RE: Confessions – A Response
the price of your peace of mind is not paid by you, but by your children: in the effects of a personal and cultural mindset that requires even daddy to be lumped with predators.
Well, as for the personal, my kids certainly don’t lump me in with their vague notion of untrustworthy big people–much less a predator. I’d venture to say that most kids feel the same about those they know because, well, the know them. Those they don’t know, the other if you will, do fall into the vague category of untrustworthiness, though. But being among the untrusted is only a temporary category.
Your worries about “room for male role models” or “possibility of trust crucial to the development of future relationships” seems to presume a permanent categorization of strangers into those not-to-be-trusted. In my experience, that isn’t the way it works. While the presumption of guilt is there–and I don’t really like any more than you–it can be overcome by the day-to-day actions and behavior of an individual. Today’s stranger is tomorrow’s coach and the next day’s friend.
Or, perhaps more accurately, today’s stranger is my kid’s coach tomorrow; and my friend as the weeks and months pass. Because we are really talking about the background stuff that adults engage in, over the heads of our children. The kids aren’t “in” on the upper level dialogue and protocols that are constantly in play. (At least they shouldn’t be, but I realize some parents let their kids in on everything. TMI). It’s all a vague set of warnings and caution to them. Maybe your are correct that the net affect is a climate of mistrust. But I think that by properly educating our children–showing by example–how we adults get to know each other and build trust we inculcate in them the judgment and prudence necessary for them to function in society.
Kids don’t know that every soccer coach gets a background check conducted on them. They just know that that person is coach, can be trusted on the field because Mom or Dad say it’s OK. A subtle line has been crossed. You’ve been upgraded from presumed predator to trusted supervisor (albeit, usually if your being supervised–from afar–by Mom and Dad!). Now some parents will still frown on you giving hugs to their kids. But we all have different levels of trust. Trust has to be earned, right? I don’t think that has changed.
I think what has changed is that because we are a much more mobile society, we don’t have the same long-standing family or social networks in place to help do the vetting for us. So we have become overcautious or we’ve resorted to “the state” to help us (ie; background checks for coaches). And it can go too far–way too far–like that billboard or in parents who don’t trust anyone.
But I don’t think that being mistrusted simply because you are a stranger is a permanent sentence to loneliness or isolation. By engaging your community-volunteering, church, school–you can cease becoming “the other” and begin becoming part of the neighborhood. But it takes time.
I think it’s a stretch to link our society’s changed trust-building “system”–no matter how knee-jerk and overcautious it is–as a causal factor in demeaning the self-esteem of men to the point where they lash out in a predatory fashion.
Anyone who acts in an untrustworthy manner because they feel that people unfairly don’t trust them probably had a few wires crossed in the first place. The psychologically paranoid will always find some reason to justify their paranoia, won’t they?
I won’t belabor this any more. Just to be clear, I think it is sad that we as a society feel we have to be more cautions than we used to, as I believe I indicated in the original post. However, what hasn’t changed is that we all still have to earn the trust of those we don’t know. The barriers are higher–and some do go too far–and it may take longer to do so (and some parents will never fully trust you), but it isn’t an impossible task.