The little boys were perhaps three and four years old. Sure of foot and determined to go their own way, they ran from the tarmac path towards the park’s playground. The sun was shining on a mild spring morning and the swings and slides of the playground seemed to exercise a magnetic pull on them.
The tranquility of the day was disturbed by the shouts of the woman with them. “Daniel, come here! Daniel, I said we weren’t going to the playground.”
The younger of the boys continued his run towards the gateway of the fence that enclosed the playground. The older boy, presumably Daniel, stopped and turned back to face the woman, who had not left the path.
“I told you that we were not going to the playground. I told you we could not go there until we found Hannah. We have lost Hannah and we need to find her.”
Walking on, thinking about the conversation, there was a sense of alarm.
Who was Hannah? Was she a sister of the boys? Was she an older sibling whose determination matched that of her younger brothers?
If Hannah had to be found, she could not be very old. Hannah was not thought to be someone who might find her own way to find the woman and the boys at the playground.
Was Hannah perhaps six or seven years old? Was she somewhere in the park by herself?
The woman and the boys set off in the direction from which I had come. Perhaps the woman knew where to find Hannah. Perhaps Hannah was not in the park at all. Perhaps the woman’s words were simply a ruse to persuade the boys not to delay at the playground. Perhaps the woman had other things to do and wanted to hurry them along.
Doing the shopping, reflecting on the encounter, there seemed two possible conclusions. One was that Hannah had actually been lost, but how careless does one have to be to lose a little girl in a park? The other conclusion was that Hannah was not lost but that the suggestion of their sister being lost was a way in which the woman controlled the behaviour of the boys. Neither of the conclusions suggested very good child caring skills.
The most alarming thought was that the woman might not have been the mother of the boys, but a child minder who had been entrusted with their care.
Imagine going to work and someone not knowing where your daughter had gone.