"You don't have to write it down. But if I find out a strange man has pulled my daughter's panties down in the bathroom, she will no longer be enrolled here."
I was in a meeting with the director of the preschool who had just said they can't give it to me in writing, but they would try to accomodate my request. You see, I made an excruciating oversight last spring when I shopped for preschools for my then barely two-year-old. School! I thought. Learning! Colors! Finger paint! Through the open houses and school tours, all I saw were smiling happy (female) teachers, adorably disheveled toddlers and fun-seeming other moms. Cool, right? What I never considered were the logistics of the bathroom.
This particular school has a culture of its own. It's a positive atmosphere, open-minded, progressive. "Not stuck in the 1950's" someone said to me yesterday. This is a place where dads are made to feel welcome, where they are seen as equal and involved parents. This is a place where two-dad families are ushered in with open arms. Rad. I love the love. I'm sure all the parents are wonderful.
And just in case, the extensive vetting process includes a criminal background check and fingerprinting to make sure of it because, you see, parents have to put in time in the classroom - "rotating assisting duty" which includes taking tots to the bathroom . For two-year-olds, that means a heavy hand in the pulling up and down of undies and the occasional wipe. That could be any assisting parent, like, say, a dad. Gulp.
The facts all sprang together at once on Tuesday. I suppose last spring I knew dads could be assisting in the classroom, and I knew toddlers have to go potty, but I naturally (and falsely) assumed the women would be taking them. You know, the staff. Or the moms? Surely women took the girls to the bathroom and cleaned their accidents, right? As I dropped Bee off on her first day this week and took one last peek in the door, I saw a man I'd never met and the whole icky, sticky situation fell on me like a lap full of spaghetti. While I'm at home kicking it up over laundry, my daughter is a mile away MAYBE having some dude I've never met cleaning her butt. I popped into the school office and my suspicions were confirmed: we don't fit in here.
I'm not trying to criminalize these guys. I love men. I married one! As a matter of fact, I pick and choose when I'm a feminist because I'm not down with man-bashing. However, we don't live in a world where child-molesting is equal-opportunity . 99% of sexual predators are men, only 1% are women and girls are over twice as likely as boys to be sexually abused.
Perhaps when my daughter is older and can better communicate we can talk about who is okay to touch what, but for my two-year-old, I want the clear idea to be "men don't go anywhere near that part of my body". Not the friend's dad at school, not the friend's dad at our house while mommy is busy hosting a BBQ. Not the new strange man in class, not the new strange man anywhere.
I know I'm being sexist. The feminist, progressive, modern, cool kid perspective is "we teach children appropriate touching and that men can be trusted, not feared". I understand that. I understand the other moms at the school may see it that way. I understand I could be wrong and we're not in the "socio-economic risk demograhic". I get it, but I don't feel it.
What I feel is a lifetime of empathy for the damage sexual abuse can cause. This is my daughter. If something were to happen to her, there are no second chances, no do-overs. She and I would have to mine through the muck and I can't live with going against my gut if I put her in that situation.
And is it really fair to the men to be required to take a little girl to the bathroom when her mom is some lady you don't even know who's paranoid of molesters? Yeah, I'm sure it's a real delight for those guys. And what about legally? Say a little girl does accuse him of something - what recourse does he have? If I were a man, I'd run so far from that bathroom, you'd see smoke.
So. For me and my family, no dudes in the bathroom stall. I'd rather be wrong than find out if I'm right. Hopefully we can stay at the school. She does love her finger paints.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2
Happy outcome! The director called me this morning to confirm the preschool will honor my request that only female caregivers will take Bianca to the bathroom. YAY. But wait, that's not all! The executive board also decided this issue is worthy of a policy change. They formed a task committee to research standard practices at other preschools and will institute a change based on that and other findings. It sounds like they completely see my point of view and were baffled themselves they never addresses this before. She even laughed, "these are the growing pains of a hippy dippy co-op".
I'm so excited! I actually feel like I made a little difference in the world. High fives for mama bears, right? That stress headache I had for two days was worth it.
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