Friday, September 30, 2011

Strange Men and Little Children

This is a bit of an awkward post. I am feeling quite upset and concerned but I do not know if I am over-reacting.

The Blonde Bombshell is in Kindy two days a week.  Typically at pick-up time, many of the mums hang around while the kids play on the equipment, run around like mad things, and generally make us feel old just watching them.

There is a dad that we sometimes see.  Apparently he has a daughter in one of the other classes but I usually see him on his own.  He is very friendly and interested in our children, especially our girls. Perhaps too friendly and interested.

The other day he was asking about Miss Curly Mop.  Asking her name and how old she was, admiring her clothes and hair, trying to give her a high-five.  The Bombshell saw that someone was talking to The Mop and came over to introduce herself and show off some artwork she had created in Kindy that day.  The dad admired it, and then likened the Mop to a piece of artwork.

He then admired the Bombshell, asking her general questions.  Then he started asking me questions.  Were the girls sisters?  Were they both my daughters? 

The he told The Bombshell that her little sister was very beautiful and perhaps he could borrow her sometime, take her home...

Something inside me was panicking. I wanted to take both the girls and run.  I couldn't help but think the worst but at the same time I was wondering whether I was just over-reacting to a friendly dad who was simply admiring my children.  There could well be a cultural difference involved in what is appropriate in dealing with other people's children, but for my comfort, he was crossing a line. 

But I did not say anything.  What could I say?

He has stopped before to talk with me about the Curly Mop.  He has picked up one of the Bombshell's Kindy friend's for no apparent reason.  He makes me uncomfortable.  Where was his own daughter?

I feel sad that I am jumping to conclusions and could perhaps be vilifying an innocent, perhaps lonely, perhaps clucky man.  I hope that I am, because the alternative is too scary to contemplate.


  1. I'm with you, I would be panicking too. Most men would know that what he said about "borrowing" the little girl and taking her home is inappropriate even if it is meant innocently. Most men would go out of their way not to say anything that could be taken the wrong way. Does this man really have a girl enrolled there? I would be suspicious. Trust your instincts.

  2. i agree trust your instincts. i felt really weird reading this. it is definitely very inapproapriate. how many strangers have you ever walked up to and suggested 'borrowing' their children? i'm guessing none - apart from the obvious, with two of my own how crazy would i have to be to want someone else's!! it is just not right... I'd be questioning if he really has a child at the school at all.

  3. Hmm. Definitely a bit odd. You mention cultural differences though which makes me slower to judge - which culture? Is the "borrowing" just a result of an odd translation? And can you ask the teacher or someone if he really does have a daughter there? I think it can be tough for men these days who like children (in an innocent way I mean!) - but at the same time if I were you I would be keeping your gorgeous girls away from him ...

  4. I think he is from the middle east, but I am not exactly sure, but this is why I wonder if there are cultural differences... Another mum has spoken with a teacher about him, which is why I know he has a daughter at the school, and also why I used the word 'clucky', as this is how the teacher referred to him. Thanks everyone for your thoughts, keep them coming.

  5. Hi Shannon, I would go with the gut too and be wary BUT also wanted to tell you about an interaction I saw years ago with a Spanish man and his daughter who was a young teenager. They sat very close together and cuddled on the couch in a way that made me uncomfortable and then I realised that it was just their very different Latino style but it just wasn't the way you were used to seeing fathers and daughters in Australia

  6. OK, here's another go to see if I can comment and not have it disappear (as happened when I tried soon after you posted this.) The immediate moment has probably passed (maybe he's not around any more?), but the underlying issue/concern is one all of us share and need to wrestle with if we are to keep a respectful open society AND keep children as safe as we can.
    The idea that occurs to me is to approach him ('him' in the generic - anyone whose behaviour around the playground triggers discomfort) and perhaps introduce yourself (first name only), as you might to a fellow-mum whom you had seen a few times but didn't know her name. That lets him know straight away that his presence is being noted: if his intentions are innocent, he'll introduce himself and presumably be grateful you approached. You could ask where his child is/what class his child is in, possibly implying that generally people without kids at the school don't hang around the playground. If he tells you a child's name, you can then allow as how you haven't met that child, or if you have, better still. If he answers that he isn't a parent, you could then gently but clearly say something like you're sure it's unintended on his part (white lie here, but face-saving if it is an issue of cultural difference), but that some of the things he says make you a bit uncomfortable. That you don't want to be paranoid, but the sorts of things he has been saying/doing (quote him back to himself to be quite clear) are - in this subculture (Anglo-Australia) - liable to be misconstrued as inappropriate. If his response continues to make you uncomfortable, respect your instinct and keep your distance.
    It might make you feel a little bolder before you speak to discuss privately with another mum who is likely to be there at the time. Someone could take a phone-picture of him while generally snapping kids racing around; then if you get *seriously* bad vibes, you'll have something way more useful than a verbal description.
    This may be too hard or off base, but I've been thinking about it a lot since you first posted, wanting us all to be less paralysed in such situations without estranging people whose impulses and motives are entirely innocent.

    1. As usual Dorothy, your wisdom is calming, and many others agree. Luckily the man has not made an appearance this year, and I think perhaps his daughter has moved up to a different school or perhaps he has taken the very strong non-verbal hint and is keeping his distance.

      thank you everyone for your comments

  7. I would also find it odd and a similar thing has happened at my daughters school when a single father is similarly over familiar. Fortunately I had met him before through the children and basically think he is just a bit over familiar and a little bit lonely. He only sees his daughter a couple of times a week and think he just desperately misses her when she is with her mum. Having said all of that I am a great believer in gut instinct and if something makes you uncomfortable then it is usually breaching your personal code

  8. Trust your instincts. Don't question yourself. Don't worry about being rude. I highly recommend this book, too.

  9. I agree with Dorothy...also I'd be asking him about his daughter. Trust your instincts & most importantly if you do actually think something is wrong & maybe his daughter is in distress - take action!!!

  10. I really like Dorothy's response, I hope if I am ever in that situation I wouldn't freeze and I can remember to word things how she has. For the record I am totally with you on the uncomfortable feeling, I am not liking that at all and you are totally justified in feeling that way!!!!!!

  11. This is the first time I have read your blog and I'm impressed. I am a mother of a rather beautiful daughter (aren't they all ...) and have had people come up and talk to her in shopping centres and I have responded to them "Please don't talk to my daughter, she doesn't know you and I don't wish to know you" and taken said daughter away. I just noticed this is an old post, so you have probably dealt with it all now. I would also make sure that teachers at the school know that you are uncomfortable with this man and you would prefer that he stay in the room where his child is and that he not talk to your daughter.

  12. My little girl is only 9 months ols and i find that people are always coming up to her and saying hello and wanting to hold her. I have only had one situation where I felt really uncomfortable with how someone was looking at her and I used my body as a sheild to block his view. I dont want her to be scared of people but i want her to safe. I really liked Dorothy's reply. I think that we have been brought up to be polite and not ask questions or be direct in dealing with conflict and this can stop us from gaining information in these types of situations but in the interest of our kids we need to break those barriers and better to be over cautious n be wrong then ignore our instincts and our babies be harmed. Once their hurt there is a lot of healing that needs to happen. thank you for posting this situation. it makes me think about how I would handle it in the future. You know when something happens when you are unprepared and later you go " gee i should have done this/said that" well now im prepared. thank you.


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