It was September 9, 1999. “A DAUGHTER? What am I going to do with a girl??”
Unlike most people these days, my wife and I chose not to determine the sex of our child before she was born, thus the gargantuan shock. Like most men, I automatically and rather foolishly assumed that I was having a boy, only to be pounded by the dismay that “he” was a “she,” and had the daunting and foreign task of being responsible for a girl. Ugh, dresses and fancy shoes…
How would I raise her? How would I interact with her? On what level could I ever relate to her?? Not much time passed before I realized that my life had changed forever – in ways more wonderful than I could ever have imagined. I now find myself, constantly stating unapologetically that “all men need a daughter.” “They change us.” And, I would go to the ends of the earth to protect her.
Fast forward another 6 ½ years, and we have added another two to our brood. This time, boys.
We have recently faced the shocking and once again reactive “we should have done more” news of Jerry Sandusky (Penn State Predator); of Skip Reville (The Citadel, teacher, coach, foster parent and bible study leader), of The Horace Mann School (“Prep School Predators” NY Times) and of the 10th anniversary of the shocking horrors of the Catholic Church.
As I pondered all of these atrocities, it hit me. I have spent my adult life as a parent with the same gender bias that comes naturally to all of us; that girls need protecting and that boys are simply…boys. Yet, all these aforementioned stories have numerous common threads, but for me the most unsettling is that all of these sexual crimes were perpetrated against young boys. It’s a wake up call to not assume that our boys are strong and don’t need the same protection as our girls.
So as Dad’s, our role of protector is as apparent as ever. We can have the tough conversations with our sons and daughters about their bodies, about healthy boundaries, and about sexuality, about sexual abuse. We can be vigilant about who our kids interact with and about always knowing where they are. We can be involved in their activities and insist on policies at the organizations in which they play and learn, and we can talk to others about how to keep our kids safe from harm. If you want to learn more about how to keep your children safe from sexual abuse, we have some tools for parents at www.D2L.org.
On the approaching Father’s Day weekend (as I refer to it at my house), and on behalf of D2L I want to wish all the father’s out there a relaxing Father’s Day.