When you try to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes …… and then you stand there in their shoes and go WTF?

There has been quite a bit of media attention around the disappearance of Anchen Muller – a 13 year old girl from Brackenfell who had told her mom she was going to an event, then staying over at a friend in Table View.

Anchen’s aunt put her details on the web over the weekend, when it became obvious no one knew where she was and there was no way to contact her.

A series of things happened that would be on the list of “what would make most parents shit in their pants” :

  • Anchen’s phone battery dies and the phone is permanently off.  (parents watching this get brown bag to start to breath into to stave off the panic attack that is looming)
  • Anchen’s mom did not have the name or number of the friend who she went with or with whom she was staying. (parents watching this uses brown bag extensively and then gets another bag as first bag has torn — also starts to throw back a few anxiety capsules)
  • Anchen’s mom did not have the address/contact details of where her daughter was spending the night or by the sounds of things a clear idea of when she was going to be coming home (other parents look at each other and go “what the fuck?” and head to the fridge for wine)
  • This shit started on Friday —- the father reports her missing on Monday.  I think this is when he found out — but I may be mistaken here.  What the hell happened between Friday and why was this only reported on Monday??
  • Your child leaves your home on Friday and if you have not heard from her by Saturday things are still cool.  In which universe does this occur???
  • This is the part I also don’t get — your 13 year old girl child leaves your home on Friday and after 24 hours of not hearing from her, or having any way to contact her, and no information you work with — you still go “Okay, well I will get a good night’s sleep on Saturday and see how this goes on Sunday?”  She is a 13 year old child —– and you have had no contact for over 24 hours and you have no contact information —— please panic on Friday already.

Short story is “She was found on Tuesday night and is unharmed” — Great. Happy Ending.

I think there were a lot of people on social media who breathed a bit lighter and hugged their own children a bit closer.  A girl of 13 pops across your facebook feed and you start looking at your own children and getting a chill.  Not a good chill, a feckn creepy one.

Could we maybe step back and look at some details and just question how things could have gone this far?  And this wrong?

I do not know Anchen, or her family.  In no way am I raining the responsibility on her doorstep — but ….. if your 13 year old (insert any age you like actually) tells you she is going out, and staying over at a friend.  And you let her exit the door without at least several hours of interrogation, various google searches, using google maps to find the house.  Getting into your car and driving to the house to ensure it exists and to speak to who ever is in the house, checking there are adults, who is sleeping where and does anyone say feature on the child molestation register —- then possibly you are falling short on parenting.  A smidgen.

Or investigative tactics — and really that is what parenting is after a certain age. Who can google shit faster and better than the other party.

As parents NOW we are better informed, and we are more aware of the dangers that face our children.  Maybe the stuff that happens now is the same stuff that happened 20 years ago – but with instantaneous information we are kept informed of each horrific incident that happens everywhere.  And it feels like our children are under permanent attack.

You can’t tell me you get “less shocked” when you hear of the violence and atrocities committed against children.  You just do not get used to that shit.

I have a 12 year old daughter — there is no way if hell froze over that I would let her walk out the door without me knowing her phone is fully charged and where she is heading.  If she walks out the door to go get something out of the garage I time her.

She would have had the lecture about keeping her phone charged, so she is always contactable.  So she contacts me every 30 – 60 minutes would be required.  If her phone was not charged, hell fire and brimstone would rain down on her.  I am close enough to being the devil I can make that happen.

I would walk out and meet the person who was fetching my child.

I would have already got the number and spoken to the person fetching my child and asked several questions around time, when, where and the how the next few hours were going to play out.

Personally I would not let my 12 year old sleep out — she stays at her dad, her granny on occasion and one friend. And that is the full extent of the people where she is allowed to stay over at.

I also have a 15 year old boy child — similar interrogation from my side if he is sleeping out.  I don’t just let him give me random information, nod and say “cool see you in two to four days….”

So back to Anchen – how does a 13 year old girl leave a house and the mom/dad/who ever is wearing the responsible pants in the house not have information on the who, what, where and so on?

How does that happen? How?

Is this the same universe where Cape Town is ranked the most dangerous city in South Africa??

Surely we read the same papers and we know that it is not a safe place out there for a girl child, or a boy child for that matter.  Actually adults are just as likely to meet an unexpected and very unpleasant end.

A 13 year old, even if she looks like a 17 year old is still a 13 year old girl child.  The public might not know that, but her parents do —- how does she get out the house??

We are talking about a sleep over here.  I would park what ever I was doing to get some clear and specific information about where my child is going.  And not as she was skipping out the door — a week before, when the plan had been hatched.

I would not trust the information I was being given — I would go and double check the shit they gave me.  Because children are children.  They are not always known for their great decision making skills, and their ability to fully comprehend the outcome of their poor decision making.

Where are you sleeping?  What is the address?  What are the parent’s names?  What are their phone numbers?

Great, let me give them a call (and this would be taking place a week before the sleep over – which my child would not be going to as she is not allowed to go for sleep overs) …. but let’s assume she is for a moment.

I would do a bit of due diligence over here.

If my child was permitted sleep overs and this was a new place I did not know — I would sure as shit not let her walk out the door before I got myself involved.

I would want to go to the house – so if she is going to an event – – then I would fetch her from the event and take her to the house and meet the parents. I would make it clear that if things were not in line when we got there I would not allow her to sleep over.

End of story.

This is the part of the story where I really start to feel uncomfortable.

How does a 13 year old leave your home without you knowing exactly where they are going — have names, numbers, stool samples and have inserted yourself at least once into driving to where she is going to be staying?

I get that we raise our kids differently and whooo-haaa for that.  But there seems to have been a serious break down of information here.

A 13 year old girl skipping out the door with out leaving any information with the responsible adult.

And there is an acceptance that it is quite normal for her phone battery do die and her to not charge her phone.  So a cut in communication for a day or more is quite acceptable.  There are not enough ways to say “fuck this shit” if it was child that girl would be stapled to the floor and not allowed to go anywhere but in circles.

I am truly glad that Anchen was found.  Truly.

How she stayed in Bishops Lavis with a guy who was 19 years old is a story I probably don’t want to hear?

Who also thought she was 19 years old leaves far, far too much to the imagination.

Somewhere on Facebook someone had written the comment : “I hope that girl gets a helluva hiding when she gets home…” and to be honest, I tried hard not to push the LIKE button on that comment.

I try to think happy thoughts of rainbows and unicorns on this story.

If this girl thinks Bishops Lavis is a cool plan, her mom thinks that no information is necessary and it takes four days to report her as missing at the police station, then odds are this family is broken in some way.  And needs some assistance.  Some support.  Some immediate help  Probably or possibly a child psychologist and family counselling would be a good start.

I don’t know the background to this story – but what I do know is : 13 year old girl, missing for 5 days, no contact information for her, no responsible person in her family had any clue where to start looking for her, found in Bishops Lavis with a 19 year old boy, spent the night.

Again I am glad that Anchen Muller made it home.  As the saying goes “may the healing begin” ………….

But holy shitballs can we please take a leaf from this horror story and relook at how much freedom we give our children and that a 13 year old girl cannot be treated like an adult.  And Bishops Lavis.


There are quite a few of these updates on the web: