Who’s The Pervert?

Published at Huffington Post here.

What’s more noxious: a man spanking his 20-month-old child or bathing with her? Consider this: A gay single father has recently been reunited with his twin toddlers after being falsely accused, a year ago, of sexually abusing them. The father, a professional photographer, took many beautiful photos of his kids, among them the one in the bathtub (which he posted on Facebook). You’d think a baby-raping father wouldn’t post the incriminating evidence on Facebook, but apparently the authorities thought the kids would be better off in the custody of the nanny (a distant relative), and that’s where the girls stayed, for three months, until they were handed over to the father’s friends for a time and, eventually, returned to his safe custody.

There are surely many sexual abuse cases that go unexamined every day and we shouldn’t object to due diligence. But it took this guy a year to clear his name and get his kids back. I can’t help thinking that a lot of cultural biases, and not just unwieldy bureaucracy, kept the family apart for so long. There’s a middle-class child-rearing sickness called “fostering independence,” which is harming a lot of young kids and their families. It’s impossible to miss: all the fuss about prolonged breastfeeding, and the unending dramas of moving kids out of the parental bed; the fears of mothers who smother their co-sleeping babies to death; the cheap talk about healthy “separation” and school “readiness,” as if 3-year-olds are heading off to job interviews each morning. And, above all, the suspicion of parents — fathers, in particular — who touch their young children’s bodies and admit to enjoying the sensual delight and indescribable sweetness of a soft warm baby. It’s puzzling when you consider the lengths people go in other parts of the world to connect, physically, with their babies. The Gates Foundation, in its “Kanagroo Care” program, partnering with the United States Agency for International Development, has invested in encouraging mothers to hold their naked babies against their bare chests; it reduces infant mortalityInfant massage is used in many cultures and has been shown to increase weight gain in premature infants and decrease maternal depression.

But that’s in those “disadvantaged” countries. Here in America, we push parents pretty hard to push their kids out of the nest. And single fathers — gay fathers, no less — seem to be under special scrutiny lest their loving attention veer into unsavory territory. Are we so uncomfortable with male nurturing that we assume something perverse about it? Last time I checked, there were a hell of a lot of dads who had no contact whatsoever with their kids. And I’d wager there are exponentially more men who are beating kids than inappropriately bathing with them. Shouldn’t we be hounding them, and not the loving, attentive ones? Meanwhile, spanking is still considered a legitimate tool in the parenting arsenal (and I use that term advisedly). Amazing, isn’t it, how hitting a child is more socially acceptable than bathing with one? Nineteen states have corporal punishment and 223,00 kids were paddled last year by educators (so-called) in school. So, tell me: Who’s the pervert?

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director and Harvard College house master/some-time journalist. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
This entry was posted in Children/Teens/Young Adults, Huffingtonpost.com, Public Policy. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Who’s The Pervert?

  1. Richard Hussar says:

    Erika …. really hit the mark with this blog. Who’s the pervert? Indeed who is that person? Some years ago when i volunteered at the grade school in San Francisco with 2nd graders who had parents in jail, on drugs, poor and/or just from very difficult home situation we were not allowed to hug or comfort these very needy love starved children. I did anyhow and have no regrets knowing that maybe one child I comforted or showed attention to will remember that there are people out there who care. I did risk being labeled a pervert simply because i may have touched one kids life. Thank you for putting this out …. Richard Hussar.

    • Thanks for your story, Richard. When I was a teacher and preschool director, there were endless discussions of “appropriate” physical contact with three, four, and five year-old kids. The professors in my master’s program and state child care licensors were very clear that a No-touch policy was essential to avoid legal liability and (supposedly) parental discomfort. Fortunately, I was mentored by a number of great people — including the Obama girls’ preschool teacher – who helped me to understand children’s developmental needs. I think it’s the preschool and Kindergarten teachers who never find a reason to hug a child or hold him in their laps who are the practitioners of ‘abuse’ since physical affection/comfort is essential to human growth and wellbeing.

  2. Th phenomenon of dragging people through the courts is not an isolated incident. It is #14 on my personal list of ways people have faced life on the public sex offender registry:

    http://www.oncefallen.com/youmightbersoif.html

  3. Proud Mom says:

    Although I have been called a natural and have been asked to take over the Sunday School program at my church I am with heavy heart withdrawing from teaching Sunday school altogether because of just this issue. The risk far out weighs the benefit of peace of mind since an accusation is as detrimental as a conviction whether true or not.
    I have no qualms saying that we definitely need to protect our children but at exactly what cost and how many sacrifices simply for the benefit of feel good, fear and hate mongering laws made by self serving politicians solely to advance their careers and NOT for the sake of the children. Every piece of research and empirical data shows thee current laws do NOTHING to protect children and cost a select few their bank accounts, families, and their very lives as they will FOREVER be looked at a little strange and people will always wonder if it is really true.

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