Column: No child should be left to wander off un-noticed

A snapshot into other people’s lives can be troubling

What chance does a kid have when they are surrounded by adults who don’t care?

They may well be loved, but if they aren’t nurtured, and there are no parameters, the result can be lifelong damage.

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Criticising someone’s parenting skills – or, lack of them – is fraught with danger.

You get a split second snapshot into someone’s life as they try to cope with a toddler having a meltdown in public, and make instant assumptions as you weigh up how you’d handle it all quite impeccably. You forget how incredibly hard and exhausting parenting is. Children can, and do, push your buttons and take you to the very limits of your patience.

But then there are moments which just take your breath away, and leave you hoping that what you saw was just a one-off, even when your guts tells you otherwise.

Portobello beach is one of my favourite places in the world. I spent a huge chunk of my childhood playing on it, diving in and out of the arcades, and jumping into the streams which you can find running under the Prom.

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Last week it was heaving with folk soaking up the blistering sun.

Just next to the wall, a wee boy had boredom written all over his screwed up face.

He threw sand into the air, and the wind carried it into folks’ ice cream. He got no response so, like any wee boy, he tried eating it. Still, nothing,So, he shoved his sister who was all of five years old.

She turned round and kicked him – hard. Her mum responded by grabbing her and throwing her into the sand with a few swear words of warning.

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The wee girl wore her anger the way a youth carries a switchblade, turned round and simply drop kicked the wee boy. The moment he got up, she grabbed him head high and threw him down into the sand.

And so it went on.

One of the mums sitting on the wall pointed and yelled “bully! bully!” and then hurled a few F-bombs at the wee girl.

The girl went looking for the wee boy, threw him around like a rag-doll, and it took two other bairns – all of maybe four years old – to instinctively rush to comfort him. The wee girl then simply wandered off along the Prom. Not one of the adults reacted as she was engulfed by a busy crowd.

Thankfully she returned but the place was packed. She could easily have vanished forever.

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I’m old enough to recall the darkness that fell after child killer Robert Black snatched Caroline Hogg from the same prom.

The arcade he took her to is still there. It was a placed we raced around every other weekend as bairns after piling out of my Gran’s house on the High Street, down Bath Street and straight on to the beach. After Black, it felt very different.

It still sends a chill up my spine when I read that nine known paedophiles were identified as being on the beach that same day.

Children’s lives are precious. They need to explore and have the most incredible adventures, but they have to be kept safe. No kid deserves to be allowed to wander off, angry, alone ... and completely un-noticed.

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