Dad Out with His Kid Mistaken for One of Those Many Strangers Abducting Kids by Daylight in Front of Groups of People

Hi readers — I thought this was a fantastic post by a dad mistaken for a pedophile. My blood was boiling on his behalf.  BUT…wait’ll you get to the guy’s conclusion. It does not sit well with me. Wonder if it makes you squirm, too. – L.

P.S. This story got sent to me last week, though now I see it’s from about a year ago. Anyway, still curious as to your reaction.

Yikes! Is that a male with a female child !?!

Yikes! Is that a grown male with a female child?!?

 

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99 Responses to Dad Out with His Kid Mistaken for One of Those Many Strangers Abducting Kids by Daylight in Front of Groups of People

  1. Bess January 23, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    I’m curious why his conclusion makes you uncomfortable – I came to the same one he did, that it was pretty great that an almost-stranger was looking out for his kid. Is it because of her assumption that, just because he’s a man, there was cause for concern on the little girl’s behalf? (I wonder if the teacher would have been as proactive if the “protagonist” had been a woman.) Anyway, just wanted to hear more about your thoughts…. Thanks!

  2. TaraK January 23, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    I think I myself (being in the yogi’s shoes) would have watched the interaction without saying anything. If the girl seemed comfortable with him it should have been enough. Once he got her into the car seat in a car likely littered with kid stuff that would have been beyond enough. I think one of the FRK “rules” is to watch out for each other. Noticing a child you know from your neighborhood should include watching out to make sure they’re safe.

  3. Freedomforkids January 23, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    This story and it’s conclusion touched me. I feel he came to the right conclusion, to applaud this woman for taking a real physical risk, also to risk great embarrassment in order to be certain that this child was safe. I would have wanted to thank her myself had I been in the father’s shoes. She wasn’t sure he was a child abductor, she just wasn’t certain he wasn’t. Also, she didn’t scream at him, or call him names and accuse him or frighten the child.

    I think she was wonderful.

  4. millse January 23, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    I agree with some level of concern bit I do think the instructor over reacted. Why not just go up to the Guy and introduce yourself…see if he has the same last name as the mom, say to the girl ‘its so nice to finally meet you and your daddy’ and see if she contradicts you. Look in the car as you talk for kids toys, a car seat, etc. There is no reason to scare everyone by treating someone like they’re an abductor until you further assess the situation. Another case of men being guilty until proven otherwise.

  5. Denise January 23, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    There are so many levels that this is wrong on. First and foremost- when I was a kid and nearly kidnapped from a mall (if my mother’s story is true), the person who took me was… a woman.

    Second, why should this yogi be re-inforced in her strange, deluded belief that all men are evil?

  6. Naturalmom January 23, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    I agree with TaraK. I think she probably overreacted and didn’t lay off soon enough, but if she really felt uneasy about the situation, I’d rather be in a community of people who feel they can act on behalf of a child from the neighborhood than who refuse to react out of fear for themselves or because they don’t want to make a mistake. What burns me a lot more are people who don’t even try to engage to assess the situation (as this women did) and instead just reflexively call the police.

  7. Emily January 23, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    I agree with Millse. There are ways to scope out the situation, without defaulting to “guilty until proven innocent.”

  8. Karen January 23, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    It’s very bothersome that in today’s society a man is automatically considered a pedophile. I think it’s the reason we have a shortage of male teachers in our schools across the country. Having said that, I think this woman acted from a place of caring for a child she knew and recognized vs. a vindictive act. Just as we shouldn’t judge parents for their decisions and mistakes we should give all people the benefit of the doubt that they are doing their best from a caring place and not as an act of malice. Rejecting worst first thinking should also expand to other life scenarios in my opinion. A person who cut you off in traffic may be lost and panicked vs. trying to be a jerk. Someone who is rude to you in the store may have just found out their mother is dying or they lost their job and is not just a horribly rude person. My two sense is this isn’t horrible. She didn’t call the national guard or scream and cry.

  9. peterkickit January 23, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    I have to agree with millse. The correct response for a concerned yoga instructor would have been to approach the man and say something like “You must be the toddler’s father.” instead of “You must be the toddler’s pedophile abductor.” The odds are probably a million to one in favor of father vs abductor, so why not go with the odds?

  10. Josh S January 23, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    “She chose not only to assume the worst, she chose to do something about it.”

    The first half of this sentence is the problem. The second half of this sentence is fantastic. At least the yoga instructor walked up and asked directly (as awkward and silly and unwarranted as it was) instead of COMPLETELY overreacting and calling the police — at which point dad would have been writing this post from a holding cell while the powers that be sorted things out.

  11. Steve January 23, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    Almost bizarre that a YOGA instructor, who is supposed to be so attuned to nuance and self awareness would be the one who DIDN’T pick up on the little details of a father and daughter interaction.

    And she didn’t even think about the fact that he was putting her into a kiddy car seat and not having any negative responses from THAT.

    This sensitive self-aware YOGA instructor was only aware of HER OWN over-the-top fears.

    Unfortunately, too many people live their lives attuned to the fantasy in their heads, not reality.

  12. Peter J. Orvetti January 23, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    This fellow was actually appreciative that he was thought to be a possible pedophile when picking up his own daughter. It’s akin to someone racially profiled by TSA being grateful for being seen as a possible terrorist.

    It is simply not okay that men around children are often assumed to be possible predators without evidence. I’ve seen stories of airline attendants trying to move fathers away from their own young daughters, assuming they were strangers and he might be a pervert. Where does this stop?

    I have two eight-year-old sons, and I volunteer with toddlers at a local daycare charity. I am very lucky that I have avoided such cruel assumptions.

  13. m January 23, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    When my kids were infants, my husband and I traded off times. He worked mornings, I watched the kids, and I went to work in the afternoons, and he’d watch the kids. I was dismayed then with people’s reactions.

    In today’s over-sensitive world, I wonder if seeing a man with two babies wouldn’t get an even more negative response.

  14. Paul Fullbright January 23, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    I hope that I’d be appreciative that she’d be concerned, but I’d also tell her that she needs to check her assumptions.

  15. CrazyCatLady January 23, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    I don’t think I would want to go introduce myself the next week. It is almost as though he is making an excuse for being the father. The yoga instructor now knows he is the dad, and so do the other women. No need to go any farther.

    (She could have asked the people in the cafe if they knew the dad before going out, but I do understand she was nervous and not thinking clearly.)

  16. Warren January 23, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Donna,
    Dont laugh at this next statement.

    I know I am usually one full of outrage at things like this.

    Go ahead Donna laugh, lol.

    I think this one is different. This one is more the instuctor noticing a change in routine, than an eek a male thing.

    No cops called. Now yes a little more observation may have resolved this, but she at least apologized and explained herself.

    I do not think the dad should have had to plead his case, as much as he did. I also do not think she should have imposed herself between them and the car.

    Maybe she should have tried waving them into the studio, thru the window. You know to tell dad, his daughter is more than welcome to inside to watch, or offer her an intro session. This would have settled it as well.

    Not a no harm…no foul incident. But very little harm and very little foul.

  17. Laura January 23, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    I’m torn…on one hand the jumping to conclusions based on him being male is ridiculous. On the other, it’s nice to know “the village” is really still invested in looking out for the children. Obviously this yoga instructor is familiar with the little girl and the mother. My husband had a similar experience at a bookstore. I was in a different section, he was with our 4 yr. old in another. For some reason there were tears and as they were making their way back to me this woman (complete stranger) was following them asking my daughter if she was ok and if she needed her mom and where is your mom. My husband kept walking and saying, “my wife is right over here” . She didn’t let up until my daughter saw me and ran to me. Then she just turned and walked away…no apology. That did tick me off…

  18. Captain America January 23, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    P.W.M. — “Parenting While Male.”

    I had a funny deal happen to me once. I took my son by bike (he in the Burley) to a local park. Nice summer day. I took my ukulele (yeah, learning the uke!) to strum on the park bench while he played on the park gear.

    I figured the uke would keep me from being bored out of my gore.

    A little while later, a scrawny but muscular guy comes to sit on the bench with me. He’s checking me out. We talk—heck, I’m shooting the breeze because I’m kind of bored having to take the kid to the park.

    Turns out, he says he’s a cop and his daughter is over there playing on the park equipment. I say that boy there’s mine.

    So yeah, he was checking me out. I don’t blame him some for it. I wonder if he really was an off-duty cop. I wonder if the ukulele made him think I was a fruitcake. God knows.

  19. Sane in a Crazy World January 23, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    The fact that anyone agrees with his conclusion is proof of how paranoid and crazy a society we’ve become. This story is NOT okay nor is his conclusion. Shame on you for thinking it’s okay to assume the worse in everyone! I wonder how you’d feel if this happened to you (and I hope that it does happen to you!)? Then you can tell us how great it was that someone thought you were a pedophiliac child abductor and was really only watching out for your child whom they’ve never seen before in their life… seriously!

  20. SKL January 23, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    I would have done similarly, though hopefully with a bit more grace. I mean, she acted like the guy could not have been the child’s dad. If something gave me a weird instinctive feeling about the man and little girl, I would have tried to get close enough to get a feel for the situation. It’s a lot better than calling 911 like some people do. :/

    The attitude of this woman is what I keep talking about in terms of our neighbors seeing my kids out. I don’t know those people, but I know it’s much more likely they would help a child than hurt her. I want them to recognize my kids so that if anything bad was happening (regardless of whether it involved a “bad stranger”), someone would be that much more likely sense “this isn’t normal” and step up and do something.

    So I always recommend that people take their young kids for frequent walks in the neighborhod before they are old enough to walk alone. I feel it makes kids a ton safer.

    Unfortunately, there are people who think this actually endangers my kids. “What if one of those is a weirdo? Seeing your little girls will put ideas in their heads.” I don’t deny there is some risk of that, but I feel the benefit outweighs the risk overall.

  21. pentamom January 23, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    I appreciate the fact that she was concerned. I don’t appreciate the fact that when seeing a little girl she knows, with a man she doesn’t know, apparently happy and in not trouble, she didn’t just automatically assume that it was her Dad, who the lady didn’t happen to know.

    There’s something deeply wrong when people DEFAULT, with NO INDICATION OF A PROBLEM, to something other than “I don’t know her father, every child has a father, so that must be him.” That’s what the default should ALWAYS be, unless there’s an actual reason in someone’s behavior to suspect something else is up. Merely being there with the child and then leaving with her is not a reason in any sane account of the situation.

    Being concerned is only a good thing when there’s a reason for it, not when the most normal possible thing in the world is happening in front of your eyes.

  22. Tattooedelf January 23, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    I think he’s far more generous and forgiving than I am.
    He’s certainly more generous and forgiving than my husband – hubs would have blown his stack and the aftermath would not have been pleasant.

    I’m also surprised that he wasn’t recognized – he wrote he’s in the coffee shop every week, that his daughter watches this class every week . He should have been familiar to these women. Selective attention, I guess. I do wonder sometimes if people pay more attention to girls than they do to boys.

    Kudos to him for his patience.

  23. Backroadsem January 23, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    While I am experiencing a little blood-boiling and “good grief” thoughts, I applaud his idea of introducing himself to the folks of this yoga studio. Let’s encourage community!

  24. pentamom January 23, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    I honestly don’t think he’s being generous and forgiving.

    Okay, there’s an element of that, and I guess he gets credit for it.

    But mostly he’s foolish. He actually wants to live in a world where it’s normal for people to question perfectly healthy interactions between fathers and their daughters on no basis other than “I know who that child’s mother is and someone else is with her today.” Does that make ANY sense at all? It makes no more sense than if it were any other random father and daughter in the coffee shop?

    The only reason it would have remotely acceptable for this women even to THINK something was wrong was either if she knew the mom well enough to know there was no Dad with rights to take the child, or something significantly different from incredibly normal interaction between the two of them had been happening.

    So for him to react positively to what amounts to someone questioning his perfectly normal behavior for *absolutely no justifiable reason* is an indication that he doesn’t want to live in a healthy society. There is absolutely NO difference between this, and someone randomly walking up to a man and asking if he’s about to rape the woman in his car. THAT’S not “good behavior, looking out for others and contributing to society,” so why is this?

  25. Marianne January 23, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    I am conflicted about this story. I understand the indignation a parent would feel at being suspected of abducting their own child, but on the other hand, what would have been the right thing for this woman to do? I think everyone on this blog can agree that children are safest when their entire community looks out for them, and this story is a prime example of that principle in action. For would-be concerned citizens, there appears to be an unforgiving conundrum. We say: Be aware and look out for your neighbors children, but don’t EVER be wrong in your instincts or you will be harshly judged.

    The way I see it, the yoga instructor didn’t act simply because the child was with a man. What she saw was a child that she recognized out with a woman that she also recognized. Then, minutes later she saw the same child walking with a man that she’d never seen before. Would she have acted differently if it were reversed and she recognized the father but not the mother? It’s possible, but we don’t know because that’s not what happened.

    I agree that she could have handled the situation more discreetly, but she didn’t have tons of time to think through what she was going to say or do. The father decided to be understanding and forgiving, and everything worked out for the best.

  26. Sane in a Crazy World January 23, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    Well said, pentamom! Well said.

  27. pentamom January 23, 2013 at 11:27 am #

    “I am conflicted about this story. I understand the indignation a parent would feel at being suspected of abducting their own child, but on the other hand, what would have been the right thing for this woman to do?”

    To assume that when you see a man with a child not acting in any way suspicious, it’s a man going about his perfectly normal business with a child who is properly in his care. You’re not taking the question back far enough. If you ask, “When she became concerned that something was wrong, what should she do?” then the question is hard to to answer. When you ask, “When she saw the man with the girl, what should she have thought, based on what she saw?” it’s real easy.

  28. SKL January 23, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    In the woman’s defense.

    They all thought the little girl was with her mom, standing outside waiting for her mom. Maybe her mom was the one who was seen bringing her there, before letting her hang outside alone. Naturally they figured it would be her mom who would come out for her eventually.

    Then here comes a man they have never seen with the child. It looks like he’s taking her from where her mom brought her.

    I see nothing wrong with wanting to check it out. However, I would not have gone all crazy on the guy and the kid like this woman did.

  29. SKL January 23, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    Folks, I really think we need to get off our high horse when it comes to people in neighborhoods watching out for our kids.

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it, but there is nothing wrong with giving a damn and taking reasonable steps to confirm all is well when something feels off.

    Like a few weeks ago at a restaurant outside Disney World, where a little girl was wandering and apparently lost track of how to get back to her parents’ table. I stuck my nose in until I was sure she found her way back. Tar me and feather me.

  30. Patrick January 23, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    I’m a dad. On the one hand, if this happened to me, I’m sure I’d feel indignant at first, too.

    On the other hand, part of my free-range philosophy is the belief that I can rely on the broader community to do the right thing and help protect my kids. If they get lost, they can ask for directions, etc.

    Yes it’s annoying that implicit in the interaction is the suggestion that men with kids are inherently dangerous. However, the instructor recognized the little girl, knew what her Mother looked like, and saw that it wasn’t the mom, but a stranger picking her up. I hope she would have responded the same way if it had been a strange woman instead of a strange man. It didn’t happen that way, so I can’t be sure, but i’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt and assume it was the fact he was a stranger, not the fact he was a man that drove her to action.

  31. pentamom January 23, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    I dunno, SKL, I know that’s the explanation.

    But think about it — what is in the least, tiniest bit suspicious about a Mom dropping a kid somewhere and the Dad taking her home, if they met up in between? I can’t being to count the number of times our family did a hand-off like that.

    I realize that abductions DO happen but a proper mentality would realize that it is so rare that another, far more common and obvious, explanation should always be assumed unless there is a BEHAVIORAL, not circumstantial, reason to think otherwise.

    It really comes down to, when you hear hoofbeats, it’s foolish to think first about zebras. It’s only a twisted societal mentality that makes you think there are zebras over every horizon in North America, so to speak. And to approve, rather than lament, that mentality is not a good thing.

  32. pentamom January 23, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    “However, the instructor recognized the little girl, knew what her Mother looked like, and saw that it wasn’t the mom, but a stranger picking her up. I hope she would have responded the same way if it had been a strange woman instead of a strange man.”

    But why would a woman who knows next to nothing about the family consider herself to be qualified to judge that a “stranger,” (i.e., a person who is unknown to A WOMAN WHO WORKS NEXT DOOR TO A PLACE THE FAMILY FREQUENTLY VISITS) might be a danger to the child. Basically you’re arguing that people have a right to be suspicious when they see a child they don’t know with someone other than the adult they don’t know, that they usually see the child with. That’s just way too weak an association to cause “alarm,” and that causing alarm can only be the product of a very messed up view the world. Sure there is an honest desire to look out for others and that’s a good thing, but the thought process that made that desire kick in *in this situation* is 100% indefensible.

  33. SKL January 23, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    But pentamom, we weren’t there. Maybe there was some behavioral thing that made the woman nervous. The guy didn’t simply say “come on, honey” and she followed. He approached her and talked to her about doing something nice with her and then she agreed and they walked off. Watching this through a window, it could have looked like he offered her something to go with him, which is different from the usual way a dad calls his child to come.

  34. CJW January 23, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    I’m a father of two boys (ages 4 and 2), and my wife works weekends which means I spend an awful lot of time out with the boys by myself.

    Stories like this make me really uncomfortable. I’ve definitely noticed looks of concern on other people’s faces on various occasions (particularly if the boys are being obstinate, but even when they aren’t).

    When I’m more scared of someone accusing me of a crime than I am of someone actually committing that crime, I know there’s something wrong with our society.

    And Lenore, I totally get why the father’s conclusion makes you squirm. After getting so upset about being falsely accused, he basically goes on to reassert the same exaggerated fears that led to his being falsely accused in the first place. “Thank goodness for all the busybodies keeping our kids ‘safe’ from all those kidnappers lurking around every corner.” It’s nice to know we can trust others to be so distrustful of everyone else.

  35. lollipoplover January 23, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    With panic responses not kept in check, we accept them as the norm. Soon our kids will need to take yoga to destress from all of the non-abduction attempts.
    “Where’s Mummy? Where’s Mummy, sweetie?” The kid will get a complex and not want to go anywhere without her mummy and boom, she’ll need those yoga classes to deal with the anxiety.
    Yoga lady needs more downward dogs. Just because she’s not with her mother (didn’t the author say he practically lives at this place?) shouldn’t cause panic.

  36. Captain America January 23, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    Heck, maybe we fathers need to carry around in our wallets something like an I.D. card, or a photo of the family all together, along with social security cards or something, or register with the police. I don’t know.

    Would be nice to have something to just flip out and settle the issue.

  37. Lezlee January 23, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Lenore, one of the things you often emphasize is that while our kids are out playing independently, most adults are good people, are willing to step in and help if needed (like in the story of the girl who fell through thin ice). This lady is just one of those people. I agree with the other commenters who say she might have done the same thing seeing the girl go off with anyone unfamiliar.

    I agree with most of the protesting about assuming men with kids are pedophiles or abductors, but let’s not let our resistance to those busybodies go over into encouraging people not to look out for each other at all.

  38. lollipoplover January 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    What am I missing here?
    “We’re not regulars at this place. We’re part of the furniture.”
    He said he meets with his wife weekly at this cafe. And he knows his daughter is like a yoga mascot.
    How has the yoga teacher not seen the father before?
    If it is an unknown man going off with a know girl, then this is a totally different story.

  39. Puzzled January 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    There are good and bad ways to look out for the kids in the community. This is a bad way. Think of it this way – we want our kids to ask directions when they are lost, right? We don’t want every adult in the vicinity flying up to them when they see them in public asking “where are you going? I’ll tell you how to get there!” We also don’t want them going up to a man and asking for directions, only to have the man accused of being a pedophile and abductor.

    I don’t understand his thought process, either. If he imagines the entire class getting in on the panic, asking each other “have you seen him before?” why doesn’t he imagine his wife speaking up?

  40. AztecQueen2000 January 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    My synagogue has a supervised playroom where parents drop off their toddlers during the services. Because my husband usually arrives before me, I’m the one who drops the kids off. One time, I get there, and DH is there with the girls. The playroom supervisor asks me point blank, “Do you know this man?”
    Hmmm…the girls are climbing all over him and calling him Daddy–could it be that he’s their FATHER?

  41. Quantum Mechanic January 23, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    I’m totally disgusted with the man’s conclusion. It’s a pathetic example of Stockholm syndrome.

    If he’s going to take the time to visit the yoga studio, he should give that instructor a verbal blasting she’ll never forget.

  42. Quantum Mechanic January 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    Not all rage-y, but he should calmly, but very bluntly and forcefully let her have it about how unacceptable and bigoted her “thinking” is.

  43. SKL January 23, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    I’m sure the yoga instructor was embarrassed and thought over what would have been a better response. I’m sure the whole yoga class discussed it, in fact.

    And then there should have been some self-examination as to why all that yoga didn’t prepare them for a more even-keeled response to the situation.

    There does seem to be some inconsistency in the dad’s story: on one hand he practically lives at that cafe, and on the other, he says the yoga folks have never seen him before, despite the child’s regular position in front of their window. To me that means the mom is always the one who retrieves the girl from there, so no wonder that’s what the women expected to see.

  44. Jenna K. January 23, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    The only thing that bothered me was when he says that the class looked on while the mother left her 3-year-old daughter there alone, and the first assumption anyone had was that the man who came over was a pedophile? The first assumption I would have would be that the man the mother left her daughter with was her father!

  45. pentamom January 23, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    SKL, the story goes into pretty much detail about the woman’s account of what she was reacting to. If she really had a good reason, why didn’t she give it, in among all those indefensible non-reasons?

    “I agree with the other commenters who say she might have done the same thing seeing the girl go off with anyone unfamiliar. ”

    I just don’t get where a person who knows nobody involved in the situation other than seeing them once a week through a window gets to benchmark who is “familiar.” Familiar to her? But she doesn’t even KNOW them in any meaningful way, so where does her sense of familiarity come into play at all? The normal assumption is that their whole family is unfamiliar to her EXCEPT the mom, so seeing an unfamiliar person should not ring any bells at all. The little girl SHOULD be going off regularly with people unfamiliar to the yoga instruction because she doesn’t KNOW them!

  46. Fuchsia January 23, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    Would I go and thank the person who accused me of abducting my own child? Or if my husband was accused? No. I wouldn’t. The idea that all people, all men, with children are under suspicion is so harmful. Will that man feel comfortable out alone with his daughter again? Or will he always be wondering who is watching? What will that take away form the relationship with his daughter?

    Why are we as a society punishing dads who are stepping up to be dads? Do we want to go back in time to when it was the moms job to be the parent? We asked dads to step up. So now we need to let them.

  47. SKL January 23, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    pentamom, my reading of everything the woman said indicated that she was not thinking straight enough to form a reasoned response. That does not mean she had no reason for her actions.

    I’ve been in plenty of situations where I’ve reacted immediately and only understood later why I did it. (Usually it is an appropriate, instinctive response.)

    I am not opposed to the guy going back and saying, “just so you know, I am this little girl’s dad. I appreciate you guys caring for kids you see in the neighborhood. I just hope that you allow for the possibility that their dads might hang out with them.”

  48. Fuchsia January 23, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    I find it very interesting that a normal father daughter interaction is questioned, yet when I had to carry my four year old daughter home from the park kicking and screaming up a storm (she really really didn’t want to leave and was expressing that) not one person looked twice. Because I am a mom not a dad? Maybe people have seen us around before? But I think that if a dad were to be seen carrying a child who is yelling about how they don’t want to go that someone would say something. I have made that walk a few times in 4 years and no one has ever said a word.

  49. Donna January 23, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    SKL, how is his behavior different from how anyone gets a 3 year old to come with them? Most 3 year olds don’t just happily leave something the enjoy when you say “come on.” If you haven’t seen many parents get down and try to encourage a child to leave, you haven’t watched much parent/3 year old interaction. If you have no reference for common parent/3 year old interaction, you have no business deciding that any is suspicious.

    What I note from this is that it doesn’t appear that mom, dad or child had any contact with this class except through a window. The yoga instructor automatically assumed that the woman seen with the girl was the mother (in this case it was right but it also could have been a nanny and aunty or some other relationship). She sees same girl with a man and doesn’t assume father; she assumes potential kidnapper. A child having a father is nit an unusual occurrence.

    And why not let the lack of reaction from anyone else be your guide? The mother was just right there. They saw her. This is not a free ranging kid or a wandering off toddler. This is a 3 year old who is doing what the same 3 year kld does every Monday under the same adult supervision. Do they think mom is just going to sit quietly while her daughter is lured off by some strange man? If the mother is not making a scene, wouldn’t the natural assumption be that mom is okay with all this?

  50. Michael January 23, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    I agree Lenore, it does not sit well with me either. This is wrong. The woman’s actions were totally inappropriate and I’m truly sorry the father is reacting the way he is as it is a sign I believe that he too views it as normal to question the interaction of a male and a child. It should never be normal to question such interactions without a darned good cause and the reaction should not be any different from female-child interactions. It pains me to know what incidents like this will teach the child.

    Also, she should be glad she did not physically come between me and my daughter the way she did in this letter as I don’t know what my reaction would have been.

  51. Sane in a Crazy World January 23, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    No!!!!! Captain America, that’s exactly the issue. You’re saying that you must be guilty until proven innocent! You shouldn’t need to prove that you’re the father first…

    and SKL: you said “which is different from the usual way a dad calls his child to come.”

    Is there only one “way” for a father to call his child? Are you kidding me???

    It is pure fear that caused this woman’s reaction, nothing else. She saw a man with a child and in her mind, she decided he must be bad. Nothing else mattered, period. You don’t see the wrong in that??

    Have you read 1984? Have you seen Minority Report? We are becoming these dystopian societies we once believed to be fiction. Soon, we’ll be imprisoned for our mere thoughts, not just our ‘possible’ actions.
    Hell, let’s just lock up all men now and get it over with, they must all pedophiles or they’re going to be…

    AztecQueen, I hope you let them have it on that stupid comment!

    And Fuschia, I agree completely.

    We’ve lost it, people… and we don’t realize the damage all this is causing.

  52. RobynHeud January 23, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    I really feel like the major problem is not that the yoga instructor checked up on them, but the manner in which she did it. I am a mom and I hate the assumption that a child can only be safe with their mother (the whole “where’s your mommy” line of questioning really ticked me off). That being said, I agree with several other posters, on this site and on the original article, that a more appropriate approach would be to assume the actions of a friendly neighbor, and say something along the lines of “you and your father are welcome to join us”, or “what do you and your daddy have planned for today?” These comments have more than one purpose in that 1) it doesn’t cause the father to feel like he’s being accused of all manner of heinous intentions with his own child, 2) it addresses the child and gives him/her the opportunity to contradict, as in, “that’s not my daddy, he’s my uncle” and 3) it helps build that awesome sense of community that we always talk about. Building community isn’t about watching your neighbor through the curtains to see if they’re a witch or an axe-murderer, but it’s about keeping an eye on what is going on in your section of the world and when something doesn’t feel right, having the courage to step in – with the intention of clearing up a misunderstanding, not to accuse the innocent – and make things right.

  53. SKL January 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    About the way the dad interacted with his kid: my real point is that without having been there, we cannot say (as someone insisted above) that there was no behavior that would have made a reasonable person “wonder.” Obviously someone did “wonder,” and we don’t have enough facts to know if there was justification or not.

    Donna, you’re being silly. You know I have two young daughters and obviously they were 3yo for a while. I have also had many years of experience with preschoolers who were not “my own.” No, it is not wrong or weird for a dad to squat down and talk to his child, but to me it looks more like something you’d do with a child you aren’t that familiar with. Someone whose attention & compliance you have to win rather than expect.

  54. Emily January 23, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    “That’s right, black people! You should be grateful when someone assumes you’re a threat, because better safe that sorry!” Or, I’m sorry, is it inherently different when it’s sexist?

  55. Emily January 23, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    *than. Stupid fingers.

  56. Dark Space January 23, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    Yes, she could’ve handled it differently. If I had seen a strange man walking away with a kid whom I know really well, but had only met her mother, I might introduce myself as a first step. People handle situations less than perfect all the time, and I might have corrected her action in a friendly manner as it happened. Rather than “it’s ok”, maybe a “oh hi, I’m Mrs. KidsMom’s husband, KidsDad. She loves watching your class, I hear about it all the time. Thanks for looking out for her, but we have to take off.” I’d also have no problem telling her to back off.

    On the other hand, I’m happy we live in a world where people are comfortable stepping in where they think something is wrong. If I see a kid on the playground writing in permanent marker on the equipment, I’m going to tell her to stop if her parents don’t beat me to it. If I see someone doing 50 in my neighborhood where my kid rides her bike, we are going to have a discussion about it that makes them feel uncomfortable. I’m not going to block them from their vehicle with my body, or physically threaten anyone (unless the kid is kicking and screaming to get away), but why shouldn’t people step up and say something? There is just a better way to do it then her approach.

    This story really hits home though. I know the terror that probably flashed through his mind because one time, before my wife and I married, and while she was in China on business. We were engaged, she had a 5-year old daughter, and we had all lived together as a family for two years, and frankly I never thought much about being challenged on my status as to who was in charge or the legitimacy of me having this kid in my custody until we went grocery shopping with Mom a few thousand miles away. About 30 minutes into our shopping trip this little 5 year old girl started trying out her “Stranger Danger” chants in the middle of the store. She was practicing… I got her calmed down before they hauled me away and really before anyone noticed, and have been re-indoctrinating her ever since that not all strangers are Dangers and how you should never cry Wolf unless there is a wolf present. I was absolutely terrified there for a few seconds. How would I prove to anyone I was in the right? Would they take me out back and save the taxpayers a buck? What would happen to her while I rotted in jail and her Mom was hard to reach for a couple of weeks? Would they throw her in a foster home? Stranger Danger is about the most dangerous thing that has ever happened to me ;)

  57. lollipoplover January 23, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    OT, but loved this story…
    http://www.today.com/moms/waiter-hailed-hero-after-standing-boy-down-syndrome-1B8038223

  58. pentamom January 23, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    ” If I had seen a strange man walking away with a kid whom I know really well, but had only met her mother, I might introduce myself as a first step.”

    Which would be a different situation from the one described here. The correct hypothetical is….

    “If I had seen a strange man walking away with a child I didn’t know anything about but saw once a week through a window, and had only seen with a woman I assumed was her mother, but didn’t know either of them., I would….”

    The only reasonable conclusion to that sentence is “go on about my business since the most reasonable conclusion was that the man I didn’t know was the father of the child I didn’t know, or someone else engaging in normal behavior with a child in his care.” The only way that’s not the most reasonable conclusion is if suspicion is always warranted when you don’t know enough to be sure an unknown man is safe with an unknown child.

  59. Emily Guy Birken January 23, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    Okay, I know that it’s very easy to play Monday morning quarterback on the yoga instructor, but I think that there is a much more graceful way to allay one’s concerns: introduce yourself.

    If I had been in her shoes, and I had some reason to be concerned about the little girl, I’d head outside and say “Hi! I’m Yoga Instructor. We love how the little girl watches our class. You must be her dad?” Presumably, one could get a much better bead on what’s happening by using normal friendliness than by acting accusatory.

    Seriously, even if you have a reason to be concerned about something, it’s much better to approach the person with the assumption of innocence.

  60. sylvia_rachel January 23, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    I would say she did the right thing in approaching them, but the wrong thing in assuming the worst. The little girl wasn’t upset, and seemed to know the guy; that very likely means all is OK, but OTOH if a kid’s going to be abducted, molested, etc., it’s more likely to be by someone she knows and trusts than by a random stranger, right? But one could, for example, say to the little girl with a smile, “Oh, is this your Daddy?” — thus giving her an opportunity to smile back and say “Yes! We’re going to the park now!” or to say “No! I want my mummy!” Or you could approach the adult and introduce yourself and chat about the child, and gauge for yourself during the interaction whether all is OK.

    Looking out for each other is an important part of community. But assuming the worst is usually not a good idea. it sucks that a dad can’t be seen in public with his toddler without being suspected of kidnapping.

  61. pentamom January 23, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    SKL, when I said that some unusual behavior was necessary before forming a suspicion, I meant something a little more significant than assuming an innocuous bodily position *you* don’t normally associate with a father talking to his child, but that some people prefer because it enables more face-to-face interaction.

    I am not saying that the instructor didn’t have reasons in her mind for being suspicious. I’m saying that there was nothing in the situation to create actually *valid* reasons for suspicion, and that outside of a widespread mentality of “stranger danger” that distorts the way we see all kinds of normal human interaction, there was nothing to see there at all. If you walk around with the idea in your head that the thing you expect to see is people acting in normal, non-criminal ways, your mind will immediately tell you that a Dad is taking his child home. If you walk around with the idea in your head that people commonly snatch kids out of coffee shops in full view of an exercise class, so that you might actually expect to see it happen someday, then you might think that’s what’s happening.

  62. Steve January 23, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    The Yoga instructor AVOIDED interaction with the suspected pervert, instead focusing on the little girl. What does that tell you about her mindset?

    She is sure, of course, that children Never Lie. (Ha! Ha!)

  63. Matt January 23, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    My wife is expecting our first child, a little girl, in about a month. This story scares the crap out of me, but I’m trying to take the same approach that free-range advocates – accept that individual stories don’t necessarily represent trends.

  64. SKL January 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    pentamom: as far as you know. We were not there.

    Of course, it’s very possible that the women in the yoga class had been having the following conversation:

    “Such a little girl, I wonder why her mom leaves her outside alone?”

    “Something could happen. What if she runs in the street?”

    “What if someone snatches her?”

    And then along comes a man they have never seen before, squats down, appears to talk the child into something, and walks off with the child.

    “OMG!”

    Perhaps this is even the more likely scenario.

    But we don’t know.

    I disagree that it’s never OK to go stick your nose in (politely) if you merely have a funny feeling about something. I think it’s the right thing to do.

  65. Don January 23, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    Hmm, I’m inclined not to have an issue with this. Based on how he tells the story it sounds as if the people in the studio had noticed the child standing alone previously with a woman, THEN they notice a man they hadn’t seen before approach the girl and walk away.

    The moment she gets an independent sign that the man is, in fact, the child’s parent, she backs down and apologizes and leaves.

    I think that’s fair. As far as speaking first to the child, I dunno. If you’re stopped by the cops and they suspect one person is being intimidated by the other then they separate them so they can get some independent validation that everything’s okay, without the other directing the conversation. I don’t see how a concerned individual does THAT with a parent and child, but asking the kid where the recently-observed mother is seems like a not-bad way to try to duplicate that.

    I’ve got a real issue with both over-paranoia and sexism but given the setup here I think this sounds like fair play.

  66. Paul January 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    Welcome to my world.

    While I don’t get directly accused, I see the mothers in playgrounds all take a step or three closer to their kids when i arrive to pick up my kids. Its pretty funny, in a sad way, seeing them all send the invisible message out in unison, like birds in flight or fish in a school. WARNING, Y CHROMOSOME APPROACHING, DANGER, DANGER!!!!

  67. pentamom January 23, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    “pentamom: as far as you know. We were not there.”

    Well, we know that the Dad was not a pedophile, he was a Dad. We know that the woman in question did not know the family well enough to have any conception of who was a suitable person to lead the child away.

    Therefore, while there is perhaps a .0001% chance that he was acting in a way that could reasonably be construed as an obviously inappropriate way in which a pedophile, as opposed to a father, might act, it’s unlikely enough that I think we can discount it as a reasonable explanation for the woman’s motivation, even though you’re right, we didn’t see everything that went on.

    Unless your standard for a genuine red flag of behavior is really low, that is.

    “I disagree that it’s never OK to go stick your nose in (politely) if you merely have a funny feeling about something. I think it’s the right thing to do.”

    I agree with you here. What I disagree with is that this woman could, unless the Dad is not telling us that he’s some kind of weird freak who acts with his own daughter in ways that would arouse valid suspicion, have had any justifiable reason for a funny feeling. Her behavior is excusable in that she’s likely bought into the counter-factual view of life promoted by the stranger-danger mentality, but it’s not actually justifiable as rational.

    GIVEN THAT she had a funny feeling, approaching the Dad (but not remotely in the way in which she did it) could have been appropriate. But it’s the “given that,” that’s the problem.

  68. SKL January 23, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    Pentamom, you are doing the same thing you accuse that woman of doing.

    Knowing hardly any facts about her, you allowed your bias/prejudice to determine that she was most certainly (or at least very probably) a busybody who reacted to learned fears / sensationalism instead of a healthy instinct.

    While we ask community members to NOT prejudge men as likely pedophiles, let’s not prejudge women as likely busybodies.

    And I feel she did give the guy some benefit of the doubt, because she went up and talked and sized up the situation. Not the way I would have, but she also didn’t fear to approach the man. She didn’t scream to the neighborhood for someone to stop the man. She didn’t call the cops. She never said “you leave her alone” or “is this man bothering you.” Her focus was on getting the child to confirm she was OK.

    And, I am Ms. Yoga learned a good lesson that day.

  69. SKL January 23, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    I mean “I am sure Ms. Yoga . . . “

  70. Jill January 23, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    It seems to me that the woman’s response would might have been similar if a strange woman (not her mom) was coming to take the child. So it’s not necessarily about a man.

    I don’t have a problem with this woman’s response. It’s called community. Looking after each other. It takes a village to raise a child. Etc. We lament the loss of these things, yet are critical when they occur? It’s not as if the woman flipped out and called the police. She probably became more concerned than she had to be, but we are relying on the father’s description of her actions/tone of voice etc. and he may be projecting things onto her that weren’t really there, because he was offended.

  71. RobC January 23, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    What if she’d tried to physically prevent him from leaving with his own daughter? Would she still be a ‘champion’?

    What if she’d called the cops on him? Or started calling out, “This man is trying to abduct this little girl!” Would she be a ‘champion’ then?

    I’m honestly not sure what to think about this one.

  72. Beth January 23, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    “There’s something deeply wrong when people DEFAULT, with NO INDICATION OF A PROBLEM, to something other than “I don’t know her father, every child has a father, so that must be him.”

    I can’t remember who posted this above, but it bears repeating. I was surprised at the support for the yoga teacher on the original article, and I’m even more surprised at the support for her here.

    The whole it-takes-a-village movement needs to embrace the idea that there are far more men in appropriate relationships with children than those that aren’t.

  73. Crystal January 23, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    My husband and I hosted a 15-year-old Spanish girl last year for a year. It was a wonderful experience.

    However, my husband would often get strange looks while we were out and about (we’re only in our mid-20s). Some women even felt the need to question him as to why he was out with a teenage girl. When he (and she!) would say he was the host dad, one woman even had the nerve to ask him, “Do you even have a regular family, or is it just you and her at your house?”

    People had such a hard time coming to grips with the fact that we’re just nice people who provided a loving home for a girl for a while. Apparently, being nice (and acting normally towards your “daughter”) is cause for suspicion.

  74. Taradlion January 23, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    I too am not ready to jump to the conclusion that the yoga instructor was reacting to a MAN (as opposed to someone other than the child’s mother that she may have seen her come in with). We become annoyed that people (wrongly) assume all men are pedifiles, and yet there is an assumption that hr actions were because the non-mom here was a man.

    Pentamom- all of what you say could be true. It COULD be true that the mom has had a conversation with the instructor (thus she is not assuming the woman is the mom). For all we know, the mom could have asked in the past if it was distracting to have the child there…or even if it would be okay of the child stayed to watch while she ran to the bathroom. WHO KNOWS?

    To me the difference between this story and the one with the Grampa from a few weeks ago (other than the police involvement), is the fact that the (young) child was leaving with someone other than the person she came with.

    Yes it was worst first thinking. Yes it is unlikely to be an abductor, and yes questings could have been posed differently (like suggested above).

  75. Sky January 23, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    If I leave my three year old alone at a window, and I am routinely there with her and routinely pick her up from there, and I walk away from her, and a minute later a man shows up, hunkers down, talks to her, and leads her off, and someone sees it and feels hinky about it, then I really don’t mind if they take a moment to confirm that the man actually IS the child’s father, which is ALL this woman did. As soon as the kid called him *Daddy*, she felt embarrassed and left. It’s not that big a deal. I don’t think you need to call her a champion by any stretch, but it’s not a bad thing to check it out and confirm when you are used to seeing the kid ONLY with the mother or by herself and the mother always reclaims her.

  76. Ali January 23, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    As a mom raising a boy it’s disheartening to realize he’s really just a pedophile in a child’s body….at least that is the prevailing assumption anymore. Sheesh.

    Moms do wicked and evil things to their children, just as men do. (Dalina Nichols anyone?)Women don’t deserve the free pass and men don’t deserve the bad rap. Sad.

  77. Mell January 23, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    As the yoga instructor, wouldn’t you think that the mom wouldn’t just walk off and leave the child unattended though? If a strange woman whom she had never seen had walked up and spoken to the little girl, taken her hand and walked off with her, would she have panicked and run out after them like she did? My gut tells me no. That is what bothers me about this.

    I can see why the father would eventually draw the conclusion he did, happy that someone was concerned about his baby. That is natural. It’s his baby. But I would be outraged, as a wife and mother, if someone assumed that my husband was a kidnapper just on the basis of not recognizing him. At this rate, we will get to the point that men can’t accompany children in public without a female present.

  78. pentamom January 23, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    “Knowing hardly any facts about her, you allowed your bias/prejudice to determine that she was most certainly (or at least very probably) a busybody who reacted to learned fears / sensationalism instead of a healthy instinct.”

    I’m going to back off a bit after this, but actually, I don’t have a bias against the woman. It’s just that the only logical possibility is that she was reacting to fears/sensationalism rather than a healthy instinct, because a healthy instinct does not react with suspicion when there was obviously nothing suspicious going on because he WAS the father.

    It’s not that I have an opinion about this woman, it’s that there’s no scenario I can imagine under which she could have seen the father doing something potentially inappropriate with the child (because he WAS the father, not someone doing something inappropriate with the child) and therefore had her instincts been normal, she would have assumed she was looking at the normal thing she was looking at, rather than some abnormal thing that was not happening.

    Sure she didn’t know the guy, and the girl was normally with her mother. So what? The overwhelming likelihood was that she was with her father for a change, that the instructor had never seen the father, didn’t notice he was there before, but now noticed that he was. She was teaching a yoga class at the time the parents came and went, not conducting surveillance on the coffee shop, so the normal reaction would have been that a parent had arrived that she hadn’t noticed. And even instincts should function in terms of overwhelming likelihood. I can’t think of anything she could have seen that would have given any reason to think outside the box of normality, given that what was going on WAS perfectly normal, so the presumption that she was acting on a distorted view of reality is the only thing left to me.

  79. tramlover January 23, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    Interested to read this as I am also in Australia – where this story is from – I am not a great fan of the website it is on and I am inherently suspicious of ‘stories’ which are published just in time to advertise the authors performance in the comedy festival.

    Anyway I am happy to say that where I live in Melbourne on the weekend in particular but also quite often in the week is perfectly normal to see Dad’s or other men (in my families case my brother so my kids uncle) out and about with kids – and my husband and I haven’t ever heard or seen anything negative. The rule seems to be that if you are with kids you are ok – husband says it isn’t the same if he is on his own and sometimes he forgets that while people are quite happy for him to chat to their children on the tram, train, etc if he has our children with him – it is not always the same if he is on his own.
    (I have heard negative perceptions about male pensioners in parks on their own without children – poor guy he likes to use his metal detector to find coins dropped by all the parents – he doesn’t even speak to the children unless they ask him what he is doing)

    Community is important I agree but the way this was handled was not – and I think quite frightening for the child. My daughter 3 y.o has been terrified on more than one occasion by people saying to her “Where’s your mummy, where’s your mummy” in a panicked tone when I am not within 2 meters of. In all instances she was very happy amusing herself within line of sight of me (just about) and knew where I was – but people she didn’t know crowding her and asking her like that made her worried at 3 y.o if an adult says to you “What’s happened to your mummy” you tend to think something has happened to your mummy – especially when you say “she’s over there” and they don’t understand so just keep repeating it.

  80. courtney January 23, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    My husband has been a stay at home dad since our second was born. I don’t even want to think about how many times someone looked twice at him with a 2 year old boy and newborn girl! While yes it is good she did something about it what she did was nit appropriate.

  81. Jenn January 23, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    What I find disturbing that is because the adult involved is male, he could be guilty of kidnapping. What if the scenario played out a little different and every week the yogi saw dad with the child but this week saw mom squatting down to the child, then leading her off to the car? Would that warrant a confrontation? I have been a mother for eight years and never has anyone questioned me for being out with my child but a father is? Being male doesn’t mean that you are a criminal and we should stop treating men as such.

  82. FredTownWard January 23, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    Well-intentioned stupidity is still stupidity. It was good that this woman was concerned enough to keep a protective eye on children in her vicinity; it was bad that she didn’t bother to switch her brain on before she acted. (One thinks of the old, old joke about the eager beaver Boy Scout helping the old lady cross the street and figuring out much too late that she didn’t WANT to cross the street after all!)

    But of course this is arguably the cause of most of the idiocies you cite in your blog:

    good intentions combined with no evidence of thinking whatsoever.

    As for the man’s turnabout conclusion, that wasn’t much of a surprise to me once I noticed his profession:

    actor.

    These days that tends to mean half neutered by feminization and political correctness. His initial reaction was what we could call the normal reaction, the right reaction, but I’m sure he’s been taught to examine his feelings when he finds himself reacting “like a man” (knuckle dragging Neanderthal), and once he realized he was reacting like a person who would actually consider owning a gun rack, he was quickly able to apply the corrective “thinking”.

    But I’ll bet there is one thing he’d find even more horrifying than this experience:

    learning that his experience was being used to argue for LESS insanely overprotection of children. Oh, the SHAME of it all!

    His fellow actors and actresses who nodded sympathetically at his being accused of pedophilia, will never let him live THIS down!

  83. Donna January 23, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    @SKL – I’m not being silly at all. So you have 2 children. That makes you an expert on how everyone interacts with their children? I know MANY people who get down and talk to their children face-to-face. Especially distracted preschoolers. Because, in all honesty, compliance in a preschooler when you are ripping her away from one of her favorite activities is far from assured. While I will just generally say “come on” to my 7 year old, I always got down face-to-face with her at 2 and 3 in these types of situations because I wanted her focused on me and not the yoga going on inside. For you to say that this behavior is somehow suspicious because it is not the way that you interacted with your children at that age is just plain silly.

    One of the problems I have with this scenario is what pentamom has been pointing out ad nauseum and everyone chooses to ignore — this yoga instructor has no relationship with this child at all. This is not a kid she knows really well. It is a virtual stranger she sees through a window while teaching a class that neither the child or mother has ever been enrolled in to our knowledge. It doesn’t appear that the yogi even knows the child’s name. She should in no way be making judgments as to what is “normal” for this family at all.

    This is not community to me. This is not what I want to live in, where women suspect men of kidnapping children based on absolutely nothing.

  84. bmommyx2 January 24, 2013 at 2:45 am #

    I have mixed feelings. While on the one hand I think it’s great that this woman followed her gut & stepped into what could have been a dangerous situation to help this little girl it’s also saddens me that she had been bombarded with the idea that strangers are lurking around every corner waiting to snatch a child. I do think the dad handled this situation is an awesome way. Strangers are funny beings. Not long ago I took my boys 6 yrs & 20 mos to the mall & we stopped in the food court for a bite. My six year old wanted me to get him something else so I planned to leave the boys & go about 20 feet away also still in sight & hearing distance to order him some more. My little one started fussing & not wanting him screaming & wiggling around in the highchair I took him with me. My six year old not wanting to be alone wanted to come, I explained that if we all left the workers would clear the table & throw out or food that we were still eating. I was only gone a few minutes. When I came back a woman approached me & commented on how well behaved my son was & I thanked her. Now here comes the big “but” she & her companions were concerned that he was “alone” & I reassure her that he was fine & I was near by. I appreciate her concern & infant part of the reason I can leave him is that I have confidence that if someone did try & “take” my son someone would intervene in addition to all of the patrons there are quite a few employees keeping the dinning room clean. Our society has become so over-paranoid it’s crazy

  85. Caro January 24, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    I agree with you, Lenore, that this is shocking. Yes, yes, we always want people looking out for our kids, but what could have provoked the yoga instructor’s actions and assumptions? According to the author, he and his wife and daughter are fixtures at that coffee shop and the daughter watches the class every Monday. They have NEVER noticed her father? I suppose I’m complicit in every child abduction in my area b/c when I see a man out in public with children, I assume he is their father or grandfather. Silly me.

    Also, in response to one of millse’s points: my husband does not have the same last name as I do, yet we are married and he is the father of my children.

  86. Regina January 24, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    Sadly, the Yoga instructor’s fears were based on the fact that media is constantly bombarding us with the notion that the world we live in has become a far more evil place than ever before ( sorry…4 thousand years ago Solomon said there was “nothing new under the sun”) and now children are no longer EVER safe, especially around men. Given that, what else could she think?
    Proof? Jerry Sandusky…a name practically everyone in the friggin world now knows! I blame the media for perpetuating the notion and promoting the hysteria that men interacting with children must now be viewed with suspicion. It is tragic to say the least and possibly the only way to counteract this is to get more media attention focused on the VAST majority of men whose interaction is NORMAL and HEALTHY with children…and when that happens, ( well what do you know..) the children grow up to be far more secure, happy and successful!!
    How about we get the media to focus instead on all the wonderful dads and grandpas, uncles and brothers who are out there? How about all the wonderful male teachers, coaches and counselors who have spent their lives helping kids? Where are those tv shows and media reports to counteract the few stories of evil that are being reported from all over the world, thanks to the Internet?

    If we had more of that type of reporting then possibly the “new” first reaction to a man walking away with a happy, willing child would be…Wow, what a lucky child!

  87. Donna January 24, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    “I really don’t mind if they take a moment to confirm that the man actually IS the child’s father, which is ALL this woman did.”

    See I don’t view this as all the woman did. She approached a child and in a panicked voice asked where her mother was repeatedly. She didn’t address the man at all and, in fact, placed herself between the man and his daughter. She clearly didn’t believe him to be the father at all as that is absolutely, positively not the way you act if you believe him to be the father but just want to make sure. Her mind had gone to kidnapper.

    In my opinion, “This is most likely okay because kidnapping a child from a public street is extremely rare but I’ll sleep better if I check it out” doesn’t take the form of panicked voices and stepping between a man and his child (And I’m also not going to insist that it is possible that the voice wasn’t panicked. The person reporting the incident said it was and I’m not going to insert my own beliefs into it for no other reason than his impressions – you know, the only one of us there – don’t fit the interpretation that I want).

    I may have a male coworker pick up my child on Friday if I can’t make arrangements with one of her friends. We live in a strange situation where all the palagi contract workers generally know each other. My coworker got island fever when he got here and wants nothing to do with the palagi contract workers at all. Outside of those involved in the court system, Mike is completely unknown. If one of my friend’s saw Maya out with Mike on Friday, I’d expect some “who is that with Maya” concern to go on. I would be perfectly fine with them coming over to Maya to say “hi” and introducing themselves to Mike as a way to check it out.

    Even though they have MUCH MUCH more reason to be suspicious than this yogi did, knowing me well and suddenly seeing Maya with a strange man, I’d be very upset and would say something to them later if I found out that they approached him in an accusing/panicked tone and tried to separate Maya from Mike while ascertaining the situation. Not their place and a person doing me a favor should not be treated as if he is a suspect in a crime.

    “It COULD be true that the mom has had a conversation with the instructor (thus she is not assuming the woman is the mom). For all we know, the mom could have asked in the past if it was distracting to have the child there…or even if it would be okay of the child stayed to watch while she ran to the bathroom. WHO KNOWS?”

    Hmmm. If the yogi had had a conversation with the mother and knew she was the mother, she would have known the girl’s name. She clearly did not as she did not once address her or refer to her by it.

    If we have to do mental gymnastics and insert a lot of ungiven facts to make something okay, it is not okay. I’m not going to make up a bunch of stuff that must have occurred but the father chose to leave out of his narrative for some unknown reason (stuff that would show that this woman was a champion – something he, THE AUTHOR, wants us to believe) in order to make this make sense. If quacks like a duck, it is most likely a duck.

  88. marie January 24, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    There is absolutely NO difference between this, and someone randomly walking up to a man and asking if he’s about to rape the woman in his car. THAT’S not “good behavior, looking out for others and contributing to society,” so why is this?

    Bingo.

    When did we all start thinking that sex with toddlers is a common happening? Isn’t that what people mean when they use the word “pedophile”? There is something wrong with pedophiles, true. But isn’t there also something twisted when other people automatically think about sex when they see toddlers? Or are people using the word “pedophile” without thinking of its real meaning?

    Pedophilia is a psychological diagnosis. It doesn’t refer to every man who thinks the high school cheerleaders are fun to watch and it doesn’t refer to every man who looks at child porn. No, really, it doesn’t. (Looking at pictures is creepy and indicates some real problems but it does not automatically get a guy diagnosed as a pedophile.)

    And especially, it doesn’t refer to every man.

  89. Donna January 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Pedophilia is somewhat broader than sex with toddlers and includes sex with all prepubescent children – so girls up to 11 or 12 and boys until 13 or 14.

    It irks me when people use it to reference to sex with teenagers. An old man who has sex with or fondles a pubescent or post-pubsecent girl is not a pedophile. He may be creepy. He may be a criminal. He may be a rapist in some situations. But he is absolutely not a pedophile.

    Here we are talking about and even infinitely smaller group: the kidnapping pedophile – a person who so wants to have sex with prepubscent children that he will kidnap them off the street. This group exists but is teeny tiny. There are only 115 or so kidnappings a year in the US. The majority of them are of teens, not prepubescent children sk don’t involve pedophiles at all.

    The odds that a man seen interacting with a toddler is kidnapping her/him are incredibly small. According to the DOJ only approximately 20 kids under 5 are kidnapped every year in stereotypical kidnappings. People need to keep that in mind when moving about in the world and deciding whether to question someone or whether this woman is a “champion.”

  90. marie January 24, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    Donna, thanks for the clarification–and the backup!

  91. Karon January 25, 2013 at 1:52 am #

    Ok, so there’s a couple layers here.

    First, the best protection against the horrible things we all hear about is to be aware of your environment. Odds are, none of those really scary things will ever happen to you. But you can improve those odds by just being aware of the things that don’t look the way they should.

    Second, Free Range works with smaller kids specifically because the adults around those kids are watching for things out of the ordinary.

    Third, children are more likely to be kidnapped by someone they know and trust than by a stranger. So watching an unknown person walk up to a familiar child and walk her in the opposite direction of her (also familiar) mother, who is out of sight, could trigger concern. Personally, I don’t think she should have been concerned, but I’m only seeing one side of the story.

    But the most remarkable piece here is that she actually did something when she became concerned. There are a multitude of studies out there showing that, when people are truly in danger (the most remarkable was a rape & murder, but there’s a more recent one involving a staged child abduction), there’s a reverse correlation between the number of people around and the likelihood anyone will help. To put that in simpler terms: you’re more likely to get someone to call 911 or to attempt CPR when there are fewer people around you. Have a heart attack in a crowd, you probably won’t get help at all. Have a heart attack with 5 people in sight, you’ll get help.

    Keeping all that in mind, I think she could have handled her concern differently. But she acted on it, something very few people would have done, and I commend her for not letting a feeling of “something’s not right here” just go. Most of the time, those feelings are right. Just not this time.

  92. buffy January 25, 2013 at 4:22 am #

    But Karon, why would she even have a feeling of “something’s not right here”? Kids have fathers! And sometimes fathers spend time with their kids during the traditional work day!

    Seeing that happen should not trigger “something’s not right here”.

  93. SKL January 25, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    Too bad we can’t ask the yoga instructor exactly why her WTH-meter went off. It might make this discussion more productive.

  94. SKL January 25, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    However, I would point out that the person who did hear directly from Yoga Lady eventually came to the conclusion that she had done right. So maybe there is something to that.

  95. pentamom January 25, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    Well, the fact that the person who did hear directly from her framed the issue in such a way as to indicate that he believes that no more than what he described WAS a reasonable thing to set off her meter, I’d say he’s not all that reliable.

    Because what he described doesn’t indicate it was reasonable, yet he thought it was.

    BTW, in reference to SKL’s earlier comment that I’m biased against the woman — I should have added that I have nothing against her, I’m sure she’s a perfectly decent woman, I don’t think she’s stupid….but I think she’s a product of exactly what this website is *about,* and that’s the problem — perfectly decent, intelligent people get their vision of reality distorted by a counter-factual belief about the level of danger to children.

  96. Donna January 26, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    SKL – Really??

    The fact is that none of these busybodies are bad people. They are not being malicious. They have simply been conditioned to believe that children are at risk all the time. Viewing all things through a prism of fear doesn’t net the same conclusions as viewing life through a prism of it being essentially safe.

    I would really like to trust people’s guts and simply say “well she thought something must be off so ….” But the fact is that the average American gut is no longer reliable. We KNOW with 100% certainty that this child was not in any danger at all. The fact that this woman’s gut told her she was means that this woman’s gut was WRONG. Why she thought there was a problem doesn’t negate the fact that she was unequivocably 100% WRONG. There is absolutely no way of getting around that fact. We can speculate all day about millions of possibilities in the world that weren’t geiven but might be true and it still doesn’t negate that she was WRONG.

    And we know that this happens too often today. Lenore posts many of these stories – the very few that make the press somehow – and people here always chime in about how it has happened to them or their husbands (never the mothers although many of the mothers here report looking drastically different from their children). In every single case the guts involved were 100% WRONG as the children were safely with parents.

    I’m not sure that the fact that father agreed with her decision means anything other than he buys into the hype. HE – the person who is trying to convince us how right the woman was to interfere – described nothing more than a routine father/child interaction. If he believes that what he described is a valid reason to suspect someone of kidnapping, he is not reliable judge either. One unreliable person confirming the views of another unreliable person doesn’t make those opinions suddenly reliable.

  97. Walt January 27, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    I have spent a lot of time out and about with my nephew over the last few years.

    I’m a 44 year old geeky looking white guy. He’s eleven and at least looks African American.

    We definitely got some looks over the years, but no confrontation, and I think that’s less likely as he gets older. But now I’ve got my daughter to look forward to. She’s eight months old. So far she and I have only had one or two solo outings (mom doesn’t work) ad those have been fine. I think the ladies at the grocery store felt sorry for me but we were fine;she’s a very obliging happy baby.

  98. Pauline April 16, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    I came to the exact same conclusion the father did. It’s a comforting feeling that there are strangers out there who keep an eye out for our little ones. In this case it was a flase alarm, but the dad could see where the lady came from. She had never seen him before. She had never seen him interact with the girl before, even when the girl was there every week. He just walked up to the girl, talked a bit and led her away. That could be nothing, like it was in this case. But it could also have been something. Would any parent prefer that people wpuld look the other way instead of perhaps making a mistake like in this case? I;m glad people like this lady exist.

  99. Pauline April 16, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    That said, I do think the lady should have spoken directly to the dad, instead of just frantically asking the girl where her mommy was. The fact she didn’t means she already made her mind up as to what he was. That’s wrong.