I don't like it when men make stereotypical generalizations about women. "Women are too emotional." Or "Women can't drive." Or "Women in powerful positions are bitches." So, I hate to fall prey to the same kind of thinking where men are concerned. For this reason, I have resisted writing about a phenomenon I witness constantly. But, after what I saw yesterday, I can't hold it in any longer.
It seems to me that most men (notice, I said "most," not "all"), are completely oblivious when it comes to safeguarding the young children in their charge.
There's a reason why Hollywood and Madison Avenue have returned time and again to the humorous concept of "Daddy Daycare."
Before I begin in earnest, let me apologize to all the really wonderful fathers I know. I have dear friends who are stay-at-home dads, and know countless others who attempt to pick up the slack in two-income families. Yes, I know you try. Yes, you're doing your best. And, I love you for it.
Okay, so here's what I saw yesterday morning.
On Saturdays at my local YMCA, there seem to be an inordinate number of fathers with little ones in tow. No mum in sight. I don't know whether these are divorced dads multitasking (getting in a workout on their court-appointed visitation day) or working dads giving their wives a break. Regardless, there are dozens of them and they all seem to have something in common.
They are clueless.
Yesterday, I saw a man carrying his child into the Y in an Ikea bag.
Really, the little kid was stuffed into one of those oversized blue plastic totes that you pay for at the checkout in Ikea. They are strong enough for a box of coffee table, but a squirming toddler? I was dumbstruck. This was definitely a new something-or-other.
Usually, what I see is kids racing ahead of their dads, across the road and up into the front door. Sometimes I see fathers loading a car seat into their minivan, not realizing that their other two children are racing around said vehicle — in a busy parking lot and well under the sightlines of other drivers. Once, I was leaving after a workout and I saw a tyke on a tricycle peddling like mad and heading for the curb. "Red light! Red light! Red light!" shouted his padre (at least 40 feet behind him). Sure enough, the child went right into the road. Good thing I saw him. Good thing I anticipated his shall-we-say insubordination.
Good thing I'm a mom.
Sorry to generalize again, but from my close observation (and personal experience), mothers hold onto their kids. I held onto mine. It didn't stunt her confidence in any way. She's sixteen now and she's as independent as anyone could ever want their teenager to be. (She was also never found under anybody's car, thank-you very much.)
As my daughter has learned to drive over the past several months, I've tried to explain the difference between following the letter of the law and having a sixth sense about what's going to happen next. For example, you're driving along and you have the right of way. But, up ahead, you see a person coming to a stop sign and you just know they're not going to stop.
It's kind of the same when you're a mom. I point it out when I see it. "That guy," I'll say, "Doesn't have a clue where his son is." Of course, the dad in question has some vague sense that his kid is behind him. (Sitting on the pavement, playing with ants, in the middle of a driveway.) But, for a mom, that wouldn't cut it. We need to see our children, touch our children, create a physical barrier between our children and danger.
It makes me crazy — and these aren't even my kids. Dads, please, pay attention. Moms, please, nag your head off if you have to but make your partner promise to hold onto your precious son or daughter. And, drivers, please slow down when you see a child. They are small. They are fragile. They are likely to move in quick and unexpected ways.
I did say that there are exceptions, and I'm happy to put my husband into that category. Not only did he take great care of our daughter (he was always one for the classic piggyback or shoulder ride), but his instincts extended beyond our immediate family.
When our daughter was about nine months old, we went to Greece for a couple of weeks, leaving her with my mother. One evening, we were sitting in a taverna on a beach and a small child toddled past us and walked right off the patio. She would have dropped about four feet except that my husband, quick as a flash, had reached out and grabbed her. He swooped her up, turned her around and she toddled back into the restaurant. My husband never even missed a beat.
There was no question in my mind, he had become a father. And, for that one moment, he was a mother too.
If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.