Thursday, December 15, 2011

Parental Paranoia: Kidnappers

I think all parents are subject to bouts of paranoia regarding their children, some of which are more rational than others. I tend to worry about things like death, illness, and doing things that will land my daughter in therapy for multiple decades. My husband seems fixated on kidnapping. His reasoning goes something like this: kidnapping is clearly on the rise (his data source appears to be random stories from Fox News, Inside Edition, and People magazine), kidnappers are everywhere, kidnappers prefer cute kids, our daughter is cute, conclusion: our daughter is a prime kidnapping target.

I see the chain of thought, but feel compelled to break down the argument a bit. First off, it is neither clear that kidnappers are everywhere, nor that kidnapping is on the rise. It does seem that certain high-profile kidnapping cases attract a great deal of press, and that there are a greater number of outlets for news about such cases than there used to be when I was a kid.

And while I am not going to do a bunch of research to back this next assertion up, it is my impression that the majority of kidnappings are actually attempted by family members, usually an estranged parent. If this is truly the case, then my husband and I would be the most likely suspects, but as we spend nearly all our free time together and are no more (or less) estranged than any other couple, it would be hard for either of us to kidnap our daughter without the other knowing about it, and if we worked together to kidnap her, well, that wouldn't really be kidnapping would it? Or maybe it would be kidnapping, technically, but I doubt we would care because our daughter would be with us. Huh. Looked at that way, maybe we have already kidnapped our daughter without realizing it. Although most evenings and weekends, it certainly seems like the reverse. But more on that later.

Okay, so I broke down and looked up some data. True "stranger" kidnappings are indeed, relatively rare,  and it appears that the majority of non-family member kidnappings actually occur with teenagers and involve a non-familial caretaker. (Maybe that's the silver lining of not being able to find or retain babysitters!)

But regarding kidnapping by a non-familial acquaintance or stranger, while I do agree that my daughter is cute, she is also a total hellion who resists being touched or held by almost anyone but me, hates being restrained in any way, and will squawk like a pteradactyl for hours on end at the slightest provocation. If my husband ever spent more than a few hours with her in public he would quickly realize that potential kidnappers would likely take one look at her antics and select a far more easygoing cute kid to deal with. I mean, who would you want to kidnap? Lindsay Lohan or Kim Kardashian? Do you want to try traveling around the country on the downlow with Courtney Love or Lauren Conrad? Do you break into the car with the alarm system or the one with the open window? I'm pretty sure our babysitters realize this too and are totally relieved to collect their money and run at the end of an evening.

Another quick internet search also suggests that the fact that we do not live in Columbia and are not involved in the drug trade are also in our favor. I would add to that the fact that we do not live in Turkey, which appears to top the list for European kidnappings, or Austria, where parents do apparently kidnap their own children and force them to live in a cellar. We don't have cellars in southern California. Ditto attics. Or adequate closets. Even if we wanted to kidnap our own daughter, we would be hard-pressed to find a sneaky place to put her since neither of us is going to move a shoebox or bottle of shampoo or otherwise give up an inch of our own personal space to accommodate a noisy, wiggly, snotty hostage who pulls hair and throws poop.

In conclusion: much like the puzzling rise in nut allergies since I was a kid, the reasons for the apparent increase in kidnappings are similarly mysterious and/or controversial, but the advent of measures like the Amber Alert and child ID campaigns run by local schools and law enforcement agencies has certainly raised our awareness of the issue. Not that I think this is a bad thing: the idea that anyone could take my child (stranger or family member) is absolutely horrifying. But I do think there are probably a lot more reasonable things for our family to be worried about than kidnapping.

Like whether or not my husband and I are the ones being held hostage - and how we'd know it if we were. I'd write more on this but my mini-warden is watching me right now and looks about ready to start screaming.  The one who pulls hair and throws poop. I hate it when she screams at me. Have I told you about how cute she is?

1 comment:

  1. Best sentence of the year: "neither of us is going to move a shoebox or bottle of shampoo or otherwise give up an inch of our own personal space to accommodate a noisy, wiggly, snotty hostage who pulls hair and throws poop."