Saturday, May 19, 2012

Male Role Models

One of the old stereotypes about gay men was that they were all child molesters. Like most stereotypes about minorities, that one is untrue. I'm sure that there is a certain percentage of gay men who are indeed pedophiles, but they are a tiny minority. Now the prevailing stereotype of all men in the States, gay or straight, is that they are perverts who are waiting for the perfect opportunity to groom a child in order to molest or abduct him or her. But like the gay child molester stereotype, there are very few straight men who are pedophiles. They are not really everywhere, like many people think now.

Fortunately the base where I work has not given in to "Predator Paranoia" and has many men who work with children of all ages, from infants through high school students. Some of these men would fit the stereotypical profile of a child predator because they are either single or older (or both). But they obviously proved that they were trustworthy enough to be around children; and they are well-liked by the kids and respected by their co-workers and the parents of the kids they work with. I'm going to talk about two of them, though all of the men who work at the Child Development Center, School Age Center, and Teen Center are all wonderful and very professional. I'm glad that the powers that be realize that boys (and girls too) need good male role models.

Larry (not his real name) is the man who runs the Teen Center. He used to work at the School Age Center, but is now strictly at the Teen Center. He is a 30-something single white man who genuinely loves working with kids, especially teenagers. Larry allows the teenagers to be independent as long as they follow the Teen Center's rules. He is a great soccer player and spends countless hours playing soccer outside with the kids. On Friday nights the Teen Center is open late and the kids can help prepare a communal dinner. Larry supervises the dinner preparation and has a way of getting even the most reluctant kids to help out. Getting my son to help me in the kitchen at home is sometimes harder than pulling teeth. But when I pick him up from the Teen Center on Friday nights, he tells me about how he helped to cook dinner with Larry. In addition, Larry helps the teens with their homework and is available to talk with them about anything.

The other man is Jim (also not his real name), who is an older African-American man with grown kids. The kids at both the School Age Center and Teen Center view him almost as a surrogate grandfather. Since most kids here have their grandparents in the States, it's great that the kids have a grandfather figure. When my son was at the School Age Center, he looked forward to playing board games with Jim. When Jim works at the Teen Center when my son is there, my son always tells me interesting stories of Jim's life or wants to show me a bulletin board that Jim made. Every year for Black History Month Jim makes special bulletin boards in both the School Age and Teen Centers. They are not the usual Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks exhibits. One year he did a bulletin board with famous African-American musicians. Another year the board featured the Tuskeegee Airmen and Buffalo Soldiers. My son was very impressed that Jim knew several German soccer legends who played on the Bayern Munich soccer team (my son is a huge Bayern fan). Jim played professional basketball for 8 years in Munich. At that time, the basketball and soccer stadiums were next to each other. Bayern Munich would play its matches in the afternoons and the basketball games were after the soccer matches. The Bayern Munich soccer players would walk over to the basketball stadium to watch the games. I think it's wonderful that the teens can be around an older man who had an interesting life.

At the base where I used to work, the only staff who worked at the various centers were women. There was one man who worked at the CDC there. But he worked strictly in the reception area taking payments and scheduling the kids who only needed hourly care. I'm glad that the base where I work has men working with kids of all ages. These men play outdoors with the kids (it's a good thing they never get tired of playing soccer), help with homework, and even cook Friday night dinners at the Teen Center. Boys and girls can see how men can conjugate German verbs, play soccer, then come in and whip up a delicious dinner. My son is very fortunate to have Larry, Jim and the other men who work at the Teen Center as some of his role models. I hope that this situation does not change.

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