Elizabeth Davies: We have to defend, protect our children

Elizabeth Davies

I chased my little girl through the freshly cut grass, listening to her giggles before the wind lifted them away.

And I thought of Collin.

I covered my boy’s belly with kisses as he shrieked and begged for more.

And I thought of Collin.

I sang an extra bedtime song, one child on each knee, while their soft hair tickled my cheek.

And I wondered if anyone ever loved Collin enough to chase him, kiss him or sing him lullabies. I wondered if he even knew what it meant to be loved.

I don’t know Collin. I’ve never met him. But I held my children and cried when I read about his recent death. Collin Parker William Holdgrafer was a 4-year-old living in Andrew, Iowa, when he died in his bathtub.

His adoptive mother — his biological aunt — has been arrested for murder, with allegations that she repeatedly dunked his head under water. His adoptive father — his biological uncle — was charged with child endangerment for allegedly watching it happen.

If the story is true — and it’s up to the court system to decide that now — it’s one that sickens parents everywhere. We work so hard to keep our children safe that it becomes unfathomable to consider torturing them.

The numbers tell us otherwise: Child abuse happens, and it happens with disgusting frequency. A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds. Sure, some of those reports probably turn out to be nothing. But what about the many instances of abuse that are never reported at all?

According to ChildHelp, a national child abuse prevention group, almost five children die per day in the U.S. at the hands of an abuser. More than 75 percent of those children are younger than 4. They’re helpless.

These are children with no voice. The people they rely on to care for them are instead hurting them. There simply is no one else to turn to for help.

I wonder whether these young children even know that they could ask for help, or if they think that’s all life is — fear, pain, shame. They can’t fathom the concept that they are not the problem, that the adult is the one who is wrong.

I know what it’s like to be fed up as a parent. I understand the feeling that you cannot hear one more whine without losing your mind. But the fact is this: We’re the adults. It’s up to us to control the situation, even if that means leaving for a moment to cool down. It never means putting the burdens of our adult world on the slight shoulders of a child. If we can’t handle our troubles, a child will simply crumble beneath the weight.

Can kids get loud? You bet. Disobedient? Yep. Exhausting and frustrating? Of course.

But at their core, children are precious. They are innocent, curious, excitable. The best thing about small children is the pure joy they have every morning. For them, each day is filled with unknown fun to be explored, a gift just waiting to be opened.

It’s our job to let them open it.

Elizabeth Davies writes for the Rockford Register Star in Rockford, Ill. She can be reached at