A Divorced Dad Sick of Being Taken for a Perv

Hi Folks! Here’s a note from a free-lance writer in Australia who had to vent. I see why! – L.
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Dear Free-Range Kids: I would like to share with you my experience of danger lurking in many suburban supermarkets. I’m the type of modern father  you certainly wouldn’t see on television 40 years ago. I go shopping with the kids, I can use a washing machine and fix a loose button without accidentally sewing my pants to the tablecloth. A few days ago, I take my three children (13,9,3) on a regular trip to our local supermarket when my little one starts a tantrum in the candy aisle. I direct my older kids to another aisle while I take Lucy aside to get over her craving for Snickers bars and disappointment that I won’t purchase a hundred. I don’t expect anyone to know this, so to anyone else I’m just a guy in a supermarket holding a crying toddler.
For the next few minutes I’m observed by some other creepy looking guy. That disapproving glare all parents feel when their child is acting up in public.  It feels like a menacing thundercloud and you can almost hear the slow rumble beneath, “MY kid wouldn’t behave like that, for shame…” We eventually make eye contact and creepy guy demands to know “Where’s her mother ?” Awkward, since we’re divorced. I reply “Somewhere else. I’m her father.” Indicating my child.

I appreciate people looking out for my kids’ safety but there’s a difference between a protective community spirit and a belligerent, accusatory busybody. Creepy guy’s attitude gets deadpan. “I just want to be sure, ya know?” Sure of what exactly ? And what evidence should I supply to a complete stranger that I’m innocent of whatever concern he has ? Of course, I’m a potential predator simply because I’m a guy. It must inconceivable for a man to comfort his own child, so the obvious conclusion is I’m attempting to abduct a kid in broad daylight and pick up some half-price noodles and toothpaste at the same time. Slightly less offensive is the notion a woman can be automatically granted a free pass.

IN THE UNDERWEAR AISLE, I BECOME A PERVERT

The life of a potential predator is difficult sometimes. It’s adorable when I take my daughter shopping for a new dress, but as soon as we turn into the underwear aisle I become a pervert. I’m a cool dad to cheer my kids at soccer, but the local swimming pool is another story. I enjoy the condemnation, the stares and  mistaken assumptions. I enjoy the inconvenience and discrimination. I enjoy it because every little petty indignation I overcome gives me that little more dignity so my kids can look up to me a role model for principle.

So if anyone you know ever needs to confront a suspected predator, I recommend some diplomacy. I know its unlikely, but there’s just a small chance that guy isn’t a child molester or the orphan catcher from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” or a serial killer looking for the next ingredient of delicious kid soup. Some of us are good dads just trying to make our way in the world.– Byron

What is that man doing to that poor child?!

Guest Posts: Why I Didn’t Help A Lost Girl (And Troubled Boy)

Hi Readers — I got both these letters today and felt that together they make the point: We must start letting men know we TRUST them around kids. Thinking the “worst first” of all males is not only insulting, it is damaging the fabric of our society, pulling men away from their age-old jobs of  protecting and mentoring. (Yes, women fulfill those roles, too.  But the more the merrier!)

“You like kids? You must be a creep!” is a weird, paranoid, Nancy Grace-induced attitude. No one’s saying we should be naive about child abuse. But to have child abuse top-of-mind every time any man has anything to do with a kid is, well, perverted! Talk about ironic! — L.

Why I Didn’t Help a Lost Little Girl by Alan, in Utah

Our city had a carnival today.  While my 3 youngest boys were off at the dunk tank. (*Gasp* — by themselves!  With money even!) I was sitting at a table with all of the boys’ stuff (shoes, socks, stuff from the parade) when I noticed a little girl separated from her mom.  It must have just happened because she looking around bewildered at first, but within just a few moments she was crying pretty hard.

My first instinct was to go and see if she point out her mom, but Iwas worried about someone accusing me of something and being arrested and my boys coming back to an empty table.  So I sat and watched uncomfortably while this poor little girl became more and more agitated and crying more and more loudly.

Now, the part that bothers me the most about this is that there was a group of three women standing not 5 feet from this little girl.  They ignored her completely.  I finally decided to get up and do something and had gotten just a few feet from this little girl when one of the women butted ahead of me and asked her if she’d lost her mother.  As she escorted the child past she hissed, “Pervert!” at me.

I kept thinking of that poor man in England who saw the little girl walking who ended up drowning and was too afraid to stop and help her. I remember thinking when I heard that that there was no way I’d just drive off and leave her … but I know better now.  I’m much less likely to help a distressed child because I’m too afraid of what might
happen to my own kids.  And that’s just sad. — Alan

And here’s the other note

Why I Didn’t Help A Lost-seeming Boy, by “Philosodad”

“Stranger Danger” does cut both ways. Over the fall and winter I used to take my son to a playground closer to my daughter’s daycare. The kids there would ask me to play quarterback in the pickup football game (and let my three-year-old play, which was awesome). This was a lot of fun for everybody and gave the kids an unbiased referee (me), a quarterback who could throw deep passes (me), and a kid with a *brand new football* (my son), which is more or less pickup football nirvana.

One of the kids, who didn’t have a dad at home, got very attached to me… told me all his stories, wanted to stand close to me, wanted approval, Dad stuff, I guess. And because of this whole “stranger danger” mentality, I could just sense this sort of wary disapproval from the few other parents at the playground (none of whom were playing with any kids, not even their own) who just sort of watched. Watchfully.

I felt weird about the situation, so I just stopped going to that playground. Which was probably the wrong thing to do. It’s sad that even though I knew that I wasn’t a creepy stranger, I was so worried about being seen as a creepy stranger that I gave up a perfectly good opportunity to mentor a troubled kid for a few hours a week. — Philosodad

Oh no! A grown male near a child!