I was taken aback the other day when Eldest complained that I was a sexist. HUH? You’re complaining to a guy who’s bent gender issues in all manner of shapes and angles. Her comment was prompted by a safety situation that occurred the previous evening in which she believed that she’d been wronged.
We live in a small suburban community in an agricultural area and there’s no crime the likes of which you read about in the larger communities. I was preoccupied when she said that she’d be taking a jog and didn’t notice that it was already dark in the early evening. She’s an athletic, strong teen who likes to jog on non-sport practice days to keep in shape. Within ten minutes, Middle asked if he could also take a jog and I permitted it, again not noticing that it was dark outside – bad on me. Middle is a few years younger but already taller than his elder sibling and immeasurably stronger due to consistent exercise through the years; this is a kid who announced in the kitchen at the age of six that he wanted a six-pack and had one by the age of eleven.
He returned a few minutes after his sister and caught us in the midst of discussion because I’d since realized that it was actually dark outside. My stance was that while I appreciated that she wanted to stay in shape, I no longer would permit her to run after dark unless she ran with another person; otherwise, she’d only be running alone when there was still daylight. We disagreed but she respected my reasoning that running alone after dark was simply inviting problems. While she was still in the room, Middle asked whether the same rule applied to him and after looking at the kid, I stated that yes, he could continue to run alone after dark, but only in the early evening. My thinking was that he was strong enough and fast enough to avoid any problems.
It was at lunch the next day that the previous evening’s conversation came up and Eldest asked why the rule applied only to her instead of him. Again, she’s female and the reality is that it’s likelier that lone females are prey to attackers than lone males. Predatory males are cueing on lone females instead of lone males and such predators are typically armed in some manner. Additionally, her younger brother was still younger and stronger than she was. It was here that she called me a sexist and truly pulled me up short.
I stewed on the comment through the remainder of lunch and afterwards pulled both elder kids aside. Here’s the deal then. You might consider this rule sexist, but you’ll still only run at night with a buddy. However, bad things can also happen to a lone male so that your brother will be bound by the same rule; he’s not a full-grown adult and the prospect for problems exists as well. If you want to run at night, then you’ll have to run together. I believe that I’m correct in not permitting Eldest to run alone after dark. But I was wrong to think that Middle’s gender would be fool-proof protection against attack or mugging. Congratulations, you’re right. And you’re also wrong.
Kids often live in a world that’s devoid of external dangers, at least that’s for kids living in low-crime or rural areas. Safety consciousness is a learned skill and it will take much continued talk and effort to get the kids to think about the threats of the outside. Threats that are larger than a father that you find quaintly overprotective.