Men and Children and Trust

When I read this post by Liz Dawes I was a little bit lost for words!

I say “lost for words” but in truth it was a momentary loss. I actually applaud Liz for raising this issue. In many ways it goes to the heart of anxiety you can find in single dads (and other dads who take an active part in their children’s upbringing) all over the world.

So what is this anxiety? I will try and explain.

Being a single dad of two girls – now 14 and 11 for the last 7 years has meant that I have “felt” awkward on way too many occasions. I’ll highlight some of these awkwardness’s:

Throughout Anya’s primary school education I have routinely arrived to sit on the field and watch the 80m dash at Sports Day. Year after year I sit there with 70 mums and maybe the odd father or two (who will invariably be there with their partner).  Such sports days always begin with Anya’s mates running onto the field, spotting me, and generally jumping on me with shouts of Bob Bob Bob! In a field full of other parents (many of whom will not really know me) such attention is at best unwanted!

On another occasion I was at a junior trampolining class with the girls. There were half a dozen kids there with their mums. When another girl had her turn on the trampoline, her trousers started to come off. It was comical as she started bouncing one handed, trying to hitch up her leggings with the other. It ended in disaster when her trousers eventually ended up around her ankles. The kids were laughing – even some of the Mums were chatting away at this jovial sight (not so funny for the girl on the trampoline I’m sure). But for the “token” Dad in the midst of this it was awful. I felt I had two choices: Laugh and exchange witty comments with the other Mums, or look the other way and pretend I hadn’t noticed.

I chose the third way. I sat there feeling ill at ease. Unable to look away and risk the “what’s he being so furtive about” or acknowledge that I had seen a young girl (who I didn’t know from Adam) in her pants.

Is any of this making sense!?

It’s the same with sleepovers. Ok with the girls best friends because I will know the parents and they know me. But when they invite new mates, I get nervous. I remember one such occasion when at drop-off for the sleepover, the guest’s Mum suggested to me that if her daughter got nervous in the night I could always get “my wife” to give her a call. I had to explain there was “no wife”. In fact, her daughter would be sleeping in a house with just a man in charge of everything. I swear I could hear her thought pattern when I told her this!!

And now I have gone and typed “just a man!”

This is not good enough. When children come for sleepovers in my house they have the “best time ever”. I make sure they eat well; we do the DVD and popcorn thing. I make sure my daughters sleep on the floor with plenty of quilts and blankets with their guest in their bed. Breakfast is always cooked. Let’s face it – This house is good for sleepovers!

And yet I feel nervous and on the back foot. Why!?

The answer is that being a man on his own around kids, other Mums and Dads may worry that you are a potential paedophile.

Let’s try and be clear. Even if they don’t think like that (and I’m sure some do) the real point is that as a man you feel they just might. And that is a bloody awful feeling.
Liz draws attention to the statistics compiled by the NSPCC on sexual abuse. 1 in 20 children experiencing some kind of contact sexual abuse is a National disgrace. Of course all of us Mums and Dads need to be vigilant. I tell you what Liz – if a future girlfriend asked me to go through similar checks I would applaud her for being a caring Mum.

For my part – I think that rather than get our female partners to ask, men should offer to undergo these checks themselves, certainly at the start of a new relationship – straight up, without asking and without embarrassment.

Well done Liz for raising the issues. I hope this honest response does your initial post justice.

Useful websites:
Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme

Parents Protect

I am not sure if this will resonate with Mums and Dads – these are my personal reflections on a difficult subject, but if you care to comment, I am sure it will lead to this article becoming more interesting and meaningful. Bob

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About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded www.onlydads.org in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
This entry was posted in Bob blogs, Family life, Putting children first. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Men and Children and Trust

  1. Moon says:

    As I am Dad to an 8 month old Son, and I do have a wife, I cannot totally understand your feelings, but I do get the gist of it. I would be very happy to undergo any checks that people would want me to. Slightly related to this, I am decent cricketer, who wanted to undergo coaching of the younger kids, I had to sign all sorts of forms and go through all manner of database searches before getting approval. It didn’t bother me, but I felt sad that it was even needed…. but sadly… it is ….

    • onlydads says:

      I think you may have summed it up really well. It is sad…but necessary 😦

      thank you for taking the time to read and comment

      Bob

  2. Liz Dawes says:

    Hi Bob – thanks for commenting. It’s such a difficult subject to deal with. I have friends whose husbands now won’t play with kids they know and love “just in case” and I HATE that. But also as a single parent I am scared that I’ll get it wrong, that my judgement will be flawed, and that I will put my children in danger by mistake. CRB checks are such a blunt tool, only as good as the day they are done and not much good if the person is a criminal that is yet to be caught. But I at least feel I am doing something positive to justify my instinct that someone is trustworthy. And your general feeling of awkwardness is so familiar to me, my boyfriend faces excuses all the time as to why his daughter’s friends can’t have sleep overs, play dates etc.

    • onlydads says:

      Liz – thank you for raising the subject in the first place.

      I have found the comments made so far to be really thoughtful. I think it is good that (we) have been able to forward discussion in this difficult area.

      Bob x

  3. Will says:

    I read this and the other post and agree that there is another voice that must be heard: the voice of the innocent man.

    I am struggling to write a comment because I feel I am railing against motherhood and apple pie. I don’t want to imply that children should not be kept safe or that the dangers do not exist. However I am always uneasy about the way that men have to prove their innocence when in contact with children.

    Firstly I am curious about the question. What question do you ask a prospective partner to filter out the child abusers from the good natured man that loves kids? How can you wrap the bombshell in a way that doesn’t offend, cut to the core, rob a man of any self-respect because he was (is) under suspicion as a paedophile? How can you probe gently into a man’s sexual leanings towards children, or otherwise, without putting that man on his guard with every engagement with your children?

    Secondly why is the male gender a paedophile until proven otherwise? Why is this something single men have to prepare for in future by having CRB documentation to hand just in case his date pops the question?

    I have taken my daughters swimming and dancing, and to other activities, where helping them dress, brush their hair, gather their clothing, pack their bags and feed them was part of the activity. I did these things because I am their father and they are my children not because I am some kind of sexual predator. I endured comments and looks from the attendant gaggle of mothers. I tried not to make anything of it.

    As a former teacher, junior church leader and theatre “matron” I have accepted the CRB checks and form filling as part of those functions. I am now separated from my wife and children, and to discover that any future relationship may now have to fall under similar scrutiny is unbearable.

    If I am asked, I will answer as honestly as I can. I will believe that the question came from a caring place by a mother who loves her children and wants to keep them safe. However, I will be gutted. I will silently accept that I have done something to cause the question to be asked.

    • onlydads says:

      Will – what a thoughtful response to this post.

      There is an element of men being under scrutiny in this area – which, of course, for the vast majority of men is just not needed, unwelcomed, and undeserved.

      Thank you for taking the trouble to read (and comment). An interesting subject that effects many.

      Bob

  4. Bob, interesting post. I’m new to your blog, divorced almost 3 years with an almost 5 yr old daughter. New issues for me, not looking forward to other people thinking “what if”. I guess these are some of the bridges I’ll be crossing in years to come. Swell…

  5. Ruth says:

    Hi Bob,
    Another thought provoking post.
    I think it is rubbish that gentlemen, in the truest sense of the word, have to neuter their behavior in such a way.
    The statistics are terrible and it is awful that ‘stranger danger’ is not the norm in these cases.
    Perhaps this tells us that we adults aren’t as educated as we should be in terms of identifying characters that are manipulating their way into our lives for the wrong reasons. Perhaps before we put the onus on others to prove innocence there should be an education campaign to make sure that as parents we know what to look for in peoples behavior, not just towards our children but towards us.

    • onlydads says:

      Thanks for this thoughtful response Ruth.

      It seems obvious now you say it – but this educating the public for warning signs sounds such a sensible way forward. I sit hear wondering if anyone is doing anything like this?

      Bob x

  6. Lewis says:

    Great post and it has me thinking, what I will do if I have a daughter.?
    My intial reaction, is that I dont care what people think, I know that, just like Will who commented above, I would be doing these things because she is my daughter and although I have a wife to help in certain situations, I will not shy away from taking part in certain aspects of my childs life because of other peoples opinions.
    Keep up the great blog.

  7. I’ve been a single parent to two children for 6 years. My daughter is now 12. I must confess that I’ve not really encountered any problems like this, but I think that’s because for the first 2 years I was so busy that sleepovers etc could never take place. By the time things calmed down and sleepovers because a common occurrence, I was quite well known and nobody seemed to have any concerns about me (that I know of).

    I know that I was the subject of much gossip from the school-run moms, but I think this worked in my favour (along the lines of “what kind of woman leaves her kids, he’s a top bloke for looking after them”).

    There have been a few potentially awkward moments, along the lines of the trampolining incident, but I’ve always just laughed them off, saying things like “I don’t wanna see your smelly butt!” then just carrying on whatever I was doing before, which seems to work quite well.

    However there was one incident, only last month, when a particularly vicious classmate of my daughter’s said to her “you dad’s a tramp and he can’t get a girlfriend, so he’ll probably rape you!” My daughter got upset, but I think this was less about the content of the jib and more because she’s very protective of me. That did make me wonder what some people do think privately, but I suspect that it raises more questions about this 12 year old’s upbringing than my reputation.

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you for your comments SDD

      I can’t help but say that that classmate sounds ruddy awful. And you can only ask what she hears at home 😦

      Laughing these “awkward” moments off is a top-tip btw. Thank you

      Bob

  8. Hi Bob,
    As the stepfather of a nine-year-old girl who is not my flesh and blood (obviously), your post has put the heeby jeebies up me, somewhat.
    It’s not an issue that has even entered my mind before, but after reading about your experiences, I can see where you’re coming from.
    My stepdaughter sees her real dad every weekend and the trust between him and I is long established, but until I became a full-time housedad after losing my job last year, I never really had the kind of contact with my SD that you’re talking about here.
    Now I am tasked with organising playdates, attending her ballet and gym recitals, and a whole host of other activities. I do this because I am the link between her and her dad. I send them texts about how she’s getting on. They can’t be there, but I can, so they can feel closer to her triumphs and achievements etc. Most of all, I do it because I love her and she takes great pleasure out of having one of us witness her activities.
    Often I have thought: ‘What the hell am I doing here, watching a load of girls prancing around in their leotards?’
    (For the record, I feel the same way when I’m at my two sons’ bouncy castle parties, too!)
    But that has been borne of me wanting to be at work rather than any dark thoughts about what other parents might think of me being there.
    I have had moments when parents have called me her ‘Dad’ and I have corrected them with a polite: ‘I’m not her dad, I’m her stepdad’, which – imagined or otherwise – has resulted in a raised eyebrow.
    But I tend to think that if you’re ‘normal’ and natural around kids, then parents will instinctively sense your normality.
    Perhaps paedophiles are super-cunning – perhaps they have perfected the art of being ‘normal’ and natural to get what they ultimately want?
    I’m sure there are many parents out there who whisper behind one’s back, who cast aspersions about an adult around young kids. And no doubt, such aspersions could be quite damaging if taken and run with my other parents.
    But should we indulge such small-minded prejudices? It’s the media that stokes this boiler. I know of people who question the intentions of male primary school teachers – ‘Why would they want to be around small kids? – and for me that is very sad.
    There is a woeful lack of men working in the primary teaching profession because of such fears. (Having said that, I DO agree that people who WORK with youngsters should have a CRB check).
    One day, who knows, I might get the same kind of abuse that SingleDadsDiary has received. But you know what, fuck ’em: we know the truth in our family. And if people want to believe otherwise, then they’re not worth associating with in the first place.
    I’m not going to undergo a CRB check in order to pander to the prejudices of some hysterical gossip-monger. And if that means the parents of future sleepover pals of my SD don’t want their kids to come and sleepover, well, it’s their loss.
    What’s the alternative: every time you arrange an activity for your daughters and her pals you whip out your CRB certificate? My SD’s friends’ parents would think I was a weirdo by that action alone!
    I would rather have the trust of my wife and my SD’s dad than that of a suspiciously-minded parent who sees danger lurking on every corner.
    Let’s bring our kids up to be carefree and happy. Let’s educate their instincts about the difference between good and bad intentions. Let’s not make them afraid and suspicious of life.

    • onlydads says:

      As comments go – this one tops the bill. It is written with passion and skill.

      I don’t know of any dad reading this who wouldn’t say “well done you”!

      Bob

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