Watching the 11 o'clock news was how it hit one set of parents. For the other, it going to wake up the kid for school – and realizing she wasn't there.
What'd they discover? That their little girls had been left behind at Chuck E. Cheese's. That's right, dear readers. Two unrelated incidents, in two totally different states, just five days apart.
Now. The reigning palace of playscapes, prizes and pizza does have a mesmerizing effect on kids. But how, you may ask, did it trigger such bizarre, Home Alone-esque amnesia in adults? It's got plenty of parents befuddled at best – if not absolutely outraged.
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Let's look at the reports.
First up, we have 3-year-old Harmony. The sweet tyke, whose smiling photos wound up splashed all over the web as a lost child (she's cuddling a big plush monkey in one), had attended Chuck's with a big group of about 10 kids and four adults. But Harmony split from the pack when she darted back inside, having "found an extra token," according to local Maryland ABC station. No one noticed until her parents, who reportedly share joint custody, saw their kid's image on TV that night. Police got involved after employees realized the girl was alone (Harmony, who was getting thirsty, asked a staffer for a drink).
- The parents' excuse: Both "thought she was in the company of other family members," according to the local county sheriff's office news release.
- Total amount of time missing: about three hours.
- Charges: none expected, due to the "inadvertent" and "accidental" nature of the case.
That still had plenty of folks fuming, including Jeanne Sager over at The Stir. "'Inadvertent' doesn't mean 'excusable,'" she blogged. "And that's what everyone seems to have done in Bel Air (Maryland) this week… excused the crap out of some spectacularly crappy parenting."
Hear, hear. But, as BTO once put it, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
Which brings us to our second case, this time in a Texas town called Pearland. Here, the lost child, Azana Jackson, was 5 and – get ready – the birthday girl.
Yep. Seems that a big crew of 19 kids and three adults headed out for a celebratory evening in honor of little Azana. But, in the presumably chaotic departure, the girl was left behind. According to the Houston area ABC report, she couldn't tell police her contact information or the name of her mom – who reportedly has 10 total kids, ranging in age from 2 to 15. Here again, a Chuck E. Cheese's worker alerted police when the kid was spotted kicking around solo.
- The parents' excuse: All that's been reported so far is that mom found out the next morning, when she was getting her big brood ready for school. She called 9-1-1.
- Total amount of time missing: about nine hours.
- Charges: pending. Sounds like mom's been in some pretty extensive talks with Child Protective Services, ABC noted, and could face child abandonment charges.
"Do her small children put themselves to bed?" mused Karen of California. "I can't believe she wouldn't tuck in her newly-5-year-old, even to ask the little one if she had enjoyed her birthday party."
Both girls were darn lucky chummy Chuck E. Cheese's employees found 'em first. But, whether you're Parent of the Year or not, things happen. And, from where Oh Mother's sitting, there are a few clear takeaways.
Could your kid tell a police officer your name and phone number? Maybe use this as your chance for that convo.
And, especially during these mega kiddy party blowouts: Get a good grip on your exit strategy, whether it's a headcount, buddy system, I.D. tag or obnoxiously bright yellow T-shirt; whatever works. So that, like the mouse says, a kid can be a kid – not scared and stranded.