A Note from the “No Boys Can Help with Toddlers/No Men Can Change Diapers” Pastor

Hi Readers: Here you go! The dot-dot-dots are his, not mine. – L

Dear Free-Range Kids: I am the Pastor of the church with the policy that is quoted in this blog post. [The one below this one.]  And I found you through the significant traffic to the church website through this blog.

A group that claims to appreciate helmets for their children, but sees no need to run background checks or have a Safe Haven policy is not facing reality.  I am not a fear-monger.  My children DO ride to the store on their own.  But statistics show that child abusers go to places with least resistance and are more likely to be someone with whom the child is well acquainted.  I will NOT allow my church to be a Safe Haven for sex offenders and just as in anything . . . safety and convenience are always a trade-off.  I hope you can understand how your blog came across as condescending and  offensive to someone who is doing the best they can to protect children from potential abuse as well as volunteer workers from false accusations.  The diaper and teenage thing was a stretch for me personally, but at the recommendation of my insurance company and the thought of potentially stopping abuse, I saw it as a worthwhile compromise.  Unfortunately, we have a group of 6 ladies that meet regularly in a recovery group for abuse.  I don’t know what you do for a living, but as a blogger you get to say whatever you want and have strong opinions.  As a Pastor I get to work both sides of the equation trying to protect the kids . . . while trying to provide hope and healing to those whose lives have been shredded by abuse . . . by the way,  I am not a sexist . . . but I used to play one on TV . . .

My Response:

Hi Don! Thank you for writing. I do appreciate that you are trying to keep the kids at your church safe. What worries me is that your policies go too far, without making the kids any safer. In doing so, they spread the “Worst First” thinking that is festering in our society: The idea that we should automatically think the Worst possible scenario First, no matter how unlikely, and proceed as if it’s fact. (Which is what insurance companies do.)

Thus your No Men Changing Diapers rule seems to proceed from the idea that because there are some creeps who get turned on by diaper changes — a small group, to be sure — now NO man should ever help change ANY child in church. That is overkill. It’s treating ALL men as monsters, which is terrible for the men as well as for any boys who want to grow up to be upstanding adults but now see they will never be trusted.

The same thing happens when we treat all teen boys as jerks, or worse. Older kids of both sexes have been taking care of their younger siblings since the dawn of time. It is only at this particularly terrified moment in time that we see all adolescent males as potential pervs at worst, incompetent lugs at best.

How is preventing males from changing diapers and teen boys from helping toddlers serving the best interests of anyone, including the kids, who now may have no nursery or Sunday school, due to a lack of volunteers? And similarly, how is treating two family members as if they are a cabal of kiddie molesters bettering the world?

I hate child abuse. I hate any abuse. But it seems as if a simple “two people in the room” rule would serve you very well, without these other, excessive, demeaning caveats — or so sez me. In the meantime, here are a few responses I very much endorse that came from readers when you wrote your comment in the post below. (And here the dot-dot-dots ARE mine):

  1. pentamom, on May 13, 2011 at 01:47 said: Dear Don: … Insurance companies don’t design policies to balance wisdom and risk; they design them to eliminate risk entirely, as far as possible. Churches have more concerns than that. It is good to wisely incorporate policies that protect kids; it is not good to forget that not a single decision or recommendation of an insurance company is done out of love for people or what is actually best for them overall — children included.

    Library Diva, on May 13, 2011 at 01:47 said: Don, don’t you resent that your insurance company has badgered you into policies that you don’t really support? ….  As a man, doesn’t it bother you that society seems to consider your entire gender a threat to children

    Abuse does terrible things to people’s lives, and it’s good that there’s been more awareness of it. But it seems unbalanced in the extreme, where we now treat ANYONE who has an interest in spending time with children as some sort of sick pedo. Fighting back against this “worst-first” thinking is part of what the blog’s about, so that someday insurance companies won’t be so concerned by the possibilty of false accusation lawsuits that they destroy community in the manner that’s happened to you.

  2. Uly, on May 13, 2011 at 02:18 said: Don wrote: “The diaper and teenage thing was a stretch for me personally, but at the recommendation of my insurance company and the thought of potentially stopping abuse, I saw it as a worthwhile compromise.”

    WHY is it a worthwhile compromise to do something that makes no logical sense, unfairly maligns a portion of the population (preventing them from learning useful parenting skills), and alienates members of your own church? WHO is being protected by this?

    Okay, it’s Lenore here again: I do thank you for writing in, Don. It is always good to get a dialog going. And I’m glad your kids go to the store! — L

Help! How Can Mom Explain She is Raising Independent (Not Neglected) Kids?

Hi Readers! This mom needs some great ideas in how to deal with friends, neighbors — and PASTOR — who equate “Free-Range” with NEGLECT. Let’s give her some strategies! — Lenore

Dear Free-Range Kids: My nine-year-old, eight-year-old and five-year-old have been walking to school alone for a couple of months now. The walk is about thirty minutes child pace, fifteen if you’re adult. We built this trip up slowly we me walking them most of the way, then half etc.

I promote independence in my children, they can all cook, peel and chop veg, do laundry etc. They are not slaves, they enjoy being able to do things for themselves and  each other.

I run a playgroup at my church in the UK and the other day my pastor sat me down and said that people have been expressing a lot of concern about my kids walking to school alone. He implied that I must not be coping as a parent and used the words “social services” about fifty times during the conversation. I am soooo angry. He is basically emotionally blackmailing me and saying that if I continue to let my kids walk to school alone then someone is going to report me. How very Christian.

I am coping just fine and I made this decision with my children. I’m just so angry that I’m being told that I can’t raise my kids how I see  fit. Especially as we are a very tight  family who spend loads of quality time together and the people complaining think it’s fine to let the Internet raise their kids. I’m so mad and I don’t know how to proceed. I don’t want to be bullied in to changing the way I raise my family, but I don’t want to be reported for neglect either. I’m a damn good mom. Help!!

Pastor’s Prayer for Graduates: FAIL!

Hi Readers — We’ve been spending today thinking about what it would mean to be the youngest person to sail solo around the world. In other words, about great success and whether it is worth the peril. Here’s a nice sermon from a pastor named John F. Hudson in Sherborn, Mass., about the value of the opposite: failure. Since I have a whole chapter in my book called, “Fail! It’s The New ‘Succeed!” it naturally appealed to me.

Main points? Defeats and detours can take us to the best places. Life isn’t meant to be a straight line anyway.  And the greatest lesson our kids can learn is that when they do fail, it’s not the end. All they have to do is try, try again.

(Unless they’re in the middle of the ocean. But that’s another blog post.) — Lenore