The stereotypes Lenore Skenazy discusses here present real challenges for full-time fathers. Nothing to brighten your day like having someone ask your offspring who you are as if your claim of parenthood is a matter of debate. As I have mentioned, J Bean and I walk the underground pedway in Chicago a lot and she is allowed a longer leash as she grows and understands more and more. It is not uncommon for me to stand against the wall while she dances and spins in the walkway around our favorite street performer. Most people just smile and keep walking or offer a tip to J Bean to give to Bill or drop something in his case directly. Unfortunately, I can't help but notice some of the faces which show signs of concern... after all, here is a 2 yr old girl with two grown men... oh, the horror! I actually had one lady stop because J Bean had walked a full 20 feet away from us and she wasn't sure if she was with us or not. I swoop in immediately if someone is taking any interest in J Bean other than a smile or a wave and this time as I am walking up (already self-consciously donning my friendliest smile, lest I be scolded as an amateur dad or mistaken for something worse) the woman asks if J Bean is with us (Bill and I) and I reply, "Yes, this is my daughter". She then looks J Bean in the eye and says "Is this your Daddy?" and seemed concerned J Bean wasn't answering her (she tends to bottle up when approached abruptly by adults who talk with her rather than being introduced by me). I picked my daughter up, smiled at the woman and went back to our spot as she walked away with more than one furtive glance back at us.
I don't mean to read too much into it, but would this happen if I were a woman? Are men in general under suspicion in our society any time we interact with children? What message does this send to children?
Of course I fear for my daughter's safety and use due diligence in deciding who I would allow her to spend time with outside of my watchful eye but that goes for men and women. Some of the other FT dads I know would be my top choices to care for J Bean and lest we forget... there are a few crazy women out there too. Of course we have to face the facts; most pedophiles are men, but its very important to remember most men are not pedophiles.
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