The seven children who went missing last Saturday in Fresno, California have been found alive and well with their father in Sacramento. The children are unharmed and had left the home voluntarily, it would appear, with the father they hadn't seen in three years while the mother and stepfather had left them alone to go grocery shopping.
The children ranged in age from 12 to 5 so while, at first glance, one might question why the mother left them alone, knowing there was a 12-year-old present changes things. Or does it?
Police actually never believed the children were in danger given the fact that their belongings were missing as well and there was no sign of a struggle. It seems possible that the father was suspected all along.
I don't have a 12-year-old. But I did start babysitting at that age for one little girl who lived on my block. She was 7. At the time, I felt more than old enough to make her macaroni and cheese and play Uno and then help her go to bed. But was I?
Looking at my own children at 4.5 and 6 years old, it's hard to imagine a time when they will be old enough to stay alone. But that doesn't mean they don't ask. My son often wants to stay alone while we run my daughter to school. It's just a four-minute walk and sometimes it IS tempting. But I don't. And this is why.
Even if he would be fine, at 6 and 4.5, there is no judgement. They couldn't make sound decisions if anything crept up, even a non-emergency. So when does that awareness begin? Eight? Ten? Fifteen?
The fact that a 12-year-old was willing to let all his siblings leave the home before their mom came home calls this into question. Now, obviously, there could be a whole lot about this story we don't know. Maybe the children weren't happy with their mother and wanted to go with the dad. Maybe they had been corresponding with him and planned this (the older ones, at least). It's hard to know and the short news articles aren't revealing such details.
We can never know what really goes on behind closed doors in someone else's family. But something about this just doesn't sit right. Why would a 12-year-old willingly go with a father he or she hadn't seen in years? Why would he or she worry his mother so deeply? There is more here.
As of now, though, let's just be thankful that all seven of the children are safe and unharmed. This could have been so much worse.
Do you leave a 12-year-old alone with other children?
Image via Fresno Police