I’ve been sitting on writing this post for a couple weeks because I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to say about it. I knew that I was annoyed by what happened – angered even – but it’s not a totally black or white situation.
A few weeks ago my parents took me, Annie, my nephew, Spencer, and my niece, Michaela, to see “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.” Normally my sister, Monica, and her husband, Sheridan, would have come too, but they were out of town, so my parents and I were in charge of looking after Spencer and Michaela.
After the movie we schlepped over to a restaurant at the mall for dinner. Things started off well enough, but right before our food came Michaela threw a fit. I’m not sure why she lost it exactly… it might have been because she missed her parents, had too much candy at the movie, or because, you know, she’s a three-year-old, but the fact is she had a big league meltdown. Since we didn’t want her to disturb anyone at the restaurant, my Dad scooped her up and took her outside.
A couple minutes later I went outside to see if everything was okay and saw that Michaela was still yelling and screaming. I went over and tried to calm her down, and that’s when it happened – a woman walked up to us and said, “Is she supposed to be with you?”
Shocked, I looked over at the lady who scrutinized us suspiciously. “I asked you if she’s supposed to be with you,” she said.
“Yes, she’s supposed to be with us,” I spat out, then turned away from the lady. I could see out of the corner of my eye that she watched us a while longer until she finally continued on her way. Michaela soon calmed down and we went back inside to finish our meals, but I couldn’t get the lady out of my mind.
Here’s the thing… on one hand I get why the lady did what she did. If you see a child possibly in jeopardy it’s important to make sure he or she is okay. I’d like for people to look out for Annie the same way.
With that said, though, we weren’t heading toward a waiting van with Michaela. We were standing in clear sight of hundreds of other people. We also looked a whole lot like what we were – her grandfather and uncle. Actually, Michaela could easily pass for my daughter.
What upset me the most was the realization that the lady never would have asked that question of a woman and her mother. If it were Heather and my mom out there with Michaela instead of me and my Dad, she would have walked right past.
Clearly, there’s a double standard here, and normally that’s something we don’t accept in society. It’s sad that in a situation like that people are so quick to think kidnapper instead of father, and that probably says something about how our society views men and fatherhood. In the end, though, the woman was only looking out for Michaela, and I appreciate that. Still, in the future it’d be nice if she stood back and observed a bit longer. If she did she might realize there’s a whole lot more loving fathers, grandfathers, and uncles out there than creeps.
Becca Masters says:
I’d have been miffed too if it’d been my husband in that situation. Totally understand the whole “great that she’s looking out for the kid” but at the same time, had she just watched a little longer she’d have perhaps got a better understanding.
Also feel slightly insulted with her choice of wording. She could have just asked “is everything ok?”
Exactly! Would a kidnapper actually admit that she wasn’t suppose to be with him?? It was a pretty dumb way to approach it.
Ms. A says:
If she had taken a minute, she might have also realized that Michaela was just doing what a typical 3 year old does… throwing a fit. However, she was brave and bold enough to step in and that’s not always a terrible thing.
i don’t know the actual crime statistics in CA, but i’d be willing to bet that more men than women are the perpetrators in incidents like the one this stranger was hoping to prevent. i understand that it was hurtful to you, an innocent, nurturing, and loving father and uncle. but as a retired social worker (albeit in a different area than child protective services), i am glad to learn that someone is watching out for those who cannot watch out for themselves. i think your comment about hoping someone would be watching out for annie is a perfect example of what i mean. i am sure i would have initially felt similarly had i experienced a similar situation since i tend to resist and resent people who invade my personal space. but focusing on the potential for help, which her firm inquiry of a guilty person could have prompted, opens us to gratitude that those who need our help the most will have a better chance with citizens like this stranger in the world. (a guilty person may have decided to abandon the child somewhere else in the mall rather than risk being identified after such an encounter. her firm stance showed you she meant business and was paying close attention.)
I love ya Mike but I have to disagree with you on this one. The fact is the majority of kidnappers are men and if a child is screaming, which we teach children to do when they are in trouble, then I commend the woman for interfering. She only had a child’s safety in mind and, as an adult, the small offense you felt should take a backseat to the gratitude that there are people out there looking out for our children.
I agree 100%. I heart you, too (in a creepy, distant, internet way), but it’s EVERYONE’s job to protect kids. I only wish more people had the chutzpah to step up when they see suspicious things going down.
I have to agree with Colleen. There’s no doubt you’re a fantastic father; however, all that woman focused on was a screaming little girl. Imagine how she would feel if she didn’t ask and then saw Michaela’s picture on the news. I would have responded the same exact way and felt the same personal offense, but I believe that after my hurt feelings healed, I would realize that it was actually a positive thing that the woman did stop. How many times have we seen videos of people walking by and completing ignoring a blatant crime? Better safe than sorry when a child is involved.
Another Dad says:
“if a child is screaming, which we teach children to do when they are in trouble”
“We” successfully teach small children to scream only in emergencies? I’m skeptical that even you can do this (because I’m skeptical that anyone can), but whether or not you possess this unusual ability, I don’t think “we” have reached the point where all or even most small children act like tiny adults, calling for attention only in emergencies.
Oftentimes small children have tantrums just because they are kids, behavior common enough that it isn’t a justification for treating someone (exception: women) like a criminal suspect.
Surely if you were trying to kidnap her and she asked you that question, your answer would be the same?!
‘No, ma’am I’m just trying to steal her from her family, now could you leave me to it?’
I’m with you and I’d have been very annoyed if my husband had been asked that question. Like Becca said, I think it could have been worded more appropriately and would have caused less offence.
We had the same thought!!
I’m offended for you, mike. Kids throw fits. Dads and uncles and grandfathers watch kids. Also, even if the woman was trying to be helpful, how is asking “is she supposed to be with you?” going to help? What kidnapper/person of ill intent is going to reply, “You know what, no. She’s not supposed to be with us. We’re trying to steal and hurt her.” Obviously anyone is going to say “yes” to that question, whether or not it’s true, and a mid-meltdown three-year-old also isn’t likely to reply. I agree with the commenter above who said “Is everything okay?” would’ve been a better question.
I agree she could have worded it better and like other posters have noted, what would a real kidnapper have said to her question? I don’t know, would you have preferred her to just call the police though?
The sad fact is you don’t see many female kidnappers or child abusers or serial killers, so good for her to step forward for the child.
I agree with you about the wording.
It’s nice to be concerned, but how about “Is she OK?” instead of “Is she supposed to be with you?” Granted a kidnapper is going to lie to both of these questions, but the way she worded the question is offensive.
Let me tell you Mike I completely agree that there is a double standard and understand how you must have felt. When I was 17 years old I was watching my three year old cousin. We were looking at toys in a department store and when I told him it was time to go he freaked out. I had to pick him up and carry him out of the store. The thing was that he started to kick me, wiggle and scream “STRANGER! NO NO NO! STRANGER!” This absolutely freaked me out thinking any minute someone is going to come up and stop me from carrying my cousin out of the store. No one did. That bothered me even more. I knew that if I was a man that someone would have stopped me but because I was a girl no one even questioned me. I felt bad because what if my cousin was getting kidnapped in a busy store and no one did a thing. It taught me a huge lesson that day. I am now 30 and my cousin is 16. He laughs at this story because he thinks it’s hilarious that he called me a stranger to try and get what he wanted.
Sadly this seemes to happen a lot now from what I read and not only to men that are trying to pacify a crying child. It seems that society is becoming distrustful of all men that are alone with children.
I’m torn on this, as you clearly seem to be yourself too. I hate that this is what we as a society have come to, but am also grateful for people like this lady. Even if behaviour like hers saves one child from being abducted, wasn’t it worth the rudeness, and your feeling of indignance?
It happened to my brother once. We had done a very quick handover of my daughter in a playground., and i left to an appointment with my son. When it came time for my brother to leave, of course my loud 2.5 yr old did not. So she whined and dragged and generally kicked up a scene, and he gently pulled her along anyway. Another mom followed them ! Kept behind them for a few minutes, and yet her observation wasn’t enough to quell her worries, so she stopped them and queried uncle and child.
As a woman, I’m not sure i would be brave enough to do that. I hope i never get to find out, or that I’d trust my gut and call the police if i was too scared to tackle the “abductor”.
I honestly think that offending and annoying you is the lesser evil here. And i think you yourself would rather someone annoy the hell out of anyone who sets annabel or james off in public, regardless of the reason?
I’m embarrassed for you, Mike. There is totally a double standard.
So what if there are more male child molesters? If we treated men/boys like they were perfectly capable of caring for children from the start, I think those issues would go way down.
My boyfriend babysat a child after school for a while (an unrelated one). Sometimes, the reaction is ‘REALLY?!’ Like, is that really safe? Of course I’m not marrying a dangerous convict!
I’m sorry that happened to you.
While I can understand how you feel, this woman was brave enough to do something a lot of people won’t. When I took my 10 year old to the orthopedist to get her arm casted, the Dr asked how it happened. I started to answer and he said to me firmly, “I wasn’t talking to you.” I was upset at first, and when I got why he did that, I understood and it made me rethink my perspective.
Our pediatrician did that to me when my son was little, during a regular checkup! I was like, WHAT? But then I thought about it and I figured, OF COURSE…he is the patient!!
This is just awful! We would NEVER question another woman like this.Our fathers, husbands, and brothers should NOT have to deal with this, and deserve better. Despite what the media will have you believe, abductions by strangers are relatively rare. Of the few that do occur, the perpetrator is just as likely to be a woman. And the really sad thing is most abuse and abductions are committed by someone known and familiar to that child, such as an estranged father, baby sitter or neighbor, so a question like, “is she supposed to be with you” is completely pointless. We need to start developing more faith in the men in our society, and stop watching so much damn news! When we erroneously believe that 50% of our population wants to hurt our children, we have problems!
Yes! Well said.
She would have been more helpful to simply have asked Micheala if she was OK. Most likely, Micheala would have been shocked into calmness by a stranger inquiring about her well being…kids are really egocentric at that age and don’t think about what their behavior looks like to strangers. When a stranger comments, they are stunned. I have done it before in an attempt to help the adult and it often works, I have even been thanked. What she did sounded rude, I agree with you! Mike.
I think you have the solution! I’m also shocked that this woman was so rude, yet I’m torn because. Good for her for stepping up, shame on her for not observing a bit longer. Asking the child makes total sense! Their reaction would let you know very quickly if they’re ok or not.
Not with you on this one. It takes alot of guts for someone to get involved sometimes – be glad she was looking out for the child. I mean the kid was screaming! You can’t take it personally even if the concern was generated from a stereotype. One that is true by the way – there are more male pedophiles than females . . .
Totally agree with Becki. And yes, the woman’s words were probably not the best, but think of it from her point of view. She is concerned, and probably nervous to say anything, but feels like she should. So what she said may not have come out perfectly, but at least she said something. And, no, a true kidnapper is not going to answer honestly, but at least approaching the situation would have given a true kidnapper pause. For all a true kidnapper would have known, that woman was going off to get security. It was a small act, but it could have had consequences. I applaud her for doing what was probably very uncomfortable for her too.
All kids scream. I see screaming kids in stores and at playgrounds several times per month. I have never taken it as anything other than a kid throwing a tantrum, and felt sympathy for the child’s caregiver.
Always take a second look and make sure. I always have and I always will. And if YOU were the daughter of the retired Chief Coroner for your county, you would too. Dont always assume. There are many stories of people intervening with screaming kids and sometimes saving some of them. And guess what? The perps are almost always men. And like Mike, if the situation was just a bratty or overstimulated child? Then the parent should just be grateful someone cared. Wish someone would have intervened when Samantha Runnion was carried off screaming . . .
But Mike and his dad weren’t carrying Michaela anywhere. They were standing outside of a restaurant trying to calm her. I just think it’s unfair that men are subjected to this type of response when they’re with children in public and women aren’t. To the people who are saying “well more men are pedophiles/criminals/kidnappers” – do you also think racial profiling is acceptable because a higher proportion of crimes are commited by racial minorities? Just curious.
I came to say the EXACT same thing! The nature of statistics means there is nearly always a particular demographic who is statistically more likely to perpetrate a certain crime. But I think (or I HOPE) most all of us agree racial profiling is wrong. So what’s the difference with this situation? Why is this acceptable?
I’m going to put myself in that woman’s shoes. I am walking by and I see not one but two men trying to control a child who is screaming bloody murder. In this situation I probably would watch for awhile and try to get my nerves up to approach the 2 men, which she did. Her wording might have offended you, but perhaps it’s the best she could come up with because she was a little scared too. She was approaching 2 strange men and a screaming child with no defense for herself. The fact is that no one has creep written on their forehead, you can’t tell a criminal from his face.
While you might be hurt for a little while because you are the uncle, in fact that little girl’s life might have been saved by a woman or man just walking by.
When I am out and about I turn automatically when I hear a child screaming, one calling mommy or grandma or any odd situation. I have been known to watch children who are small and seemingly on their own in a store. As a matter of fact, there was an Code Adam in Walmart one day and I was the one who found the little guy. I was in the electronics and he turned out to be the grandson of one of my friends. I did not ever meet him before but I knew the dad, and he was upset and thankful.
Ah, but see, here’s the rub: there are actually VERY VERY few abductions like that, period, and the paranoia surrounding it is nothing short of crazy hysteria. I’m not saying it never happens; it does. And, yes, more perpetrators are male than female (and they are almost always committed by someone the child knows – usually quite well – so the woman’s query of whether or not you knew the Michaela is particularly ironic). But the fact remains that children are NOT abducted by strangers all the time; when it happens, it makes “good” news, so our media simply acts as though it IS a commonplace occurrence.
In 1999 (no official stats have been posted since then), 115 children in the U.S. were abducted, and 40% (about 50 kids) were killed. Don’t get me wrong – that’s way too many. It’s awful. But there are more than 1.5 million kids in America, meaning, at any given time, a child has a 1 in 1,500,000 chance of being abducted and killed (or a 2 in 1,500,000 chance of being abducted, period). Or, looking at it from another angle, American kids have a .00035 chance of being abducted; so so so small, waaaaay smaller than the media presents. Or how about this: if you WANTED your kid to be abducted, and wanted to guarantee it, you’d have to leave your kid playing outside for about seven hundred and fifty THOUSAND years. It DOESN’T happen all the time, and constantly treating people, especially men, like potential suspects is not only unfounded, it’s absurd and rude.
(Above stats from “Free-Range Kids” by Lenore Skenazy)
(By contrast, in 2003, 694 children were injured EVERY DAY in car crashes http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/809762.pdf , but we don’t stop every car we see to check if children are properly restrained. That’s a far far far more likely danger than abduction, yet many people are incredibly lax about booster seats and proper buckling and drive way above the speed limit [myself included], but we as a society are terrified of predators, despite how incredibly UNlikely that is. Out perception is skewed, and we treat others – especially men – deeply unfairly.
Anyway… Stepping off soapbox… I’m sorry, Mike. That sucks. I agree with being vigilant (even if it’s statistically unwarranted ), and for sure I do a double take when kids pitch a fit. But you’re right – watching and waiting and actually thinking it through, instead if rushing to false judgement, would just make so much more sense – in all cases, really! Best of luck to you.
(Typed on cell phone and not proofed… Sorry for any errors!)
She didnt make a judgement. She asked a question to clarify the situation. And it wasnt like checking every car for a car seat. The population for your stats just got smaller because now the population is based on a screaming child, out of control with TWO adult men trying to fix the situation. That elevates it OUT of your stats and INTO the realm of possibility. SO WHAT if your feelings are hurt? I just don’t advocate assuming.
To be fair, you are advocating assuming. Because that woman was making a major assumption about what was going on.
Ok – now we are getting word picky. Yeah, bottom line it’s an assumption but it was AFTER watching the situation and weighing what she saw. Bet if the child was saying “Daddy stop it .Daddy I hate you” etc she would have said nothing. Come on
Becca Masters says:
You’re assuming she was watching the situation. She may not have stood and watched for all you know.
Exactly. She obviously wasn’t watching or weighing very long, or else she would have realized, “hey, if these guys were abducting this child, they wouldn’t just be standing around while she’s screaming, they’d be going somewhere and you know… abducting her.”
Also, I don’t see how it’s “word picky” to say this woman was making an assumption, too. It’s just a fact.
It breaks my heart that this happened to you and your father and then it smashes it to see so many people commending the lady for what she did. It was offensive, plain and simple. She *was* coming from a place where men, around children, cannot possibly be up to any good. The way she phrased the question, she gave you no benefit of the doubt. But I guess this is a cultural thing. The internet shows me that your country is way too paranoid. You can rationalize that this is good, that is saves children! I don’t know. I just think living in such fear and mistrust of people is sad.
Emily E says:
We took a family trip to Disney World when my niece was two and she had an epic tempter tantrum at lunch one day. My father-in-law took her outside where she rolled around on the ground shouting ‘I want my mommy.’ How no one accused him of kidnapping, I’ll never know.
The oddest thing here is the woman’s question. As if you would have said ‘no, we’re kidnapping her lady, now scram’ if you weren’t really her relatives or caregivers. That said, there is a bias against men in this way. Men are often presumed to not want to take care of their children or to take an active role and that is highly offensive.
I’d be upset if someone did that to my husband. I agree, she should have observed what was going on a little better. I’m sure she wasn’t screaming something like “You’re not my daddy!” On the other hand she may have just been taken aback since many parents don’t bring their kids outside when they have fits – they just let them scream inside of the restaurant and annoy everyone. Once again you prove to me you’re awesome parents.
Kathy V. says:
I have to agree with many of the posters. While I don’t know the exact situation, I’ll bet Michael’s was screaming, “I want Mommy! I want Daddy!” The woman was put on alert after watching for a bit. While her choice of words may not have been the best, she was probably watching your reaction/body language when you replied. I am glad there are people out there willing to stand up for children. What if Michaela HAD been in the middle of a kidnapping? Her intervention may have saved her life. I’d rather be bossy/ rude than find out later that a bad situation could have been prevented, be it involving a man OR a woman.
I can see why you as a father and a non-creep were offended. It’s insulting to be lumped in with a group of scum. However, I completely agree with the woman’s instincts and her comment. She walked right up to you, made eye contact and asked you a direct question that relayed that she had noticed something. People (largely men, unfortunately) trying to abduct children have been known to abandon their attempt at first sign of suspicion. The fact that you answered and went back to attending to your niece (even if you were angry!) was likely what she was expecting. It’s rude and presumptuous and nosey, but….I’d want many rude people between my child and anyone who might cause them harm.
I’m sorry that is really frustrating. And even if you had been a pair of father and son child abductors, it’s not as if you you would have said, “Ah yes, you caught me, whoops!” Maybe it’s true that men more often are abusers or abducters of children, but if we treat them as guilty from the beginning, how do we expect to ever change the statistics? And by the same token, we’re also setting our society up to not notice female abusers because we have a preconceived notion of what an abducter or abuser is in our heads. This reminds me of something that happened in high school. I was a regular babysitter for a little boy next door. His mother told me she had no problem with my boyfriend coming over (and she brought it up, I never would have asked). But she requested that I never leave her son alone with my boyfriend because men are more likely to abuse kids. As a teenager I was pretty confused and thought it was strange but just thought, “alright whatever.” But in retrospect, that attitude makes me angry, especially now that the same high school boyfriend has become my husband. I mean she’d never even met him before she said that! We talk so much about wanting men to be equals in the home and in parenting, and then we treat them like second-class citizens or latent abusers and wonder why that’s not happening.
kandi ann says:
When I lived in Fl there was a man that parked in his red convertible in front of my house. He had a little girl with him. I walked out and asked her name. (I’m a kid person) and he said he didn’t know. I picked her right up out of the car and he said, its not what u think, her mom had him over the night before and left her with him and he couldn’t find her. I took the little one inside (the guy left) made her breakfast and called the law. There was no report of abduction. They did take her though. I’ve also found 2 tiny ones in the street and when I tracked down their house, they were 1 and 2, the 2 yr old had climbed a chair and let his sister and him out while his mom slept.
I think you did the right thing in both circumstances. You had reason to be suspicious in both cases, and your reaction was rational and responsible.
While I can see why you would feel offended, the lady’s reaction seems pretty reasonable to me. If you were out late alone and a woman gave you a wide berth, would you blame her for treating you as a possible attacker? It would be equally unnecessary in your case, but still the sensible thing to do.
But I agree that she could have phrased her inquiry a bit better!
Mary Beth says:
This scenario makes me so sad. I hate that in this country any man with a child is immediately suspected of being a kidnapper and/or child molester. True stranger abductions are incredibly rare.
I was thinking this as well.
I recall reading that 75% of child abductions are by family members/acquaintances. Stranger abductions are extremely rare by comparison, and generally occur near the child’s home.
That’s not to say they don’t happen, or that suspicious circumstances should be completely ignored (it’s still about 25% of cases, and I wouldn’t call that entirely negligible), but that it isn’t anywhere near as common as we are led to believe.
It’s actually about 2.5 percent in California. According to this website, about 1923 abductions by people who know the child, 49 stranger abductions per year: http://www.childabductions.org/
I am curious as to why you assumed she only asked since you were male? She might just as well have asked two women in the same situation. I agree I would have been upset too if someone questioned me in that manner but the childs’ welfare trumps hurt feelings in my book. I think you had a perfectly normal reaction to a hurtful situation but I think this lady was trying to do what was right also.
You know what, I honestly have to disagree with you here, Mike. I think that the woman was just looking out for the child’s safety, not trying to shame you or peg you or your dad as kidnappers or child molesters. If you were out in public somewhere and there was a little girl screaming and flailing while being held by two men, as a father wouldn’t you WANT someone to ask if she was safe?
I think you’re making this a MUCH bigger deal than it really is. The fact of the matter is that a stranger confronted you and made you feel uncomfortable. She did a good thing by asking.
I understand why that lady asked that but I would be angry with her still if it were my husband she had spoken to like that. Just reading how she told you and your dad that I got mad! lol Child abductions are so rare and it is good for people to speak up but she could have just been more subtle about it like “is everything alright?”. Also if someone were observing me like that I would be really annoyed-I mean I get why but still, when you know you’re a good person it’s kind of offending to be thought of as someone who is bad.
This is a different type of story that doesn’t really relate but: My mom is mexican and is darker than me while I am white. Although we look alike I would always get annoyed when people don’t think she is my mom. When I was in high school I remember one classmate rudely (and on purpose) asked if she was my maid! I was so angry and yelled at him no she is my mother!! That student was actually just trying to be mean and get a reaction from me but it just goes to show you how people can be asses sometimes.
Christina Bathan says:
A lot of people are saying a woman would never be questioned…. waving my hand I have!!!!! I am ‘lily white’ pale, see through etc… my husband is from the Philippines, and our boys were born looking like his mini me’s, we live in a fairly affluent area, Valencia/ Santa Clarita area, and when I would go out with then and my 2nd was famous for throwing a fit, I would be asked ‘Oh are you the Nanny?’ Um nope I carried and labored him, and if he doesnt hush he is gonna sit in the car…
That is different than being accused of being their kidnappers!
L Ann says:
I usually agree with your observations spot-on, but we are on opposite sides of the fence on this one. To parse this story down to its simplest form, a woman saw a child in distress and intervened on behalf of that child. That’s it. We could debate the type of distress, the physical location and surroundings, the assumptions, and the wording used all day long. This woman’s motive wasn’t to critique your parenting methods. It was to safeguard the well-being of a child, in a manner she felt appropriate for the situation. She could have quietly called 911 on her cell phone and your explanation could have been given to the police, rather than to her. And given the inaction of bystanders that CNN is reporting concerning a killing on a train in San Francisco back in September, maybe we should all admire the bravery of this woman and learn from her actions.
Statistically, kids are kidnapped most often by their noncustodial parent. Stranger abductions are very rare, no matter what the nightly news wants you to think.
That said, there are ways to make sure everyone is OK that don’t involve giving the stink-eye. In fact she could have simply asked “Everybody OK now?” She would have still gotten the information she was looking for without being so obnoxious about it.
This makes me angry for you, Mike. Child abductions are EXCEEDINGLY rare by strangers; it is much more likely to happen by estranged family members. I’ve heard this other times when a child has a tantrum and the father is with him/her and the father is questioned! It makes me angry that men are so sought out as immediately being child molesters/abductors. My friend won’t even consider sending her child to a daycare with a male caregiver. My dad was at the beach and smiling at a cute kid. The mother angrily said “what are you doing looking at my child!” Is this what we’ve come to? Really?
I think the woman did the right thing. I’m sorry that it offended or bothered you, but I don’t think she meant any harm. How many times have you ignored a car alarm going off, or sat through the fire alarm in the apartment building…assuming it was a false alarm? I know that abductions are rare, but it can happen. It was probably nerve wracking for her to speak up (perhaps she had been watching for a while?) I don’t think she was insulting men and parenting. And yes, a kidnapper wouldn’t have answer any differently, but I think it would be enough to startle him and perhaps stop the act.(But she should’ve said, “is everything ok here?”)
Lisa N says:
Something similar happened to me once. I was pregnant and my almost three year old had to use the bathroom on a trip so we stopped at a rest stop. I took her to the bathroom but she had a huge meltdown and refused to wash her hands. She was too big for me to wrestle in my pregnant state so I took her back out to the car and gave her to her Dad (because gross, washing hands at a rest stop is mandatory!). He was taking her kicking and screaming back to the men’s restroom when I noticed a lady in another car looking very tense and eyeing him. I caught her eye and mouthed, “It’s ok, he’s her Dad” and I could see her visibly relax. I could totally see how the situation was suspicious, but I was glad I noticed or we probably would have had the police there. Every time we passed that rest stop after that we would laugh and say, “Look, there’s the spot Emily almost got you arrested.”
*sigh* I can see both sides of the issue. Yes, I agree that perhaps her wording could have been different and she should have addressed the child not the adult. However, I did post an alert on social media regarding a man sitting in a parked car for a very long period of time watching kids play at the park. I observed for awhile to make sure that he did not in fact have a child there. when it was obvious he was just sitting there smoking a pack of cigarettes, I started to mentally remember what kind of car, license plate, what he looked like etc. Well. AFTER I posted this, I got this comment “What if he was just getting pleasure from watching the kids play?” DUH that is the freaking point! A grown man or woman has NO business at a park or ANY childrens play area without being there with a child.
I would MUCH rather be an asshole and on the safe side than not say or do anything and regret the situation.
You are a good man Mike. Take comfort in knowing that to be true.
Wow. Just… wow.
Anyone has a right to be in a PUBLIC park, regardless of whether or not they are with a child. They can sit on a bench, swing on a swing, and no one has any right to harass or bother them if they’re just minding their own business.
Protecting children is fine, but spending our lives in dread and suspicion of everyone else in the world is not. Be aware of potential dangers, but it’s not necessary to chase after everyone you don’t like the look of with pitchforks and torches.
Thank you!! I totally agree! How sad that she treats anyone without children so suspiciously!
For the record: I JUST OBSERVED! I did not attack this man, I did not talk to or question this man. Perhaps it is my fault that I did not include the fact that our very small town was on the look out for a man who tried to abduct a child from that VERY SAME AREA! I feel that your ASSUMPTION of me and my reaction was very unfair. I do not treat everyone without children so suspiciously. But I do not regret putting it out there it was strange behavior for a man to sit and watch children. There is always a story behind the story ladies. Always.
The lady sounds loony – as you noted she is a typical 3 year old. If she can’t discern the difference between a child having a tantrum and a child who is truly in trouble, that’s her problem.
If it makes you feel any better I know someone whose child spelled out HELP ME on the car window with these things – the name of them escapes me, but they are waxy sticks that look like pipe cleaners but they stick to things. They got pulled over by the cops.
Aaaaannnnnddd now you know what it feels like to be black. I know this because I am… not black at all. But hey, I read!
All joking aside – yes, of course you were addressed by this woman because you were 2 men. I have never heard of or seen a woman with a child get questioned. Men seem more of a threat when it comes to children. It was a completely sexist move by the woman. Yes, she just had the child’s safety in mind and that’s fine. But it is a commentary on our society. Plenty of mothers commit crimes against their children. You hear of a lot of male pedophiles and kidnappers, but you also hear of a lot of mothers (some postpartum, some not) killing their own children. I have never seen/heard of a seemingly upset woman at the grocery store being asked, “Excuse me, you seem angry. Are you going to go home and microwave your baby?” It wouldn’t happen. The same way black people are always suspected of crimes but white people aren’t randomly accused of the white-collar crimes committed by that demographic, “Excuse me sir, nice suit, are you embezzling from your company?” While it may be true that the majority of crime x is committed by population z, it is CERTAINLY true that most of population z is NOT committing crime x (most kidnappers might be men but most men are NOT kidnappers). We have to keep that in mind and use our observational and critical thinking skills when observing a situation. Case closed.
AMEN to exercising observational skills! This woman obviously did not give much thought to the situation before making a very serious insinuation. Let’s think for a minute: would two would-be kidnappers just be chilling outside a restaurant with their screaming victim? Uh no. They would be trying to drag her away or put her in a car or something. If this woman had just waited a minute or so, she would have seen you clearly not abducting your niece. But instead she decided to jump to sexist conclusions. I’m actually shocked by how many people think this was ok. I also wish there were more men to chime in because it’s always easy for the people who don’t face prejudice to say it’s “justified” for whatever reason.
This isn’t just a dad thing. I’ve had people approach me while I’ve been with a tantrum-ing child to ask the same thing. I think it’s one part good intention, one part busybody-ing.
I am reading about the murder of Jayna Murray in the lulelemon store, while staff in an adjacent store stopped to listen and then ignored her cries and the sounds of violence and pain. You got profiled – you’re feelings were stung – but this is a far preferable scenario than the VERY common occurrence of bystander indifference. We don’t live in villages, we can’t know if a situation is legit, people should not be shamed for intervening when they feel concern. It should be encouraged and men can deal with their fifi’s feeling a bit hurt.
I am reading about the murder of Jayna Murray in the lulelemon store, while staff in an adjacent store stopped to listen and then ignored her cries and the sounds of violence and pain. You got profiled – you’re feelings were stung – but this is a far preferable scenario than the VERY common occurrence of bystander indifference. We don’t live in villages and as such are all strangers, we can’t know if a situation is legit, people should not be shamed for intervening when they feel concern. It should be encouraged and men can deal with their fifi’s feeling a bit hurt.
Interesting topic to say the least. I am not sure on the double standard, on the fence with that. However, I’m not sure what this woman really did. She walked up to Mike and asked him if the child was suppose to be with him…he answers yes and she accepts this answer. She stands to the side for a minute to watch and then leaves prior to the child calming down or Mike and Dad going back into restaurant. If these two were really taking the child, she did nothing. If she was that concerned, obviously enough to question them, she had several options, wait longer and even follow them afterwards into restaurant, at that point could have asked for a manger; called mall security or 911. At least with mall security or 911, descriptions of Mike/Dad could have been given (what they were wearing, etc…) in case they made it out of the mall. So, if you feel it important enough to question the welfare of a child, be prepared to follow through….
I was thinking the same thing! No offense whatsoever to Mike, but that lady didn’t do *enough* if it really looked like an abduction was happening. If he really was a kidnapper, why would she just take his word for it that everything was ok and walk away? I would at least trust my gut and call mall security. I would hope that if it were my kid, someone would NOT believe the abductor that he was the dad, uncle, whatever. Hurting an adult’s feelings is definitely worth a child’s life, even if it turns out to be nothing at all.
The thing that sticks out in my mind most, is that she was suspicious of you because it is not NORMALLY the dads who take the child out of the restaurant and let the mom stay inside and eat. Most of the time when you see one parent out alone with a child its the mother, and most of the time when you see a parent having to take a child outside because they are throwing a fit it is also the mother. It is rare, probably not for you Mike, and not for some fathers, but it is rare that I see a father interrupting his dinner to take a crying child outside. She probably thought it was strange because it is normally the mother who interrupts her dinner to take the child outside. I swear I never get warm food. If more dads were awesome and didn’t leave most of the responsibilities like this to the mother, she wouldn’t have thought twice. Yes it is a double standard, and sad, but its because it is most often the mother out there calming the crying child. Hopefully that doesn’t come out offensive. It is just my observation. Mama do this, Mama do that, Mama…Mama….Mama…. I have my hands filthy in a sink of dirty dishes, and my daughter asks me to change the channel on the tv, instead of her father who is sitting RIGHT beside the remote with dry, clean hands. Saturday I was eating a VERY messy taco, beans were everywhere. My daughter and husband had already finished eating because I had set up my daughters plate, cut her food, got her napkins, everything she needed BEFORE I ate, so I was the only one still eating. She comes to me and asks me to open up her bottle of water, instead of my husband who was sitting right next to her, was all done with his food, no beans on his hands, and doing nothing. It would be nice if I could finish a meal in peace. lol
I am so so cautious and tremulous even saying saying hello to children who greet me first when I am out and about. Several years back, a toddler got lost in Kohl’s shortly before Christmas. I had browsed by he and his grandparents (demeanor suggested not parents) several times and knowing to whom he belonged I scooped him up.. but held him safely away from me and kept loudly repeating,” We are going to find your family!!”
I think the way this woman approached you sounded nosy and judgemental, and it’s a case by case situation, but I feel we as individual communities now scrupulously protective of all children and skittishly leery.
Amending my comment to say No, that was rude! Her intent may have come from an innocent place … and maybe not. Inappropriate!
Becca Masters says:
There is definitely a double standard.
In the UK, the rise of female paedophiles is on the rise. So many cases have come to light in the last few years about female day care workers arrested for abusing children in day care.
My aunt works in a day care and told me that male workers in day care are NEVER allowed to do diaper changes. EVER.
Not only is that a double standard but it’s also sexist and discrimination.
I would always challenge something if it seemed suspicious. But I would also be respectful when doing so.
I would expect other parents to teach their kids how to react if someone they don’t know is trying to take them away, but not all parents have the same parenting ideologies. And sometimes I’ve said something to intervene in situations and received abuse for doing so. Yeah I get mad but my response is usually to explain why I’m intervening.
A common one here in the UK is people leaving unattended bags at train stations. I watch for a few minutes and if no one claims it then I always ask very loudly “does this belong to anyone?”
In one case it belonged to a man who decided it was appropriate to stand 10 feet away from his belongings. He got shirty with me and I said “you can never be too careful” he responded “well it’s not of your business” and then I became a little more forceful in my response, by showing him my staff ID and railway protection warrant badge and ID and said “yes it is, it’s my job to ask these questions”
He looked a bit sheepish after that.
The other night, I was in Target, and there was a kid also losing it. Major meltdown and a man was dragging her out. It scared me, and I wondered. I should have had the hutzpah to say something, so I commend this woman for doing so. Fact is, men are more often kidnappers. just statistically speaking. (But I also understand why you felt taken aback!). Something very valuable that my mom taught me when I was very little is that if there ever WERE someone trying to take me, I should scream over and over, “this is not my dad. I do not know this man,” and not just scream. I’m now teaching my girls the same thing.
I have to admit that I have always told my children (male and female) that if they were ever lost and couldn’t find me, to find a woman or a mom with kids and ask for help. I just feel that the chances of a child getting harmed are less with a female stranger than a male stranger.
I am sorry that happened to you. I do think that woman could have handled the situation a little better. But I do applaud her for showing concern.
“What upset me the most was the realization that the lady never would have asked that question of a woman and her mother. If it were Heather and my mom out there with Michaela instead of me and my Dad, she would have walked right past.”
Really? Did she tell you that?
I do think her behavior was a little odd- lord knows I see screaming kids every day and I always assume that it’s just a toddler having a toddler moment and walk on by. BUT, because the vast majority of childcare in the US is still done by women, it is unusual to see two men with a small child. Not profiling is part of the answer, but more guys stepping up to actively take care of their kids is important too.
This story just made me remember my own… About 6 months ago I took my 4 year-old niece to Chuck E. Cheese (aka, getting kids hooked on casinos early). We were there for about an hour and half- we ate, played games, turned in our tickets for prizes, all without incident. Then on the way out hand-in-hand, the hostess bent down directly in front of my niece and asked, “Do you know this person? Who is she?” I wasn’t really offended, just totally caught off-guard. I still wonder what prompted that, because I saw another family leave and they were not questioned. Weird….
Welcome to privilege, Mike. Because you are a white, male you are subject to unearned privileges, many you aren’t even aware of. It seems like this event brought to light one area where you may not have privilege. Now you got a little taste of what it’s like to be a person of color, a woman, differently abled, poor, or many others “isms”. You were profiled! I’m sorry that it happened and I hope it created some awareness for you around what others have to deal with.
Be happy this isn’t something you have to deal with on a daily basis!
This happened to my (female) friend who was dragging her 2 year-old son out of a store without buying him a toy train (obviously a mortal sin). A woman approached her and asked if she was kidnapping him as she was trying to wrangle him across the parking lot and put him in his carseat while carrying a 5 month-old. Her frustrated response “If I wanted to steal a child, do you think I would take THIS one?!”. The woman sheepishly walked away. I’m sure it happens more to men, but it happens to women, too!
Wow. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If the child HAD been abducted, the outcry would have been, “Surely someone saw something! Why was everyone just standing around watching?!” I think this woman absolutely did the right thing.
Like it or not, this lady felt something was wrong and she acted on it. I commend her. I doubt she felt calm and peaceful about the situation if she really felt the girl was in danger…possibly her wording wasn’t perfect but good for her for stepping up.
Always, always speak up for children!! I would be so scared to do what she did, but I really hope I would have the guts to do it.