Mama and papa bears: watch your cubs

Mama and papa bears: watch your cubs

Whenever I hear news about missing kids, my immediate reaction is to blame the criminal — why don’t they just take something else, not a kid? But in reality, on the issue of missing children, parents are in fact the ones to blame.

During a long weekend last month, I spent time with my family visiting the kids’ granny in Chachoengsao province. After lunch, we took a walk as we digested our meal. I stopped at a stall that sold sunglasses while my kids browsed nearby. My older daughter saw a display of sport watches just a few metres away. A few minutes later, my husband whispered that my daughter seemed upset and was looking suspiciously at a man who had touched her head. I was not surprised by her reaction — it’s not exactly normal for strangers (or anyone, really) to greet someone by patting their head.

On the way home, my daughter said the man had offered to buy her a watch, which my daughter refused. He then offered to take her to her parents. Again my daughter said no. “My parents are here,” she said, then walked towards us.

The story was shocking. That man was a criminal. “He was truly a bad guy. He was
a kidnapper,” I told her.

“Yes, I think so,” my daughter said.

“Why didn’t you just shout for help?” I asked.

“Because Daddy always teaches us to not speak loudly in public places,” she replied.

Oh dear, that’s a totally different case. Being noisy in public places means you are a disruption. That was what her daddy wanted to teach her not to do. I hugged my daughter, telling her that she was so smart. I tried to stay calm, but had to admit the story was very frightening.

My children like to listen to me read a book called When You Meet A Stranger. Now I know that the girls have definitely learned from the book. I never expected to come face-to-face with a kidnapper, but we did. That book really paid off.

I cannot help but think what could have happened if my daughter had accepted that guy’s offer, or if my husband and I were not there. As it was, it was only just a few metres separating the kidnapper and us. This threat is close to everyone.

I have always known that parents must take extra care of their kids when they go out, but what happened has taught me that if I am careless for even a minute,
I might be sorry forever.

According to statistics from the Mirror Foundation, more than three people go missing from their homes every 24 hours, two-thirds of whom are children. Every month, more than 50 people go missing from their homes, more than 30 of which are children. Each year, around 300-500 children are searched for by their families. The number of missing persons from 2008-2012 has increased every year. These statistics are painful.

Everyone can help reduce those figures and prevent children from being abducted. Above all, however, it’s the duty of parents to take care their kids and pay attention to their surroundings.

On that day, we discussed what happened until dinnertime. My daughter ended up writing a letter about her experience, intending to deliver it to her friend at school. Her granny and aunties were very proud and offered many suggestions for the letter.

As a parent, it’s easier to protect our children from being kidnapped than to search for them when they are missing.

Sasiwimon Boonruang writes about IT for Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Sasiwimon Boonruang

Writer for the Life section

Sasiwimon Boonruang is a writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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