Comments in response to Eli Kaplan’s post “Put Your Hands Up, and Step Away From the … Child?”
From Justin Morgan:
I am a 24-year-old straight male. That is just for the record. I am a teacher for students with Aspergers and Autism. This article speaks to me because it makes me realize how good I have it. The parents of my current studends (ages 7-12) are very understanding. I work with a child with autism and leukemia and his chemo causes him so much pain. Deep pressure is especially comforting to him. I squeeze him and hug him and press my hands hard into his arms and back.
Today I thought, “What if someone who didn’t realize what was going on saw this?”. It might seem a little odd. It was then I realized how lucky I am, that I am allowed to give this child the physical interaction he needs. It’s almost calming to ME to see him relax. It is a shame that there are so many vindictive people in this world that would hurt a child, this in turn makes us all have to refrain from showing our normal human emotions sometimes.
Well I am just ranting now. Thank you!!!
From Julie Gillis:
Which, in a weird way, only fetish-izes (I can’t spell that word) the kid thing. Make kids inappropriate to touch and….well, I think it makes the system weird.
Run your background checks, presume innocence, teach kids to speak up and out, let people show actual pleasure and affection for each other.
From Marcus Williams:
I worked in the past as a camp counselor at a summer day camp, and later at an “outdoor ed” school where like the other instructors, I was the lone adult managing a cabin of my assigned kids, which included plenty of time alone with them and sleeping in the cabin with the at night. I most definitely can relate to being cautioned about how to physically act and not act with kids, so as to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. I understood it, but it was depressing as hell. I didn’t avoid contact altogether, but at the camp where little kids would run up and jump in my lap, for example, I was always careful to either put them down or arrange them on my legs a clear distance from my crotch. This wasn’t because I was afraid of getting aroused, but because I was afraid anyone could even think I might be if they saw a child in my lap.
I think I’ve mentioned it before, but one of my greatest joys having my own daughters, still toddler age, is that I can be as freely affectionate with them as I want. I don’t hesitate to smother them with hugs, kisses, and tickles, or worry that someone might think I’m being inappropriate. On a recent night, for example, both my girls had only their diapers on (before getting pajamas on for the night), and for about five minutes I rolled them around the floor kissing and tickling their bellies and necks and cracking them up. It was the kind of daddy moment I live for and will someday miss, but in the back of my mind, there was still a glimmer of awareness that if I did this with someone else’s kids, or even if some people saw me doing it with mine, it could be viewed as suspicious and “too affectionate”.
As male teachers, we were essentially presumed guilty until proven innocent.
And while us dudes were walking on eggshells, female teachers were freely hugging students, left and right. Some even spent time with their students outside of school.
Eli, a beautiful piece. Well written and I enjoyed your turns of phrase
photo by wwworks / flickr