“Could You Lift Me on to the Swing?”

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A little voice next to me asked “could you lift me on to the swing?” I looked down and saw a young girl, probably just older than Max. She had struggled for a while and after a heroic effort she’d got fed up. I looked around for Mum, Dad, Grandparent or Nanny and ended up catching the eye of the Dad occupying the swing next to me. He offered a wry smile and said “I wouldn’t if I were you”.

The wry smile was there to suggest that he might be joking but I knew exactly what he was getting at. He has convinced himself or been convinced that contact with a minor somehow leaves you open to charges or insinuations of something altogether more sinister. The same thought had initially entered my head before I told it to sod off.

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I picked her up and plonked her in the swing and even gave a couple of good pushes until her Mum came over and thanked me. “You’re a braver man than me” the Dad followed up with. Of course there are deviant people out there who commit unthinkable crimes but it’s a shame that there is a situation where the first thing to flash into both of our heads when that girl made a perfectly reasonable request was one of apprehension.

I didn’t put that thought there and nobody starts out life thinking like that but it’s there and that’s a shame. I’m not sure if it’s a new phenomenon and I don’t know if women encounter it to? Have you experienced anything similar? I hope you are all reading this thinking that it all sounds utterly ridiculous because frankly it is utterly ridiculous.

Linking up with Jess at Essentially Jess

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  • http://beautifullyglossy.blogspot.com/ GlossQueen

    It is ridiculous but unfortunately I think the same thing when I’m at the park.

    • daddownunder

      I was wondering if women felt the same unspoken nerves and clearly some do.

    • Kaela5

      Same here GlossQueen. I dont find it ridiculous, I find it sad that we have to come this point. It has been like that for a long while now. I do hope that Toushka is right and that it will pass, but in this age of paranoia, I’m not hopeful.

  • toushka

    My husband has the exact same issue at parks. Hopefully ours is the last generation that has that thought flash in our minds. The more dads we see at the park, the more “normal” it will seem and not only will men stop being demonised just because of their gender – even if it is only in the back of our minds – but the dads will also be able to feel comfortable to do what you did without that second thought.

    • daddownunder

      I’m glad you said that Toushka, I thought I was going to be accused of being paranoid (which perhaps makes me paranoid?). I suppose it must come largely from the media?

  • http://blog.downthatlittlelane.com.au/ Tessa White

    I just find that mental.. Marcus is always helping people but I agree I hope it is a generation thing..

    • daddownunder

      It is mental Tessa and goes completely against my nature but it happens a lot.

  • http://awesomelyunprepared.com/ KezUnprepared

    It is ridiculous, but it exists nonetheless. You are not paranoid. My husband has received funny looks just for being with our son at the park. He said an older lady once gave him the stink eye just because he kissed the Little Mister on the head while they were playing. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does it affects him – I can see it on his face when he comes home feeling a little dejected. Honestly, I think it’s so lovely when dads help other kids out. It’s so great to see more of it these days. I sometimes feel paranoid as a mum – that if I touch another person’s child I might be seen as overstepping my bounds. Also, I feel terrible about it but occasionally, some men (note: NOT ALL by a long shot) give me the heebie jeebies when they offer to help my son. Am I following my instincts or just feeding the paranoia?

    • daddownunder

      Its a tough one, I completely understand your feelings, I think we’re all more aware these days of the word paedophile and it tends to be men

  • http://www.dreamingofverona.blogspot.com/ Lexi T

    Unfortunately, I think the same way.
    I was out shopping with a male friend a few years ago, there was a young boy crying, he had obviously lost his parents, my friend pushed me to go talk to the kid because he couldn’t be seen consoling a lost child. The world is crazy, BUT in saying that, I do look at men in the park a fraction longer than I would a woman, just to see if they are with a child, or just there watching.

    • Richard Farrar

      I grew up in Brazil and when I was about 9, I was left behind at a cinema when the adults rushed off with the other children after a matinee. I asked a man who was standing in the foyer if he knew the road in which I lived. He kindly took me all the way home, paying the fare on the tram and all. I wonder what people would think now?

    • daddownunder

      Good for you, I don’t think your alone and its certainly something I experience a lot.

  • http://iliska-dreams.blogspot.com.au/ Julie

    I had a child come up to me today at work (just under 1), she hooked her arm through and around my legs and looked up and said “Mum”. Not sure if she was calling me Mum or asking for her Mum. So off we walked looking for her Mum. I did the weird walk trying not to touch her, but allowing her to still hang on. (imagine a weird cowboy stance) Mum was blissfully shopping on another level. Which pissed me off to no end. I may not ever touch or harm a child in any manner, but there are people who will.

    • daddownunder

      Tricky isn’t it? I suppose as parents we have to execute a bit of judgement and common sense and be ourselves rather than submit to stereotypes or niggling doubts

  • Nicc Nac

    What a sad, sad world we live in where you can’t even lift a child onto a swing! I know of a situation where a Father went to pick his child up from school. His little daughter ran, squealing (with delight) “Daddy! Daddy!” and jumped up into his arms. A teacher saw this and said something along the lines of if she saw that happen again she would have him reported?!?!?!?!
    Yes, there are bad people in the world and we must be aware of this. But sometimes paranoia just goes a bit too far!!

    • daddownunder

      I think the media thrives on a bit of fear mongering but at the same time we allow those thoughts in, I suppose we have a choice and too often we just passively soak it up (myself included)

  • http://www.havealaughonme.com/ Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me

    My hubby is also so connected with our kids at the park that kids are ALWAYS asking him for him, he gives it. It’s sad the way men are also just presumed to be creeps. In saying that my hubby can be a creep ;) just kidding :)

    • daddownunder

      I’m sure he’s completely free of creep Emily ; )

      • http://www.havealaughonme.com/ Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me

        Of course where kids are concerned he isn’t. But with me, not so much, I love calling him a creep when he gets all hands and stuff!! In his defense, the kids see more of ‘the girls’ than he does, hence his creepiness when he does ;) Have I overshared? Of course I have xxx

        • daddownunder

          I would expect nothing less Em ; )

  • http://thisisbeck.wordpress.com/ This Is Beck

    Sad but true.
    Early last year when when Squishy was still tiny, we went to our niece’s birthday at a local park. I was breastfeeding Squishy so my husband took our daughter and another little girl to play on the playground. I was amazed at how many of the women kept staring at him, and the look of obvious relief from some of them when I came over when I’d finished feeding Squish and put him in the pram. As if they’d never seen a Dad playing with his kid before. (makes me wonder if THEIR kids dad ever takes the kids out to play)
    It makes me feel bad for the majority of Dads out there who are trying to do the right thing, it’s hard enough being a parent without worrying about this kind of crap too.
    Good on you for putting her on the swing :)

    • daddownunder

      Thanks Beck and I’m glad others have witnessed the same sort of behaviours. I think its probably something that’s a growing trend rather than a receding one but I hope I’m wrong

  • Richard Farrar

    Sadly, this is not a new phenomena. When I took our children to the park in the 1980s, others commented if I helped other children and the more so when I played with a group of which my children were part. I do hope that this paranoia that society has about men and children soon goes. As usual, it is the minority that spoil it for the majority. More like you, will help dispel this paranoia.

  • Renee at Mummy, Wife, Me

    It is sad that you can’t even lift a kid onto a swing without worrying about it. I have encountered a similar thing, I guess. At the playground one time I had a little girl fall helter skelter off one of those slippery poles right in front of me. I bent down and dusted the poor screaming child off when her mum practically pushed me over trying to pick her up. It was a crazy situation. I know the mum would have been worried about her daughter, but it made me wonder whether I should have helped the girl or not. I think the mum wondered what the hell I was doing touching her child.

    • daddownunder

      I think most (lots of) parents have it in them to be hyper sensitive where their kids are concerned, it probably doesn’t set the best example in terms of all getting along does it?

  • http://www.averyblendedfamily.com/ Eleise Hale

    It is sad, my husband is always super careful and being a step dad to my daughter, he doesn’t want anyone to twist what actually happens. It happens to woman too though, I was at playgroup once and a toddler was walking past me ripping of his nappy so I put the tab back on and pulled up his pants again. The mum ran over screaming at me for touching her child. It was in a full room of 20 mums. Some parents spoil it for others.

    • daddownunder

      I suspected it might go both ways Eleise, there are some people who seem to thrive on creating fear and controversy.

  • Lucy @ Bake Play Smile

    This is very true! It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when a dad can’t push a child on a swing. Good for you bringing up this issue! Lucy #TeamIBOT

    • daddownunder

      Seems to have struck a chord Lucy, I suspect it’s something that will get worse and worse, the media do a good job at firing people up – I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

  • Kim | Melbourne Mum

    Gosh, it is a shame, isn’t it? It’s ridiculous that a good dad should feel that way, but it’s out there and there’s not much you can do to shove it back. My husband would have done the same thing as you and Hell to the naysayers. He probably would have thought twice though, like you did and that’s incredibly heartbreaking to me. Kx

    • daddownunder

      Do you think women ever experience the same sort of stigmas Kim? Just curious whether it goes both ways? It goes completely against who I am, kids are fun, it’s not natural to take yourself away from that.

  • http://www.smaggle.com Smaggle

    My brother has a daughter with a women he dated for a very short period and their relationship ended quite badly. He’s the father of their baby and has her most weekends and is just the most divine dad but when he first started looking after he he was nervous about her trying to get in the shower with him, incase she went home to her mum and said something that sounded bad, which is just awful. This never came from the mother (who’s lovely we all get along brilliantly now) but it’s just an insecurity that my brother has because he’s not with the mother of his child. Which is just awful.

    • daddownunder

      It goes completely against the grain of being a Dad doesn’t it? I hope he softens, a shower with your kid is one of the joys of parenthood.

  • http://redlandcityliving.com/ Janet from Redland City Living

    My hubster won’t drive any of our kids’ friends in our car unless one of us is with him. It’s just not worth the risk in this day and age (have you seen the episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets accused of molesting the baby sitter when he drove her home?) It’s sad but true that men really have to be careful these days.

    Good on you though for being nice to that little girl!

    Visiting from #teamIBOT xxx

    • daddownunder

      It’s such a pity Janet, I’m sure the kids don’t feel any weirdness around guys, it’s a seed that seems to get planted later in life.

  • http://www.jfgibson.com.au/ Jodi Gibson

    It’s sad isn’t it? My hubby wouldn’t have thought twice about it

    • daddownunder

      It’s a subconscious seed that’s been planted Jodi, it goes very much against my grain and what I believe.

  • TeganMC

    My parents are friends with a few teachers and the males always say that they have to be so careful with how they are with female students. One even goes as far as making sure he isn’t in the staffroom alone when a female student comes to the door. It’s a sad world.

    • daddownunder

      I worked as a teacher and we were told “particularly the men” should never have any physical contact with the children – that’s easier said than done when you’re teaching a touchy feely class of Preps.

  • http://essentiallyjess.com/ EssentiallyJess

    This reminds me of an episode of How I met your mother. Where Ted took Marshall and Lily’s baby to the pool, and then was about to give a lolly pop to a little girl. Marshal said something along the lines of ‘Ted, you don’t have a child, you’re not wearing a shirt and you have a lolly pop. Just think about it buddy.” It was funny, but a sad sign of the times. People judge first and ask questions later.

    • daddownunder

      I was wondering if women felt the same unspoken pressures Jess, it seems to be more about men. I think it probably says more about the people that make those judgements, pity.

  • http://www.snippetsandspirits.blogspot.com/ SarahD@SnippetsandSpirits

    It is so unfortunate that men have to feel like this. I do not think women have to worry so much. I think my partner would have done the same as you however.

    • daddownunder

      I probably didn’t expect so many comments form others confirming that they (or their husbands experience the same) – it’s a ‘thing’ by the sound of it Sarah, crazy

  • http://emhawker.blogspot.com/ Emily

    I’m glad you did it. If it had been my child, I would have been nothing but grateful. But I understand the thought. We went on a family holiday last year and I was going out to a show. The plane landed late so I got in one taxi to go to the show, and hubby got in the other with the kids and checked into the hotel. He felt very self-conscious and awkward. I’d called ahead to the hotel so they were nothing but gracious and welcoming, but it’s a shame I felt that I had to do that.

    • http://emhawker.blogspot.com/ Emily

      Oh, and my father-in-law won’t bathe our kids or change a nappy. Not sure he knows how to anyway! But it’s because he heard of someone who was reported to police after their grandchild told her kinder teachers ‘I sleep with granddad’. They meant they’d had a sleepover, but still, who wants to go through a police enquiry if it can be avoided?

      • daddownunder

        Wow – that’s crazy Emily, crazy that those thoughts have been put in his head.

    • daddownunder

      I never feel that way with my own child Emily or I know not to acknowledge it, I was probably thinking more about other peoples children. That’s a whole other sorry situation that seems to be quite common.

  • http://daddingfulltime.com/ Brian Sorrell

    I hear where you’re coming from, but I’d have helped her out. Just last week I helped a little girl at a community event who fell off her bicycle. Propped her back up and got her going again as her VERY pregnant mom made her way over. We didn’t say a word to one another — just nods and smiles. Hopefully even this one little exchange helps put a dent in the stereotypes. Dads aren’t creeps. We’re dads.

    • daddownunder

      “Dads aren’t creeps. We’re dads” – we need to get some t-shirts printed with that Brian. I totally agree with your sentiments, it’s a sorry situation and maybe its more prevalent in certain areas. Good on you for sticking to your guns, that’s what it’s all about.

  • ladybird73

    It’s not just blokes – I’m a chick and I always see if there’s a parent to ask around before I even push a kid on a swing, let alone pick one up. Some people are funny about strangers touching their kids and who can blame them? So anyway I’ll ask the kid where mum or dad is and give them a wave and point to the kid, do a little mime act, whatever, get a nod, then help them. If there’s no one in sight, I’ll just help the kid out, but I always, you know, have a moment’s worry about it.

  • http://soniastyling.com/ Sonia from Sonia Styling

    As someone who isn’t a parent, I’m reading this with a furrowed forehead (completely unattractive, but completely necessary I think). All I could think was that this little girl just needed help and trusted you to provide her with that. And you did. So thank you.

    • daddownunder

      It’s a funny old world the parenting world Sonia, ‘normal’ rules don’t seem to apply, I’m still getting used to it