Much like many other situations that we are forced to talk about these days, having the police called while parenting as a male has become an issue. Just recently while on my son’s grade 8 class trip, It happened to me. There is a certain vicious subset of the female population that seems to have developed the opinion that no father should ever be left unaccompanied by a woman, while they are caring for a child. This subgroup of women seems to believe that the only way for a man to be the sole companion and carer of a child is to have abducted that child.
A few days ago, I accompanied my son on his grade 8 class trip. He is non-verbal autistic and is almost 5’8″. and is also a high flight risk. He requires constant one on one monitoring and significant help with his daily care. Overall the events surrounding his graduation have been amongst the best of his school career. His behaviour was beyond reproach for much of the past few weeks and everything was flowing like clockwork.
On Thursday, June 14th my son’s actual grade 8 graduation happened. His EA and his resource teacher walked him in, and he was smiling and enjoying himself. He sat through a ceremony that was far beyond what I would expect from him. After he received his certificate he came and sat with us for the remainder of the evening. He finished out the ceremony and even the very early part of the dance. Way beyond expectations but we were extremely pleased.
Heading To Halifax
On the following Monday, we left for Halifax. His behaviour was outstanding, we went to the school and he waited patiently for the bus to arrive, then sat and played on his tablet for the entire bus ride. Still no issues whatsoever. We went to Mic Mac Mall and bought lunch. Then we wandered around the mall for 2 hours without a single incident. Back on the bus and on to Citadel Hill. We were there for over an hour and still on his best behaviour. He even allowed me to take all the pictures I wanted with no problems at all.
We moved to the hotel, the candy store and then eventually down to Murphy’s Wharf for supper. Now we already knew that the likelihood was he would not eat the pasta offering. I had a quick meal of the pasta then I took him for a walk to get a burger at Krave. Then it was back down to the same wharf to get ready for the party boat. Now it is important to realize that my son is a creature of habit. So much so that with the exception of special events, he is usually in bed by 6:30 or 7:30 at the very latest, if there is no school. At this point, we are already getting towards 9 PM so it is well past his bedtime.
The Washroom Break (Where It All Starts)
At the last minute before loading the party boat, my son decides now is a great time to go to the washroom. This is not a huge issue since, last minute inopportune times for a washroom break is standard practice for my son. Since there is a Tim Horton’s on the corner, this is no issue at all. I quickly run him up to a local Tim Horton’s on Upper Water St near Murphy’s Wharf. Only a couple of people there, a staff member who gives me a weird look and a man standing outside. It is a simple task, run in, use the washroom and get back. We are tight for time after we left Tim’s, so I get him to run a bit with me so that we don’t keep them waiting and then jump on the boat.
All is great, he sits on the party boat for 2 full hours just enjoying the music and chilling at a table on the lower level. Halfway through the crew member comes up with a note asking me to call a certain police officer. I assume he has mistaken me for one of the authority figures on the trip, so I send him to the teacher who is the leader of the trip. The teacher eventually comes to me with his phone, apparently, the police are looking for me.
Calling The Police, Because Apparently, A Father Alone With His Child is Suspicious
Now at this point, it is important to realize that I have walked my son all over downtown Halifax, two or three cycles within a major mall etc. We have been gone from the house for over 14 hours at this time. Apparently, though someone decided while we were at Tim’s that because I was a male, unaccompanied by my wife, and was holding my high flight risk autistic son by the arm, that I clearly had to be kidnapping him.
See in this person’s mind, there was no other possible explanation for a father to be in the company of his teenaged, special needs son except for an abduction. Now it is impossible for me to guarantee exactly who made the call. However, based on the reactions of those who I saw during his trip to Tim’s my bet is the staff member inside. Her horrified expression when she saw me suggests that she is the likeliest. That it is her that decided in her great and worldly judgement that no mother would ever willingly allow their child to be accompanied solely by their father.
I was originally planning on leaving this discussion alone, however as I have listened to discussions over the past few weeks, there have been plenty of horror stories. Father’s having the police called because they happened to be out alone with their children. Father’s ostracized at the playground because they must be a predator to want to take their kids to the park.
So Much Could Have Gone Wrong
The police are usually pretty good in dealing with the situations, overall. However, the simple fact is that men are constantly at risk of having the police called simply because they are male and in the company of children with no women present. It can be even worse being a single father with a child out in public. The fact that this is an issue is appalling and in all honesty, something that needs to stop.
Men are not predators, we are not evil people. Unfortunately, there is a minority of the female population that seems hellbent on making sure that this is how we are portrayed.
I have not chosen a final course of action. A strong part of me believes that overall, litigation is a necessity. Perhaps this situation can serve as the example that has to be made. An effort to fend off this level of hate towards fathers who are active parents.
The problem is that this situation could have turned out a whole lot worse. The officer who decided to make a call rather than run down guns out made all the difference that night. See under stress many autistics will strike out. And nothing would be more stressful than trying to deal with an officer trying to separate you from your parent for questions when you are autistic, non-verbal and likely have no idea what is going on. To make matters worse, officers have guns and dealing with an aggressive autistic boy could result in a whole lot of heartache.
All because some self-important holier than thou woman felt that a father should not be left alone with his child.