Monday, January 30, 2012

Can We Justify Bias Against Fathers?

Take a look at this quote from an article published on a prominent parenting site and then republished on a prominent news site:
You’ve accepted a sleepover invite for your son, not realizing that the family is Jewish. You’re not OK with it. What to do? 
The Solution: “Call and say ‘I’m sorry, and this is about me and not you, but I just don’t feel comfortable with a Jew supervising an overnighter,’ ” says Morris, a PhD., play therapist, mother of three, and founder of Counseling Center at Liberty, in Columbiaville, NH. Offer to host the girls at your place instead, if you can, or ask to turn the sleepover into a “late-over,” where your daughter stays only till bedtime. In the future, always ask who’ll be on duty before you say yes to a sleepover.
Appalled? Mortified? Already started writing your comment about the injustice, indignity, the irrationality of the statement. Well, thankfully, I made that one up. Here's another one:
You’ve accepted a sleepover invite for your daughter, not realizing that only her pal’s divorced dad will be home. You’re not OK with it. What to do? 
The Solution: “Call and say ‘I’m sorry, and this is about me and not you, but I just don’t feel comfortable with a man supervising an overnighter,’ ” says Paone (a Ph.D., a play therapist, mother of three, and founder of Counseling Center at Heritage, in Montgomeryville, PA). Offer to host the girls at your place instead, if you can, or ask to turn the sleepover into a “late-over,” where your daughter stays only till bedtime. In the future, always ask who’ll be on duty before you say yes to a sleepover.
Appalled? Mortified? Already started writing your comment about the injustice, indignity, the irrationality of the statement. Well, unfortunately, this one is real and was posted originally on Parenting.com and then republished on CNN.com, so keep writing.

You might also be thinking that you agree with the parent's concern and the advice that was given, and you are likely not alone. Many people are justifying these feelings because we are trying to do what's best for our children. In a world surrounded with stories of rapists and pedophiles, could we ever live with ourselves if something happened when we let our child stay over at a man's house?

These feelings aren't new. Can't we all think back to a time (not that long ago) when "experts" would have advised parents not to allow their children to stay overnight at the home of a Jewish family, or a black family,  because we weren't "comfortable?" Do we still think it's possible for "experts" to advise parents not to allow their children to stay overnight at the home of a gay or lesbian family?

When do we cross the line of "this is about me, not you" thinking being used to justify our actions to "this is about me" thinking as an opportunity to look inwards to address our own biases. None of us can justify to ourselves that it would okay to not let our children have a sleepover at someone's house because they were poor, or handicapped, or a different race or a different religion, right?

If I were asked to comment on this question, I might suggest something like this:
The Solution: "Take a moment to think about why you feel this way. Do you know men that are excellent fathers that would provide a safe, caring, and fun environment for you child," says Schneider, not a PhD, not a play therapist, not a founder of a counseling center, but a father of two. "Perhaps you should take some time to get to know the father before you decide you are uncomfortable. In the future, always get to know the person who will be caring for your child (man or woman) before you say yes to a sleepover."
Since the dawn of humanity, parents have been put in uncomfortable situations that require us to make decisions. Over time, our thinking continues to evolve as we re-think our own experiences and prejudices. It's time to force ourselves to re-think, as one of our Facebook followers put it, our Dadophobia.

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