I feel a little pissed off with myself because of something I did last night. I am the age manager for my son’s Little Athletics squad. There’s a mum who drops her son off with me at the marshalling area and stays in that area because her 4-5 year old daughter does the Tiny Tots group and obviously she can’t leave the daughter by herself. The rules are that you are technically not supposed to leave your child as they must have a parent or legal guardian present, but I let her leave the kid with me. But that’s not the issue.
Last week this boy needed to go to toilet and lucky my wife was standing next to me so I asked her to take him. I didn’t know that his mother had dropped him in the pack and left as she didn’t “formally” let me know about this until last night. It might have been because my wife then took him to the marshalling area after taking him to the toilet and the mother was there to get him and cut my wife off at the pass before she handed the child over to the organisers.
Last night, as it is now daylight savings and we’re halfway through the hottest spring I can remember, it started off warm and then became quite cool about two-thirds of the way through the session. The boy came to me to tell me that he needed to get his jumper (US sweater). I thought it was in the wheelie bin I look after that has all the drink bottles, hats and jumpers but then he told me his mum had it.
The first person I looked over at was one of the dads and then standing next to him was another. It’s not like I saw these guys as a threat or anything untoward, but I thought “what if the mother did?” So then I kept turning my head until I saw one of the mums who was standing next to her husband and asked her to take the boy to the Tiny Tots area.
I felt bad. It did my head in that I felt forced to make that decision but I did. I actually played out a few scenarios in my mind as I worked out how to handle this situation.
I was slightly annoyed that the mother put me in this position (although I’m fairly sure I’d be the only dad having these conflicts playing out in my head), but I don’t know her situation. I don’t know if she’s a single mother who is so because she’s widowed. What if her husband is off fighting in the Middle East or protecting our sovereign borders? What if he’s on night shift and can’t make it?
But what if he would love to be there and he has no access to his kids? What if it’s just not “his” night and it would go against court orders to be there on a Friday night? Yes, I seriously play out a million ideas all at once.
But then I think about the child. I never want a child to miss out on something just because their parents are unable to be there. I recently offered to help out a mother of one of the boys in my son’s class as she works Saturday mornings and that’s when all the birthday parties are. She has it covered and her ex-husband has their son on Saturday morning so he can do this. But if ever they were stuck, I would help out because that’s just me. I never want a child to miss out.
But back to last night; I didn’t pick a dad to help. And I feel bad about it. I mean, here I am a dad being the age manager of up to 26 boys, two of whom are six and the rest turn six anywhere between now and next September. And even though there are many parents about and we are out in the open with a million eyes on me, I often wonder if any feel uncomfortable that I am manhandling their sons. I mean, it’s obvious that I am not abusing the boys in any way, and regular readers of mine know how passionate I am against child abuse and child abusers.
A friend of mine whose son is in the age group above mentioned to me that she and another dad have been doing the age management of their group because no one else volunteered and she said that she wouldn’t dream of touching the kids, even to teach them how to hold the discus or shotput. But I do. I show the boys where to put their feet, and as these kids are too young to listen and pay attention, every second boy that steps up to the line to throw the discus or shotput needs me to physically move their feet in place otherwise they’d be learning this skill all wrong.
And I didn’t pick a dad. I didn’t allow a man like me take a child all of one hundred metres down to the Tiny Tots area.
Oh sure, I’ve been justifying it to myself all day that both of these dads couldn’t have left the area because their own boys were there and under the rules they shouldn’t leave their own child unattended. The mum I picked had her husband still there watching their boy, but that’s not the point.
I will get over this. I will learn from the checks and balances I have been thinking about in the last 24 hours. I trust them, I need to allow the world to trust them. I would expect someone to trust me to look after a a stranger’s child and protect them like they were my own. And I would.
And I expect they would too…