Death of Grace Millane highlights dilemma for parents, says Alison Phillips

In the next few days Grace Millane will come home to her family.

But not to balloons and cheers and a party packed with her parents, brothers and friends.

Or with incredible stories of her travels, told breathlessly, punctuated with laughter.

Instead her silent body will be flown home for a funeral. And a period of mourning that will last her family a lifetime.

The death of this beautiful young girl has horrified us all.

In the pictures she looks so full of optimism and excitement for life. With a good degree behind her, the support and strength of a loving family and a sense of adventure, she contained every possibility a parent could hope for in their child.

The disappointments and darkness of life had not yet touched her.

How proud David and Gillian Millane must have been of how their Grace had turned out. And how fraught they must have been when she announced she was going off on a world tour on her own.

Which is, of course, where the perpetual dilemma for every parent lies – and what’s so distressing to every parent who reads this story.

For from the moment your baby first yanks themself up onto their tiny feet a parent becomes locked in an internal (and increasingly external) battle – how much independence do you allow them, how much damage will you do mollycoddling them?

And how much will they just do whatever they want anyway?

My three children are still aged just 14, 12 and nine so ideas for travelling the world, dating men they’ve met online or staying out all night are still, hopefully, years away.

But every day there are new boundaries they want to push.

More dangers they inevitably face being out alone. More risks they take because they enjoy the thrills they bring and the greater their thirst for new experiences away from the comfortable confines of home. Boundaries were only ever invented for kids to break.

By the time Grace left for her around the world trip she was a fully grown adult more than capable of surviving independently and flying the nest.

But to her parents she was – and always will be – their baby.

They could have tried to prevent her making that journey. But to hold her back would have been like keeping a bird in a cage.

They were just terribly, horribly, awfully unlucky. New Zealand has one of the lowest murder rates in the world. It welcomes lone travellers with open arms.

The chances of this happening to their daughter on that day, with that man, in that city, were minuscule.

So I hope this family never blames themselves for letting Grace go. It was their love and support which made Grace the woman she was.

The only thing which took her away was the sheer evil of a stranger.

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