Chapter one of our book defines a stranger as someone whose house mom or dad have not been in. As parents, we have all spent time or at least stepped into the homes of the children our kids are friends with. Whether it’s dropping them off for a playdate, birthday party, or sleepover, opportunities are frequent for us to cross the threshold of another family’s home and take a look. If things look calm, happy, and safe, guess what – they almost always are. But sometimes gray areas arise, even in homes that “check out” as safe.
What if your 9 or 10 year old daughter has a best friend named Brooke whose parents just got divorced. Brooke spends alternating weekends with mom and dad, who from all appearances are upstanding decent people. This year, Brooke’s birthday falls on a Saturday and it’s dad’s weekend. Brooke really wants two or three of her best buddies to spend the night at her place to celebrate her birthday with her.
You don’t have a problem with sleepovers – your daughter does it fairly often at homes you have been in yourself – but this is different because you are aware that the sleepover is going to happen over at Brooke’s dad’s place. Three or four little girls in a house, alone with a man you have met before at school and dance class or swim team gatherings, a man who you’ve spoken to in passing before and feel at ease around. You’ve seen nothing to indicate he’s a bad guy or anything less than a responsible loving parent. Yet still… three or four little girls in a house, alone with a man, and despite knowing him, perhaps even having been in his house, something is throwing up a red flag in your mind. Are you being overly paranoid? Being prejudicial on no basis other than gender? Wouldn’t it just be simpler for everybody if Brooke had her sleepover on mom’s weekend? The problem is, Brooke’s birthday falls on dad’s weekend and there’s no way she’s going to be talked out of a sleepover on her birthday night, so what do you do?
Here are some facts to consider. Most sexual predators are men. It’s not some unfair bad rap on men – it’s just a simple fact. If given a choice to entrust your child to a man or woman (and all factors but gender being equal), the authors of BSD would recommend choosing the woman. In our Brooke sleepover scenario, however, there is no choice – it’s dad’s house or nothing. While it’s true most offenders are men, it’s also a fact that most fathers are good men. While most men wisely defer to their ex-wives to host the sleepovers, there is nothing inherently wrong with a single father hosting a sleepover. But this is a decision a caregiver of a child must make on their own, using their own good instincts and taking into account their level of comfort with that specific dad. It’s perfectly okay to allow your child to go to Brooke’s sleepover. It’s also perfectly okay to say no. What do you think?