Approximately 58,000 children are abducted each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Last week, I saw first-hand how easily it can happen.
I was at Ralston Park with Rachel, our 4-year-old, for our weekly at-home dads playgroup. After playing in the sand for awhile with her three friends, Rachel noticed a woman sitting on the park bench holding a kitten. Naturally, the girls — ages 2 to 4 — went to investigate.
We dads watched them go over to pet a cute grey-and-white-striped, 10-week-old kitten. The woman was sitting with her husband and granddaughter and was more than happy to let our girls pet her kitty.
The girls were only about 50 feet away from us. We couldn’t hear everything that was being said, but we weren’t worried and continued our conversation.
After about 15 minutes we heard the woman say something about getting this kitty’s little brother and asked the girls if they would like to see him. Obviously, they nodded approvingly.
The woman got up from the bench and, with the grey and white kitten still in her arms, started walking to the parking lot.
The girls followed.
We yelled at the girls to stop at the end of the sidewalk. The woman told the girls to wait.
We picked up our pace with our eyes keenly on the girls as they eagerly followed the woman across the parking lot to her car. Before we got there, she opened the door.
She placed her kitten in the car and pulled out her brother, an orange and white tabby, just as we reached the girls. Relieved, but still on edge, we watched as the girls fawned over this new kitty. After a few minutes we all thanked the woman and headed home.
The woman clearly had no intention of harming our children. She was tickled to have such well-behaved and enthusiastic little girls pet her new kittens and didn’t realize her actions could have been perceived as anything but harmless.
But I saw first-hand how easily a person with ill intentions could lure my daughter away. If I had been distracted for just a few minutes, it would have been easy for her to put Rachel in that car and drive away in broad daylight at a busy park.
Fortunately my daughter was never in any danger. I was right there, watching the whole thing unfold only steps away from me.
However, this isn’t helping me sleep any better at night knowing 58,000 sets of parents this year weren’t so lucky.
Al Watts is an at-home dad of 4 children living in west Omaha and the President of The National At-Home Dad Network. He writes regularly for The Good Men Project and Role/Reboot and is co-editing a book project titled “Dads Behaving Dadly: Chronicles of the Fatherhood Revolution.” Read him Wednesdays on momaha.com.