I saw a post in one of the mother’s group forums I’m a member of. It was appalling. A mom had visited her friend and overheard the friend’s maid narrate this story.
My husband teased my 8 month old today. He told her he would ‘drink all her milk’ as he pointed at my chest. When I told him off, he said she doesn’t understand anyway so it was no big deal.
This mom decided to post this on a forum of 20000+ strangers and get their feedback. What horrified me was that every mom but one, including this one, thought the dad was a pedophile or dangerous! Really? He was a pedophile because he teased his daughter that he would drink up all her milk? How many adults have not teased children about taking away their things? Is that cool? Probably not. Does that make them a child molester? Certainly not! He was pointing to his wife’s chest. So, the maid felt uncomfortable and brought it up with him. Then she ranted on to her mistress. To take this out to a public forum and shame the man? To say the daughter ought to be taken away from him, for saying such a thing? Is that right?
I couldn’t believe the reaction of these women. Do they understand what taking someone’s child away from them means? Do they realise what it means to that man, the mother and the child? When did the world become a place where we mistrust everyone but the child’s mother, including the father of the baby? I thought it was sad enough that a lot of people felt the need to keep their children ‘safe’ from relatives but I can understand that there is, unfortunately, a basis for that fear. I’m sure that is true for fathers and even mothers. I read about parents who mistreat their children – some even kill them – and it makes me feel suffocated. But are we living in a world where we need to question a simple joke that a father makes and shame him in front of the village? It takes a village to bring up a child but if this is the way the village reacts, what is the child learning?
R’s dad once asked her if he could drink her milk and pointed at my chest. She smiled at him and said ‘yes’. I thought it was cute. It never occurred to me to protect my daughter from her father for that interaction. He is an amazing dad. I loved that she said yes, she was happy to share. Her dad and I hold hands, we hug each other in front of her. We feel that we don’t do it often enough. She needs to learn that it is alright to express love and that mum and dad love each other, not just her. We don’t need to hide from her, to show a little affection or share a joke.
I asked him what he thought of this outrage over the man’s comment. He agreed that it was an over-reaction. Are these people parents who never make a mistake? Would they give away their children or separate them from their spouse at the first sign of an ‘inappropriate’ action? What is actually inappropriate? Are we getting too carried away by the drama in the news that we are unable to comprehend what is truly okay and what is not? Are parents trying too hard to protect their children from life? Are we forgetting to loosen up and take a joke, in our quest to keep our babies safe?
Just as I was getting over that, there was the news of child activists in Australia demanding a ban on children sitting on Santa’s lap. This was followed by an outburst from parents ranging from Santa being a potential pedophile to Santa being a miracle they want their children to continue to enjoy. Most parents feel that they should let the children decide. If they are comfortable and want to sit on Santa’s knees for a photo, so be it. If not, they can stand next to Santa or not pose for a photo at all. I see that point. As most pointed out, the man being Santa needs to be a blue-card holder. While that is no attestation of his character, surely we can safely say the chances of him abusing your child in public, with video and still cameras and heaps of parents around, are reasonably low.
With this kind of fear-mongering, how do parents leave children at daycare and go to work peacefully? Can we all afford to stay at home and keep our children in a bubble as long as possible? What about the stifling from all the bubble-wrapping? How does all this affect the children’s development? Do we think of anything else at all when we defend our overprotective behaviour? Like what the child wants to do or whether the child would like a say. Like what is going on in the child’s mind and what the child is learning from our actions. Like what the mental and emotional growth of the child is like in this airtight environment that we’re creating for them.
I send my daughter to daycare 4 days a week. I worry about her health and whether she is able to express any anguish to her teachers. Every evening I ask them how she has done and gauge their response. The rest of the day, I let myself get busy with my life while she learns things in hers. Off late, she has grown an attachment to one of her teachers and will only let me leave her at the daycare if Miss T is around. While it’s a pain to have to wait around and get late to work on days that Miss T hasn’t checked in yet, I’m glad to know that she loves someone so much. It means that someone is taking good care of her. She is in safe hands while her dad and I do what we need to. We try not to worry about imaginary problems or doubt every person who smiles at her. We smile back at all strangers who give her attention. If she is uncomfortable, she will let us know and we will respect that. We will do what needs to be done. Otherwise, we assume that the stranger is a kind person trying to socialize with a beautiful toddler.
We don’t know if we are striking the balance right but we know we won’t live in fear and mistrust. We will let her sit on Santa’s knees if she would like a photo, or stand next to him. If she doesn’t care for Santa, she won’t be doing photos with him. If Santa tries to act funny with her, we will punch him in the face. Until then, we will believe that Santa is there to amuse the children and pose for photos only.