Monday, January 21, 2008

Father Etiquette?

Being a Dad on a playground, or a Man anywhere near children has become a more tricky path to negotiate.  There are challenges that I hadn't considered that a Dad and not a Mom may face.  Recently, my husband and I were at the park with our kids.  A girl of about 4 or 5 took a tumble from a structure, and lay in the sand making a small whine.  This girl, who was only a couple of feet from my husband, continued to wimper until I came over to help her.  It was a small fall, the tot was more stunned than hurt, so we searched for her mother who was already on her way.

My first reaction was to be annoyed and miffed at my husband.  After all, this little girl fell and he merely looked to *me* to help.  So when I asked my husband why he didn't bend down, pick her up, check that she was okay, I remembered a recent article I had read in the Wall Street Journal [Writer's Note:  I *wish* I could say I read such things on a regular basis, however I only happened upon it at the gym with nothing "better" to read.]  My husband's answer mirrored the thoughts of the article exactly. 

[I'm paraphrasing ... this was a few weeks ago.]

Him:  I'm a Dude.  I don't want to touch a little girl and look like some pervert.

Me:  (Hmmm...)  I guess I hadn't thought of that.

Him:  I knew you were right there.  The Mom wouldn't look at you funny if you picked her up.  If she were really hurt, and you weren't here, I would have helped.  But I have to be careful, especially around little girls.

Man, how crazy is that?  A Dad at the park with his kids has to be careful around the other kids, just because he's a man.  Not me.  Not a Mom.  I never would have thought of that.

This WSJ article spoke to that.  A man reported having a "hands-up" approach like a cornered robber when he is near children in a grocery store, mall, or other setting with little ones.  He went on to say that although it *is* true that men prey on our children much more than women, that we must be careful not to exclude women from "stranger danger" conversations.  He added that women, in fact, actually outnumber men statistically in harm committed against a child (presumably because there are more female caregivers).  

The incident at the park, coupled with the article got me thinking.  How can we teach our children to be apprehensive of strangers, but not make every man out to be a pervert, or "bad guy?"  

Any ideas?


Cheri said...

You can't. And you shouldn't. Fact is, more men than women are pervs and our kids need to know that while MOST people are good, A VERY FEW are not, and that of those few, the "nots" are more likely to be men. On the bright side, for men, they still get paid more for doing the same job. Oh, and they can pee outside much more easily. See how the universe balances everything?

Seriously, Tom has faced those same issues, as dads who are actively involved with their kids do. All we can do is be aware of it, and talk about it, as you're doing here.

My Ice Cream Diary said...

Your husband made a good call at the park. I teach my children that they can be trusting and friendly with adults as long as I am in the room with them. And that they are pretty much never to be alone in a room with an adult. Even with being at a friends house they are to be with their friend and the mother must be present if the father is in the room, or go find the mother (and I am very picky about the mothers that I entrust my children to).

I heard a great way to think about this: You can teach your children all about boxing. You can drill them, quiz them, test them until hey know everything there is to know about boxing. But, if they get in the rink with Mike Tyson they are going to get knocked down. Moral is that no matter how prepared they are a child is still going to be easily overcome by an adult.

It's sad but true.

just jamie said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this blogger-peeps. I am, and will continue to be, ever-so-careful. My need to keep my children safe far out-weighs the need to protect a grown man's feelings.

I'm just saying ... what a bummer.

LaskiGal said...

It is sad that this is the world we live in now . . . There are so many great guys out there. It is a shame, but a sad, sad reality.

Misty said...

Formerly abused and molested myself, You CANNOT teach a child, at a young age to be able to distinguish friend from foe.

FIRST, you must remember the people out to get your children A)more times then NOT don't always look frightening and B)are NOT going to portray themselves as a threat. Children are LURED into deception behind the FALSE pretense that some one is kind, safe, and doesn't want to harm them.

I have taught my children, at this age, to NOT trust any one, unless it is some one I KNOW and TRUST. And that trust comes at a VERY high price. They are to TRUST no adults, unless this person is know extensively by myself. They just cannot in their little minds understand the TRUE danger that is in the world.

And, I agree, it is VERY sad. We, too, as parents have to protect ourselves against the appearance of evil. I've just had this discussion with my husband recently about sleep-overs. Now a days, it's a huge risk to take - to throw a measly slumber party - because there only has to be an ACCUSATION for one's world to fall apart. Even an accusation that is false.

My GREATEST fear in the world is to have my babies harmed in any way by another adult. The thought of it brings me to my knees. The suffering, that I know first hand, that lasts a life time, would be un-livable if it extended to my children.

We cannot, as parents, be too cautious, too careful, too apprehensive.

Trust always in your instinct. Learn to embrace and love your mother bear.

xo Misty

PS: I would love to added to your blog roll. I had already added you to mind. Was that ok? How RUDE of me. Girl, I'm sorry!

Misty said...

Getting tired here!

"I had already added you to mind."

Mine, rather!!

Kathryn said...

It is a sad world we live in when a man has to be careful about helping a little kid because of what people might think. My grandpa acutally felt that way 30 years ago. The neighborhood kids loved him. They sit on his lap on the front porch and talk and talk. It made grandpa so sad to think anyone would think anything negative about something so pure.
It can be a very sad world.
Thank you for commenting at my site. I love your layout! ;)
This is a great blog!

Jen said...

How very interesting. Especially since "Mannies" are becoming so popular. I think the point we need to learn is that unfortunately we do have to "cover our butts" in this society, and that we also need to make sure we are not biasing and stereotyping people unfairly.

I remember there was a ruckus awhile back at a major university because some campus printed up a list of all the names of men at the campus and printed "This is a potential rapist" it was a project targeted at Date Rape Awareness, but it caused embarrassment, shame, and fallout for hundreds of upstanding men who did have the utmost respect for women.

Very thought provoking post.

Jen said...

PS-if my children ever need help or get lost, I tell them to look for a mother who has children with her for help.

Amy said...

it is a sad world we live in. i truly believe that you really have to trust your gut. there are only a few homes to which my children can go. i am okay with that because i would rather be on the safe side. you just never know.

unfortunatley a small minority do make it a difficult world for the majority of men.

Amy said...

btw, i hope you don't mind me commenting. i stumbled across your blog from misty. i really like your music selection. take care!

just jamie said...

Wow. I'm so proud of all the women who have commented. Many of you come bearing your own scars and I applaud your bravery.

It is a difficult journey us parents will navigate. With each age milestone comes new worries. Thank you for reminding me although the world is filled with fantastic women like you, sadly it too has dangers waiting for us to let down our guard.

Here's to keeping our guards up, and our children aware!

LaskiGal said...

I am so glad this conversation continued here and on Misty's blog . . .

I'd be honored to be added to your blogroll as long as it is OK for me to add you to mine!?!