I spent the recent Father’s Day in a pub garden playing with my kid. A girl came up to me and enthusiastically tried to get me to join in her game. She grabbed hold of my hand and tried to lead me off round the playground.
Paedo paranoia alert
I flinched. I pulled my hand away. I tried to stand at a nonchalant distance from her. Why? Fear that the parent might look up from their smartphone and see a strange man ‘interfering with my child’.
Two depressing realisations:
- The reason this child was so eager for my attention was that I was the only adult showing any interest in playing with a kid. Whoever was their parent was too busy with their smartphone.
- Though I would have been quite happy to play with the child, my fear of engaging with someone else’s child sent the clear message to this kid that I didn’t want to play, just like every other adult.
It’s a strange social phenomenon when we can’t be bothered to play with our kids (we’d rather look at anything, anything on our phones), but at the same time don’t want anyone else outside their age bracket to play with them.
The result is bizarre playgrounds like the one I found myself in, where children play with each other. Then occasionally a dad (it’s usually a dad, making up for his absence throughout the week) appears in the ring and they all want to engage him. But he will be careful to only play with his own child, and no one else’s.
Children have entered a realm akin to women in Saudi Arabia, able to interact only with members of their own family. For their own protection, you understand. Ironic, since I’m sure the experts are always telling us most abusers are family members.
What I should have done
Hindsight is bliss. Afterwards, someone suggested what I should have done. That is, ask the child who their parent was, introduce myself, and ask them if perhaps they’d like to pop the smartphone away and come play, too!
While we’re on the subject of what males should do, apparently Boys Don’t Like Flowers