Reading a copy of Metro, London's free newspaper last week, I found some letters written by Metro readers that criticised Gerry and Kate McCann for leaving their children in a Portuguese holiday resort room alone whilst dining out. One of the writers was particularly appalled to note that they were able to risk their children 'for the sake of a meal'.
For me, that letter struck a terrible cord. It could have been me facing such criticism. On the 10th of April, my 11-day old son and his mother were admitted into Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich for two days. What had been a quick dash to the hospital to check out the little boy turned into a 2 day stay in hospital. My wife was admitted in a separate ward from my son, I therefore had to stay with him. At one point I was starving so much I asked one of the nurses if I could get some food. She said I could go and buy some, but the hospital could not give me food.
I told her I did not feel comfortable leaving my boy alone in the room and she promised to stay there with him.
"If you are going to leave this room for anything at all, tell me now and I forget this food." I said.
But she promised to stay with the boy.
I went out and bought some food and it took me about 20 minutes in total to get back. I walked through all the receptions, even those I had not gone through on my way out, and not at any one point did anybody challenge me or ask me where I was going. I got to the Safari Ward room where my son was and was shocked to find him alone. I sat down and ate my food and when I was nearly finished with the meal the nurse came back. I was upset. I told her that the way I had walked in from the restaurant to the room unchallenged, just anybody could have done that, and worse still, could have stolen the little boy. She did not get my point, instead she repeated like a radio, "You are quite welcome to make a report if you are unhappy."
Well I give thanks to God that nothing terrible happened that day, because surely somebody would have said, 'for the sake of a meal'....
It is a terrible time for Gerry and Kate McCann and we do not want to make them feel worse by making them feel bad about the poor decision to leave their kids alone and go have a meal. If we have to be honest, it was a very poor decision. The priority now is to find the little girl. There will be lots of time to criticise her parents. I am a new parent, and even an unexplained cry from my boy turns my world on its head. I therefore emphatise with the McCanns. They must be in some kind of hell that words cannot describe.
All we can do is pray for the safe return of Madeleine and also hope that this serves an important notice to all parents; if you take your children on holiday, don't treat them like an inconvenience, like some nasty, noisy tag-alongs that will interfere with the fulness of your enjoyment of your holiday. Take them with you everywhere, but if you cannot take them for any reason, make sure you find someone to watch them. If you must eat out, take them with you, but better order room service if it is too late for the kids to stay out.