What happened to mother hens?

Tamsin Wort.

It was one of those unbearable hot Cape Town summer days when walking from the air-conditioned building to your car makes you sweat.

I was hot and bothered, so I popped over to Camps Bay beach to enjoy a little festive season heat along with everyone else on leave for the Christmas holidays.

It was lovely, after I eventually found a spot to lay my towel. The beach was filled with large families, kiddies running in and out of the water.

I wasted the afternoon away lying under an umbrella reading a novel and pretty soon it was time to pack up.

As I was gathering my belongings I became intrigued by a very large and noisy family beside me. There were lots of small children around them, including a toddler waddling around and playing in the sand.

Though the little boy stayed close to the family, he was wandering about on his own. I looked up at the woman I assumed was his mother and she was oblivious to her child steering further and further away from her.  

I shook my head and lifted my umbrella onto my shoulder, ready to go. But when I looked up, my eyes automatically searching for this little boy, I realised he was gone.

I immediately looked at his mother, but she hadn’t even noticed.

I scanned the beach, searching for him only to see him running towards the main road!

My heart jumped right out of my throat as I dropped my belongings and sprinted to the child. I grabbed him as he was following a couple who were about to cross the road.

I didn’t know whether to scream or to cry with relief.

I perched the naughty little bugger on my hip and strolled towards the family I’d seen him playing close to. I approached the woman I believed to be his mother and readied myself to give her a piece of my mind.

“Is this your child?” I very matter of factly asked her.

She looked at me and then at the baby, who was now playing with my sunglasses, in my arms. She was clearly confused.

She shook her head.

“No, this is not my child,” she said.

Now I was the one confused.

She shook her head again insisting that the child I was holding was not hers.

One of the kids standing next to her piped up that he’d seen the child playing with another boy who was sitting in front of us with another group.

“Oh,” I replied.

I apologised quickly and approached the other family.

They were lounging in the sun, chatting and laughing, completely unaware of my presence.

I stood on the outskirts of their picnic and cleared my throat to announce my arrival. The baby stopped playing with my sunglasses and started squealing, “Mama! Mama!” His mother looked up to find her child in my arms.

Needless to say, I was not impressed. I launched into lecture-mode and told her I found her child playing next to another family and (purposely) exaggerated when I explained how her child had almost run into the road.

She was dumb struck.

She grabbed her son out of my arms and started thanking me. She burst into tears, trying to hug me. But I was so angry I just stood there utterly disgusted.

What kind of mother loses sight of her child at the beach?

So many children go missing during the festive season every year. Last week an eight-year-old girl was washed off the rocks at Mouille Point on the Cape Peninsula, while two other little girls were taken from right outside their homes in Parkwood and Khayelitsha.

These moms agonise over their missing children, but how does a child just disappear in the first place?

We keep stressing that children should not be left unattended, yet almost every day I see a little one wandering around aimlessly, whether it be at the beach or in a shopping mall. It makes me incredibly sad.

We live in a society where a nine-month-old baby can be raped.

None of our children are safe.

Tamsin Wort is an Eyewitness News journalist.