Calgary Sun

June 12, 2001

Terrible tragedy raises parental awareness

By LICIA CORBELLA -- Calgary Sun

Well, the e-mails are still coming in fast and furious.

They are mostly raging against my Saturday column entitled: "No work is harder than being a mom."

In it, I agreed with Rie Fujii, the young mother charged in connection with the death of one of her two babies -- both of whom are dead -- when she said in a diary entry that "it is hard ..." to be a stay-at-home mom.

The diary was written several months prior to her 15-month-old son, Domenic, being found dead in a Victoria Park apartment on May 5.

Police have also temporarily called off a search of the Bow River where it is believed Gemini, Fujii's three-month-old daughter's body, was dumped.

I was able to read more of Fujii's diary than most people and it's clear that the circumstances in her life were dire.

Fujii's diary, which was written prior to the birth of Gemini, is filled with expressions of love for Domenic. It is also a diary filled with despair and frustration.

In my column I said I feel deep sadness and empathy for Fujii. That has clearly outraged many people.

Obviously, it goes without saying that what happened to those children is horrific.

When I first learned of the death of Domenic I wept bitterly.

I know that most Albertans feel deep anguish contemplating Domenic and Gemini's last moments on Earth.

It is incomprehensible to me how anyone can hurt a child.

However, upon reading Fujii's diary I do feel sorry for the woman who wrote those entries.

That does not, however, mean that I sympathize with what she may have done.

But she was a young woman left virtually on her own with no support, little resources and no family in town.

As a result, I simply reflected on how hard I know it is to care for children, despite the fact that I have a wonderful husband who is very involved in the care of our children.

That Calgary is virtually bursting with supports for parents in need and the fact that there are so many other options for unwanted children other than the deadly one Domenic and Gemini met exacerbates the senselessness of this tragedy.

While I didn't come right out and say it, I was hoping that my column would do several things, but two in particular.

Firstly, that it would stand as a warning to young, unmarried women who enter lightly into motherhood.

Girls and young women need to realize that raising children is very hard work and should be something that is shared, ideally, within a marriage.

Secondly, my hope is that we will all be more aware of those around us -- particularly single parents -- who may need our help, even if that means we just have them over for dinner now and again or offer to babysit every once in a while.

Patty Kilgallon, the executive director of the Children's Cottage in Calgary, says this tragic story has caused a remarkable jump in the number of parents seeking support.

"There has been more than a doubling of the number of calls we've received from parents looking for help -- about 60 calls a day on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and (yesterday)," said Kilgallon.

"I think many, many parents are learning from this that it really does take a village to raise a child, and that if you're isolated and need a break, asking for help is a sign of strength."

Kilgallon says many parents calling in recognize similar feelings to those they read in Fujii's diary, and as such, are becoming aware that maybe they should get some help.

The Children's Cottage has a crisis nursery, provides in-home respite care and volunteer respite daycare for parents in need.

Every parent needs help raising their children.

I have my husband, family members who fly in regularly, good friends and the money to get that help. Many do not.

I am more aware of that now AND more sympathetic. Domenic and Gemini have reminded me of that.

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.