Several times in the last few days I have caught myself worrying about what people might think about entirely innocent situations I write about, or find myself in the middle of.
Take the post yesterday evening about walking along the beach with my teenage daughter – and her holding my hand for the first time in a while. Somebody commented that it came across as creepy. Why? Why should a Dad holding hands with his daughter be creepy? What on earth has happened to the world?
Of course there is a back-story to the post – one that most parents of teens are familiar with – about kids growing up and not wanting to be seen holding the hands of their parents any more. Not all kids go through it, but some do – and it’s kind of amusing when it happens. You don’t really think of it at the time, and then you quietly smile to yourself when they seek out your hand in a public place – particularly if you know there are anxiety, or confidence issues going on at the same time.
There was another moment during the holiday that I wasn’t going to write about, but now I’m changing my mind. I’m not going to let a few dirty minded idiots ruin the world for everybody else.
I was out playing with the children in the waves while on holiday, taking turns to dive under the waves, fall into them, and generally horse around as you do. While floating around in the deeper water watching their antics, our eldest swam out to me – out of her depth – and clung to me. Quite apart from grabbing at the sunburn on my shoulders (which hurt like hell) my first thought wasn’t of stopping her from coughing her lungs up after trying to swim straight through a barrelling wave – or swallowing half the ocean – it was what her grabbing me and climbing all over me might look like to people on the beach.
It’s awful really, isn’t it – that a family have to check how they appear to those around them – that we end up worrying so much about what others think – that we might say “you can’t hang on to me any more – here let me hold you at arm’s length like some sort of minimal contact therapist”. The more I think about it, the angrier I get.
When the kids were little, and they raised their arms to be lifted, we didn’t think twice – but now they are older – growing in body, but not in life experience – suddenly we have to check both our own and their actions, because we don’t want others to think badly of them – to lear, gawp – or form incorrect assumptions.