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.
Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme
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