The deaths of the Bott sisters from Withrow, Alta., last week touched all of us. We extend our deepest sympathies to their family and all who knew them.
The tragedy has focused attention on farm safety, particularly how dangerous the farmyard can be for young children. From some quarters of the farming community has come a defiant defence of the farming way of life.
It’s true that many of us grew up doing things very similar to what cost these young people their lives. We wore our farm upbringing like a badge as we went out into the world. What we lacked in city street smarts and worldliness, we made up for with resilience and resourcefulness gained from our farmyard work and play from an early age.
But it is also true that farming is different now, just as life is different for youth growing up in urban environments. Terrible things happen to kids there too.
The world our kids inhabit is bigger and faster and far less forgiving. When errors in judgment occur, the margins for response are narrower and the opportunity for recovery smaller. What might have been a near miss a generation ago, becomes an irrevocable tragedy today.
We need to encourage our kids to explore and interact with their environment, while teaching them to make good — and safe – choices. Until they are old enough to make their own choices, we make those choices for them. But even when parents make all the best choices, sometimes kids do their own thing.
The challenge for parents everywhere is to prepare our kids for their world as best we can, without raising them in a bubble. That’s complicated on the modern farm, where work, life and play intersect daily, and where the culture remains steeped in the traditional view of the family farm and the role kids play.
There are no easy answers. Each farm family struggles with this in its own way. But there is excellent guidance available from the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association on how to reduce the risk of children becoming injured or killed in farm accidents.
But Catie, 13, and her twin 11-year-old sisters Dara and Jana, didn’t die because they lived on a farm. Likewise, accident’s don’t ‘just happen.’
They died because someone made a mistake, as humans are wont to do.
We don’t lay blame. We share in the grief. We hug our loved ones. We learn and we all take responsibility for doing what we can to prevent it from happening again.