I think someone tried to abduct my daughter today and it was probably my fault.
Dottie is what some of my friends call spirited. Some describe her as wilful, curious, adventurous. I generally call her a bit feral ?
Recently getting from A to B has become a bit of a challenge. If she’s in her pram then she wants to get out, then in, then out and if she can’t unclip herself then she’ll contort her body in such a way that makes passers by look on in horror. Even when she’s sat nicely ‘they’ make judgements.
“Ooh she’s a bit old for a pram isn’t she?”
“She’s only two”
“Really? She’s massive”
I worry over her in playgrounds and soft play areas. She seriously has no fear(!) so I follow her around like a shadow despite the side eyes from other parents. Then I remember that I’m trying to raise a confident, independent child and I need to back off. Of course when I do she immediately injures herself ?
If I allow a bit of distance between me and my little one or Heavan forbid try the old “I’m going now, byeeee” trick (which incidentally only works about 10% of the time) – I can feel the gaze of onlookers. Sometime I feel like screaming ‘I am watching her you know!!’
Walking with Dottie is the hardest thing. It takes FOREVER to get anywhere because as we walk down the street every flower must be sniffed, every dog stroked, every bit of rubbish inspected, every gate closed, every cat ‘ch ch chd’, every puddle splashed in and then….then…she wants to be carried. Or cuddled which is what she calls being carried when she wants to be picked up, guaranteeing that strangers everywhere look at me in disgust as I say “no sweetheart, you just need to walk a little bit further”.
Dottie likes to wander off aswell so I sometimes use a little backpack with a kind of lead. I don’t know how else to describe them. They’re kind of a new version of old fashioned reigns. One time while walking through central London, a teenager scowled “For f**ks sake, is your child a dog?” I’m just trying to keep her safe love, back off.
So I generally bring the pram and expect that for at least half the journey I’ll be pushing it with one hand whilst carrying, chasing or negotiating with Dottie.
We were having one of our ‘back in the pram or hold my hand’ stand offs this afternoon in our local shopping centre, when suddenly Dot decided to run into a nearby shop and just about out of my sight.
I knew exactly what she’d be doing. It was a massive pound shop with those long handled trolleys by the door. She’d be struggling with them, trying to get one free in the hope that Mummy would fill it with Juice Shoes (Fruit Shoot) and sweeties (yoghurt covered raisins). I sighed and made my way round to the door to find a man sat on his haunches in front of her.
The man had hold of one of my little girl’s hands and was pulling her away from the baskets (predictably she was gripping her ‘trolley’ for dear life)! With his other hand he was gesturing to the door and smiling. I thought he said ‘let’s go’.
I try and usually succeed, to think the best of people and my instant reaction was to thank the man, whom I assumed must have stepped in to help and to leave with my child.
Then I thought a little more about what happened.
When I thanked the man he dashed off into the store. He had no bags and when I saw him leaving the store a few minutes later he still had no bags.
Now seriously, who goes into a pound shop and comes out without buying £3736283 worth of £1 items? I watched as he walked off into the shopping centre.
I got a bad feeling and with every minute that that passed, the feeling became stronger.
Twenty minutes later I was trying to negotiate Dottie away from the kiddie ride which tragically ‘wasn’t working’….again. A security guard passed us and I decided to ask if this was maybe a store detective. That would make sense wouldn’t it? A man alone with no shopping, stepping in to be a good samaritan? Going into stores and leaving with no bags? Just as I was describing the man, he walked past us at the other side of the centre.
The security guard went after him ‘for a quick chat’ and the next time I saw him he was coming back towards me talking hurriedly on the radio.
He’d approached the man and began to thank him for helping a customer with her little girl. The man (still without any shopping) said he didn’t know what he was talking about and left in a hurry.
The security guard said “yeah I think from what happened, his demeanour and his reaction to me, it’s likely that he didn’t have good intentions”. His colleagues were already searching CCTV for a clear image of the man and while he said the police wouldn’t be interested (as no wrong had been done) they would circulate the photo amongst the security team and be extra vigilant. I didn’t need to do anything else.
He thanked me for making him aware and I could hear him on the radio as we left. ‘Possible attempted abduction’.
…someone tried to abduct my daughter.
Someone tried to take her.
If I’d been distracted by my phone (which happens), by a friend (which happens) or by any one of a hundred things then I might not have seen her run into the store. I might’ve been looking elsewhere when she left – with the man that was holding her hand. Or was it her wrist. And it would’ve been my fault.
It was my fault he even got that close.
Because she probably should’ve been in the pram (that she’s apparently too old for), or on reigns (which are tantamount to child abuse) or in my arms (because I’m a helicopter parent). She definitely shouldn’t have been walking freely, like the spirited, wilful, curious little girl that she is. As parents we just can’t win can we?
I try to raise my daughters to be confident, friendly and polite. I tell them to wear a coat when it’s cold, to give nettles a wide berth and and to ‘ask the grown up’ before stroking cute dogs. I’m going to bed tonight wondering how to tell the littlest one that if a grown up tries to lead her away then she should scream and shout and kick and run and find Mummy.
How do you keep a child safe without keeping them scared?
What a World.