Predator on the Playground?

My daughter and I were guests in my son’s classroom today. My son and I had made a PowerPoint presentation of our trip to Florida over the March break – we had practiced his presentation the previous night and he was ready to knock it out of the park right before recess.

As a speaker myself, I was so proud to see my son up there – his little voice, his little jokes (what great TIMING!) which got huge laughs. Ah, what a moment! Then the little girls in his class invited my daughter out during lunch time/recess – so as I cleaned up the supplies and props, they took off to the playground.

As I headed out into the playground, my daughter found me and gave me a hug, then ran away again. Standing beside the playing field, still basking in the moment, I watched my carefree children play, when I realized I was being watched. Like PacMan being spotted and zeroed in on by the ghosts, I had become the hunted; stalked by the ever vigilant lunch time monitors – a posse of dedicated women who patrol the schoolyard – tying shoelaces, breaking up fights, and watching for perverts.

The first monitor was nervous but friendly as she approached me. She was flanked by children on either side which gave her strength to bravely confront this stranger amongst the children. As an active member within the school, I do know most of the parents, but she was not familiar to me nor me to her.

But being keenly aware of how this might look, I wanted to diffuse the situation pronto. So I quickly blurted out, “I am watching the children” – {pause} – her face grew extremely concerned — then I suddenly realized that I had just said what every pervert would say!  So I quickly added, “No no no, I am watching MY children…” She smiled as I clumsily explained the entire situation.

She walked away, apparently satisfied with my explanation. I returned to watching MY children, wishing they were playing closer to me, only to be confronted 2 more times by 2 different lone wolf rogue monitors (who apparently have no radios to communicate with each other).

I applaud their vigilance. Back in my days when I helped run a child centre, teaching preschool and running a summer camp in Whistler, I WAS that vigilant – you need to be. So this little essay should not be misinterpreted as anything negative about the monitors – I love them – as a parent, I feel so much better knowing my children are safe on this grounds from any REAL perverts.

However, here is my point. If I was a MOM, watching my children at play, would I have received a similar examination?  Would I be interrogated on 3 different occasions within one recess break? Likely not, so involved dads always need to be aware of their surroundings and how it might appear to other inquiring eyes. Obviously, I’m guessing most schoolyard perverts are men – so I get it – a strange man loitering on a school ground may be cause for alarm.

So “alls-I’m-saying” is that men and women have very different parenting experiences depending upon the situation.

If you are a dad, just like advice given to teenagers on their first trip on the subway downtown, always be aware of your surroundings – you are NOT given the benefit of a doubt.  Sometimes it may feel like you are guilty until proven innocent.  I couldn’t wait for my children to be near me again…

And for the women, just watch for an extra few seconds and see if one of the happy children on the playground belongs to him. If not, he just might be a “bad-stranger’ and then let your natural defenses kick in!!

When I am in a public park with my children and they run to the other side of the playground – I quickly follow them – not only because it is the safe/fun thing to do, but also, I know how it looks if I am just standing beside the empty swings… have you ever encountered a harmless situation where eyeballs have begun to label you?

Until next time!