Just so we're all clear now, let's repeat for everyone's sake: you DO NOT leave a three-year-old (or even two three-year-olds) alone while you go out to dinner, no matter what people say about the prime rib.
You do not do this even if she is almost four. You do not do this even if you are at home, let alone on holiday in another country. You do not do this regardless of how much money you have and how secure you think your resort is. You simply do not do this. Ever.
I'd like to say the McCanns have learned this, but even if they have it's moot at this point. Their little girl is gone, and I believe the world will never know for sure what happened to her, just like Jon Benet Ramsey.
I was not a parent when Jon Benet disappeared, but the story seemed fishy from the start. We all know it. The news photo of the little beauty queen is a permanent image in all our minds, and so are the nagging questions that began from the start. Why would parents push such a young child so hard, for something the girl wouldn't even have a concept of? Just recently, we made the conscious decision in our household to withhold using the word 'pretty' as a generic compliment to our daughter. We never tell our boys how handsome they are when they try on something new, or do something cool. Of course my little girl is the most beautiful on the planet, but I want her sense of self-worth to come from being told how smart she is, or how nicely she follows directions, or hums music when she dances, or even how well she matched her socks and dress. Not just how 'pretty' she is. No wonder men rarely give two craps beyond if their hair is combed and women are valued by their looks and objectified not only by men, but by themselves and each other.
But there I go, off on another tangent. Ahem.
Anyway, clearly something is fishy here, too. And I'm a parent this time. Not only does this story strike me generally, it also strikes personally. I imagine how I would feel one of my kids disappeared. But it doesn't take a parent to recognize the fish factor. Nice family on vacation in Portugal, great. Tragic disappearance of a cute little girl, terrible. Parents so upset they cause a worldwide stir, refusing to go home until she's found, having meetings with the pope, and soliciting support from Jo Rowling and David Beckham...ooookay whatever. But has anyone besides me questioned what the hell the mom and dad were doing AT DINNER when their daughter disappeared? Of course, we all have! If there is a worldwide concern for the safety and whereabouts of Madeleine, why is there not a worldwide outcry at the abject negligence of Kate and Gerry?
Well, finally someone is asking the big 'what the hell' question. The Portugese police announced that both mom and dad will be named suspects. Big surprise? If you say yes, you're either biased or not paying attention. Or Forrest Gump. They were suspect from day one, tragedy aside, and now that Madeleine's blood has (allegedly) been found in a car the couple rented everyone ought to be withholding sympathy for the pretty, tragic woman we see in the news pictures pending her clearance by police. In any case, the 'outrage' Kate and Gerry McCann and their friends are expressing is blatant disregard for the loads of support they've received from millions of strangers. If they expect the whole world to care about what happened to them, they should be expected to face the inevitable with a little more dignity. One news source says "the family have been concerned that the tide of public opinion in Portugal has turned against the couple." Ya think??
Of course, we all hope Madeleine is found alive and reunited with her family. Nothing would make me happier in this situation than for me to be wrong about my suspicions and look like an ass for expressing them. None of us would like to think that any parent is capable of committing acts against children, especially their own. But we all know people, some of them parents, do commit heinous crimes against children--that evil does exist in this world. And I will reserve judgment on whether even these questionable parents fit into that group of wasted flesh.
For now, let us all hope and pray for the best. And please let's remember to never, EVER leave our three year olds alone when we go to dinner.
(updated 10/22/07 to remove erroneous references to Madeleine's brother Sean)