Monday, May 25, 2009

On Growing Up Too Fast: Child Abduction in Jordan?

So, one of our struggles here in Jordan has been that we try and keep our kids young for as long as possible. We buck the prevailing trends in child rearing in many, many ways. A friend sent me a link today from a letter in the Jordan Times. It was very well written and over the last year, I have become a huge fan of Nermeen Murad. I haven't me her, but this lady is smart, with-it, and well-spoken. I feel certain I would like her ;). At any rate, today's article is called False Sense of Security. Here's an excerpt:

It is exactly a month since five-year-old Ward went missing. I believe that all qualified agencies have employed their resources to find him. I know that people have prayed for him and empathised with his family’s plight. But all I could think of over the past month was that this child of five was sent out on his own for a 200-metre walk to the baker and the hummus shop.

And this is one of those things that amazed me from the minute we moved to Jordan. As I take the Beans to school each morning, I pass two government schools, one for boys and one for girls. At each, but particularly the boys' school, I pass children who are far too young to be walking to school alone. The lucky ones are in the care of their older siblings (you know the 6 year old is responsible for the 4 year old), but most are walking alone or in groups of 5-6 little tiny boys. Many of these boys are 4 and 5 years old. It is hard to see them over the hood of the car. And they are roaming the streets on their own. At first I couldn't believe it. I get that people here don't fear kidnappings like Americans do, but what about the crazy drivers or potential molesters?

Having experienced that for the last few years, the story of poor Ward doesn't surprise me. How terrible his parents must be feeling. How helpless it must make you feel. And yet, how societally acceptable it is to send a five year old alone on the streets. I see 3 and 4 year olds playing unattended in the streets. As a crazy American (accused more than once of being overprotective of my kids in my vigilance against opportunities for abuse), I wouldn't even consider letting my SEVEN year old go one block alone. My five year olds? No way. Not a chance.

While I think Nermeen is perhaps a bit hard on the parents, I do think that the false sense of security she calls out exists. And it does need to be addressed. Is prosecution of parents like Ward's the answer? I really don't know. What I do know is that I will pray for Ward and his family. I hope that they will know peace and find closure. And I hope that the tale will become a cautionary one about pushing our kids to grow up too fast...

Happy Overprotectiveness!


At 12:01 PM , Blogger KittySigurdardottir. said...

Poor little Ward.I will pray for him too,MommaBean.

Is there no Amber alert in Jordan,so people can be aware of it ,if a child is missing?What about school buses,they don't have them in Jordan?

At 12:56 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

In the three years we've lived here, this is the first abduction I've heard of that wasn't immediately solved and the child recovered (within 3 hours was the only other one I heard about). So, no, no amber alert.

And school buses are not provided for government schools as they are limited to the local geographic area (all students within walking distance).

At 1:46 PM , Anonymous kinzi said...

Ouch. That makes my heart hurt.

At 9:12 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Exactly Kinz exactly.

At 10:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I certainly don't agree with prosecuting the parents. I need to mention one thing here: This Kid was not kidnapped in Amman, he was living in a "small" Town south of Irbid. and really when you get to see this town, which I have visited before, that's when you'll realize why did they have that sense of security. it's a small town with residents not more than a few thousands, and are literally from the same family or clan, everyone knows each other. It's not like in Amman, I can really feel angry if those parents left their kid alone in Amman as it's not a safe place to live in at all. But this town! I tell you I felt so scared when I heard the news!

At 1:03 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Tha2ir, thanks for your thoughts and added perspective. In the US, people in small towns used to feel safe as well. Now we know that bad people live everywhere, not just in the anonymity of large cities. But, even in Amman, people do this same kind of thing. The schools I pass are definitely in Amman. Sadly, even in Jordan there are those who would harm our children and all the denial in the world won't change that. It's why I'm so concerned to ensure that schools begin to take abuse seriously. We need no havens where this type of behavior is overooked or allowed... Off tangent now, thanks for commenting.

At 3:41 AM , Anonymous kinzi said...

Tha2ir, the fact most people are related is part of the problem here. The rate of sexual abuse for boys seems to be higher than average, and the majority of abusers are known to their victim.

I would not be surprised if the boy has been abducted, raped and killed to silence him by a male relative. I hope it is not true, but it is a pattern.

At 6:07 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

It is very sad to see all the tiny children walking to school or to the grocery here. It makes me really sad.

Nermeen Murad rocks in a journalist way! I really enjoy her posts. She has a clue unlike most others.

At 4:31 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Kinzi, exactly. :(. Nicole, my sentiments exactly. I actually just found out that she's married to a former colleague of mine. I never knew he was so cool ;).

At 11:31 PM , Blogger abu 'n um tulip said...

Okay, our oldest is turning six, and of course we don't send him down the street for khubz. But what I wonder is, when is it safe? We can't lock them in the house until they're eighteen. What's an appropriate age to send boys and girls out on their own in this society?

-Abu Tulip

word verification: cringe
no kidding!

At 1:58 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

So, Abu Tulip, are saying keeping them locked away until they're 40 ISN'T good? Teehee. We struggle with this one too, no less here than we would in the US. And, I think the answer depends on the child. ButterBean is much more responsible than the TwinBeans, but she is also more compliant, so it's a plus and a minus at the same time... We don't have an answer to this one yet, but I'm thinking for us, it's likely to be 12+.


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