By HOLLY WAINWRIGHT
Dear People Who Judge My Partner,
Yes, clearly you were surprised to see a man.
A man at the play centre.
On a week day.
And he wasn’t on his iPad. He was actually playing. With his children.
Perhaps you couldn’t see that the reason he was crawling through that tunnel with all the kids was because he was trying to retrieve our runaway son who had become lost inside the jungle gym. I hope that’s why when he emerged, you glared at him and dashed into the play area to usher your kids away. You know what? You made him feel like he was doing something wrong. Which he wasn’t.
And that time he sat down next to you and your child at the movies and you didn’t realise that our daughter was right behind him? You didn’t really need to make a big deal about moving your kid a few seats away. You really didn’t.
I know. I know that some men do unspeakable things to children. I know that if any of those things have ever happened in your world, it is not something you can ever, ever, push out of your mind, or stop being vigilant about.
And I know that a little offence taken by a grown man, on the scale of the horrendous things that happen to little kids every day, is not A Big Deal.
But here’s a thing that is A Big Deal – we need dads to be involved with their kids. And we need to see them doing it.
We need to see good fathers. Good role models. We need to hold them up and show that in the tsunami of stories about child abuse, sexual assault, family violence and deadbeat dads, there are Good Men.
Lots and lots of Good Men.
We need to see them being physical and affectionate and hands-on with their children. We need to see that they are perfectly capable of looking after kids and home and being part of an equal partnership and a loving relationship. We need to see that they can be helpful and mindful of the safety of kids around them, even if they’re not their own.
Yes, that guy who put his hands on another person’s child in a playground this week was out of line. But the stories it spurred about men feeling judged and uncomfortable in children’s public spaces made me sad. And a little bit angry.
Because it happens to my partner all the time.
He is what you’d call a “hands-on dad”. There are lots of them. He has a day at home with our two little kids every week, and just like any sane human being, he knows that being under house-arrest with preschoolers is a legal form of torture. And so he’s the King of the Daytrip.