follow them then it was worth it. I have still been torn on whether or not I handled it properly and if I was premature in breaking her innocence a little bit.
These are the normal fears and worries we have as parents. We do everything we can to keep our children safe while out in public places surrounded by crowds of strangers. We like to think that our homes and neighbourhoods are safe from harm. It’s hard to imagine the unimaginable. It’s hard to believe that there are people in this world who would enter a family home and hurt an innocent child. A child who I’m sure loves to cuddle in her pajamas, jump in puddles and play outside in the sunshine just like my little ones do.
As a mother, you worry about your children constantly. Are they eating enough? Are they sleeping enough? Are they brushing their teeth properly? Are they playing nicely at daycare? Are they getting enough attention and quality time with Mommy and Daddy?
We know that there are terrible things that happen in this world. We know that it is our duty to protect them. We know that we can only do our best to arm our little ones with enough knowledge to navigate this world as they become more independent. We prepare ourselves to teach our kids about ‘stranger danger,’ how to safely
cross the street and how to seek help if they find themselves in danger. We know that we can’t keep our little ones tucked under our wings in the security of our homes forever but we are going to hold them tight for as long as we can.
It is unfathomable to think of a child being taken from the comfort and safety of her home. It is so sad that her sense of security was violated; especially at such a young and vulnerable age. We should all feel safe and protected behind closed doors, inside of our homes. I am so sorry that this security was shattered for this sweet, little girl.
I had been hoping and praying for a positive outcome for little Hailey. I had been hoping that she wasn’t being harmed by her abductor. I had prayed that she would be reunited with her family soon. I hoped that she was young enough to recover from such a horrific and tragic event with minimal
psychological damage. I certainly was not expecting to read the news late last night and find out that her young, innocent and precious life had been taken. How devastating. How tragic. How unbelievably disgusting. I cried many tears for this poor little girl and prayed that she is resting peacefully in her father’s loving arms. No parent should ever lose a child. That is not the way it is supposed to work. Losing a child in such a gruesome and unfathomable way is an absolute living nightmare. I pray for Hailey’s mother and her family. May they find the support, strength and courage to make it through this tragedy. May they find justice. May they find peace.
For my children, last night was like any other night. Last night, I squeezed them extra tight and told them I loved them an extra 100 times. I forced my 2 year old son to let me kiss his forehead as he giggled and pushed my face away saying “No Mommy!” I kissed my 3 year old daughter’s cheeks as she slept and whispered “I love you!” into her ear. And, I triple-checked that our doors and windows were locked before going to bed myself.
Monsters walk among us. I am so sorry that life had to end the way that it did for little Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette. I am mourning the loss of such an innocent and young life. I am holding my own babies a little bit closer. This is such a devastating tragedy that took place in our own beautiful country.
Our world is a little less beautiful today. Life is short and unpredictable. Tell your friends you love them. Tell your family you love them. Offer a hug to those who need one. And, if you have children, be sure to hold those babies extra close today and everyday. I know I will be doing the same.
Rest peacefully Hailey. Fly with the angels, little one. Xo