Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dear Parents, let's chat

I know riding the GO Train is exciting for your little ones. I know you want to believe in your heart of hearts that commuting on public transit is safe, especially on GO Transit and generally, it is.

But this is a much different society we live in from the one that you and I grew up in, where our parents didn't think twice about handing us a quarter so we could ride the Annette 4 bus, one whole kilometre down to Bloor Street, in Toronto's west end, at the age of 6, to attend tap dancing classes. Alone.

That's not to say nothing happened. Because it did. We just didn't talk about it as much. Or think about it as much.

Friday night I was on the 10:13 pm LSE to Oshawa. The lower section of the first coach was fairly empty. A crowd of young men and older male teens were upstairs, drunk/happy/crazy, probably from the Blue Jays game. They were loud, carrying on ... just another Friday night on the GO.

In my section sat a father with his two children. A boy about 4 and a girl about 8, maybe 9. Just around Guildwood, the young girl breezed past me before turning around to tell her father she didn't know where the bathrooms were. He says, "Upstairs. Just go". And off she went. Her body language was telling me she was a little apprehensive. I put my BlackBerry down, said out loud, "Are you serious?" Then I turned around to face the father and said, "I'd go with her". To which he replied, "She's all right."

Disgusted, I got up and told him the bathroom is the other way and went after his daughter. Like hell I'm gonna let an 8 year old girl, at this hour, walk through a train, out of site and go into a bathroom. Unsupervised.

I caught up with the girl who was standing at the top of the stairs in the upper section. She looked nervous and was clinging to the handrails. The men on that level were goofing off, one sitting on the floor in the middle of the aisle while his friend tapped him over the head with an empty beer bottle, both singing out of key. "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", I believe. I motioned to her with my hand and said, "Come with me. Let's go get your father." She hesitated and then her facial expression changed. As I turned around, I nearly collided with the girl's father. Boy, was I angry and I told him so. I'm also a stranger. But I knew if I got up and went after her, he'd at least realize the point I was trying to make. What's stopping some guy from doing the same? Right? Only my intentions were to help. But he doesn't know that. That's my point. YOU DON'T KNOW.

He knew he screwed up.

I don't care what people think about me and my actions. Having been a young girl, having been in a situation where a man took it upon himself to touch me inappropriately as I exited a TTC bus, I know it takes mere seconds for a girl to be put in a situation where she's targeted. It can happen so fast. A brush of a hand across the chest, the pressing of the groin into one's back. In no way am I implying that all men or women, regardless of age or state of sobriety are criminals lying in wait, but I am telling you, shit happens.

Be smart. Don't let your children out of sight until you're confident they can take care of themselves. Don't put them in situations where they don't have the wherewithal to know how to defend themselves. If they turn around and look unsure, get up and be a parent.

Parenting is hard. I know this much is true. I'm doing it myself but we can no longer teach our children to "swim" by throwing them into the water and hoping for the best.


Anonymous said...

Sorry CJ, this time you were out of line. There's nothing worse than having a stranger undermine your parenting. You don't really know for sure what was going through that girl's head and she wasn't your kid. For all you know, she has a belt in karate and what if she kicked you in the head when you approached her? Kids have to walk through crowds of men, people, all the time. Sounds more like she was just confused about where the bathrooms were and you just read too much into it. You're also lucky the father seemed gracious about it. If it were me, I would have put you in your place - back in your seat, playing on your Crackberry.

C.J. Smith said...

I can hold my own and was prepared for a confrontation.

I got up and followed her. What was stopping a man from doing the same?
You really think a 9 year old girl can overpower a 190 pound, 5 foot 8 guy? Maybe this girl could as you're right, I don't know what streetproofing she has. But even so, why even put her in the situation?! To prove to yourself the lessons paid off so she can spend the next couple of years traumatized? Get bent.

Judge me all you want. I just couldn't sit there.

Parenting *is* hard, carry lots of baby wipes said...

As a dad to 3 girls under the age of 12, this is awkward for me as they don't want daddy in the washroom with them but I would at least accompany them and stand outside the door. Besides, whose in that bathroom anyway? That's also pretty late to be out on the train and surrounded by guys fooling around on the train. What if someone threw a beer bottle in fun and it hit this little girl in the head? It's not just the peddies, it's just protecting your kids from the assclowns, too.

Anonymous said...

Dad just wasn't thinking this one through. Fail, dad. Fail. It takes a village to raise a child these days, sadly.

I was at the park recently and was the only mother not crackberrying or texting and actually WATCHING my kid.

rick said...

Anonymous #1. You are an idiot. Go ahead and be offended that a stranger stepped in but at least someone thought to give a shit. You're probably a bleeding-heart Liberal. The first to cry foul if something bad happened to the kid and the first to cry foul when someone tries to prevent something bad from happening to the kid.

Walt said...

Hell, I'd go with my kid and inspect the washroom before she went just to make sure she didn't sit down in someone else's urine.

I never, ever use the washrooms unless I'm about to lose containment. The way other people leave them icks me out hugely.

Jenn Jilks said...

Cindy you are Ontario's Go Train treasure. You go, woman. It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to teach parents how to raise their kids. I love you dearly for this. Keep on truckin!
/gramma, retired teacher

C.J. Smith said...

I'm the Incredible Hulk for the system.

Leslie J said...

CHILDREN, as this girl, have no business roaming a train at that hour, let alone any hour, ALONE.

I once sent my 7 year old son to a Montana's washroom ALONE. Need I say more? He's been in therapy for the last 3 years.

Listen to this woman. Keep your CHILDREN within reach. Always!

C.J. Smith said...

Hi Leslie

I'm really sorry to hear that. Email me if you want to talk further. I'm willing to listen.

Kelly said...

I think you should start wearing a cape!

common sense said...

When I was 8, I walked 8 city blocks to school and lived to tell about it. Don't blow this out of proportion.

C.J. Smith said...

I think I referenced something I did at 6. Let me scroll up.
Sure did.

So your point was? You got lucky? You're an asshole?

Barb C. said...

The first anonynmous needs his or her head examined. It's parents like you, with this penchant for violence, who think having a bad attitude is how one is going to through life.
So you put your kid in self defence classes to make up for inadequate parenting? Nice.

Alan aka Mystery Man said...

I have two girls. 1 and 3. I can't imagine fast-forwarding to ages 5 and 8 and taking them into Toronto for a Jays game on the train and EVER letting them out of my sight.

A lot of you seem to be missing the point. The GO Train has three levels 1, bi-level, 2. It's so easy to grab a child walking past you and pull them onto your lap. It's so easy to get up and follow a child and push them into one of those washrooms on-board, molest them, shove them back out and disappear into the bowels of the train. It does only take seconds and minutes for some creep to change life as your kid knows it.

So don't be stupid. Who cares how many blocks you walked home when you were 8. Kids at the age of 8 were abducted then. You were just lucky.

Hopefully this father gets it. What a tool.

lswgirl13 said...

You went out on a limb and that took guts. I just think the dad had a momentary lapse of judgement.

mumzthewurd said...

CJ, I totally understand that this sent up a red flag for you. But, I think you'd get a better response if you had been less judgemental. Eg. "I see your hands are full, but I'm not comfortable with a child her age ... etc. I would be happy to show her where the washroom is and wait for her."
Parents, especially Dad's, have to walk a very fine line. I see boys in the women's change room at the pool well past the age that my husband would have allowed our daughters to accompany him. I could quite safely offer to help a dad out with his daughter but no man could offer to help me if I had a little boy without being seen as a pervert. My husband feels awkward watching my daughter play highschool sports; there arn't a lot of parents at practices or games. He considered staying in the car and watching with binoculars until it dawned on him that he was a trench coat short of being arrested.

lswgirl13 said...

EXCELLENT thoughts mumzthewurd, except of course about your husband the perv! ;-)

C.J. Smith said...

I'm not suggesting he go into the bathroom with her but at least follow her and wait outside.

However, I'm still a stranger...

My husband is in the same predicament as yours!

I'm sitting here thinking this all over ... my god, is it so bad now that we consider a dad watching his teen daughter play sports a possible peddie incident in waiting?

I hate it's come to this. I guess I could have positioned myself better. I let my emotions get the better of me - more than I'd like.

TomW said...

mumzthewurd said: "I see boys in the women's change room at the pool well past the age that my husband would have allowed our daughters to accompany him."
That's because girls generally mature at an earlier age than boys.