Parents do stupid things.
My sister in law once accidentally locked herself out of the house as she was retrieving mail. Not a big deal until you consider that my then - three year old nephew was taking a nap in his bedroom. She realized her error and managed to break into the house via the garage. My dad once forgot he was supposed to pick me up from school and left his Kindergartener daughter crying on the school steps for a couple of hours. (I don't remember if there were school aides waiting with me; but I assume so.) There will no doubt be times that Honey and I do stupid things as parents (if we're lucky enough to ever get that distinction) which are done out of carelessness or oversight or during a bungled emergency. Nonetheless, I find I have decreasing sympathy for parents who seem outright derelict in their duty.
Last weekend, Honey and I took in a 9PM showing of Ratatouille. It was cute, but frankly, I can't tell you too much of it because most of what I remember of the movie-going experience involved a friendly pre-lingual toddler. He could not have been more than 22 months old. His parents saw fit to bring him and his three year old sister to a movie which would not let out until 11PM. The children were, thankfully, quiet, but their parents' behavior was rather disquieting. We were in a theater with stadium seating. Honey and I were at the fore of the top section, so that we had the railing in front of us, the floor and bottom seating section were below us. The childrens' parents took seats on either end of the handicap accessible seating at the top of the bottom section and let their children wander. During a movie. In a large room filled with strangers. In the dark. The little boy was really adorable and had we met under different conditions, I wouldn't have thought anything of it. But as the parents kept their backs to the children - in a dark room filled with strangers - only to check in on them ever 30 seconds or so and to retrieve them when they began to wander up the steps of the top section, I could not fully enjoy the movie. Why? Because, I felt like I had to keep my eye constantly open for this little boy in case someone did try to nab him. His parents certainly weren't doing it. Safety aside, it's simply rude to let your kids run around a movie theater. People are there to enjoy the film, not your cell phone text messaging session, not your comments to the screen and not your toddler's happy dance in the aisle! It's called, "pop for a babysitter or wait for the DVD," buddy. If you know your three year old can sit through a movie, bring her and let the other parent babysit.
What irks me most about this is that clearly, some people have no concept of safety, when it is their moral charge as parents to do everything in their power to ensure the safety of their children. I have been in a cave lately, so I just learned of this today, but when I did, I thought immediately of the parents at the movie theater. Little Madeliene McCann was nabbed from her family's resort apartment room while on vacation in Portugal. It's truly tragic and terrifying. But when I learned that the parents had put her and her 2 year old twin siblings down for the night in the room unattended while they went off to dinner for the evening, I was sadly unsurprised. How easy would it be for someone to break a window and take her? Or a hotel staffer who has a key to waltz in and nick her? Then when I read that her parents had actually left the room door and the patio doors unlocked I was livid. That's not just a stupid parent move - like leaving your kid in the car for 10 minutes to run in to buy milk - that's patently negligent. If that family were American, those parents would be arrested and separated from their remaining children. Who leaves toddlers unattended while you're 100 yards away?! (That's the length of a football field, mind you!) It's not as if her parents were 19 year old dumb kids. They're doctors!! I understand that abduction is not as common in England as it is in the US, so for the sake of those who live in "more civilized" societies, let's pretend kidnapping does not exist, that children are at no danger of ever being nabbed and harmed. You still don't leave a couple of toddlers alone in a hotel room to sleep! What if one of them falls off the bed and bangs her head? Or another wakes in the night and pulls the TV on top of himself? Doctors don't understand this?!
I certainly cannot begin to imagine the bereavement these parents must be feeling, nor their sense of guilt. I do feel sorry for them. But in my mind, they are just as accountable for their daughter's loss as the villain who took her. This was not a momentary separation from their child at the store or in a crowd or even a missed rendezvous because of poor parent communication. This wasn't even a piss-poor decision to let their kid run around a movie theater under a lazy parental eye. Theirs was a deliberate decision to leave their pre-literate children alone in a hotel room in a foreign country without even giving them the barest dignity of a secured room. They could not respect their children enough to lock. the. door. I have immense sympathy for the little girl. I pray that this comes to a happy ending for her. And I hope other parents take a moment and get a clue from this.