While sitting in the local Chic-fil-A restaurant today, I noticed that two kids were left by their parents. The place was packed to the rafters with parents and children and the atmosphere was like a huge birthday party for toddlers.
Out of nowhere, some woman came in with an infant in an infant seat. She set the child down on a table and walked away to place her food order. The kid must have been left unattended for a full 3 minutes!
The second unattended kid was walking through the restaurant yelling "MOM!" He'd walk up to each aisle and yell "MOM! MOM!! MOOOOM!!!" I watched him walk up one end of the store and the other screaming for his mom. He was getting desperate and started crying "MOM!" He must have been scared out of his mind. He was in a loud place with a ton of people, and his mother was nowhere in site. It turns out she was in the bathroom and then ordered food. Only after about 5 minutes did I see the kid find his mom, who looked completely clueless and oblivious to the fact that while she was in the restroom taking a dump or whatever, her kid was running around not knowing just where in the hell she was!
Now, I don't care where you are or how safe you think you may be, DON'T LEAVE YOUR CHILD UNATTENDED... EVER!!! Personally, I never leave my kids out of sight. I always keep them where I can see them and never so far that I couldn't run to them in less than 2 seconds. In a hectic restaurant, I wouldn't let my kid go more than an arm's reach from me.
I can understand leaving your sleeping infant in a carrier, on a table (close by and within line of sight), and going to get your order... in an empty restaurant, but I wouldn't even do that. I'd place her on the ground next to me. If that's too inconvenient for some parents, then too bad. If you can't take care of your kids, give them up for adoption!
Both of these two kids could have easily been kidnapped and no one would even know or care. The place was so busy, it was impossible to tell who's kids were who's and who's parents were who's. And call the police all you want. Despite there being 100 witnesses, 3/4 of them were kids under the age of 5 and the rest of the adults were too busy tending to their own kids to see if anything bad may have happened.
I'm sure these clueless parents probably thought that it was okay because there were a lot of people around. Maybe because we were in Salt Lake they thought they could trust the mass of people there, most of whom were probably LDS as well as them. After all, they drop their kids off in nursery when in church - why not Chic-fil-A?
I'll tell you why. If I was a crazy person who wanted to steal a child, what better place to do it than a really busy restaurant with a bunch of people completely tuned out to the rest of the world? They are all focusing on their little universes. They aren't thinking about the possibility of someone bad coming by and stealing a child. Haven't we all read and watched about women who have miscarriages and can't have children of their own coming and stealing them? People can become desperate.
In an area where Elizabeth Smart was taken from her over trusting family, you'd think the masses of sheep would be a little more cautious when they take care of their children. Kidnappings happen everywhere. Just because you live in an area where you feel relatively safe doesn't mean there aren't predators out there just waiting for an opportunity to take advantage of your carelessness.
Maybe I'm just over-reacting. Perhaps I'm paranoid. Maybe I'm spending too much time thinking of the unthinkable and focusing too much on what bad things can (and do) happen on a lazy Tuesday afternoon. Or perhaps instead, I'm tuned into the reality of the world. The reality is that no matter where you are or what you are doing, interacting with people is unpredictable.
Maybe I'm just hell bent on keeping my children safe because getting them here wasn't easy. Lindsay and I spent a long time trying to get our first child to come into this world, and maybe I don't want to lose that which we struggled and sacrificed for. Maybe I get anxious about keeping my baby girl safe because the thought of losing her to some deranged crackhead or weirdo crazy lady makes every muscle in my body tense up with anger.
Maybe I don't want to deal with the fact that letting my guard down could get my children into big ass trouble and maybe I don't want to feel the guilt of my children being overly frightened or hurt because of my own stupidity. How terrible did the father of Elizabeth Smart feel to know that his over trusting of a complete stranger made his daughter's disappearance turn into national headlines? As much empathy I have for the family and the daughter, the father was a chump. Sadly, his daughter paid the real price. I won't be a chump. Parents who leave their kids completely unattended without being able to see or hear them are chumps.
Don't be a chump. Never leave your child unattended!