I get a sick feeling each time I hear about something bad happening to young children. They go missing, they’re abducted and in the case of Autumn Pasquale, tragedy ends the story. Police last night found the body of the 12-year-old girl in a recycling can near her Clayton, N.J., home.
Locally, a small child was abducted in Upper Merion after someone killed her grandmother and took the baby. So far the baby remains missing.
In talking this morning to some friends I recounted my overreaction a couple of summers ago when my daughter took a ride to a local Dairy Queen with a boy her age who she had just met the same day.
People say nothing would have happened and that I overreacted and I shouldn’t worry so much. Yes, I told the kid to never call my daughter again. He wasn’t from the area and I had my suspicions so I trusted my gut and got into it pretty good with him on his cell phone. Embarrassing for my daughter? Yup. But at least she was around the next day to talk about it…
The families of Autumn Pasquale and Saavni Venna aren’t that lucky. With any good fortune, little Saavni will be found safe.
When you have kids, it’s much like being a member of the Wallenda family. You seem to be constantly walking a tightrope, just waiting to fall off. But the stress of staying up there is what wears you down. You lean a little to the left, a little to the right, almost losing your balance…
Of course the barrage of information out there also doesn’t help. There are the websites with known sex offenders. You search your property area and find out that within what seems like blocks away are several known sex offenders.
Then there’s social media. Facebook and Twitter. I insist on having access to the Facebook and Twitter accounts for the younger ones in my family. They don’t like it but the alternative is that I shut them down. It’s a tradeoff they have to make.
Of course I realize this insanity can’t go on forever. I can’t hawk over them for the rest of their lives. But until they’re of an age that I can somewhat trust their judgment, it’s my way or the highway. And it’s not so much what they do but knowing (especially from the news business) what the nuts out there can do – and do do.
We live in a very strange world and weird people and bad, nasty, horrible people do awful things. Not much we can do about that. But I will fight for my kids’ safety as much as I can knowing at some point I have to let go. But most of us parents recognize that we never let go, we just do our thing a little less obvious.
And I am not passing judgment on Autumn’s parents. From all accounts they are good parents and good people. And after all, Clayton seems just like your normal small town where you didn’t need to worry about your kid going missing while riding a bike to a friend’s house. But…
With any luck the police will make an arrest. There seems to have been progress made and I think someone is behind bars for this crime before the day is over. Of course that’s little consolation for Autumn’s parents, family and friends.
So I ask you parents out there to talk to your kids and lay down the law. I go nuts anytime my kids – any of them – just bolts and doesn’t at least tell me where they are going. I don’t care what age you are. If you are living in my house I insist on at least basic information. It’s stressful but I’d rather have some information and be a pain their rear then not know anything at all.
The younger ones have gotten punished for not following that rule. And to the kids, how hard is it to just tell someone where you’re going? Write a note. Send a text or an e-mail. Something. Anything.
And to the creeps out there? Well, just be glad you don’t deal with me. I don’t handle this stuff very well. I felt just terrible for Autumn’s parents. They were on the TV yesterday and you could see the stress and pain they were enduring. Her mom looked like a zombie and her dad couldn’t stop rubbing his hands together. This must have been the worst moments of their lives. And I understand that – at least a little bit. That feeling of not knowing where your child is – even for an instant – is like no pain you’ll ever feel.
Life will never be the same for them and nothing can change that. But I agree with some of the people posting comments on the newspaper sites near Clayton that are calling for legislation to deal with these kinds of crimes. Severe punishments, whatever. Make it prison for life. I don’t care but do something.
Please legislators for Clayton: do your job and step up on this one. It’s not a Republican or a Democratic issue, it’s a parent and child issue.
And to Autumn’s parents: just know you did your best. You were good parents who tried to do the right things. Your daughter seemed like a good kid with a bright future. Now you have to be strong for the rest of your family, her friends and your community. Don’t let the bad guys win.
— Andy Hachadorian