TIM is a nice person, who loves children

Two different blog posts, http://talesfromthecrib.blogspot.com/2006/09/protecting-our-children.html, and http://www.daringyoungmom.com/index.php/2006/09/06/where-the-boys-are/#comments, have prompted this defensive post from TIM.

I won’t babysit, so don’t ask me. I made my mind up about this 20 years ago, when I witnessed the vilification of another man in our ward, an unmarried convert who liked to babysit for various families, with kids of every age. After many years of being the boon to Mormon couples in NYC who haven’t any money (he babysat for free), suddenly the word got out that he shouldn’t be allowed with one’s children. He was never accused, and no actual story was ever told of his sin or crime, but family after family stopped using his aid, and he suddenly moved away to Utah, quite heartbroken.

It turned out that he was a gay man, and had an active gay life before joining the Church. One might suggest that this should only have prevented him from watching the boys, not the girls, but then of course gay doesn’t mean pedophilic anyway. It just means sexually suspect, deviant, perverted, and bad.

There are real cases of molestation, of course, and rape. Bad things happen to children, teenagers and adults, and men are usually the perpetrators (though not always). And sexual molestation happens to little girls far more often than it happens to little boys. Usually the perpetrator is someone in the family, or very close to the family — much more rare that a stranger would molest a child, for fear of reprisal (hard to keep such a thing secret).

And yet our society continues to have huge hysteria about this. The giant success of the documentary Capturing the Friedmans only proves our frustration, on both sides.

Since I’m unmarried, with a gay preference, I have consciously chosen to turn down all babysitting requests, and I won’t teach in the nursery or primary either. This has had a ramification which I hadn’t considered: I’m thought selfish, someone who won’t lift a finger to help other families. I *am* self-absorbed, but I’m sad to realize that my choice to remain alone in the world makes me sexually suspect. I have no interest in sex with minors of any gender, but I must be careful, not just to keep my hands off, but to keep people from *talking* about the *potentiality* of what I *might* do to their child, when alone. Hence, I try never to be alone with someone else’s kids (and I have none of my own).

When it comes to kids coming over to my house, come on! My house is kid friendly, and I have every Disney DVD available. Be sure to bring your parents.

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17 Responses to TIM is a nice person, who loves children

  1. TftCarrie says:

    Thanks for taking the time to share your unique perspective on this issue. It really goes to show that any decision made comes complete with it’s own unique set of ramifications. I am realizing that each person has to make decisions on this matter based on their own life experiences and what may feel “right” to one person is not “right” for another. I do know that I need to not fall into the hysteria trap that many parents fall prey to and then defend it as “smart parenting”.

    I am so sorry to hear about what happened to your friend.

  2. kathryn, dym says:

    I am really sorry about this. Of course there are wonderful men in the world who love children. I am married to one. I know and love many more. We live in a world where scary things happen and as parents we’re all just limping along, trying to do the best we can. Reading so many posts from different perspectives, sparked by my original musings, has opened me up to a whole lot of other ideas and I’ve worried about how our rule will affect others. I still don’t think I’m hysterical as Carrie suggests nor do I think I am necessarily practicing “smart parenting.” I’m practicing not-being-able-to-read-minds-or-channel-souls parenting. It’s a kind of parenting where I can’t trust those I don’t know and I can’t know everyone, in a country where at least one child will likely be molested as I typed this. That 90%+ statistic about offenders is for heterosexual males, by the way.

    I don’t pretend to know everything. The more I read about this, the more I think feel confident that no one should be watching our kids unless I know them really well. That may mean going to the gym at 6am so I don’t have to leave them at the gym daycare, a place where it’s impossible to spend enough time to get to know the childcare workers, without people accusing me of being a freak who enjoys spending time with young teenagers. What kind of a freak wants to spend that much time with a teenaged boy? She’s probably a predator. I wish I knew more. I just don’t. When I know more, I can do better. I’m sorry that you’re missing out on the chance to spend time with children because of the behavior of others. That must hurt a lot. It sounds like it nearly destroyed your friend’s life, the way being molested as a child often destroys people’s lives.

    In your decision not to watch children at all, you’re being just as hysterical as any of the rest of us nuts. What you’re doing is trying to protect yourself from harm and missing out on some great experiences. That’s what I’m doing for my kids, trying to reduce their risk of harm, while admittedly letting them miss out on some great influences in their lives. It’s a balancing act that I’ve far from figured out. The thousands of child molesters in this country are really ruining it for the rest of us, eh? Maybe you think it’s people like me who are ruining things. That makes me sad.

  3. TIM says:

    I appreciate your candor, Kathryn.

    Yes, I think I’m contributing to the hysteria. Just as I feel that parents are on the offensive, I must retreat to the defensive. I would never (intentionally) hurt a child, but I think there are people who might intentionally try to harm me. It’s a paranoid, hysterical viewpoint in a hysterical world.

    Since today is 9/11, perhaps we can liken it to current events. If someone has a mideastern appearance, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are a terrorist, and it might be doing a grave injustice to deny someone their inalienable rights, simply because of their appearance.

    And yet, some defense is needed against the real threat of terrorism. I can see both sides to this problem; I just felt that some compassion needed to be expressed, for the innocent but accused — usually an Invisible Man like myself.

  4. kathryn, dym says:

    I’m really glad you did share and I hope to be more sensative and thoughtful in the future. I’m new to this parenting thing. I have thought about the 9/11 connection as well, horrified that I’m doing the same thing as the people who refuse to ride on an airplane with a mideastern person aboard.

  5. fMhLisa says:

    As I just mentioned on TFTC, in the book I just read (Protecting the Gift, by Gavin deBecker) places the statistics for sexual preditors being heterosexual men nearer to 100% (statistically speaking, which isn’t to say that there aren’t rare exceptions). But sexual abuse isn’t the only kind, women are actually more likely to physically and emotionally abuse children, largely because women are also much more likely to be primary care givers.

    I don’t blame either of you for making the decisions you have, it’s a really tough one. But once again I heartily recommend that you pick up this book it’s all about being smart about managing risk while reducing worry and fear.

  6. fMhLisa says:

    doh, just read dym’s origional post and she recommends the same book. I guess maybe I took away more of the “blanket fear is bad” than dym did. Which is fine, we all read into things our own perspectives.

  7. Mathew says:

    D,

    I appreciate your perspective–thanks for sharing. I have little doubt that gay men are considered more suspect than straight men, but I can assure you that straight men also quickly learn not to play with children.

    What a sad state of affairs when an interest in children sends up red flags to those in the adult world. I don’t blame parents for wanting to protect their children–having just gone through the process of hiring a nanny I am familiar with parental fears and the urge to shield. I am, however, turned off by the tone of some of the commenters at TFTC.

  8. greenfrog says:

    D,

    Come to Denver. I can’t think of anyone I’d like my children to know more.

  9. TIM says:

    How cheap is it to live in Denver, gf? I may be there sooner than you think.

    😉

  10. TftCarrie says:

    DYM –

    “I still don’t think I’m hysterical as Carrie suggests nor do I think I am necessarily practicing “smart parenting.”

    When I referred to hysteria and “smart parenting” I was not actually referring to your original post. I was mostly taken back by the comments of many readers who agreed with you but took “rules” much further and had more of a “I don’t care the implications, I will do whatever it takes” attitude. Maybe that is you too, but I find you to be handling this subject with a sided but more even hand than many of your commentors and I appreciate that.

  11. TIM says:

    Hi, Carrie! I’m sorry I didn’t acknowledge you earlier. Thanks for coming over here…to my new digs.

  12. greenfrog says:

    Denver’s cheaper than NYC, WashDC, LA, or Chicago, but probably not cheaper than other cities.

    However, we do have a spare room…

  13. Susan M says:

    That sucks, D. I’m sure you’d make an incredible primary pianist.

  14. dfletcher says:

    Hi, Susan!

    I’ve been the Primary pianist plenty of times. That’s not *teaching* Primary, which I understand now, men aren’t called to do unassisted anyway.

  15. Keri says:

    D/TIM– I think you sell yourself short on the selfishness angle– how many adults in New York open their very well-catered and sophisticated parties to children? And yet you do this many times every year (events sure to be missed in the future when the apartment sells). The qualms I might have about leaving my kids with you as a babysitter are two-fold: one, I care too much about you to risk having my children behave TERRIBLY, as they are sometimes known to do, and two, I can’t think of a time when I’d rather have you babysit my kids than just come with me wherever I’m going! As for the trust scale, I can hardly think of anyone I’d trust more to care for my kids. Want them willed to you?

  16. TIM says:

    Keri,

    Thanks so much for replying here! You know, my “rule” doesn’t really apply for family members, so I’d be happy to watch your kids any time you don’t want me to go…where you’re going.

    🙂

  17. Gail Dedrick says:

    Thought provoking, but not surprising, thread. Glad I ran across it. Thanks, TIM.

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