Two little boys, all alone.

I was at the post office today when a young man came in carrying an infant car seat. While waiting in line I saw him smiling at the baby and making the occasional funny face. What a loving father, I thought.

As I got into my vehicle I saw two little boys, aged about 3 and 4, in the adjacent vehicle. One of the children caught my eye and smiled. The car’s windows were rolled down. No adult was in sight.

I started to back out of the parking space — and then pulled forward once more. It just didn’t seem right to leave two kids unsupervised.

Eventually their dad returned. You guessed it: He was the guy carrying the car seat.

“What took you so long, daddy?” one boy asked fretfully.

Good question.

 

Another good question: Was I being paranoid or prudent?

Prudent, I think. Dammit.

Look, I don’t like assuming the worst. But it is — and, unfortunately, needs to be — our first line of defense. If you think I overreacted, kindly read the story of Alisa Maier. Last week the 4-year-old was kidnapped right out of the front yard where she and her brother were playing. For some reason she was let go the next day. The man believed to have taken her was a convicted sex offender who shot himself when the police approached his home.

Our Amber-alerted world

I happened to be checking the time on my cell phone when the young father entered the post office. It was 12:52 p.m. He didn’t return to his car until 1 p.m.

A lot could happen in eight minutes.

I don’t know if child abductions are occurring more often or if we’re simply more aware of them in our Amber-alerted world. What I do know is that it’s permeated our culture to the point where my niece was given coupons good for free children’s meals plus free child identification kits.

I don’t think that fingerprinting and photographing your kids is a bad idea, even as I mourn the need to be so damned wary. My great-nephew is currently grounded, in fact, because while playing at the park next to his house he went home with a kid he’d just met. Malachi’s mom had no idea where he was. He’d been told to stay in the park.

Malachi is almost 9 years old. But like other ADHD kids, he doesn’t always follow directions. I wonder if a clean-cut, young-looking sex offender with a pocket full of Pokemon cards could entice Malachi to come over and play video games.

I like to think that my nephew would know better. In fact, I’ve told him what comedian DL Hughley advises: If anyone tries to mess with you, scream “I don’t know this motherf—-r!” as loudly as possible. But maybe Malachi would be too entranced by the sight of a holographic Jirachi to remember his instructions.

Should I have stayed?

I’m sorry for today’s children because I remember the freedom of my own youth, of being able to disappear for hours at a time to play with friends. No one ever warned me not to take candy from strangers. I once saw the Robert Louis Stevenson book “Kidnapped” and had to ask what the word meant. When my grandmother babysat us in the summer, she’d leave us in the car while she shopped. Just like the boys today, we’d sit there with the windows rolled down, smiling at people who walked past.

A lot could have happened in eight minutes back then, too. If a stranger had said he needed to drive us home because our grandmother was sick, we probably would have gone. After all, we’d been taught to obey adults.

Today’s kids may be more savvy than we were. But every day strangers walk off with children not their own. Please, parents: No matter how quick your errand is, do not leave your kids by themselves. Chances are that nothing will happen while you’re in the drugstore or picking up your mail. But you really can’t be sure.

Probably nothing would have happened to those boys today even if I’d just driven off. On the other hand, the guy with the Pokemon cards might have showed up.

What do you think, readers? Would you have stayed around until the dad showed up?

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