Twinkle, twinkle little star,
Jesus loves you as you are.
Childish voices greeted Madeline as she opened the door and maneuvered around the doll’s pram parked next to the entrance. She couldn’t believe she was doing this. It had not been part of the original plan.
“Hello, Amanda. Hello, Madeline.”
Madi returned the greetings and hung Amanda’s bag on the hook. She grimaced. It had not become any easier as the weeks passed. Every time she left Amanda her heart felt like breaking. Six months ago she had been living her dream – staying home and raising her child - but now all that had changed.
Her parents would have cared for Amanda while she went back to work, but they’d already given up so much and Madi hated to ask them. It was bad enough that her life was disrupted – she didn’t want to disrupt her parents’ lives as well. And it was just for three days a week. Everyone said it would be good for Amanda. If only Madi could believe that.
Ring-a-ring a’ rosies,
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down!
Madi tried slipping a strand of hair behind her ear and bent to sign the attendance register. Glancing up as she lay the pen down, her eyes lingered on the calendar where faces of innocent children, their faces lifted as if in song, stared back at her.
It’s about time they turned the page. We’re into the second week of this month already.
Then she saw the verse.
The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.*
She felt the anger start to rise. God felt a million miles away these days. And as for rejoicing over her … well, she must be missing something because she couldn’t see anything in her life worth singing about.
Once maybe, but not now. So much had changed since that night six months ago. She sighed. Sometimes she wondered if she’d done the right thing in leaving.
Placing Amanda’s bottles in the refrigerator, she kissed Amanda goodbye, then quickly hurried out before the tears started to fall. It didn’t matter what anyone said - it never got any easier. Every morning was the same: guilt, despair, regret, sorrow. When would it end?
The phone rang just as Madi stood to head toward the coffee machine. It had been a long day and the sooner it was over the better. Reluctantly she answered.
“It’s Cheri Dawson from the childcare centre.”
An unknown fear clutched at Madi’s heart.
“Amanda. Is she sick?”
“No, Amanda’s not sick. But I must inform you that your husband came to collect her a short while ago.”
“What?” Madi’s knees buckled and she slid to the floor. “You didn’t let him take her did you? I showed you the restraining order.”
The director’s voice came to her through the fog now enveloping her brain.
“ … not able to prevent … explained all this when you enrolled … have to think of the welfare of the child … called the police …”
Madi closed her eyes, uncontrollable shaking taking over her body. How had he found them? How had he known? She would have to go away now. Far away. Some place where he would never find them.
“Mrs Johnson, are you there?”
Madi nodded dumbly, then realised what she’d done. “Yes. I’m here. … What do I do now?”
“We’ve already rung the police. That’s normal procedure. Now you need to ring them. They’ll take it from there.”
She disconnected and dropped the phone on the floor.
Oh Amanda. My precious baby.
Dropping her head in her hands, she started sobbing.
God, where are You? Why have You deserted me? Why don’t You care?
Without warning, the words of an old Sunday School song filled her mind and heart and soul:
Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return
And come with singing unto Zion
And everlasting joy shall be upon their head. …
They shall obtain gladness and joy
And sorrow and mourning
Shall flee away …
Suddenly Madi realized that she was the one who had walked away – not God. Whispering a prayer, Madi dried her tears, picked up the phone and dialed the police.
* Zephaniah 3:17
Lyrics for “Therefore the Redeemed” by Ruth Lake. Lyrics for “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” adapted from original nursery rhyme by Wendy Webster. Lyrics for “Ring-a-ring a’ Rosies” popular Aus/NZ version of the well-known nursery rhyme.
Note: In NZ early childhood centres a non-custodial parent will not be prevented from removing a child from a centre. In such cases, the standard procedure is (1) inform the non-custodial parent that the centre has instructions not to release the child; (2) allow the parent to take the child, particularly if there are concerns that the non-custodial parent will become violent; and (3) ring the police and the parent who has custody of the child.
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