Dear Annie: Is It True That Every Time a Child is Alone He Gets Abducted?

Readers — Here the latest from Annie’s Mailbox, which is apparently chock full of psychotics.  If you ever wonder why Americans are so obsessed with fear, dread and predators, here’s a little hint:

Dear Annie: Last weekend, I stayed at an upscale motel where they serve breakfast in the lobby. After eating, I went to the elevator, and a little boy, perhaps 6 years old, left the table where his father was eating and announced, “I’m going up to Mom.” Dad agreed, and the boy rode up to the third floor with me, chatting the whole time, before getting off on my floor and pounding on a door farther down the hall.

Annie, this child could have been abducted at any time. The elevator was at the intersection of two hallways and was 10 feet from a stairwell.

Anyone could have gotten on that elevator or been in the hallway when he got off.

I was tempted to say something to the parents, but figured I would be told to mind my own business. Please remind parents that the world is not child friendly and safe, and even the most responsible “big boy” or girl could disappear in a matter of seconds. — Concerned in Texas

Dear Texas: We appreciate the heads up. Most children are safer than we fear, but still, parents need to be cautious and alert. A motel is filled with strangers, and there are hallways, doorways and empty rooms where kids can be lost — or taken. It is foolish to allow young children to run around unseen and unsupervised in such places, not only because the child can lose his way, but because it presents an opportunity for those with malicious intent. Next time, speak up. Even if the parents tell you to MYOB, they might be more circumspect in the future.

81 Responses

  1. I’m going to choose to see this as a small step forward, mostly because Annie *does* say: “Most children are safer than we fear…”

    At least it’s not ALL children ALL the time in ALL situations for the rest of their lives! (SHORT THEY MAY BE BECAUSE OMG SOMETHING MIGHT HAPPEN.)

  2. Yikes, this might be me! Oh, except I don’t usually stay in “upscale” hotels. Phew. But I always savor the few leisurely moments at the lobby breakfast while the kids run off to watch cable TV, which we don’t have at home.

  3. Wow, imagine what she would say about me going to the bathroom in the local coffee shop while my three year old eats a snack at the table.

  4. How dare that father give his son the sense of confidence and competence to navigate a strange building on his own?! And to see a child described as anything but fearful and whiny and helpless–shocking!

  5. Dear Annie,

    I’m trying to raise my kids with the moral values that I feel are important. That includes independence. However, some nosy busybody in the paper keeps interfering with me. I don’t want to be too rude or anything, but what’s the best way to tell her to buzz off?

    SIgned,
    Mom Who Understands Statistics

  6. Oh please…

  7. 1) How does she know the child is 6 years old and not 8 or some other number?

    2) How does she know the child doesn’t have the ability to reasonably protect himself or find his way around?

    3) What was she doing walking around alone? Somebody could have carted her off, too. In fact, it’s a lot more likely that a random person you’d meet (in an upscale hotel in the morning) would be tempted to bother a woman than a little boy.

    On another note, I think that the attitude “speak your mind, who cares if it’ pisses people off” is one of the reasons why civility is all but dead nowadays.

  8. @farrarwilliams, Lenore and everyone else here… Actually… I think this is a good idea. Why don’t we draft a group free range kids letter saying that in a more serious tone, and send it to Anne, Dear Abby, and anyone else we can think of who has doled out awful child survailance advice? It may not do any good, but it could’t hurt, right?

  9. Wait – did Annie just tell this woman she should talk to strangers?

  10. Reminds me of the time I got scolded in public by a cop for letting my 3-year-old triplets go to the bathroom without me. Together. While I was stuck nursing their baby brother. In a McDonald’s. Where I could watch them all the way there and back. Where we’d been very often and were familiar. I still have flashbacks wondering who’s watching me, and seeing a friend’s kids taken by CPS for even less reason doesn’t help. Why should we have to be basing our parenting decisions on what somebody else might think, instead of what we know is best for our families?

  11. Oh please, how many abductors use hotels to find children.

    Look at the stats! The very few stranger abductions are of teenage girls.

    When was the last time a 6 yr old was adbucted at a hotel in the US? Is the answer NEVER?

    And yet no complaints in that column about the chances of drowning in the hotel pool, or being killed on the drive to the hotel, either of which is one hundred billion times more likely.

  12. DEAR ANNIE: I AM CONCERNED THAT MANY CHILDREN ARE SLEEPING AT HOME IN THEIR BEDS, YET AT ANY TIME COULD BE KILLED BY AN AIRPLANE OR METEOR CRASHING INTO THEIR HOUSE. SHOULD I KNOCK ON THEIR DOOR AND EXPLAIN TO THE PARENTS THEY ARE BEING IRRESPONSIBLE BY NOT KEEPING THEIR CHILDREN IN A PADDED CELL IN AN UNDERGROUND BUNKER?
    – SUPER DUPER CONCERNED IN ANYWHERESVILLE

    DEAR CONCERNED, YOU ARE RIGHT TO BE CONCERNED BECAUSE GETTING HIT BY A METEOR IS A MILLION TIMES MORE LIKELY THAN IT IS FOR A 6 YR OLD TO BE ABDUCTED BY A STRANGER IN A HOTEL, WHICH I WAS PRATTLING ON ABOUT IGNORANTLY LAST WEEK. WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IS CALL THE POLCE AND HAVE DCS PICK UP THE CHILDREN AND PUT THEM IN FOSTER CARE. GOOD LUCK FROM YOUR FRIEND, ANNIE.

  13. While reading this, I thought this was satire. Then I saw your comment above the article and realized it was for real.

  14. Gee, last night at the bowling alley my 8 yr old asked for the keys so she could get her jacket from the car.

    I gave her the keys and she went….gasp….to the parking lot and got her jacket.

    She did make it back.

  15. I still go back to the car thing. Why is it so hard for people to have even the tiniest tiniest grasp of probability and statistics? If we are going to think like this, we really have to stop letting kids in cars EVER (and to me, getting rid of cars entirely is not the worst idea).

    115 people are killed in a car accident every day in the U.S., over 40,000 every year.

  16. “chatting the whole time” !! These people let their child CHAT? What’s next!

  17. Wow.. insane!!!

  18. How many children are killed in car accidents every day in the US?

    I do remember reading of a mentally ill man slashing the throat of a child in a motel in Florida, long ago.

    It was just a random, crazy act that even if the child had been with his parents could have happened.

    I think a lot of this has to do with us being a society of ‘blamers’. Especially when it comes to death!

    Whenever somebody dies, the first question is “How”?

    Did he/she smoke? Were seatbelts worn? Overweight? Bad diet? Crazy lifestyle? Drunk driver?

    Blame, blame, blame. Like somehow we aren’t gonna die if we hit on the right answer of what to avoid.

    God help the surviving family members when it is the death of a child. The public scorn toward Somer Thompson’s mother for ‘allowing’ her to walk home from school was frightening.

  19. Makes you wonder if the woman’s own kids have enough sense to go to their own room upstairs from downstairs when they are at home.

  20. But couldn’t this women quietly watch out for this kid? Oh, she did, didn’t she. She rode the elevator with him and watched as he knocked on his door. If someone had tried to grab the kid would she have run down to the lobby to yell at the father or help the child? I really wonder.

  21. Ahem, this column may very well be referring to me. We drove cross-country from TX to CA and back, stopping at ‘upscale’ motels along the way. In the mornings my husband and I would take turns eating breakfast while the other dressed and/or packed up, letting each of our 5 and 7 year old sons move freely between the lobby and room where we were, either together or alone depending on their wakefulness and state of dress. They were thrilled to have such liberty, especially dear before a day confined in the car, and everyone was happier (including all the other patrons) for our having allowed this. We were less concerned about the vanishingly remote chance of abduction than of the real likelihood of their disturbing others, but they were actually quite well-behaved. They were very proud of themselves.

  22. “Dear Annie,

    My family and I stayed in an upscale hotel for a couple of days not long ago. My seven year old son had been eating breakfast with me and decided to go up to the room where his mom was.

    On the way up, some woman was talking to him, and watched as he went to our room. When my wife opened the door, the woman talked to her about the dangers of allowing a kid such freedoms.

    I know she meant well, but my children are responsible, well-behaved, and know how to take care of themselves in almost any situation. What’s a polite way to tell someone like that to buzz off? And how can I explain to someone that this world really is safer than when we were kids.

    Responsible Dad
    😉

  23. “…there are hallways, doorways, and empty rooms where kids can be lost — or taken.”

    So, she doesn’t mean “lost” in the sense of “abducted”… she means “lost” as in “suddenly don’t know where they are”. Ummmmm…. her kids can get lost in a hallway? And, just how do you get lost in a doorway, pray tell — it’s only 6 inches of space! Just how stupid are this lady’s kids??? Does anyone have the number for CPS handy?

  24. @mvb – Haven’t you ever seen the Matrix? The doors lead to different parts of the world, and once you go through, you can’t go back, and even if you open the same door twice, you’d go to different places.

    Because, you know…you can open any and all of the doors, and they don’t have some sort of convenient marking, like…say….numbers on the doors in the labyrinth that is any hotel….

    (Why yes, that is sarcasm, why do you ask?)

  25. Noel, hooray! My kids are ~4 and I’d let them do this if there were someone to receive them at the other end. They too would love it. And this kind of real-life accomplishment keeps curious kids from being tempted to get into stuff they shouldn’t. That’s probably why your kids are so well-behaved.

    If a parent has decided to allow a child to do something, I find it amazing that a stranger things she knows better what the child is capable of / what is safe for that child. Yet it’s a recurring theme. Ugh.

  26. Dragonwolf, your comment about Matrix set me to seriously wondering. Wondering whether TV and movies has truly warped the mind of a generation of adults.

    Because this is just like what we saw the other day – “oh, there could be child-eaters hiding behind masks on Halloween!”

    None of these folks bother to ask themselves what the real-world statistics are. They saw it in a movie, therefore it could happen to any kid on the street. Now THAT is scary.

  27. I think the appropriate response to this letter is: Children are abducted by strangers so rarely that it is not likely to happen in the hotel. How could it happen when a concerned stranger like “Concerned in Texas” is carefully watching the child. Maybe Texas and Annie should realize that the vast majority of people are just like they are and will not harm a child but ensure their safety.

  28. Bahahahahahaha! I’m guessing that neither “Annie” nor this concerned LW has seen a hotel in action when a child goes missing. I have, and I have to say, it was pretty impressive! A friend and I were spending the weekend at a hotel in upstate NY when we suddenly heard pounding on the door. We opened the door and a tow-headed kid barged into the room, took one look at us and started asking us why we were in there and what had we done with his toys. We just stared at each other for a moment trying not to laugh. My friend stayed with the boy in a vain attempt to explain he was in the wrong room while I went off to find a hotel employee. I did not need to go far – I got about halfway to the lobby when I encountered hotel employees with walkie-talkies calmly going over a description of the kid and the current location of the parents. In less than 2 minutes, the boy was walking down the hall holding my friend’s hand on his way to the lobby. We were thanked by the hotel staff and the parents, and then everyone went on about their business.

  29. This kind of thing makes we want to run an employment agency that specializes in placing potential molesters in jobs requiring patience, hard work, and tenacity.

    Why? Because if people like Concerned in Texas and all the other paranoids in the world are right, molesters are the most diligent human beings on the planet. They evidently work hard and save their money so they can check into hotels for no other purpose than hiding in stairwells on the off chance that an unattended child might come by. They’d have to wait weeks, maybe even months, for their chance, so they’d have to work really hard to save up enough money to be able to live in a hotel stairwell for months at a time instead of having a job. And they’d have to be crafty enough to be able to spend hours there, day after day, without getting thrown out by security.

    Consequently, this kind of person would make a really hard working, patient, diligent employee. He has rare talents.

    Do the mechanics of what it would require for someone actually to be lurking in an indoor private property on the off chance of coming across a child mean nothing to these people?

    mvb, I’m LOL. I can imagine a kid walking into an empty room (do empty hotel rooms usually have open doors? I thought hotel rooms were always, you know, locked, unless there was someone in them keeping the door open) and not knowing how to get back out the door. “The handle on the outside works by pulling it down, but I can’t figure out how to work the handle on the inside!”

  30. I stayed at a hotel once and they gave my son a cookie. Do you think they were grooming him?

  31. What about all those banks irresponsibly handing out suckers and candies to all the poor, defenseless little children coming in with their parents? They must be stopped!

  32. The other night my kids and I went to the museum and the kids bought little plastic dinosaurs. One of the dinos fell out of the kid’s pocket so we went about searching for it in the dark. The other kid (age 3.5) got bored and unexpectedly walked way ahead – in the dark, out of sight, next to a parking lot in a not-so-safe area. But, I knew that she was likely to have walked toward my car, so I walked in that direction calmly, saying her name from time to time in case she had stopped somewhere else. Lo and behold, we met up and were still in one piece.

    Dear Annie, do I belong in jail for not tying my kid to my wrist? Dear Annie, should I put my kid in reform school for not being afraid of the dark? Dear Annie, do you know that it’s good for kids to know they CAN survive without clinging to a parent at all times?

  33. pentamom… the way i figure it, the door would have to have been propped open, because these kids would never actually touch a door handle in a public place — there are germs on them, you know! which, perhaps, is why they’re getting lost in empty rooms — they’ve never been taught how to work a door handle. I’m pretty sure their houses all have sliding doors (for quick exit in case of fire)

  34. Thanks for posting this, Lenore! After reading this yesterday, I couldn’t wait for some sensible people to rip it to shreds.

    Pentamom, I could not say it better than you did. The very idea of someone lurking around an upscale hotel just for the opportunity to abduct a child is too stupid to fathom. In my opinion, people like Concerned Busybody must be going by a totally different misconception – that practically ever other person in the population is a secret child molester.

    And all that talk from Annie’s Mailbox about getting lost was just a lot of blabbering. This boy was not wandering the halls aimlessly; he knew exactly where he was going!

  35. @farrarwilliams and @Meagan: Let’s do it. You guys have made the most sense in these posts… we send Annie a letter and watch her have to look up the statistics. We ask her specifically so she must look up specific stats. I’d love to see that happen.

  36. lol. Like the blind leading the blind. It’s as if some adults get dumber with age. People stop thinking for themselves and give into everything they hear and see on the news.

    I was JUST reading an article on that subject. About how many people are easily lead to believe things they see online, tv or newspaper. What adults need to do is stop worrying about what others are doing in their lives, and concentrate on theirs. Stop being a fear monger.

  37. @ Nicola: That would be a great idea, but it would never make the papers. Because she will never answer let alone print it. People like Annie, are only giving their opinions. Unfortunately, people like these are very narrow minded, so their opinions are narrow minded. It’s extremely difficult to put common sense into minds that are already filled with fear, self righteousness, and ignorance. But even she didn’t print these letters, it would still be amusing for her to go through a bunch of them. Maybe if we send enough, it may ingrain a little positivity and logic in her head. Better than nothing. lol

  38. That’s incredible!

    When I was a child, my mom would often take me with her on business trips, so I spent a great deal of time around hotels. The deal was usually that I had to amuse myself while she was in meetings, and then we would go out and visit the city together when she was done. As a result, I have a special fondness for hotels (despite the bed bug scare and knowing what black lights often reveal!). I mostly stayed in rooms, but I would also wander halls, play in lobbies, and make friends with the kids of the other guests. Some of my best childhood memories are of finding ways to communicate with children from other countries who spoke no English, and actually being able to play with them.

    My only scary incident happened when I was about eight years old. We were in Hungary and I had just seen my mom off in the lobby. As I was going back up to our room, the elevator got stuck. I was alone, rather terrified, and of course there wasn’t one of those handy “service” buttons most elevators have. So I just pounded on the door and screamed until someone heard me and called hotel maintenance. It seemed like forever, but I was eventually set free.

    I never once felt like I was in danger from the other guests and no one ever tried to abduct me (was I not cute enough? Sheesh, all this media abduction coverage is making me feel bad!). For the most part, I was ignored. Hotel staff would sometimes give me candies (which I suppose would nowadays be considered “grooming”), but I was largely left to my own devices. The result? I had lots of fun and I’m now a travelling pro. I can find my way through any hotel, airport, or foreign city with ease.

  39. My older son is 4, and we live in a high rise building in NYC. While he’s not yet ready for crossing the street by himself (he gets too easily distracted to notice turning cars), we let him go up and down in the elevator by himself. If he’s going down ahead of us, or waiting for someone to pick him up, he has instructions to wait in the lobby, which he does dutifully.

    He’s had times when he’s gotten into the elevator in the lobby, and a well meaning adult has held the door for the adult they assume should be with him, because they don’t believe him when he tells them that he’s allowed to ride the elevator by himself. (This is counter-productive when he’s running upstairs to use the bathroom and there’s an adult waiting for him upstairs.)

    One time, I had my younger son with me, and swung by home to pick up his older brother. Rather than going upstairs, I let my wife know as I approached, and she sent our older son down. He gets to the ground floor and I see that one of the building’s porters is in the elevator, looking rather confused, but happy to see me. Apparently, when he got into the elevator and saw my son, the conversation went something like this:

    “Where’s your mother?”

    “Upstairs, on [our floor number].”

    “Shouldn’t you be upstairs, too?”

    “No.”

    The porter decided to escort my son to the front desk, where they’d call up and have my wife reclaim my son. When they got to me, I suggested that the proper follow up question to “where’s your mother” should be “Does she know you’re going downstairs?”

    I’ve joked with the building staff about how fearful some people are that my son will be abducted when going up and down the elevator by himself, as if the doormen would let anyone get out with a kid they know who’s resisting them…

  40. We were staying in a hotel last week in Florida and a little girl (probably 6 or 7) rode with us by herself in the elevator. She chatted with us the whole time and even asked me what room we were staying in. Maybe she was planning on abducting us?

  41. @JMP: “I’ve joked with the building staff about how fearful some people are that my son will be abducted when going up and down the elevator by himself, as if the doormen would let anyone get out with a kid they know who’s resisting them…”

    I bet that made him feel pretty inadequate. Goes to show, sometimes even adults need to be taught like they are children themselves. As my pops always says, “your never too old to learn”.

  42. SKL Re: Child-eaters – Sadly, I was taught something like that at church, of all places (the whole cult of ritual sacrifice thing).

  43. What I find so annoying about the letter writer is that she doesn’t seem to get that if she wants everyone to act based on the assumption that every stranger and situation is dangerous, then SHE is also at risk of being accused of grooming or being some kind of predator. After all, she rode in an ELEVATOR ALONE with a YOUNG CHILD and she freely admits to CHATTING with him. In the world she envisions, she should have been met by the other parent with accusations of malicious intent. Or maybe she would have been happier if the father had approached her, photographed her, and threatened her against trying anything perverted with the kid.

  44. Funny, when we travel (quite frequently) the first thing our 9yo does is take the hotel provided pad & pen from by the telephone, grabs her room key (she always requests her own, and proudly saves them to show others!) and tours the hotel, making notes about all the ammenities. While we happily unpack & get a little quiet, she takes detailed notes about the quality & location of the pool, scans the menu from any in-house dining available, and locates the nearest ice machine.
    I would estimate that she’s done this in at least 15 hotels, and never once had anything but a fun, empowering, positive experience.

  45. @Ap – I can remember when I got to have my own room for the very first time in a hotel! We had just moved to the UK, but our house wasn’t ready yet, so we ended up living above a pub for a couple weeks. Because it was an extended stay, my mom decided that I should get a room of my own.

    That was an incredible experience! I got a lock on my door (which is the dearest wish of all almost-teenagers everywhere), not to mention my own little kettle with coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. I felt so grownup when I invited new friends over from school and could over them hot beverages from my very own kettle!

    Anyways, I love the idea of using the hotel’s stationary to write a little mini-review of the hotel. What a wonderful keepsake!

  46. If hotels are bad, apparently campgrounds, yes, campgrounds, are even worse. My sister rarely goes camping anymore because she was told that campgrounds are the primary hunting grounds of registered sex offenders (presumably, this way they don’t have to register).

    We grew up camping a lot, and it was fun to run around in a new place, play on the playground, make new friends with other kids….. no more. Too dangerous….. LOL

    Guess we were just lucky this summer when our son hung out with our cool “camping neighbors,” a 20-somethings married couple who are teachers… and, in the summer, YMCA camp counselors! Apparently they’ve figured out where the easy prey is……

  47. @Ap – we recently stayed in a hotel during a little vacation and our 9-yr old ALSO had his own room key (He thought that was the BOMB!) While he and DH were watching the Patriots game in the lounge (so that I could have some quiet time in the room) he too was allowed to “roam” the hotel (aka, come back to the room for his sweatshirt). I’m sure he chatted up everyone he met along the way.

  48. I found the main page for Dear Annie, and one of the few non-FRK sites that has comments about it. Thankfully, at least some of them are actually for the kid going up to the room on his own. Others, though, are just….sad.

    http://www.creators.com/advice/annies-mailbox/an-uninvited-rubdown-breaks-up-friendship.html

  49. @SKL Excellent point about the age of the child. I find a good number of people over or under estimate the age of kids based on the kids in their lives. My niece who at one point was off the charts tall for her age (the charts didn’t have a space for a child her age to be that tall) and is still in the 95% has been reprimanded by complete strangers for being a “baby” when she is acting completely appropriate for a 5 yo.

  50. […] Dear Annie: Is It True That Every Time a Child is Alone He Gets Abducted? Readers — Here the latest from Annie’s Mailbox, which is apparently chock full of psychotics.  If you ever […] […]

  51. You know, I’m almost curious as to what they’d say if I mentioned what happened to me in Chicago in 1978 (age 5), or Toronto in 1983. I mean, geez, in Toronto I was probably MILES away from my parents–in a foreign country, no less. Surrounded by DANGEROUS CANADIANS! Just THINK of what MIGHT have happened!!!!!!1!!!1!

    (But didn’t, of course.)

    (And yes, I was joking about the ‘dangerous Canadians’ bit.)

  52. @farrarwilliams I really liked your “letter” a lot. It certainly echos my feelings very succintly.

    I can tell you this: someone like Annie, if they were to confront me, they most certainly would get a “MYOB” type of response, big-time. You better believe it. They don’t pay my child’s food, daycare, clean their doo-doo, live with them day & night–my wife & I do, we know–they don’t.

    LRH

  53. Margaret, the sad thing is that there are people in the world who would actually feel good if they were accused of something unsavory (as long as it didn’t proceed to police involvement) because that would mean that “at least people were concerned.” They’d rather live in a world where people are “concerned” enough to suspect everyone, including them, of nefarious intentions, than one in which children were snatched randomly off the street every five minutes (which they see as the possibilities.)

    I hope they never get their wish.

  54. pentamom, I’m doubled over laughing (dolol?) at your description of the work ethic of child snatchers.

  55. @Grimalkin Sis and I were younger when we started staying in our own room in hotels. I want to say Sis was 4 – 6 yo and I was 8 – 10 yo. The night before we had been sharing a room with our parents. We were in one bed they were in the other.

    Something started Dad out of a deep sleep – just in time for him to grab sis’s bar shoes* before they came crashing down on my head/throat.

    She had flipped head to foot on the bed in her sleep resulting in the near miss. Dad pulled me up and out of bed to check for injuries and I had a couple straight bruises on my shins from the bar.

    From that night forward we had our own room and did not share a bed. If they had a connecting room available our parents got that. Other wise they got 3 keys and would keep one. It was made crystal clear that if we left the room in the middle of the night, or pulled any stunts, we would have to surrender our keys.

    *Sis was pigeon toed and wore bar shoes to stretch the ligaments in her leg at night. She was lucky I had 5 years of bar shoes + wore corrective shoes till I went into 6th grade and declared I would throw them out the bus window and walk into school barefooted. All I have to show for all those years is a broken nose. Climbed/fell out of my crib and caught the bar across the nose. I’m still pigeon toed.

  56. @BPFH When I was in Scotland with a High School group I got really ticked off. We were “allowed” to socialized with this choir group from somewhere in the US, but I got yelled at and told I would be sent home for talking to a HS rugby group from Vancouver. Because all rugby players are r@pist. I was tempted to tell the blow hard chaperon he was confusing these boys with his football playing son. I wimped out and told him I would be happy to tell my Mom he just called 3 of her brothers, and 10 of her nephews r@pists.

    The ironic part – I couldn’t have been safer. During our conversation I had mentioned that my Mom was from PEI, but I hoped to visit my Uncle Billy in Vancouver. The coach was there and asked me “Do you mean Bill Last name From Montague PEI?” Turns out my Uncle helped the coach out but couldn’t go on this trip due to work issues. I really wished Billy had been there. I would have called my parents after the peanuts in my bed incident to get permission to leave with him.

  57. I wouldn’t tell her to MYOB, I’d tell her to KMA (kiss my ***)!

  58. I have been reading this and similar columns all my life, and when they get enough responses to one particular letter, they will often publish a sampling of letters that had something to add, whether it was pro, con, or just an additional perspective. A letter-writing campaign couldn’t hurt.

  59. Reminds me of the story about the boy who “zigged” when the rest of the family “zagged” at a large railway station. They finally found him with a group of nuns. One of the parents said, “I hope he wasn’t bothering you.” And one of the sisters said, “No, not at all. He thinks we’re penguins.”

  60. As a long-time abductor of temporarily unattended children at hotels all over America, I can tell you that nothing screams E-Z Pickings like a child all alone in a big bad hotel. My opportunities are almost limitless. It could be a creep like me spying from behind a newspaper to size up potential prey as a blissfully unaware foolish little child wanders those long hallways and waves at the cameras overhead. Fortunately, security is not important at all to these big high-priced hotel chains that I prefer, so why should I care if my picture is going to be plastered all over the airwaves after I commit my crime? It’s so unlikely that anyone would notice that this little girl is screaming, or that this boy is struggling against my grip; people always assume they’re just poorly raised kids. Like I said, EZ Pickings.

  61. The man who wrote the letter to Annie is so silly. If he was that concerned he should have realized how noble he was being to escort the young man to safety by warding off potential kidnappers with his adult presence. I’m always happy to find children who know how to conduct themselves in public arenas, and who are intelligent and confident enough to know where they are going. We need to give as many opportunities as possible to give children chances to develop this. Kudos to those parents!

  62. Hey HCAG, have you ever helped a child operate the waffle iron at a complimentary breakfast bar? PERVERT!

  63. Dear Annie,

    I am so afraid for my child’s safety I have put the little ankle-biter in a protective plastic bubble. Shortly after I put him in the bubble, he turned blue and was grasping at his throat. I’m afraid if I take him out of that bubble he will be molested by sex offenders but it looks like that bubble might be strangling my spawn. Quick, what do I do?

    –Idiotic Parent in the USA

  64. Upscale… motel???

    Bwahahahahahahhaha!!

  65. Now I’m really curious. What would a typical child actually do if I tried to abduct him/her? Maybe I will try it on a few children over the course of the day and see how it goes. But wait – since it happens so often, why have I never seen an example of this in real life?

  66. Dear concerned in Texas,

    While you were so concerned about this childs abduction, did you take a moment to think that perhaps there was a rapist in this motel looking for the same advantages as a child abductor?

    A motel is filled with strangers, and there are hallways, doorways and empty rooms where a woman all by herself could be dragged into and raped. For your own safety I would suggest not walking the hallways of motels all by yourself. You are just inviting someone to beat and rape you. ANYONE could have been on that elevator with you…!!

    Please be reminded that the world is not women friendly and safe, and even the most responsible woman could disappear in a matter of seconds. I suggest you never walk alone anywhere, ALWAYS use the buddy system or have the hotel staff escort you where you want to go. You can NEVER be sure…there are thousands of rapists out there, waiting behind every corner.

    (BARF)

  67. Actually, you probably could abduct a kid in front of witnesses and have a reasonable chance of getting away. As a college student, I worked in a store, and it was pretty common for my fellow employees and I to see an adult carrying a screaming child (usually 5 or under) out the front door. None of us ever intervened, because we assumed it was the kid’s parent dealing with a tantrum, which as far as I know it always was. But, this is why people suggest that kids be taught to yell “You’re not my dad/mom” instead of just screaming, in the (highly unlikely) event that someone does try to grab them from a public place like a hotel or shopping center.

  68. @Vanessa I’ve asked kids who is that, when they are being hauled out screaming. I had a classmate abducted as a child. Two passing strangers thought she was with her father. When she realized that, she remembered to scream he isn’t my Dad – stranger. The two women grabbed her and ran to a store, a clerk had already hit the alarm panic button due to the child’s scream.

    BTW every single time I’ve done it the kid has replied identifying a family member – and shut up and walked out.

    I did something similar when two women were chasing a kid around 2 cars in a parking lot. They put the kid in the car – the kid kicked them hard in the middle and darted out the other side of the car. Only when I was leaving after she said Mom and Aunt someone – did I see the autism stickers on the bumper.

  69. Last week I was at a thrift store, and my kids were playing in the furniture area while I was looking at kitchen stuff.. the kids came up to check in, and a lady said “are those your kids?, they were all alone over in the furniture area playing, I was so worried about them” I didn’t really know what to say at first, only to ask if there was a problem… She said oh no, but a piece of furniture might fall on them or something! I was shocked, and couldn’t help but think how much more stressful it is to raise kids now compared to 60 or so years ago when kids could actually play outside, ect… Heck I cant even look at bowls at the thrift store while my kids (who know the rules) play house in the furniture area without being neglectful. So much pressure and no community.

  70. I guess the woman is lucky the little person that she thought was a 6 year old boy, did not take offense at her discriminatory attitude and SUE HER!

  71. RE Vanessa’s comment above. MY oldest was smart (??) enough to yell that I was NOT his dad when he was in trouble for misbehaving in public!
    I had to tell him that I would say I was NOT his father and that they could take him away while looking for his parents…that USUALLY stopped him!

  72. I deny my kids all the time when we’re at the store and they are on a sugar high. “Whose kid are you? Where is your mother? I have never seen you before.”

    But seriously, just today I was at Wal-Mart with my girls, and it was taking me a while to find what I was looking for. My girls were playing some sort of game where they skipped around chanting and making hand signs. Hence, I could hear them clearly and knew that they weren’t up to any mischief (unless you consider singing and laughing to be mischief). They were not always in my direct line of sight, but so what? Some lady came up and said “where is your mother??” to which I musically answered “she’s right here.” The woman said “oh, I was so worried . . . ” It being Sunday morning, I refrained from being sarcastic and asking “worried about WHAT”? Seriously, what is going to happen to two preschoolers skipping around the girls’ clothes at Wal-Mart on a Sunday morning? Is it highly unlikely that they are in the girls’ section because their mom is shopping (and listening) nearby? It’s not like it was crowded, either – until that lady approached, we were the only people there. Hmph.

  73. The other thing about my kids is that my 4yo is smaller than some kids half her age. And her 3yo sister is on the short side, too. So onlookers could get the impression that they were younger. However, it would not be fair to treat them as babies just because they are short. This is why I raised the issue above – how do you know you’re looking at a 6-year-old? People are always saying “if I saw a child that age in that situation, I would ___.” But how do you know their age? This is another reason I advocate watching out if you are concerned, but not interfering unless you’re pretty sure there is a danger. It’s great if people care about our children’s well-being, but there’s a big difference between caring, assuming, and judging.

  74. @Gary, my dad still likes to tell the story of the time we were eating dinner at Burger King (I was about four) and he tried to stop me from doing something annoying, like crawling under the table. I didn’t like being contained and yelled “Get your hands off me, you filthy beast!” at the top of my lungs. He says if looks could kill, the glares he got from the other people in the restaurant would have slain him on the spot.

  75. I’m Australian and earlier this year we took our six and three year old boys to Italy. Yes, the whole other side of the world. Where they don’t speak our language. On our last night we stayed in a nice but typical airport hotel. After dinner 3 year-old was a wreck and needed to go to bed but 6 year-old wanted dessert. While waiting for dessert he realised he needed his asthma inhaler. What to do? Give up on the dessert we’d already ordered? Leave him in the hotel restaurant while I went back to the room? His choice – to go up to the sixth floor where our room was, get his dad to give him his ventolin and come back down to me. I was apprehensive but figured the chances of him getting into difficulty didn’t outweigh how great he was going to feel if he managed. So I stood next to my chair and watched anxiously as he disappeared around the corner . . . about ten minutes later he was back, beaming ear to ear. And then we ate dessert together.

  76. Anybody else notice that Annie and Concerned in Texas overlooked the fact that the kid was fine?

  77. @Christina – Wait a second. You were with a child who was not your own? A MISSING child who was not your own? In a HOTEL ROOM?! It’s a wonder you weren’t arrested.

    On a shallow note – the ice machines! Finding the nearest ice machine was always the biggest priority for me and my sister at a hotel! (And I don’t remember ever being escorted by a parent to one, so I guess the age when you care about finding the ice machine roughly equals the age when you’re allowed to wander the hotel hallways by yourself.)

  78. I work at a jail and am currently working in the area where child molesters/murders are housed. I am so surprised that so many take the safety of their children so lightly. One inmate housed where I am working tried to abduct a young girl from where her family was vacationing. These creeps don’t have child molester stamped on the forehead. They look like everyone else. As capable as your child may be, predator adults can very easily carry away a kid before anyone may notice. I can tell many think this woman is a nosey busybody and statistics don’t prove the dangers she claims. I personally watch my kids a little closer. Not because I don’t trust the kids, but because I don’t trust the adults.

  79. I think that we all know that there are very real dangers out there in the Big Bad World, and we can definitely appreciate how horrific it must be to be the family whose child is taken.

    But it’s about the weighing of risks. If it were as simple as “keep your child safe or don’t keep your child safe,” the choice would be an easy one and I think that every single parent here would have no qualms about being a helicopter parent (being Free Range is different from being neglectful – Free Rangers have to be very engaged to adequately assess risks and make informed choices).

    The problem is that the choice is far more complicated than that. Let our child be alone sometimes and we run the very small risk of encountering one of the people you work with, Bieyen. But what is the alternative? The much higher risk that our child will be overweight, get diabetes, lack self-confidence, lack the ability to solve his own problems and use his own creativity and initiative.

    These dangers are every bit as real as creeps you see at work, except that they are far more common. So the Free Range parent weighs these two possible outcomes and makes an informed decision – and then spends the next 18 years to forever hoping and praying that they won’t be the one family unlucky enough to be that one big news story.

    You also need to understand that the nature of your work is going to give you a skewed perspective. A doctor who works with children and is surrounded by juvenile diabetes every day would probably have something very different to say.

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  81. I think this story is a mess of crap.only a complete dumbass would believe that one.I own an upscale hotel and my staff or myself wouldn’t permit that.we would’ve get in touch with the authorities.

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