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Missing Madeleine

Madeleine McCann was three when she disappeared from her bed in a Portuguese resort on May 3. Her parents were dining at a restaurant near their vacation rental and checked on Madeleine and younger twin siblings every half hour. Madeleine, whose fourth birthday was this past weekend, has not been found. The reward coffer for information is coming from such big names as J.K. Rowling and totals 2.5 million pounds.

This story has caught the attention of reader Kathy Williams, an American living in Britain, both because of the sadness of a missing child and for the topic of leaving children home alone.

"Apparently Brits (not all, of course, but many) find nothing wrong with leaving their children alone and unattended in a hotel room asleep. Some of these resorts don't even allow children to dine in their nice restaurants although they are 'family-friendly' by British standards. Apparently, the resort offered babysitters for an extra fee and had a crèche...day care...for children, but the parents opted to not take advantage of these services and again, leaving your children alone in hotel rooms is not an uncommon practice. ... It's amazing the parenting differences between the two countries. It's very common for children to not be allowed to dine in good restaurants here. ...
As the mother of a daughter, my heart grieves for these parents and I pray for the safe return of their child, but I'm unable to fathom how parents could do this. Again, it's a cultural difference and I know you can't be with your kids every moment, but this seems to have been so preventable. By the way, the Portuguese have also blasted these parents for this behavior, but then many Brits can't understand how you could possibly want to dine with your young children in the evening. Again, cultural differences."

The London Times interviewed law professor Carolyn Hamilton on the legality of leaving children alone in the way that the McCanns did.

"If the parents have taken all the risks into account and decided that it is safe to leave the children, this would probably be reasonable. If the children were awake or a bit older and able to wander around, or potentially even to open the door to an intruder, perhaps not. But asleep, with the door locked and people constantly checking up on them, it is likely to be reasonable," Hamilton writes. "I don't think it's any less safe in Continental Europe than it is here. Leaving children alone in this manner is not desirable, but parents have to balance the demands of life and will probably have to consider such issues regularly."

Only two states in the U.S. (Maryland and Illinois) have laws that regulate children staying home alone. But law or no law, my kids don't get left alone -- even when they've been asleep -- in either a hotel room or our house. My husband and I -- and many of our neighbors with young children -- trade shifts when attending night-time gatherings on our street, even at the house next door.

What do you think? Have you left your children alone in this manner? What's an acceptable age for leaving children home without constant supervision? Is this a cultural divide, as Williams suggests?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  May 15, 2007; 7:30 AM ET  | Category:  Babies , Preschoolers
Previous: A Wish for Mother's Day | Next: The Choices We Make

Comments


This is similar to that story that was in the paper a few years ago about some Scandinavian country where the parents routinely left the kids sleeping outside the cafe in the stroller while they were inside having coffee. Apparently a Scandinavian woman came to NY and left the kid outside the cafe and was investigated by CPS.

It is a cultural difference. We used to live in Europe and I remember a British colleague (an educated woman, a doctor) talking about going out to dinner in Athens and leaving the baby sleeping in the hotel room down the street. And I remember being shocked -- and also shocked that no one else thought this story was unusual or strange. All the other moms at the playgroup told me I was paranoid and that it was a shame us Americans were all so crazy and weird -- and insisting on seeing the world as so dangerous.

When I first heard the story about the child in Portugal, that was my first thought -- that this was common in Europe to leave a child alone, and that most people think you're crazy if you object. (Personally, I always worried about a hotel fire. could you imagine if you weren't there and something like that happened?)

Posted by: Armchair Mom | May 15, 2007 7:52 AM | Report abuse

I agree that Americans are overly fearful about some things but there is no way that leaving three children under the age of four is a good idea anywhere in the world. My heart goes out to those parents, but they should not have left those children in the room alone, even if they were checking on them every half hour. A lot of devastating events can happen in a half hour, and all it takes is one of those events to turn your life upside-down. I pray that she is found, but it is her parents' fault that she was taken. Maybe that's harsh, but to me, it's the truth.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 15, 2007 7:58 AM | Report abuse

It's also a generational difference. My parents left us in the car whenever they went shopping or out to dinner. It was perfectly acceptable behavior at the time.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 7:59 AM | Report abuse

So much also depends on the child but my now 14 yo DD was 11 when I left her for 1/2 hour just to run to the store up the street. My 11 yo DS still doesn't want to be left alone even for a short while. I can't imagine leaving a young child alone!

Posted by: MDMom | May 15, 2007 8:06 AM | Report abuse

I can understand the temptation to leave a sleeping child alone. I'll admit I've been tempted more than once just to run to the store next to my neighborhood while DD is sleeping. But I've always considered that impulse to be something akin to the impulse to yell at a baby that's been screaming for hours -- understandable in theory, but unacceptable in practice.

I cannot imagine three children under 4 in a hotel room under any circumstances, let alone for a dinner out. Don't they have room service in Portugal? Can you imagine being her parents? Knowing that they might have lost their daughter because they were too cheap to hire a babysitter? My heart aches for them.

Posted by: NewSAHM | May 15, 2007 8:09 AM | Report abuse

I don't leave my children alone in the house while they are sleeping either. Even if the get together is only a few townhouses away.

As far as when I will leave my children alone. Once they are around 9-10 then I can see leaving them for bit during the daytime and then once they are around 13 then I would consider leaving them alone for a bit at night, and not until 15 would I consider leaving them overnight. Of course all of this is dependent on their maturity level as well.

In the case of leaving them while they are sleeping beyond the possible but unlikely abduction, I wouldn't leave them because of the possible (though again unlikely) danger of a fire or them waking up and needing me for some reason (maybe they got sick or had an accident).

I understand there are cultural differences but that still doesn't mean that the practice is good. I feel sorry for the family and hope that they get their daughter back soon.

Posted by: NOVA dweller | May 15, 2007 8:10 AM | Report abuse

We had next door neighbors that had an adults only party. My husband and I took a turn each going, having fun, etc. There is NO WAY I felt comfortable leaving a young child alone. What if they had a night fright and no one was there? A lot can happen in 30 minutes. And yes there are cultural attitudes in play here but in the six years I lived in Europe there was always a grandmother or aunt or cousin who could watch a kid. One time when traveling , it was the hotel owners mother, who had 15 grandchildren and knew a thing or two about kids.

Posted by: nc mom | May 15, 2007 8:26 AM | Report abuse

I am not sure that there is a cultural difference. Many parents in the UK cannot understand how parents can leave their children alone in a hotel room whilst they go out to dine. Many here find it equally irresponsible as parents in the US. Legally you aren't allowed to leave children alone in the UK until they are 12 or 14 if they will be looking after other children.

What happened is very sad and all parents I am sure pray for the safe return of Madeleine. But please don't think in general all British parents would leave their children alone in this manner - I know many that wouldn't dream of doing it and its more a minority that do.

Posted by: UKmum | May 15, 2007 8:27 AM | Report abuse

I can't help but wonder if those that are so superior and condeming are telling the truth when they say they've never left their children alone. The parents of Madeline were about 150 feet away from her -- have you seriously never been 150 away from your child when he or she was alone in a room asleep? On another floor of your home? Outside on the deck? Working in the yard? I doubt it. And I bet you didn't check on your child every 30 minutes when you did so as these parents did. If you have any doubt that your child is as much at risk during these acceptable behaviors, you might want to chat with the Smart family of Utah . . .

Posted by: Jayne | May 15, 2007 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Where they really only 150 feet? Or perhaps that is 150 meters, which is 492 feet? And yes, I have worked in the yard while my child napped, but I could see all the doors and had a monitor on.

Posted by: to jayne | May 15, 2007 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Come on, Jayne. Elizabeth Smart's parents didn't take a risk like Madeline's parents did. It's hardly the same thing. Both cases are horrible, and let's just hope that Madeline is safely returned to her parents.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 15, 2007 8:32 AM | Report abuse

My daughter is too little to even consider leaving alone. The only thing I do is unload groceries if she's fallen asleep in the carseat (it's about 20 feet from car to kitchen door).

to Jayne - wow - you must have a big place if you can be 150 feet away and just out in the yard or still within the house. I grew up on a place like that but can't afford it here and now!

Posted by: MaryB | May 15, 2007 8:32 AM | Report abuse

I agree with most of the posters. I, too, lived in Europe and this was a common practice. I really thought more of fires, though. Now that I have my own children, of course I leave them sleeping when I am in the yard (but not next door at a party, for example), but these parents were at a restaurant "near" their rental and too many people could have had access to these children. At my house, I would be right there barring access.

Jayne, I think everyone here has been sympathetic, not superior, but when you have children you have a responsibility that these parents chose not to exercise. In Europe there are MANY abductions, notably in Belgium last summer, but there are as many dangers there as there are here, and to ignore that and leave your tiny children alone, is tantamount to disaster. If you agree with the parents, then just state your case instead of ridiculing those who gave thoughtful responses.

Posted by: Andrea | May 15, 2007 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Leaving young children alone and unattended anywhere is NEVER a good idea, anywhere in the world. Children are abducted, die of heat exhaustion, are raped and killed, die of fires, and accidents DO happen at any time. Just because Europeans find it acceptable, doesn't let them off the hook of being negligent, unfit parents.

Posted by: Cheryl | May 15, 2007 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Elizabeth Smart's parents DID take risks. They let total strangers, transients and homeless people come into their house to do work. And one of those homeless people came back one night.....

Posted by: tlawrenceva | May 15, 2007 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Small children, 3 and 4 years old, left in a hotel room alone while the parents go to dine by themselves isn't a cultural difference, it's foolishness. When you have children you put some things, like a nice dinner out, on hold, unless you're willing to pony up for a babysitter. I have a great deal of sympathy for the family, the parents are obviously dealing with guilt and anguish, but this was preventable. And for the record, they were 150 meters away, according to the layout chart I saw in a British newspaper. Quite different from 150 feet.

Posted by: methinks | May 15, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

"My daughter is too little to even consider leaving alone. The only thing I do is unload groceries if she's fallen asleep in the carseat (it's about 20 feet from car to kitchen door). "

Duh, that's leaving your daughter alone in the car! Why don't you unload the groceries last instead of the kid?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

We go to neighbors' houses for parties and bbqs all the time, leaving the little one asleep in the crib at home. All it takes is 50 bucks for a good monitor. We get a signal as far away as 3 houses down.

Posted by: remotebliss | May 15, 2007 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Yes, remotebliss, great idea. You'd surely be able to hear every possible horrible thing that could happen to the little one and be able to get there in time -- choking, fire, stranger abduction. Good plan. God willing, nothing will happen to your child from your neglect -- and you have the audacity to brag about it. Well done.

Posted by: ?? | May 15, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

It was also common not that long ago to let children (albeit not very young, but pretty young) run around out of the house unattended. This is certainly not so common now.

I suppose we, collectively, are more afraid of the world than we used to be, though I'm not sure it is any less safe than when kids roamed more freely than they do today.

Posted by: David S | May 15, 2007 9:02 AM | Report abuse

David S, I think that statistics show the world is actually safer than it was 30 years ago. That said, I still think it's foolish and neglectful to do what Madeline's parents did. If she is returned to her parents, how will they explain themselves to her?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 15, 2007 9:06 AM | Report abuse

My kid is three and he's big enough to open the door of our house himself. Perhaps the child woke up and went looking for her parents. Perhaps a predator noticed the parents left the room and used the opportunity to take the child. I myself would be afraid that no one would be present to evacuate the kids in the event of a fire. It may be a cultural difference but it seems like an instance where their culture needs to change.

Posted by: m | May 15, 2007 9:07 AM | Report abuse

No, I wouldn't leave my 5 yo alone sleeping and her parents shouldn't have done it. But, make no mistake - it was the abductor's fault that she was taken.

Posted by: AnnapolisMom | May 15, 2007 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Hey thanks, ??. How's life in Judgementville? I tried to buy a house there, but couldn't afford to bubblewrap all that square footage.

Posted by: remotebliss | May 15, 2007 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I can't imagine leaving my children alone in the house for more than a minute or two. I will bring things in from the car or walk out to the mailbox. When there is a party in the neighborhood, we either hire a sitter or take turns as others have said. I can understand how the parents thought that 999,999 times out of 1,000,000 nothing goes wrong in a situation like this and felt like it would be okay. It's a sad story but the truth is that she could have been abducted at a park or a beach if her parents lost sight of her for a split second.

Posted by: MOMto3 | May 15, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

"Yes, remotebliss, great idea. You'd surely be able to hear every possible horrible thing that could happen to the little one and be able to get there in time -- choking, fire, stranger abduction. Good plan. God willing, nothing will happen to your child from your neglect -- and you have the audacity to brag about it. Well done.

Posted by: ?? | May 15, 2007 09:00 AM"

How do you manage to get any sleep with so much fear controlling your life? What if you don't hear the monitor? What if you wake up and go to the bathroom - do you take the monitor with you? Do you and your partner sleep in shifts so that there is always an awake, alert adult available, even while the children are sleeping.

When they are older, what are you going to do to protect them from all the possibilities of harm? don't walk on a sidewalk because a car might jump the curb?

I believe in reasonable caution, but some of you are completely overboard.

Posted by: to ?? | May 15, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

So judgmental here! They were checking on them every 1/2 hour -- that's certainly more than you'd probably check on your sleeping children if they were in another room on the other side of the house. The fact is, these parents were perfectly responsible, but they had a stroke of terrible luck. It is only in hindsight that they appear to be irresponsible.

Anyway, from the time of 5 yrs old on, I was given pretty much complete freedom to roam around the neighborhood. Makes me sad that kids don't get to do that these days.

Posted by: jane | May 15, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

My children didn't grow up in fear, I didn't check on them every 30 minutes while they slept, and they're grown and gone. HOWEVER, calling the behavior of the parents "perfectly responsible" is just plain wrong. They left young, very young children, in a hotel room without a responsible adult present. This "stroke of bad luck" as you called it, Jane, was preventable. If the parents wanted to have a quiet dinner alone, they could have hired a babysitter and reduced their chances of such "bad luck."
A "perfectly responsible" solution is to not leave very young children (infant-13 or 14 depending on their maturity) unattended when you want to go out.

Posted by: grandmother | May 15, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Lived in UK for 6 years with my husband and 4 children. There's a couple of issues which are separate. Yes, there is certainly a cultural difference between Brits and Americans as far as whether kids are welcome in restaurants. In UK, one can only find high-chairs provided in pubs - even mediocre restaurants plainly don't want children there. But this was in Med where kids are welcome & enjoyed everywhere. This was a decision made by & for parents because they felt they deserved it while on holiday rather than remember that they were on a family holiday. I don't for a minute believe that someone checked on sleeping children each & every 1/2hr. Secondly, there's no correllation between leaving a sleeping child strapped in car seat in driveway, or even in bed while one works in garden, and leaving them in a strange hotel/bed alone in a foriegn country while one dines and drinks wine elsewhere. Parents made big mistake which I'm sure they regret; and I hope that the story gives pause to all in any country who are tempted to forget that having children is a big & often inconvenient committment.

Posted by: sara | May 15, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Amen, Sara!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

remember Disney's Peter Pan-- set in London, but an american film. The parents leave their three children alone (the mother is concerned because the dog isn't in the house) ages 11 through 3ish while they go off to the opera. The fear that the children may not by safe is dismissed as "Poppycock!"

also, note that when your child is sleeping in the car and you need to unload groceries, you can either take the child in first or the groceries in first, but in either case theh child will be left alone (briefly) while you are unloading the grocies. I personally think tending to the groceries makes more sense-- a sleeping baby buckled into a carseat isn't going to harmed while the parent is unloading the car-- assuming the parent is just walking the groceries into the house and not needing to walk far away and isnot unloading the bags also-- just getting them in the door.

Posted by: Jen S. | May 15, 2007 9:56 AM | Report abuse

David S, I think that statistics show the world is actually safer than it was 30 years ago.

I understand, WorkingmomX. Not being snarky. But I have to admit that whenever I hear a statement like this, I think about the children who grow up next to or near open-air drug markets, have to dodge drive-by shootings and witness gang-banging. I think their world is less safe than it was 30 years ago.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | May 15, 2007 10:00 AM | Report abuse

My parents, born and bred in the US, moved to France for professional reasons in the early 1970's. I was born in 1974. We moved back to the US in late 1976 (I was 2.5, my sister was 6 months old). They often tell stories about leaving me alone in the apartment while they went out for dinner. A neighbor was supposed to keep an ear out for me if there was a problem. Certainly this NEVER occurred once we got back to the US, so I think it could very well be a cultural difference.

Posted by: MIMom | May 15, 2007 10:07 AM | Report abuse

My Irish mother says when she was younger you would see a line of babies in prams outside of stores in town. Women would simply leave the babies outside while they went in and shopped. She says it came to an end when a baby was stolen somewhere in England from such a set up.

No other comment other than to MDMom. When I was younger (starting at 10) I loved to be left home alone for the evening. Mom left me a tv dinner (which was a treat to me, we never had them) and I got to watch a movie and hang out. I think maybe an 11 yo who doesn't like to be left alone might be worried/scared about something that needs to be addressed. Or there's so much in the news about stuff like Madeline that it's making people scared to be alone.

Posted by: Em | May 15, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Times have certainly changed since I was a young girl. By age 7 we were allowed to ride our bikes about everywhere in town--which was 2,000 people where everyone knew everyone.
I have since lived in larger cities and had 3 children. I must admit I would occasionally leave them in the car to run in and drop a letter in the mail--about 30 seconds or sleeping when I went outside until they could get out of their crib, then I stopped. I was never more than 150 feet away and could hear them. We used old fashion walkie-talkies.
I did not leave them home all day when I worked until each was 12.
I have one child still at home,my daughter lives alone, and my oldest is married with two children, 4 and 2. I would not consider leaving my grandaughters alone in the house or anywhere else.
TYPES of crime have risen. I am an advanced practice registered nurse (27 years) who teaches in a large academic institution and I specialize in trauma and aftermath of trauma. This kidnapping was preventable; however, the parents should not have more guilt added than what they have placed on themselves. Let's face it, even though some of you have never left a child even for a minute, how many have been looking at something for just a minute with the child beside you (in a store, park, you name it) and turned around to find the child gone? Those heart-stopping, sickening moments are what these parents are going through 24/7 right now.
Offer them support and prayer.

Posted by: OklahomaMom | May 15, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I was in Copenhagen last year -- routine to see babies in prams parked outside cafes, stores, etc., while the parent was inside. I have to believe that not a single one has ever been kidnapped -- if that happened, I think the practice would end.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

"a sleeping baby buckled into a carseat isn't going to harmed while the parent is unloading the car"

You hope. It only takes a moment.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm having a difficult time with the concept of such young kids left alone -- cultural or not -- who would even think of such a thing.

We were on a road trip a while back with our two kids (one elementary school age, one high school) and two dogs. My husband and I went downstairs to get a drink and left the oldest in charge. While we were there the buffet table caught on fire. The staff got it out quickly but I realized, once again, when I think of what's the worst thing that can happen, that my imagination never quite covers it all.

I may not be the world's best mother but even I wouldn't leave such young kids alone, even in my own home.

Posted by: free bird | May 15, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

i'm in my 30's, lived in europe as a child and in the u.s. now. when we;d go on vacations, my parents would leave my little sister and I alone in hotel rooms all the time when they would go out at night. we'd just be asleep and it totally seemed like an ok thing to do back then according to european standards, but i can't imagine Americans doing it....it seems so negligent by American standards.

Posted by: mary | May 15, 2007 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Isn't part of the calculus here not just that they left them alone, but that they left them alone in a hotel or other form of "vacation rental" where any number of people had a key, including the proprietors, housekeepers, previous guests, etc. While I would not leave my kids in the house alone, I think that's very different than leaving kids in a strange place, alone, where others have access.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

That was my thought as well. The kid was practically 4 years old. She probably woke up, opened the door, and went looking for her parents.

Now god only knows where she is.

I'm all for respecting cultural differences, but not when some other culture is plainly wrong. Leaving a 4 year old child alone in a strange city when you are in a restaurant down the block is wrong.

Posted by: Bob | May 15, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I find it surprising that one state makes it illegal to leave a child under 14 alone--many baby-sitters are under 14, even in this country.
Re cultural differences: I have an Asian stepmother and half-siblings. In their culture, a girl of 10 does virtually all the childcare, and is frequently left in charge when the mother is out of the house. As a historian, I know that this was also typical of Europe, at least before the 20th century.

Posted by: jhurwi | May 15, 2007 10:45 AM | Report abuse

"Let's face it, even though some of you have never left a child even for a minute, how many have been looking at something for just a minute with the child beside you (in a store, park, you name it) and turned around to find the child gone? Those heart-stopping, sickening moments are what these parents are going through 24/7 right now."

This is EXACTLY what happened to me in a store when my son was 2 - I literally turned my head for a SECOND - and he was gone. He was standing right next to me a split second before. It is the most horrible, sickening feelings in the world, and though I found him within minutes, I never, ever forgot how that felt. Feeling that, I would have never, ever left anyone that small alone in a hotel room. Period. Where does that false sense of security come from? The children were all under the age of 4!
It's not about paranoia or being overly cautious, you simply do not leave very young children alone for any reason, and trusting that they'll remain asleep seems ludicrous for anyone who has children in that age group.
My heart breaks for these parents, and while it is not solely their fault, the fault lies on the shoulders of the horrible monster that would take this poor little girl, they made a very very stupid decision to trust a hotel door to keep their babies from harm.

Posted by: oldmom | May 15, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

When we have kids we all have to come to terms with changing our lifestyles or having the kids adjust to a previous lifestyle. Some people think that when they have kids that nothing changes. Yes, they can travel with kids and eat out at nice restaurants. I came to the opposite conclusion.

Our oldest is almost grown and we've traveled with him since he was a baby. We almost lost him when he was a toddler, in a very dangerous location, because we both thought the other one was watching him. I can barely even think of that moment.

Our reality is that we can travel with kids, and love to do it, but we certainly don't dine in nice restaurants. We do that at home when we can get sitters.

Traveling with kids has meant, for us, packing lunches and eating in parks. Ordering pizza to be delivered to our room. Eating dinner at the diner by the pool. Or, at a nice hotel, having a nice meal sent up to the room. We find our enjoyment and live with the reality that comes with kids at the same time.

Posted by: free bird | May 15, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I am also suprised by some of the ages given here for leaving kids alone. I began babysitting in the evenings when I was 11. I babysat mainly for one family when the children were 5 and 8. I would feed the kids dinner and put them to bed while the parents were out. They would usually return around 1am. Although now that I think back, I would never entrust my children to an 11 yo. It was probably better than leaving them alone, though.

Posted by: 25 now | May 15, 2007 10:59 AM | Report abuse

A follow-up on laws about leaving children home alone: both of my children insisted at the age of 8 (almost 20 years ago) that they did not want to be in the after-school program at their school any longer and would rather be at home for a couple of hours until I got home from work. The advice I got from an experienced source was that it was OK to let a responsible 8-year-old girl do this as long as the neighbors were near at hand, but not to let her have playmates over--and not to let an 8-year-old boy stay home alone, since he was more likely to get into mischief. By the time my son was 8, his sister was 11 and I didn't have any qualms about leaving her in charge. This arrangement worked out fine for both of them,but nowadays I would probably be charged with child neglect.

Posted by: jhurwi | May 15, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

At 4, the child could clearly let someone in who knocked, open the door and walk out, etc. That seems pretty reckless. Plus, I wouldn't want to leave a child to scream for 30 minutes. Then there's fire. I've left my infant only to garden, and I took the monitor. Even that feels strange, and I constantly look up to her window. The pram thing is crazy! I can't imagine there are any fewer psychos in Europe than there are in the States.

But how unbelievably crushing for those parents. If she's not found, they will never forgive themselves.

Posted by: atb | May 15, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Then you have the dim bulbs who leave a baby in the bath tub to go answer the phone "only for a minute." Telephones have probably been responsible for more drowned babies than you can imagine.

When I worked at 911 we got calls at least once a night from some mother who locked her keys and her baby inside the car 'just to go inside for a minute' so obviously parents are leaving kids unattended. The police are not locksmiths. We told them to call AAA or a locksmith. Hard to imagine people this stupid are reproducing.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Instead of criticizing the parents, we really ouught to be lamenting our collective lack of freedom these days. Thirty years ago I was allowed to bicycle all over my neighborhood and run errands to the local markets starting at an early age. Was it so much safer then? I doubt it. One of the differences: we didn't have the 24 hour media scaring the wits out of us. Thirty years ago we wouldn't have known about the plight of Madeleine McCann. Don't we all take some risks with our children? Think you don't. Well think again. Do you get an FBI background check of every family member where your child spends the night or has a play date? Even if you did, what would happen if Uncle Harry stopped by for a visit? You may find the risk that Madeleine's parents took to be unacceptable but please don't act like your children are 100% safe all the time. They're not.

Posted by: euromom | May 15, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

My husband and I once left our 2-year old and 1-year old asleep in a hotel room, while we celebrated New Year's Eve in the hotel bar 2 floors below. We set alarms to go off every 15 minutes on our cell phones, and every 15 minutes one of us checked on the kids. We didn't feel like we were taking a big risk, since it was a good hotel with security at the entrance and so on, and we were not far away and not gone for long.

Posted by: Nancy | May 15, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

"You may find the risk that Madeleine's parents took to be unacceptable but please don't act like your children are 100% safe all the time."

Correct. Most victims of sexual assault know their attackers, including "Mommy's boyfriend".

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Nancy

"My husband and I once left our 2-year old and 1-year old asleep in a hotel room, while we celebrated New Year's Eve in the hotel bar 2 floors below. We set alarms to go off every 15 minutes on our cell phones, and every 15 minutes one of us checked on the kids. We didn't feel like we were taking a big risk, since it was a good hotel with security at the entrance and so on, and we were not far away and not gone for long."

You're right Nancy. There was no big risk of a psycho following you from the bar! as you celebrated! and figuring out your child care routine!!!!!

Posted by: catwoman | May 15, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

When I worked at 911 we got calls at least once a night from some mother who locked her keys and her baby inside the car 'just to go inside for a minute' so obviously parents are leaving kids unattended. The police are not locksmiths. We told them to call AAA or a locksmith. Hard to imagine people this stupid are reproducing.

Ah, good customer service. When my son was a baby, I was loading him and some bags in the car after shopping in Target. After strapping him in his car seat, he grabbed my key ring and pressed the remote lock. Only I didn't really hear the locks click (the remote didn't beep), because I was pulling the ring from him and adjusting my purse and bags. When I got everything settled, I closed the back car door, only to realize I accidentally left the keys inside and all the doors were locked. Yes, the fire dept. was called, yes they were kind enough to come jimmy open my door and NOT tell me to call AAA, and yes I was embarrassed. I'm not stupid, but I made a mistake. Oh, and some old lady walked up to me and asked if I had left my child in the car while shopping. "No!" I told her, but I wanted to ask HER if SHE was stupid!

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | May 15, 2007 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Never would I leave children that young alone while sleeping. I never did. For three children.

You never know when some unexpected or unanticipated need might arise -
being a parent even at night while they are sleeping is basically "watching over."
That's why lullabies from all ages and times are reassuring to little ones.

I would be in torment as these poor parents are, were my child missing first of all, and under my watch, second of all.


Posted by: ann | May 15, 2007 12:09 PM | Report abuse

" After strapping him in his car seat, he grabbed my key ring and pressed the remote lock"

Sign that kid up for Harvard.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Just a footnote for those of you not saturated by this like we are in the UK.
Apparently the BACK doors of the apartment which weren't visible from the restaurant had been left unlocked. There is some suggestion that the little girl may well have woken and wandered off on her own to possibly be abducted. There are conflicting checking times. The parents say every half hor but the friends they were with say hourly!
The restaurant they ate at was sort of in line of sight of the front door, BUT there is a very large hedge right in front of the door, so I'm guessing that you wouldn't see the door at all.

Posted by: Sally | May 15, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

The McCanns are doctors? Remind me never to go to them for medical care if they aren't any smarter than this.

Originalmomof2 -- so you took a crew firemen out of service to help you get unlocked, huh? Well, gee, aren't you special? Suppose there had been a fire that needed their immediate attention. Firemen also staff ambulances. Suppose there had been a serious accident requiring an ambulance. Your grabby kid/potential Harvard graduate would be responsible for possibly someone else dying without ambulance service.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Just wanted to add that I feel so horribly sorry for those parents.

Posted by: ann | May 15, 2007 12:29 PM | Report abuse

ok, to give a bit of a different perspective. We as a society seem to be obsessed wih controlling our childrens environment and worrying about all the dangers out there. The problem is that these same kids grow up lacking independence and then we see them in the work place where they are unable to make decisions. This is forcing me to rethink how protective I am of my kids now 14 and 11. my own feeling is less then 10 I wont leave alone for more then a few minutes (5 or less) 10-12 maybe 15 or 30 minutes and they know how to use the phone and I have a cell phone, =>13 an evening. I havent hit an age where they can stay alone overnight.

Posted by: chet | May 15, 2007 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I was away at a meeting and missed responses to my post. I'm the one who, if my daughter is asleep in her car seat, will put groceries in the house before rousing her by getting her out.

Would you like me to explain the nitty-gritty? Perhaps you have never attempted this, but it involves a bit of finesse.

If I were to wake my daughter and put her in the house, she would wake up. Then she would want to run around the house causing mischief while I unload the car and put perishables in the refrigerator.

I live in a detached house with a tree-canopied driveway. The house is very close to where I park my car. I leave the car doors open and the kitchen door open and transfer groceries as quickly as possible. It takes 2-3 minutes.

I really do think it is over the top to say that this is negligent and things could happen. It's far more dangerous having her in the car when it is actually GOING SOMEWHERE, but we do that every day without qualms.

Posted by: MaryB | May 15, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

You parents who leave your young children alone are foolish! My son is 7 and I would never, ever leave him alone, in the house, or in a hotel just so I can relax. You kids didn't ask to be here so your luxuries can come later after you raise them responsibly. If only takes one second for your child to be kidnapped, scaled, hit by a car, burned. ONE SECOND! I have no empathy for Madeline's parents because they KNEW BETTER. It's a shame that she has to suffer because the parents are DUMB.

Posted by: JD | May 15, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

We are all so judgemental of parents these days. We say that they should have taken advantage of the child care services but who's to say that there weren't sexual predators working in child care? who's to say what you would and wouldn't do until you are actually in that situation.

Posted by: Craddock | May 15, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

My dad transferred to Bangladesh when I was four. I remember my parents going out to a nice dinner in the hotel resturaunt on the last night we spent in the hotel before moving into our new house. They decided to leave my sister and brother and I in the hotel room, since it was late and it was past our bedtime, and they were probably gone for a couple of hours.

So for me, as a kid who was left to sleep in a hotel room and lived to tell the tale, it doesn't seem like an automatically bad idea to leave a sleeping child in a safe place while you do another activity. We knew how to call the front desk for help, and we knew not to let strangers into the room, and we knew what a fire alarm was. And we weren't exactly locked in a trunk, either. My parents just figured that a peacefully sleeping child is not really at risk of, say, falling out the window because they were playing tag with the dog, or coloring their head green with food coloring, or falling down and cutting their leg open, and they went and had a quiet dinner.

What happened to these parents was a terrible, terrible tragedy, but I can't see how it was caused inherently by any neglect. If someone was sick enough to be prowling a hotel complex looking for kids, they were sick enough to have broken into an occupied hotel room and stolen the little girl anyway. I just hope they get her back, and soon.

Posted by: popslashgirl | May 15, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Chet -- I also have found that 10 is an age where I feel OK with leaving the kids by themselves for a short time. Before that -- never, not even a few minutes. It is nice for me to not always have to drag the kids on every errand and they defintely feel the same way. I have strict rules, especially with my youngest who is the type to seek out trouble, and inform a neighbor if I'm going to be more than 10-15 mins. It is a good thing for them to take on a little more responsibility and learn not to be afraid. But pre-schoolers? I don't care what the culture -- that's just crazy!

Posted by: free bird | May 15, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I am a physician and while I don't have children of my own I have very strong opinions on leaving children at home without adult supervision. I think if the kid isn't old enough to drive the kid isn't old enough to be left at home and certainly not responsible for supervising other children. The discussion about different cultures could go on forever with regard to supervision, child labor laws, etc.

There was some discussion of the parents critisizing the local law enforcement for not doing enough to look for the child. What insanity is that?

BTW - it is my overall impression, sad to say, that the great majority of people reproducing these days fall into the category of "what did you expect?"

Posted by: accio | May 15, 2007 12:44 PM | Report abuse

If only takes one second for your child to be kidnapped, scaled, hit by a car, burned. ONE SECOND! I have no empathy for Madeline's parents because they KNEW BETTER. It's a shame that she has to suffer because the parents are DUMB.

Posted by: JD | May 15, 2007 12:35 PM

I think if the kid isn't old enough to drive the kid isn't old enough to be left at home and certainly not responsible for supervising other children.

Posted by: accio | May 15, 2007 12:44 PM

I fear for the kids of parents like accio and JD who will never let their children out of their sight. Never to walk through the woods and figure out which snake is poisonous or which ivy is poison ivy. Never to actually have to look both ways before crossing the street because either accio or JD are there to stop you if you don't see a vehicle.

These kids won't be able to fill a college application or job application out for themselves and will be horrific parents when their time comes.


Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I would not have left my children alone in a hotel room--no matter their age. However, I have left them occassionally sleeping in their crib while across the street at the neighbor's. I had the baby monitor on the entire time--so if there had been smoke in the house I would have heard the alarm. Obviously not as quickly as if I were in the house, but just as quickly as if I were outside in the yard. The doors were all locked and I had line-of sight to the house. Once the children were able to get out of the crib no more leaving alone.

I'm sure some will think that is totally irresponsible and only luck saved my kids from a terrible fate but that's your opinion. It worked for us. Not advocating it for others just relating our experience.

Posted by: A NOVA Mom | May 15, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

True, Sally, Madeleine's parents did leave the french doors to their room/suite unlocked because those doors only locked from the inside. They said they didn't use the front (lockable) door because it was situated right where the children were and there would have been more chance of disturbing the childrens' sleep. This brings me to another point. The McCanns didn't just leave then three year old Madeleine unattended, they also left her two year old twin siblings!!! If you go to a U.K. newspaper website (such as the Daily Mail) you can see an aerial photo of the hotel complex. The McCann's were at a restaurant around the corner, over a path and way across a pool complex from where they left their children. They would have been able to see their building but their actual unit was on the ground floor on the other side of the building from their view. In any case, they were way too far away to be able to do anything about it even had they been physically able to see events taking place in their unit. Keep in mind that these are two physicians well able to pay for proper child care for their babies. The hotel had on-site night time drop-in childcare available and also an in-room babysitting service. The parents have said they didn't want strangers looking after their children. Of course, the person or persons who committed this crime are most responsible but I think the parents must own up to their proportional share of the responsibility. We cannot foresee or prevent every risk but we can and should do our very best to foresee and prevent the most obvious ones. (and by most obvious I do not mean that the parents should have known their child would be abducted. I do mean that they should have known that something might and probably would go amiss with one of the three toddlers they left behind in the hotel room.)

Posted by: katherine | May 15, 2007 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Originalmomof2 -- so you took a crew firemen out of service to help you get unlocked, huh? Well, gee, aren't you special? Suppose there had been a fire that needed their immediate attention. Firemen also staff ambulances. Suppose there had been a serious accident requiring an ambulance. Your grabby kid/potential Harvard graduate would be responsible for possibly someone else dying without ambulance service.

Posted by: | May 15, 2007 12:26 PM

Uummm, it was a rather warm day, and I really don't think anyone wanted my son to wait in the heat at least an hour for a locksmith or AAA to show up. I wonder if you are aware that there is more than one "whole crew" in existence? Also, are you aware that a "whole crew" can go out on a call for any reason, and some accident or something else can occur at any time? Also, I suspect that if there was a more serious incident, and all the "crews" were taken, that one would not have helped me.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | May 15, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

"It's also a generational difference. My parents left us in the car whenever they went shopping or out to dinner. It was perfectly acceptable behavior at the time."

You don't state when this time was, but it wasn't acceptable in the 1950's when I grew up, or in the 1970's and 80's when I was raising children. How did they know you would stay in the car?

My mom left the four of us in the car exactly once in the early 1950's to just "run into the store" and pick something up. My two-year-old brother pulled the hand brake off and the car rolled backwards out of the parking lot toward a four-lane highway with all of us screaming out the windows (this being the days before seat belts or car seats). A passerby jumped into the car and stepped on the brake just as we started into the street, and that's the first and last time my mom ever did that.

Posted by: OldMom | May 15, 2007 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I don't feel sorry for the parents at all. They are stupid people who should have their other children taken away. I also don't care what country you are from, if you think this is okay, please don't have children. Who knows what did or is happening to that poor little girl. I would never leave my child alone in her own bed, not to mention, in a hotel room in a foreign country. Predators look for stupid parents who are not watching their children.


Plus, aren't both of the parent's doctors? Are you telling me they couldn't afford a sitter. I just can't believe the stupidity of it all. The selfish lack of caring for their child. She could have filled the bath tub up and drown, fell out the window, or any other number of things a three year old baby can get into. Oh, here is another news flash if you have three kids and want to go on vacation, go somewhere kid friendly.

Again, I pray that the little girl is found safe and sound. Another pray would be that she finds new parents.

Posted by: Irish girl | May 15, 2007 1:05 PM | Report abuse

For those of you who are leaving your 10- and 11-year-old children home alone, please don't. Children are gullible by their very nature and can easily be talked into opening the door by an evil-minded stranger, even if you've told them a million times to never, ever do that and even though they've had lots of "Stranger Danger" education at school. I promise you that the appearance on your doorstep of just one kitten or puppy might well entice your child to open the door to a monster, and a baby monitor or a cell phone isn't going to help her one bit.

As for the "paranoia" factor, children need to be a little paranoid. The world is NOT a safe place. I don't let my 11-year-old daughter walk out to our curbside mailbox unsupervised. Yes, I have taught her to be mistrustful; I hope this will protect her when she is out in the world, particularly as a young woman. If this curtails her freedom a bit while she's under my roof and my protection, so be it. She may be on an analyst's couch in 15 years talking about how over-protective her mother was, but that's infinitely better than being abducted, raped and/or murdered.

Posted by: prosecutormom | May 15, 2007 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand this whole not leaving your kids alone till they're 11 or so thing. At 12 I was making dinner for my mother when she came home from work, had all of the laundry done for both of us, and had a pile of chores done. What on earth are your kids going to be able to do if they're afraid of you being gone for 30 minutes? I was alone from the end of school till when mom got home. I had a list of stuff to do, my own homework, and dinner to make. I put together a list of stuff for the grocery store for us to run together every few days, and then I helped her when she got home. I'm in my 20's now, so this wasn't that long ago. We ate a bunch of overcooked meals and shabby easy stuff at first (thin steaks and microwaved stuffing) but by the end of high school I was really good. And I was babysitting in middle school as well. Too much helicoptering. Someone in another HR department was saying that Mommies are calling and yelling that their kids aren't being hired these days. insane!

Posted by: ljb | May 15, 2007 1:06 PM | Report abuse

"you might want to chat with the Smart family of Utah . . ."

Actually, the smarts did take a risk when they allowed a homeless man, who they didn't know come into their house around their children. I lived in Utah at the time. The LDS people are very nice, but to trusting.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

"These kids won't be able to fill a college application or job application out for themselves and will be horrific parents when their time comes."

Neither will Madeline because she is probably dead or living with a predator.

I feel sorry for your children. I feel sorry for Madeline.

Posted by: to the idiot | May 15, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

There is definitely a cultural divide. It is not at all unusual for European parents to leave their kids alone like this; they consider it safe and think that American parents are just a little nutty and paranoid.
I'm not saying that either side's right or wrong. But I have found myself astounded at some of the parenting practices of acquaintences from Europe. One example: A woman I know from Switzerland used to leave her baby bundled up in a snow cave in her front yard (in a ski town in the U.S.) while she went about her business, including business away from the home. She and her husband regularly did also almost the exact same thing Madeleine's parents did -- leave the kid, asleep on the bed, while they went out to dinner. The difference is that they didn't bother checking every 30 minutes.
Now, this woman is, overall, a good mother and her daughter has grown into a fantastic, well-adjusted and quite self-sufficient girl.
Maybe there is something to the idea that American parents are too paranoid. Still, I am not about to change my American-parent behavior, even if our European friends consider it paranoid and overly protective.

Posted by: anon mom | May 15, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

MaryB

"Then she would want to run around the house causing mischief while I unload the car and put perishables in the refrigerator. "

The kid can't stay out of mischief while you are doing these things? That sounds weird.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 1:19 PM | Report abuse

One example: A woman I know from Switzerland used to leave her baby bundled up in a snow cave in her front yard (in a ski town in the U.S.)

You knew this and didn't do anything about it? just asking.

Posted by: Irish girl | May 15, 2007 1:20 PM | Report abuse

in the U.S....

According to most statistics, "stereotypical" abductions, such as those involving a stranger who kidnaps a child with malicious intent are far lower than we might be lead to believe. According to the Justice Department, in the past 20 years the per-capita child abduction by non-family members has not increased appreciably (Rosemond, 2006). Almost 80% of child abductions are not by strangers. Over 200,000 children are kidnapped each year by family members seeking to interfere with parental visitation rights, while 58,000 are taken by non-family members and returned unharmed (www.takeroot.org, 2007). By comparison, only 115 cases of kidnappings for the purpose of ransom or harm occurred (Hampel, 2007), and although each and every single case is unfathomable, the proportion of stranger abduction is actually small.

Posted by: perspective | May 15, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I completely agree with Bob and Sally. Poor Madeline propably woke up and, realizing she was all alone, left the hotel room looking for her mommy and was snatched up.
I think it is absolutely disgusting how there are people here actually defending what these parents did. I cannot believe that anyone who has children or has spent any time with them would actually think this is a responsible, acceptable thing to do. Leaving three toddlers by themselves in an unfamiliar hotel room in a foreign country has to be the dumbest thing I've ever heard of parents doing, and the fact that there were numerous baby-sitting options that they chose to ignore magnifies their sheer stupidity. Because they chose not to act like parents, realize that having children is not always convenient, and put their children in obvious danger, one of them is missing and, let's face it, most likely dead. Either way, their ignorance is going to come back to haunt them either when Madeline is returned to them in a body bag or alive and they'll have to explain how they put her in a situation that allowed her to be taken from them, and scared out of her mind. It is amazing to me how people need specific qualifications to have guns, cars, and jobs, but anyone can have a baby. Certain people should not be allowed to have children.

Posted by: Lauren | May 15, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

"I promise you that the appearance on your doorstep of just one kitten or puppy might well entice your child to open the door to a monster, and a baby monitor or a cell phone isn't going to help her one bit."

True, but the dogs will help (some). I want my kids safe but I also want them to have a sense of responsibility. We live in a very safe neighborhood, but to tell the truth, one of the very high-profile little blond girl murders happened very near here. That's when I got the dogs.

Posted by: free bird | May 15, 2007 1:57 PM | Report abuse

To Irish girl: I didn't know this at the time. I met the Swiss woman long after her daughter was a baby. The daugher was a teenager when I met the mother; I was pregnant with my first. The Swiss mother and her husband were educating me on their child-care techniques and trying to assure me that it isn't so hard to bring up a kid.
Hope that explains.

Posted by: anon mom | May 15, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Wow. It's amazing how many people buy into the idea that they can somehow completely eliminate risk from their children's lives.

People fear the unbelievably unlikely (abduction, terrorist attack, etc.) while discounting far greater risks (falls, traffic accidents, burns, electrocution). A perfect example is the sleeping baby in the car seat. The vanishingly small probablility of someone managing to get the child out while the parent is unloading groceries is NOTHING compared to the risks of the unattended child inside the home (unless strapped down as in a child seat).

It is unrealistic to think that you will never leave a child alone for even a moment. A more rational view would be to consider the risks. Obviously the best is in sight, next, in the room but out of sight, next in the house, next in the garden, next in the neighborhood. There is no bright line that says that one is okay and one is not. The line may be (and should be) in different places for different people depending on where they live, the exact geometry of the house and even the maturity of the children.

When I took a parenting class before the birth of my first child, the teacher referred to a book called something like "The Perfectly Safe Home". I could not suppress my laughter at the idea that such a thing could even be seriously considered. I guess it has all rubber walls and no moving surfaces. Reducing risk is a good idea, thinking that one can eliminate it is dangerous insanity. Children who never learn that there is danger in the world are far more likely to lack caution than the ones who learned that, yes, the stove is hot and that I should listen when Daddy says "don't touch".

All that said, I am astonished that the parents would leave three children of that age alone in a strange place. It is NOT the same as being at home, regardless of distance.

Posted by: MarkGo | May 15, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse

I thought as much anon mom. That is a crazy story.

Posted by: Irish girl | May 15, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse

OK, so I left 4 kids alone in the car in the Safeway parking lot this one time. Three of whom were 8, the third one 11 (my 2 and my girlfriend's kids). I only had to pick up a thing or two and had the car locked with the alarm on so they wouldn't open the doors. As I came out I clicked the doors open with the remote and the four kids came tumbling out of the car together all atwitter about something. Sure enough, something happened in those 5 minutes that I was away -- one child had passed gas and they couldn't open the doors or windows!

Leaving the kids in a hotel room alone for the evening - no way. We once vacationed with these same friends at a resort in Mexico and each set of parents was able to go out once during the week while the kids stayed behind with the other parents.

Posted by: mammamia | May 15, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Also to Irish girl: The Swiss mom (no doubt reacting to the astonished expression on my face) assured me that this snowcave practice was common where she was from! And that it was no problem whatsoever, that the babies stay nice and warm.

Posted by: anon mom | May 15, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

At a minimum, to leave children alone (with or w/o younger siblings), the oldest has to be able to recognize trouble and respond to it appropriately. That's just not happening at 4 years old, no matter what culture you're in. These people deserve sympathy--not scolding--but they obviously made a mistake.

That said, I'm equally shocked at the number of people arguing that you can't leave kids alone until late high school. Yikes. Yes, it's true that "it only takes a second" for your child to be abducted. It also only takes a second for him to get hit by a meteor, or swarmed by killer bees. At some point, the need for development of some kind of self-sufficiency has to override the parents' understandable fear of harm. If you don't make that happen as a parent, you are not serving your kid's long-term interests.

Posted by: Stan | May 15, 2007 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Having read most of these comments, the overwhelming feeling that I have is that I am so glad I grew up in Europe and now understand why North American society is so disfunctional. You people are really paranoid - you seem to think that the world is full of psychopathic people watching your every move. If someone is determined to take your children, they probably will regardless of your precautions. You create a society based on fear rather than optimism - what a terrible place to grow up. I made my own way to and from school from an early age, sometimes on my own and sometimes with friends - often I would kick a ball around and not get home until the evening meal - no one was out looking for me and we didn't have mobile phones then. I was regularly left while my parents went for a drink in the village or dinner - even from the age of 5 or 6, if I wanted them, all I had to do was walk down the road to the restaurant - what's the big deal? Let your children grow - don't smother them. And hope that they don't attract the attentions of a bad person as is what happened in this case because there will be little you can do about it.

Posted by: Andy | May 15, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Here's something to think about: If you wouldn't leave valuable jewelry and/or a wallet stuffed with cash in open view in your unlocked ground floor hotel room while you pop in and check it every half an hour or so, don't do the same with your children. By the way, Madeleine McCann was not abducted from a traditional one tall building hotel but from a large resort complex with many smaller buildings. Her "villa" was on the ground floor and opened up to a small parking lot beyond which was a main road leading through town and quickly on to a highway. A rather tempting set up to the predator who took her. It is thought by authorities in Britain and Portugal that the family was probably observed by the criminal/s before the abduction took place. The parents gave that person/s a perfect opening. I pray for her return but shudder to think what she has been going through this whole time.

Posted by: Katherine | May 15, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Even with parents present in the house horrible things happen. In my former neighborhood a child found a cigarette lighter and set the sofa on fire while the mother was home in another room. Three people died in that fire -- the mother, the child, and a visiting child. ANother survived and was able to tell what happened. It's amazing how fast fires spread in a house full of upholstery, carpeting and curtains and nobody has a safe escape route out. Smoke usually gets them first.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Now they will NEVER get to dine with her again, hope it was a good meal. Completely inexcusable, don't give me "differences', it was stupid.

Posted by: pATRICK | May 15, 2007 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I've always said the key to babysitting was head count.

I think realistically we can say that parents can and are ok with not having immediate direct contact with their offpsring 100% of the time.

What we argue over then is a matter of degree.

I gotta say it- my mom sucked (according to most of the posters here). She left me in the car quite regularly alone as a young girl, left me at home to sleep by myself, and by age 8 I was walking to and from school all on my own, and spent 3-4 hours every day in our apartment alone until someone came home from work.

I was even a sucky daughter- a well known escape artist who managed to drag a chair and stack a phone book to a double bolted door, and walk myself all the way down to our community pool at age 4 because mom was taking too long in the bath. Let's just say mom was none too happy that day.

Somehow I was taught how to take care of myself and survived just fine and dandy.

IMO if almost all kids were left alone for hours at a time, almost never would something bad happen.

Sometimes something would.

We do need to stop being so paranoid and start being real. Growing up is about freedoms. An 8 yo is capable of more than a 4 yo is capable of more than an infant. There is no magical age cap of freedom and understanding, no matter what the ridiculous laws on drinking and voting like to say.

It's all about making a judgement call, and sometimes judgement calls are wrong. But I think most parents are doing what they feel is right- and no matter what issue you are talking about, a million other parents are doing exactly the opposite...and almost all children on both sides don't have a problem.

Posted by: Liz D | May 15, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"And hope that they don't attract the attentions of a bad person as is what happened in this case because there will be little you can do about it."

Maybe where you grew up, but here we have guns, alarms, and a little thing called a back bone. Oh wait, maybe instead of a back bone, I should say a brain. Because only someone brainless would leave a small child alone. What are you going to do if some freak likes your little girl. Oh well, he likes her, I guess I will just turn my pansy back and let him have her.

Posted by: to andy | May 15, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

You know, the more I think about it, the more I conclude that on this one specific subject, we "paranoid" American parents are right and the laissez-faire European parents are wrong.
There are so many things that could go wrong if you leave little kids alone. And I'm not talking about abductions by criminals, either. How about fires? Or earthquakes? There are all kinds of emergencies that can come up, or even just bad situations. If kids aren't old enough to dial 911, evacuate safely and have some basic first-aid skills, they're surely not old enough to be left alone. Anyway, that's my opinion.
One more thing about this Swiss mom -- and sorry for the multiple postings; I just keep thinking of stuff I should have said after I post -- what ran through my mind at the time was, "Well, this is one person I'm not going to ask to babysit!"

Posted by: anon mom | May 15, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Liz D says "There is no magical age cap of freedom and understanding, no matter what the ridiculous laws on drinking and voting like to say."

Untrue. Do you really believe that there's no difference between the way a 4 year-old's mind works, and the way a 10-year old's mind work? Cognitively, there's a world of difference.

Also, I don't think that Madeline's parents' actions could be classified as "doing what they thought was right". For whatever reason, they left their tiny children alone in a hotel room in a foreign with no one to supervise so that they could go have a nice dinner by themselves. Is that the right thing to do?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 15, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Or meteors? Or CO2 clouds? Or Tsunamis? Or pay-per-view?

Posted by: or | May 15, 2007 2:27 PM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX- Huh? That was my point- "An 8 yo is capable of more than a 4 yo is capable of more than an infant."

Meaning you can't just go "Oh you're turning 11 tomorrow, which mean you can now be responsible for X, Y and Z but today you don't have those capabilities.

Each person at each age must be handle on their own level. Me at 8 on my own every afternoon was no big deal. Me at 6 on my own every afternoon would have been bad.

Posted by: Liz D | May 15, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

"Maybe where you grew up, but here we have guns, alarms, and a little thing called a back bone."

The above illustrates exactly what I was talking about - what a really strange place you inhabit and your lack of objective self-assessment is breath-taking.

Posted by: Andy | May 15, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

This is a sad story. I do feel for the McCanns even though they made a poor choice. I can't even imagine being in their shoes, it makes me sick to think of it. No one wants their child to be abducted. I have a one year old that travels with me a lot, I would never leave him in a hotel room alone. When I chose to have a child, my husband and I were committed to him and enjoy giving up evening dinners and parties unless we can get a babysitter or family member to watch him. I enjoy eating with my son and if the restaurant didn't want children- I would eat in the room. I have found the comments very interesting although I don't think resorting to calling people dumb is very helpful. Also, as a teacher I have seen what happens when older children are left home alone and it is disconcerting. I think 11-12 is too young- especially at night but that's another story. I don't know what the answer is to reconciling safety and overprotectiveness but I think that I would rather err on the side of protectiveness.

Posted by: meg | May 15, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

The above illustrates exactly what I was talking about - what a really strange place you inhabit and your lack of objective self-assessment is breath-taking.

Pot meet kettle.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

"Maybe where you grew up, but here we have guns, alarms, and a little thing called a back bone."

The above illustrates exactly what I was talking about - what a really strange place you inhabit and your lack of objective self-assessment is breath-taking"

Just a matter of time before something happens to ANDY'S kids. This was dumb. "KNOCK KNOCK, hey little girl, mommy needs your help, unlock the door and I will take you to her." Or a fire or drowning, kids get into everything, I had no ideas brits were so incredibly stupid.

Posted by: pATRICK | May 15, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Now I understand why the U.S is such a violent place - by the way, I am not a 'brit'

Posted by: Andy | May 15, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Actually, where I live, earthquakes and tsumanis are real-life issues. We are in a major earthquake zone, though we've not experienced a really destructive one in a long time. Kids in elementary schools learn all about earthquake safety, and businesses generally have earthquake-safety procedures.
There was, in fact, one earthquake and resulting tsunami that killed many people decades ago.
And fires, that is a realistic threat for many people. There was a house fire in our town not too long ago that killed several children. A teenaged babysitter was on the premises, but she apparently didn't know what she was doing. Most importantly, there were no smoke alarms in the house.
And here's another (admittedly weird) emergency that happened to one local family - a drunk driver crashed into their house, just barely missing a sleeping baby.
Then there's the ever-present problem of loose dogs, including, at times, loose pit bulls. A big headache for many people in many neighborhoods around the country.
And on and on. My general view is that while abductions are extremely rare, there are plenty of other emergencies that can occur.
Overall, I'm not sure there's any magic age when kids can take care of themselves. Probably some 6-year-olds do just fine, while some teenagers are incompetent. I do recognize that being overprotective and overly anxious isn't a good thing, and I do recognize that kids need to learn to be self-sufficient. But I think there's a sensible middle ground somewhere, and that sensible middle ground includes emergency contingency planning.

Posted by: anon mom | May 15, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

No Patrick, he will raise them in Europe where everything is safe and normal.

Note the sarcasm.

Posted by: Irish girl | May 15, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Also to or: How about door-knocking missionaries? Or (shudder) politicians? Leave the kids alone, and next thing you know, you've contributed big bucks to some politico!
;)

Posted by: anon mom | May 15, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Anon mom where do you live? Pit bulls were banned from the city I live in due to a bunch of maulings.

Posted by: Irish girl | May 15, 2007 2:57 PM | Report abuse

"Now I understand why the U.S is such a violent place - by the way, I am not a 'brit'"


You seem to understand very little actually- except haughty snarkiness.

Posted by: pATRICK | May 15, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Were the McCann's the only family staying at that resort? Have witnesses been questioned? Suppose the child woke up, wandered outside looking for her mother and was snatched. Wouldn't she scream or raise a fuss? Wouldn't a Portuguese person carrying a screaming blond child attract notice? There is something really fishy about this whole thing.

Ever see that movie where Meryl Streep says "A dingo ate my bye-bye" in an Australian accent?

BTW, more than one predator has used the line "I've lost my puppy, can you help me find him?" to lure kids away from home. Then you get the kids with their name emblazoned on everything == backpack, tote bag, bookbag, jacket. Anyone can see their name and speak to them like a friend, thereby putting the warning 'don't talk to strangers' in the dumper.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Stories like these want to make me hug my daughter tight. My sister was making fun of me because I followed my five year around at night time gathering in the same city.

She let her four kids age 3-7 run around without anyone watching them. I did stop her five year old from running out the front door into a parking lot because no one else did. My sister also let her six year old go into their hotel room because they did not want to finish breakfast early.

I think I may let mine do that when she is about 10.My child does know how to dial 911 but all she knows about first aid is "Mommy I need a bandaid."

Posted by: shdd | May 15, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

A law professor said it is okay to leave a 4 year old and 2 two year olds alone in a hotel room? What about a fire alarm? I don't know one person who considers one of the demands of life we need to balance is to go out to dinner while your toddlers are alone. The kids could have been left home with grandma, or they could have eaten at a less expensive place and hired a babysitter. Any professor of law who promotes parents eating out while babies are left alone needs a refesher course in humanity. Babysitters were available, but the parents chose greed over need. May this haunt them forever.

Posted by: Karen | May 15, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

She let her four kids age 3-7 run around without anyone watching them. I did stop her five year old from running out the front door into a parking lot because no one else did. My sister also let her six year old go into their hotel room because they did not want to finish breakfast early. "

People like your sister are the first to cry "why did this happen, my baby____. Etc. Safety first, safety last, everything else is secondary.
"

Posted by: pATRICK | May 15, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

"People like your sister are the first to cry "why did this happen, my baby____. Etc. "

And the ones that get the benefit fundraisers.

It is odd.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 3:16 PM | Report abuse

suppose the 4 year old found matches in the hotel room. Suppose she awoke to a strange room and wandered. Suppose her sibling awoke from a bad dream, was she supposed to comfort them? or does she start a bath and they both drown? Pay for the stinking babysitter. have one less bottle of wine at dinner. Don't be so greedy that you put your need to eat at a fancy restaurant over the safety of your children in a strange environment. They cannot run next door to a familiar neighbor. they probably couldn't dial the equivalent of our 911 because it was a resort phone. 3 children under the age of 4 alone. Sick. Not progressive, simply selfish parenting.

Posted by: Karen | May 15, 2007 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Do you think that the parents are going to be investigated for child endangerment when they go home? Or since this is normal where they come from will they be pitied?

Posted by: Irish girl | May 15, 2007 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I don't think many, if anyone, is defending this particular case. I also don't think piling on adds anything of value.

I think that some of the posts advocating for 24/7 lockdown in bubblewrapped rooms are silly. I think that most people hugely overestimate the chances of unfathomable events happening. I think everyone loves their kids. I think we all have different risk tolerances. I think anyone telling me at what age my own child is capable of exercising certian freedoms is off base. I think some kids are way over-coddled - but I won't tell you that your kid is. I think laws that mandate supervison for my kids are outrageous.

Posted by: i think | May 15, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"Do you think that the parents are going to be investigated for child endangerment when they go home? Or since this is normal where they come from will they be pitied? "

Are you from Ireland? Is it really acceptable to leave small children? It strikes me as european snobbiness that children are generally unwelcome. Is that the norm?

Posted by: pATRICK | May 15, 2007 3:40 PM | Report abuse

It is not a cultural difference. Most people in the U.K. would not consider leaving young children alone in a hotel room. Everyone I speak to is appalled that this happened.

What a tragic way to be taught a lesson!
I hope this little girl is quickly and safely found.

Posted by: UK mother | May 15, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

No Patrick I am an Irish American. Perhaps I should have changed my name for this entry. I am sick over that girl. I can't belive anyone would leave a child that young alone. Like I said before, I think the other kids should be taken away from them.

Posted by: Irish girl | May 15, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I have a 3 year old daughter, and I would never imagine leaving her alone in the house or the car or a hotel room so that I could go out and do something without her. It was my decision to have a child and my responsibility to make sure that she is in a safe environment (as possible). I cannot even imagine leaving her alone for even a few minutes when she's 10 or 11. If I can't do something when she is along, then I'm not doing it. At 3 she still goes in a stroller (or a shopping cart) in a store and I am practically attached to (to make sure she doesn't climb out). I can't imagine allowing her to walk around a store and take my eyes off her for a second and then disappear. I also don't think I would leave a child of 14 or 15 alone in the evening. Again, my time does not matter at this point. When she is old enough to take care of herself (college maybe) then, yes, it will be very hard to let her go. But up until that point, I will do my best to tell her that I love her and that I intend to do everything i can to keep her safe.

Over the weekend i was at a playground with my daughter, and a girl of 11 yrs came over to talk to us. She had been to a store several blocks away and bought some junk food and was eating it at the park. No way would I allow my 11 yr old daughter walk by herself to a store several blocks away. There are nuts everywhere and a guy could have easily grabbed her and taken her. Nope, if my daughter wants something at the store, we will go get it together.

And, I grew up in a time where we were allowed to ride our bikes everywhere (several miles away), walk to school, parks, to friends houses. As long as we were home for dinner.

Posted by: D in MD | May 15, 2007 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the question included "What do you think of the parents decision?"

Sixteen is the age where children can be left alone for some time. The most independent and capable young people I know were raised
closely.

Too little space to go into all the factors;
but I had three of my own, and have had many children - their friends - to watch
and been a reacher of pre-school for twenty years. Security is given within boundaries
and suprvision; independence is NOT gained by being alone but by being given skills and abilities which are exercised and practiced freely and with encouragement. It does NOT mean hovering; it does NOT mean
being dragged to sports practice or forced to do activities every hour of the day.
But it does mean knowing who your child is with.

Posted by: ann | May 15, 2007 3:46 PM | Report abuse

pATRICK |

Don't you recognize scarry?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse

"Sixteen is the age where children can be left alone for some time."

I think that's an arrogantly definitive statement. I think my mom was right not to apply that to me or my brothers.

Posted by: i think | May 15, 2007 3:53 PM | Report abuse

"Sixteen is the age where children can be left alone for some time."

Only if they have a driver's license.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Actually many adults shouldn't be left alone for any period of time. And you know who you are.

There is a device called "Operation Lifesaver" a lot of people get for autistics and Alzheimer patients who tend to wander. It's a battery operated wristband they wear like a wristwatch. Police can track them down even if they've been gone for a couple hours. The only cost is to install new batteries periodically. I understand this device has a 100% success rate. Not quite as cybertech as that chip people put into their dogs (and some want to do that to children!) but it works.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 4:02 PM | Report abuse

And, I grew up in a time where we were allowed to ride our bikes everywhere (several miles away), walk to school, parks, to friends houses. As long as we were home for dinner.

Me too. I get sick thinking of letting my kids do that. I was very lucky that nothing happened to me. We went far far away every day and no one knew where we went. I would NEVER let my kids do that and looking back neither should my parents.

Posted by: pATRICK | May 15, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

"Not quite as cybertech as that chip people put into their dogs (and some want to do that to children!)"

The bad guys know about the chips and how to knife them out of the dogs' and kids' bodies.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Not that it will have any impact, but arguments following this form are tautological and not useful: "What if there's a [fire/earthquake/alien invasion]!?" Well, yeah. By that reasoning, letting a 17 year old go to the movies without armed bodyguards is a bad idea--because you have to ASSUME that he will somehow wind up dying as soon as he is out of your sight. ("What if . . . !?") The argument is ridiculous because it requires hindsight, and with hindsight, NO risk is acceptable. Think of it this way: You wear seat belts, right? What if I offered you $10 million to ride down I-95 without a seat belt for 10 seconds? You'd be crazy to refuse, unless you assumed that during that ten seconds--against all odds--you'd get into an accident. Yet this is what some of us do to kids--we assume, against all odds, that they'll be kidnapped, molested, killed, etc. if they are out of our sight for even a second--and we end up with parents who won't let their kids go to a sleepover or to the movies, or walk to school.

If you always assume a highly unlikely, catastrophic outcome, your decision making will be distorted, and we'll wind up with even more Europeans laughing at us for wrapping our kids in helmets and bubble tape. Leaving a 4 year old alone to care for 2 year old twins in a hotel room is, in fact, completely insane. But so is basing 18 years of child-rearing decisions on the assumption that a well-oiled child abduction team is hiding out in your tool shed, waiting to strike.

Posted by: Stan | May 15, 2007 4:06 PM | Report abuse

pATRICK |

Don't you recognize scarry?

You really need a life.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 4:13 PM | Report abuse

"Yet this is what some of us do to kids--we assume, against all odds, that they'll be kidnapped, molested, killed, etc. if they are out of our sight for even a second--and we end up with parents who won't let their kids go to a sleepover or to the movies, or walk to school."

Sorry, I don't gamble with my kids safety. The risk is way too high.

Posted by: pATRICK | May 15, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

"pATRICK |

Don't you recognize scarry?

You really need a life."

who me,you or Scarry or all of us?;)

Posted by: pATRICK | May 15, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse

"I was very lucky that nothing happened to me."

You were also very lucky that lightening never struck you.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Sorry -- that should be 'PROJECT Lifesaver' not Operation Lifesaver. My bad.

Posted by: 4:02 | May 15, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I was very lucky that nothing happened to me."

"You were also very lucky that lightening never struck you."

Odds of being hit by lightning: 1 in 3000
Estimated pedophiles - 1 for every 148 children. One for every 148 children, watching, planning, plotting. Keep that in mind when people try to act as if you are over protective.

Posted by: pATRICK | May 15, 2007 4:29 PM | Report abuse

"...and we end up with parents who won't let their kids go to a sleepover or to the movies, or walk to school."

Sorry, I don't gamble with my kids safety. The risk is way too high."

Posted by: pATRICK | May 15, 2007 04:14 PM

pATRICK let me know when you are walking your 7th grader to school - I would love to see the look of sheer horror on his/her face when their friends find out that Daddy has to walk them to school. Or maybe by that wasn't the age you were talking about. Life has risks and our children in the process of growing up need to learn to handle and are capable of handling some of those risks. And as they age we have to trust them to handle those risks. Maybe you won't let your child walk to school until their 10 another child is ready at 8 and another won't be ready until middle school. There has been way to much discussion today about sheltering kids - 11yrs old and they can't walk to the mailbox, not leaving children alone until they can drive (does this person hire babysitters for their 14 yr-old when they go out to dinner) I would love to guarantee that nothing bad would ever happen to my daughter but I know I can't. I just play the odds - make sure she wears her seatbelt (being in the care is probably the most dangerous thing that most of our kids will be exposed to) make sure she had proper care when she was young, limit her time alone as a teenager and talk about what the real risks are.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | May 15, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

that was supposed to be being in the car not "care" sorry for the typo.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | May 15, 2007 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Divorced mom, it is a matter of degree. My childs school is two blocks away. I would let my 7th grader walk. If he needed to cross a busy street and take a roundabout way through some questionable areas, no way. The problem is that the some people think that there is NO problem.

Posted by: pATRICK | May 15, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I understand not wanting to put the children in hotel child care-I wouldn't do it either. So why not bring a family member, nanny, or whoever provides their childcare during the work week with them on vacation? You either do this, put your child in the hotel care or don't go out. Please don't tell me it's too expensive-put your vacation on hold for a couple of months and save up for it. Doing all that you can to make sure your child is protected at night while you dine out...priceless.

Posted by: attymom | May 15, 2007 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't let my 7th grade daughter walk to school by herself. I would drive her or arrange carpool with another responsible parent. Sorry, just don't see this happening, I just think there could be a crazy person out there watching the route to school just hoping for the opportunity to snag a little girl. This is the same thing as allowing the 11 year old girl I saw this past weekend at a playground all by herself and she had been to a store buying junk food. It sounded like she was allowed to do this whenever she wanted. This was very disturbing to me, and the fact that she was extremely friendly and talkative, like she wouldn't have a problem striking up a conversation with anyone and telling them everything they wanted to know about what she was allowed to do.

Posted by: D in MD | May 15, 2007 4:45 PM | Report abuse

What's disturbing to me is that you are so hung up on what she bought at the store. Oh no! Not junk food!!! Ahhhhhhh!!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, could someone fill me in as to what age 7th grade is? I always get confused as I think the ages in the States are slightly different to the UK for the different grades at school. Thank you.
And just for those of you who have the inpression that over here we all leave our kids willy nilly whatever their age, we don't. Honest. It is a minority who would do this, but you would expect doctors to know better, especially as they may deal with child protection issues at work.

Posted by: Sally | May 15, 2007 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Sorry that should read 'impression' Do excuse my typo, but in defense it is getting late here! :)

Posted by: Sally | May 15, 2007 4:53 PM | Report abuse

7th grade is about 12 years old.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 4:54 PM | Report abuse

To Irish girl: I live somewhere in the Ring of Fire. It's a place where earthquakes are quite common (for Stan's info), and tsunami warnings are occasionally issued.
And that's as specific as I'm going to get right here.
But speaking of natural disasters and other hazards, one other European versus American thing is that many of their buildings are old (naturally) and would be way, way out of compliance under current American safety and building codes. Often people, including me, make fun of all the safety regulations in this country, but sometimes those seemingly over-the-top regulations are valuable.

Posted by: anon mom | May 15, 2007 4:55 PM | Report abuse

I didn't mean to imply that I was troubled with buying the junk food. It's that she was allowed to go to this store and be carrying money and buying what ever she wanted and then wanted to give my daughter some. She was very talkative about how she was allowed to go buy anything that she wanted, and that this information could be captured by someone and that she may be able to be enticed by someone with a bag of Doritos.

Posted by: D in MD | May 15, 2007 4:56 PM | Report abuse

sarcasm just doesn't cut it when it comes to the way things have become

neither does exaggeration

the Lindbergh kidnapping set the entire nation on edge in 1932; now we have national databases

we have FBI coordinating international tracking and searches for child trafficking

we have maps and databases regarding level I II and III child molesters

we have, above all ta da: the Internet

We can't let our children go to and from school along; get on/off schoolbuses alone;
go to the store alone; 10 or 15 years ago this would be paranoid

It just isn't paranoia anymore.

So, my statements may be viewed as arrogant; I see it as informed choice. My children were not and did not feel like prisoners; they were responsible and were and are unafraid. They are aware. They now travel all over the world.

Much more AWARENESS is called for. It is very true that in the past children could bike in their neighborhoods, be just with friends, and and up at anyone's house nearby for dinner. Just not anymore.

Posted by: ann | May 15, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

BOTLO for the Dorito bandit...

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Me too. I get sick thinking of letting my kids do that. I was very lucky that nothing happened to me. We went far far away every day and no one knew where we went. I would NEVER let my kids do that and looking back neither should my parents.

Posted by: pATRICK | May 15, 2007 04:04 PM

Yup. I once told my mother about some of my exploring. Her response: "I wish I had caught you!"

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | May 15, 2007 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I think the idea that today is any more dangerous than yesterday is not based in fact, and is not born out by the data.

You say 16...I say FOR MY KIDS...12. If you had written, 'for my kids, 16', that would have made some sense. But for you to dictate the safe age for everyone else, it's just silly.

Posted by: i think | May 15, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

by the way, most kids are molested by family members, so your internet map really isn't all that useful.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Many people in the UK feel that the McCanns did a foolish and unforgivable thing, but many people also feel that it is deeply unchristian to keep harping on about it when this family is obviously well aware of their foolishness and are already suffering agonies. Incidentally, to all those generalities about what we do in "Europe", please remember that Europe is made up of many different countries with different customs and cultures. Leaving very small children all alone in a strange hotel room is not the custom in any European country that I know of.

Posted by: mb | May 15, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

D in MD and I guess you are planning on being a stay at home parent or have a nanny, because newsflash there is no after or before care in middle school. So if you are at work how are you going to drive your child home? And I notice it is drive or walk by herself - how about walking with friends?

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | May 15, 2007 5:11 PM | Report abuse

"You may find the risk that Madeleine's parents took to be unacceptable but please don't act like your children are 100% safe all the time."

But that's the POINT - we DON'T think our kids are 100% safe all the time. That's EXACTLY why we would never leave any child that young alone in a hotel room under any circumstances. An adult ought to be able to understand the scale of risk, and that one was waaaaaayyyy up there.

Posted by: momoftwo | May 15, 2007 5:24 PM | Report abuse

The parents made a mistake, and they know it. All parents do, and luckily most of us don't pay such a steep price.
There's no sense in compounding these parents' misery or insulting them; that goes without saying.
But from what I've seen, the discussion unfolding here is, at least for the most part, not about blaming the suffering parents or finger-pointing. It seems to be about the larger questions of how much safety is enough, how much is too much, how many of our fears are justified, are we putting our efforts into the right places, and whether there are cultural differences about approaches to children's safety.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Why shouldn't the parents be blamed?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 5:31 PM | Report abuse

My heart goes out to the parents, whom no doubt will regret this for the rest of their lives. I hope that other parents will take note, stop criticizing one another, and be wise- wise meaning learning from others' mistakes rather than make them for themselves to learn the message. While it is easy to point fingers, everyone makes poor choices now and then, and to be able to turn the looking glass on yourself is probably the best thing you can get out of this situation. Do you leave your kids alone? Are they at an appropriate maturity level for you to do so? There are many questions that can be asked of ourselves before pointing out flaws of other parents, so tonight just pray and hope for the McCann's, and plan to make yourself a better parent through their teaching.

On another note, it may be helpful to get that poster out on more channels- blogs, etc- because she does have a distinctive right eye, and perhaps someone will recognize her. Please spread this around to others in the online community and the world.

Posted by: dc | May 15, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I might be overly protective, and people can call me what they will, and my two girls might grow up with a complex, but I never, ever leave my children (1 and 3) where I can't see them. I'll have to make adjustments when they go to school or other activities, but as long as I can protect them I'll do and go to any lengths to do just that. I feel so bad for the parents of Madeleine, I do, but I can't imagine leaving babies alone like that.

Posted by: Marco-Colorado | May 15, 2007 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Reading comments about leaving a child alone in a hotel room brought to mind the one time my husband and I did that ourselves. I was on a 3 day business trip to D.C., with my husband and 7 year old daughter (or maybe she was 8) accompanying me. This was in the early 90's - before cell phone usage was common. That night, a dinner was being held in a ballroom at the hotel in which we were staying. After dinner, a famous "personality" was going to entertain the guests. I invited my husband to join me for the performance. We thought our daughter would be fine in the room for an hour with the TV on and the door locked. Unfortunately, the TV show ended a few minutes after we left the room, our daughter spooked and went out in the hallway to find us. As she did, she let go of the door and was locked out! A guest at the hotel saw her in the hallway and took her to the front desk in the lobby where a security guard was summoned to locate us. Long story short - no "permanent" harm done - though we felt terrible about overestimating our daughter's ability to be alone in the room and very grateful that she was safe.

Posted by: Austin | May 15, 2007 6:39 PM | Report abuse

A slightly different slant -- I remember feeling like a fairly carefree 11-yo until the story of Adam Walsh made the news. To me it was the end of an era. It absolutely terrified me. I don't really remember my parents talking that much about it, but it was everywhere in the news and I obsessed over it. I didn't want to walk anywhere alone, I clung to my parents, the whole nine. I remember visiting my cousin, a year older, on Long Island. She was allowed to take the bus with friends to the mall. As we stood there waiting for the bus, I was practically hyper-ventilating as I imagined every male driving by was about to snatch us. I ended up feigning sickness to go home. It was terrible to live like that, and no doubt the excessive media attention on that story and stories like it, contributed to my hysteria. There has to be a balance. Yes, there are twisted people out there who want to harm children, but being so afraid of them, either as a child or a parent, that it consumes your every move just isn't healthy. It may only take a second, but overly worrying about the "what if" can really do lasting damage to a child.

Posted by: scared kid | May 15, 2007 8:30 PM | Report abuse

My daughters' elementary school publishes guidelines (apparently from the Fairfax County government) that say children under the age of 8 should not be left alone for any length of time for any reason. From 8 to 11 (I think it is 11) they can be left alone for up to 90 minutes in the day time. It gradually increases. I began talking with my daughter at about age 6 1/2 to help her begin to know how to keep herself safe. I have left her alone two times, both to go to the grocery store for just a few things. She managed to keep herself safe, wasn't scared, and obeyed the rules I set for her. I feel comfortable knowing that I could indeed leave her for 90 minutes. Her younger sister is a different story. Unless a lot changes before she turns 8, she won't be staying by herself. I can totally believe that she would answer the door if someone knocked. Or answer the phone, or go outside because she felt like it. Or begin experimenting with something that she knew I wouldn't let her get away with if I was home. So maybe she will change, and I will be able to feel safe leaving her home. But maybe I won't feel comfortable doing that. And until I feel it would be safe to leave the younger one alone, I am not sure I would be comfortable leaving them home together.

But I was a latchkey kid (with my 8 year old sister) from the time I was 7. My mother was a teacher, and we were home for about 45 minutes to an hour before she got home.

Posted by: no name today | May 15, 2007 8:37 PM | Report abuse

I have locked my DD in the car before. I buckled her into the carseat, tossed the diaper bag onto the front seat, and then shut the door only to realize the keys were in the bag. When you're sleep deprived, you do stupid things. Fortunately, my car has one of those combination entry features, but I imagine stuff like this happens all the time.

Posted by: va | May 15, 2007 10:54 PM | Report abuse

I live in Spain and leaving (small) children alone is definitely not normal here; if one wants to go out the normal thing is to leave them with family or friends. In any case, here there would have been no problem taking the kids to dinner. I think from Iberia these parents seem to have been neglectful, although few would then blame them for their kid getting kidnapped.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 12:20 AM | Report abuse

From what I picked up in scanning the story, the resort where the family stayed did have a babysitting or child care service but the parents chose not to use it. They left 2-year-old twins and a 3-year-old alone while they enjoyed dinner. Why shouldn't the blame be put on them?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Personally I do not blame the parents.
My view is my view. They are experiencing
excruciating agony. That is more important
than how right anyone else is. It is too late for that. Their child is gone.

But children should not ever be left alone.
Period.

Posted by: feels strongly | May 16, 2007 9:22 AM | Report abuse

The first time I ever left my son at home was when he was 8. He was told that for the ten minutes I would be picking his sister up from the Brownies that he was NOT to answer the phone unless my name or his Dad's name came up on the screen, he was NOT to answer the doorbell or even look out the window to see who it was. Ten minutes later I got back to find a parcel in the kitchen. When asked how it had got there he said tha a delivery van driver had called with it and that he had gone out to the gate, taken the parcel and even signed for it! When asked why he had looked to see who it was after having been told not to he said that the van had made a lot of noise so he'd looked out and seeing that it was a parcel he knew I had been waiting for had wanted to help by getting it in for me. When asked what he had told the driver when asked if Mum was at home he said he's told the driver Dad was at work and Mum had gone out and he didn't know how long I'd be. While it was sweet of him to try and help I realised that he wasn't quite as mature as I'd thought and he is only now at 12 being left for short periods of time by himself.

Posted by: Sally | May 16, 2007 9:48 AM | Report abuse

My friend's 2-year-old sister climbed out of her crib at night while everyone was sleeping and knocked over a lamp that started a fire. It spread so quickly that they could not reach her.

Even children sleeping in their own homes can get into trouble. A 4-year-old can open a door and do all sorts of mischief -- checking every 20 minutes is not enough. Locking children into a room is a recipe for disaster if a fire breaks out or other accident occurs.

Posted by: Anne | May 16, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

"Wouldn't a Portuguese person carrying a screaming blond child attract notice? "

How ridiculous is THAT?! Do you imagine NO Portuguese person has blond hair and light skin?!!!!!

Parents walk around with screaming children all the time -- it's called a tantrum. If a well-dressed woman carried off this child, pretending to be a harried mom, no one would have questioned it.

Geez, no wonder most U.S. people are thought of as idiots by the rest of the world.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Geez, no wonder most U.S. people are thought of as idiots by the rest of the world.

yes, we are clearly the idiots of the world. hmmmm, let me think on it--not. We do not think it is okay to leave sleeping children alone while we go out to eat or put them in snow caves. WOW.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I think many of the posters here are too judgmental.

Sally realized that her son was not mature enough at 8 to be left alone for 10 minutes. Thankfully he was not abducted and nothing happened to him. But would we be ripping Sally like we are the McCann's if it was her missing son we were talking about? Hindsight is 20/20.

The fact is that we should be able to, in reasonable circumstances, leave our children alone--taking into account their age, where they will be left, for how long, the maturity of the child, etc. Bad things happen even when we've exercised as much caution and taken as much care as we can.

It's a tragedy, and some sympathy rather than cruel criticism is warranted. Shame on those of you who have been so judgmental. I'll pray that you never find yourself in this predicament, or any other. And I'll pray for Madelaine too.

Posted by: Charmaine | May 16, 2007 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Shame on those of you who have been so judgmental. I'll pray that you never find yourself in this predicament, or any other

Don't worry honey, I watch my three year old. I don't leave her alone with two babies and go have dinner, so I don't think the same thing is going to happen to her. You can make excuses and say other people are judgemental, but at the end o the day the McCann's are the reason why Madeline is gone.

Posted by: Irish girl | May 17, 2007 7:55 AM | Report abuse

I was stunned when reading this article by the comment that it is regarded 'Brits' consider it normal practice to leave young children unattended in hotel rooms, holiday apartments or even in their own home, while going out for the evening or enjoying a meal in a restaurant. This is absurd! And definitely not normal practise. I am a Mother of two children, aged 13 and 11 yrs old and have a wide and varied circle of British friends and none of us I repeat, none of us would ever consider leaving our children 'home alone'!

We are at a loss to understand why the McCanns felt it was safe to leave such young children unattended when it would have been so easy to have them cared for or to keep them with them. From the day my children were born my husband and I have always gone on social outings WITH our children and shunned any establishment that would not welcome them as they would ourselves. English parents are no different to any other 'culture' where to love, care and cherish their children comes before all other considerations. Do not judge the majority by the minority. It shows ignorance and is offensive.

However, at this moment in time laying blame at the parents feet is not going to help anybody, least of all Madeleine. I imagine the McCanns will spend the rest of their lives in torment over the decision they made that night. The British press and people feel that to add criticism to the intolerable agony they now have to carry as fruitless and pointless. They have lost the most precious thing any parent can lose, their child! In the most excruciating of circumstances. This is not a time to point 'holier than thou' fingers.

Posted by: Oonagh O'Hanlon/England | May 17, 2007 8:00 AM | Report abuse

This is not a time to point 'holier than thou' fingers.


Sure it is, but I hope they find her.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2007 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Charmaine, I expect most people would have ripped me apart here if it had been my son we were discussing. And I really wouldn't have blamed them, I'm sure I'd have ripped myself apart with far more ferocity than anyone else could. You are right though that hindsight is wonderful. But Oonagh from the UK is also right, the vast majority of us 'Brits' don't consider leaving children asleep alone as the 'norm'.
For instance, my two are now 12 and nearly 14, and while I will pop to the shop, or allow them to be at home alone until school time if I have to leave for work before they go to school I won't leave them asleep alone. There is quite a difference in my opinion. If they are awake and an emergency occurs then they are alert and will be able to make decisions. This morning I had to be at work by 6.30am and my Husband had to stay in London last night for work. Rather than have them wake up when I'd gone and risk something happening while they were asleep they stayed at Grandma's house the night.

Posted by: Sally | May 17, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I feel bad for Madeleine. Too bad her parents were too selfish to look in to her best interest. The guilt they must feel. Now their poor baby has to suffer. Yes, Americans do worry a lot. An abduction CAN occur right in front of your eyes...but you should still do everything to not make your children a target of a predator.

Would you sit your kids in the middle of an old back country road if you were only 50 feet away? Never! That would be pure stupidity. As soon as you looked away a speeding car would be coming around the corner.

Being a parent is not convenient! And sometimes we have to sacrafice our own needs to help protect them.

I am sure these parents love their children...we know who the real person is to blame. But maybe this will help other parents realize that this could happen to them too. And while on vacation, that is the time to use EXTRA precaution of your children's safety.

Posted by: motherofthree | May 17, 2007 5:10 PM | Report abuse

I feel a little sick to read so much criticism regarding children being left alone. Only a few sensible people seemed to have made points that put the whole business of 'parental responsbility' into perspective.

-------
Firstly, abductions (by strangers) are extremely rare. It's every parent's nightmare of course, but the crucial fact is: it hardly ever happens. Virtually all abductions that do occur usually involve custody disputes anyway.

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Secondly, 4- and even 3-year olds are already quite independent. In all but fairly wealthy societies, young children routinely wonder about on their own - and often quite far from home too. The urban myths of the myriad of dangers facing children alone only serve to create unnecessary stress and unwarranted restrictions.

After all, it is actually quite difficult to abduct a child, even a very young one. Children know things. They grow up. They interact with other people and go to school. A child abductor has to go to extraordinary lengths to isolate the child from the community. It takes a very sick mind indeed and probably a great deal of collaborative effort.

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Thirdly, there are so many other dangers that threaten the welfare of children. Fire has been mentioned several times. As well as poisonous substances and the risk of electrocution or possibly drowning. Most serious accidents happen at home! With mum or dad probably in the same room or very near by.

It is very unkind and (with respect) quite ignorant to castigate parents for leaving their children alone for a while, so long as sensible precautions have been taken to minimise the usual household risks.

The chances of a child being abducted are so remote that it would probably be more dangerous to leave a child asleep under a tree in case of lighting than to leave her at home alone. The far greater danger of abuse to children actually comes from the Child Protection Services, who routinely turn children's lives inside out in pursuit of so-called negligent or 'abusive' parents. As one writer mentioned, if you leave your baby outside the shops in her pram or stroller, it would be the CPS who would be more likely to 'abduct' your child, rather than a stranger. In the UK, over ONE MILLION children have had their lives seriously disrupted as a result of Social Services interventions over the last 20 years! That's one in 40 children. And the figure in the USA is somewhat higher.

Did you know that the number of children who are actually killed by a stranger is around 7 every year in the UK (down from about 9 p.a. around 30 years ago)? This is one out of every 3 million children. In the USA, this number is about 100, or 2 per million children.

On the other hand, the serious risk of being killed in a traffic-related incident is extremely high - and rising! Over 500 children DIE every year in the UK as a result. (Many being ferried around by their over-protective parents.) Indeed, a good proportion of child pedestrians being seriously injured is due to the child having little or no 'road sense'.

We put ourselves and our children at risk in so many more terrifying ways, simply by driving in cars or crossing roads or holidaying by the sea.

The other alarming police statistic is that teenagers are increasingly putting themselves at risk due to their complete inability to judge and manage risk - compared with 30 years ago. Even more alarming is that older teenagers lead a positively dangerous life once they are able to shirk their over-protective home environment.

And it starts quite early. Young adolescent girls of about 11 or 12 are most at risk (comparitively of course) and often she makes contact with her abductor a few hundred yards from her home - see Kidsearch. These girls make up about 80% of the murdered victims (those that are abducted by strangers).

And ironically, the victims are 'normal' kids living in 'normal' families leading 'normal' lives.

Children need to be taught to manage risk from as early an age as possible. There is some risk inherent in doing so of course, but one has to weigh this with the greater dangers that a child encounters the older she gets and the larger her world becomes.

Another, more global perspective on the risks facing children. 8 million children under five DIE every year due to poor environmental conditions, respiratory infections, diarrhoea or malaria. I wonder whether the millions being raised for Madeline McCann could perhaps better be spent on saving the lives of a few thousand or so of these kids instead...

-------
Finally, those who seem to criticize the loudest seem to be the ones either without children of their own, or who seem to be leading obsessively controlled lives.

I have three children, and I know only full well how impossible it is to be 100% vigilant at all times. I am known to be very relaxed about monitoring their activities and whereabouts. So much so that I have been officially criticized by professionals (many of whom have no children of their own either). However, I try to keep a perspective on what the real dangers are (cars, electricity, poisons, etc.) and which are the stuff of nightmares but essentially unlikely.

I marvel at the resourcefulness of kids in general to get up to mischief and into trouble. Those of you who believe that you are guarding your children closely should be especially careful. I know many kids from families such as yours and they are usually the ones leading all the other kids of the neighbourhood into trouble or getting involved in dangerous games. They also tend to be the early smokers and the first to get involved with drugs and all-night raves. And they are past masters at covering up their tracks and looking innocent.

----------
As for the abduction of Madeleine McCann, it truly is a mystery to me. It doesn't actually make much sense. If one is determined to abduct a particular child, one would have to follow the family around for a considerable amount of time, waiting for the opportune moment. And then one would have to be always-ready with the getaway plan, and possibly have one or two accomplices. It really isn't easy to abduct a child, which is why the fear of abduction is quite unfounded.

If it was an opportunistic abductor then there would be trail blazing by now, of clues and sightings, etc., because the abductor(s) would not have been well prepared.

Even a deliberate, pre-meditated abduction is frought with unnecessary difficulties. Why choose the child of a professional, articulate, well-off family for instance? If one wants a blonde, blue-eyed little girl, there are plenty to be had from poorer (single-parent) families with few connections. In fact, the adoption industry is so big in the UK, there is a good chance that you can legitimately (legally) steal a new-born baby from a young & single, confused, depressed, possibly drug-addicted mum. And the Social Services will be only to happy to do so on your behalf. And if you aren't so fussy about hair, eye or skin colour, beautiful young children can be 'purchased' from their poverty-stricken and overburdened parents. Nigerians do it by the thousand, the going price being about $5,000. The majority of human trafficking goes on with tacit (albeit often ignorant) parental approval.

A calculated abduction of this kind might be executed by a 'paedophile' (a fairly sick and evil one at that, because nearly all 'true' paedophiles prefer older, pre-pubescent, children and to gain their victim's trust and confidence over time). Toddlers are rarely of interest to child molestors. So even this possibility is counter-intuitive.

If Madeleine simply woke up (which they inevitably do if it's a bit too quiet), then she would have been old enough to go out on the search for her parents. She is certainly old enough to understand people around her and to communicate with them effectively. Many children can talk (quite a lot) at the age of 3-4, and even before this they are masters at sign-and-emotion
language. At that age, she probably knew the layout of the complex remarkably well and, although she might not have headed for the tapas bar, she would have checked out all the places where people are expected to be: the reception area, areas with lights and people, etc.

If she had wondered off and ended up at the beach (unlikely - it would be too dark and windy for a 4-year old) and somehow ended up in the water (also unlikely - too cold and wet) then her body would have been floating with the tide by now.

And as this doesn't seem to be a custody dispute in any way, one possibility might be a deliberate kidnapping with the view to demanding a ransom. And perhaps the heat got too high to follow up on the original plan...

I can think of one or two other possibilities, but I'd rather not say. They are simply too ghastly to contemplate.

In the meantime, I've put Madeleine's photo on some of my more popular websites, which are read by people all over the world.

May she be found safe and sound.

Posted by: Gary Orman | May 24, 2007 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Lets all pray for the little girl and her parents and for all the other children and other parents facing similar situations.

Posted by: simon | May 25, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Lets all pray for the little girl and her parents and for all the other children and other parents facing similar situations.

Posted by: simon | May 25, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Hi

I am English, have 3 kids under 9 yrs and never ever would put my desire for an adult meal out above their safety. I don't know any English parents who would leave their children alone like that. I fully expect their 2 younger children to be put into care when they return to the UK, they are guilty of child NEGLECT. Selfish Selfish people. How could they.

Posted by: UKMumof3 | May 28, 2007 5:39 PM | Report abuse

I am now a 56 yo grandmother of 15, ranging in age fro 3 mos to 17 yrs. I would not leave any of the younger ones alone, in a strange hotel, in a strange city, in a strange country, even if I was just next door. What about fires, or earthquakes, or other natural disasters? I pray for that dear little girl. Her 'responsible' parents are in a hell of their own making.

Posted by: Samantha | May 28, 2007 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Yes , I come from England.

I have to agree with the comment on the opening page. I do not understand why the parents did not choose the creche facilities for their 2/3 year old children. As for the record, I am sure most responsible families in the UK would choose for their very young children to be looked after - however far away from them they are. I believe you have te wrong view of UK families because of this media march - my parents (and I am now 42 years old) would never dream of leaving me alone - however far away they were.

I feel for the family, bit they should have chosen the creche which was available to them at the time.

American families do not take any more care of their children than British families do - it is whatever gets to the media!

Posted by: sandra whitehouse | May 29, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Yes , I come from England.

I have to agree with the comment on the opening page. I do not understand why the parents did not choose the creche facilities for their 2/3 year old children. As for the record, I am sure most responsible families in the UK would choose for their very young children to be looked after - however far away from them they are. I believe you have te wrong view of UK families because of this media march - my parents (and I am now 42 years old) would never dream of leaving me alone - however far away they were.

I feel for the family, bit they should have chosen the creche which was available to them at the time.

American families do not take any more care of their children than British families do - it is whatever gets to the media!

Posted by: sandra whitehouse | May 29, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Yes , I come from England.

I have to agree with the comment on the opening page. I do not understand why the parents did not choose the creche facilities for their 2/3 year old children. As for the record, I am sure most responsible families in the UK would choose for their very young children to be looked after - however far away from them they are. I believe you have te wrong view of UK families because of this media march - my parents (and I am now 42 years old) would never dream of leaving me alone - however far away they were.

I feel for the family, bit they should have chosen the creche which was available to them at the time.

American families do not take any more care of their children than British families do - it is whatever gets to the media!

Posted by: sandra whitehouse | May 29, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Yes , I come from England.

I have to agree with the comment on the opening page. I do not understand why the parents did not choose the creche facilities for their 2/3 year old children. As for the record, I am sure most responsible families in the UK would choose for their very young children to be looked after - however far away from them they are. I believe you have the wrong view of UK families because of this media march - my parents (and I am now 42 years old) would never dream of leaving me alone - however far away they were.

I feel for the family, but they should have chosen the creche which was available to them at the time.

American families do not take any more care of their children than British families do - it is whatever gets to the media! From what I have heard, American families leave their children wherever they can - less hassle, the better.

I can assure you that Bristish families generally take better care of their children than American families ever will!!

Posted by: sandra whitehouse | May 29, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I would just say that - when someone says that it is "impossible to be 100% vigilant% when it comes to toddlers - remember that they had the choice of a creche but they turned it down!

Posted by: sarah gray | May 29, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone considered that the parents must have felt there was some risk -- why else would they feel compelled to check in every 30 minutes? So if they felt there was that much of a risk, why did they have to go out at all?

Forgive me for sounding judgmental, because I am truly sickened by the situation and pray for Madeline's safe return. But could someone explain to me how people think it's okay to go out and enjoy a meal, a party or whatever, knowing that their child(ren) may need them? Aside from the dangers of abduction or fire, a child could be wet or could wake up frightened from a nightmare -- would you want your child to cry for you (in a strange environment) for 30 minutes while you are eating and laughing and having fun? I honestly don't get that at all.

I'm an American raising kids in Holland and am often criticized for my views on safety (small toys for children under 3, car seats, etc).

I agree with the people who have said that your number one priority is keeping your children safe. And before people starting blasting me for that, that doesn't mean you have to control their every move, it means you keep an eye on them, giving them the space they need to discover the world... and as they grow, teach them how to be independent so they know how to be safe on their own.

Posted by: kmom | June 9, 2007 6:24 AM | Report abuse

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