In my Dad Blogger group early this morning I posted this;
So recently I was at a park with our boys. It was just the three of us. I had just bought a coffee and was sitting down watching them play. Typically, like they always do they climbed up the top of the climbing equipment, hung around up there for a short while, slid down the slide and then did it all over again. Occasionally one or both would run over to me, grab their drink bottle and then go and have more fun.
Sitting just down from me was the mother of another child playing there as well. On one occasion after one of the boys came over to have a drink this mother leaned over towards me and said “both your boys are very handsome young men” or something to that effect. Do you think she is a paedophile?
Of course most of the men, maybe even all that joined in on the discussion knew that I was not really asking whether this mother was a paedophile, but asking a rhetorical question to spark controversy or for it to be the starting point for a debate.
But what if I was a mother writing this;
So recently I was at a park with my girls…. blah, blah, blah…. grab their drink bottle and then go and have more fun.
Sitting just down from me was a father of another child playing there as well. On one occasion after one of the girls came over to have a drink this man leaned over towards me and said “both your girls are very gorgeous young ladies” or something to that effect. Do you think he is a paedophile?
I know is sounds harsh, but that is how many of us dads feel. We feel that we are being judged by every mother in the playground. We hesitate to say hello to the little girl who comes running over by herself, even if she says hello first. An incident that happened where I was made to feel like I was a paedophile was the reason behind the way I handled the situation when I helped the lost girl in this story I wrote earlier this year.
It is funny, but I posted that piece in the Dad Bloggers group early before work this morning. After work I went to pick up the boys from preschool and family day care. As I was about to leave preschool with our eldest child, a woman in her late fifties, maybe early sixties looked over at me.
“You have one of the most handsome boys I have ever seen. He is going to be very popular with the ladies…”
I couldn’t have set this encounter up any better, even if I was scripting a
non-scripted reality television show. So I mentioned to her the question I posted to the group. She told me that her husband was a police officer for 37 years and was surprised by how many times he had been involved with cases where women where child predators. It isn’t publicised that much unless the case has some potential to go viral throughout media outlets, and then the mainstream media will run with it. Cases like female high school teachers seducing young teenage boys. Those are the cases that get the headlines.
But as the father of two of the most handsome boys you will ever see (I reserve the right to display my bias as their father), if I was at the park and saw your daughter and she was “quite the looker” then I don’t think that we should be judged for saying so. Not using that terminology. But you know what I mean.
But that is maybe the thing. Maybe because of this current climate of neo-feminism where women want to be attractive but not get judged on their looks, where they want to dress up and look their best, but for you not to call them out on how good they look, maybe this is part of the problem that us fathers are facing if we are to state that a stranger’s daughter is “a gorgeous little girl,” or a “sweet little thing.” Maybe it is that the distinction between us thinking “the way she looks now, she’s going to be a knock out for the boys when she’s older” and the ever increasing mindset of us sexualising our girls. Because go back and read that comment that the woman said today about our boy. He was not being sexualised.
Unlike many fathers (many of my fellow Dad Bloggers excluded) I am very vocal and forthright on what our boys should wear. Nearly every Saturday when my wife is at work, the boys and I will visit a shopping centre for a coffee and babycinos, and I love to take them to shops like Pumpkin Patch and Cotton-On Kids or even to the little boys’ clothing department of the major department stores. Even when I am just ducking into Kmart for some batteries late at night I will go to the check-outs via the boys’ department to see if there are any funky tops with guitars or dinosaurs or dinosaurs playing guitar (yes, I found THAT t-shirt). I bring this up because I have often wondered if I would do the same if we had little girls.
And the truth of it is I would. Even though we don’t have daughters, my wife and I look through the retail catalogues and point out the cute little outfits for girls. Long before I became a parent I would flip through the pages of catalogues and think “if ever I have a son I would dress him in this,” or “if ever I had a daughter I would dress her in that.” And I have to tell you. None of what I choose is slutty. None of it is the stuff you see go viral on news aggregator sites or mum blogging sites with the mothers crying foul of the retailers stocking bras for girls as young as six. I would dress my daughters with class. Pretty much as I like to dress our boys, only with more dinosaurs than princesses.
My wife’s cousin’s wife is a very stylish dresser and she always dresses her daughters immaculately. They have three daughters ranging from a few months short of turning five down to the youngest not being even a year old yet. Occasionally I have talked to her about her daughters’ fashion. She thinks it is funny. I’ve called her out a few times about her dressing the girls like her and we have had a few laughs over that. Recently I was on Facebook and her latest status update was sitting directly above an advertised post for a the clothing brand Country Road which is described as “an upscale clothing retailer located in Australia and New Zealand.”
This brand has evolved from stylish clothing for men and women to extremely stylish clothing for children. The advertised post for this company on Facebook was actually promoting the children’s clothing range and the picture was of a young girl wearing a dress that I could see my – hmmm, let’s work this out – cousin-in-law’s daughters wearing. I noticed she was online and took a screen print and private messaged it to her mentioning that I could see her girls wearing this. She continued the conversation mentioning that although this brand is quite pricey, she likes this as their clothing for girls in not just pinks but greys, and blues, and black and, well, you name it, everything but pink, but sometimes pink…
The conversation continued along the lines of our boys having lots of blue, but that’s to be expected with them having a pair of jeans for every day of the week, and lots of boys clothing just happens to come in blue so that is to be expected too. I have to say that it was nice having a conversation like this, talking about dressing up our kids, thinking about how handsome or gorgeous they look when dressed up nicely, and not once did I feel threatened by her that I was sexualising her kids, nor she sexualising mine.
Because that’s it. For the most part we are not doing it. We are not sexualising our kids. When a mother tells me that our boys are good looking it is a welcomed comment. And I would love to return the compliment. I would love to say “your daughter is a little cutie” without you thinking anything untoward about me. And I know this feeling is shared by many other fathers who are labelled as playground paedophiles even if it is just in the minds of the overprotected mothers hovering over their little princesses in the park.
There will be plenty of times down the track when you will need to protect your child from strangers and potential child molesters. When your child is old enough to get on Facebook. When your child is walking home alone. But not when they are toddlers and small children. Not when they are playing at the playground. And not by a man who is sitting there watching his own children, and being on the lookout for his own kids’ safety.