I was basking on post-holiday bliss when I stumbled into the news of the sexually molested kindergartener. After choking on my morning coffee I felt the urge to drown the perpetrators in piping hot coffee, or feed them alive to hungry lions.
And I’m not even yet a parent.
Parents have been in uproar since the boy’s family went to police. And since the tragedy took place in arguably Indonesia’s most popular international school, even if the victim is reportedly Indonesian, many expats who tend to get isolated from domestic affairs suddenly found themselves engulfed in the same issue. Many of my neighbors have kids in that school, and their grim faces these days simply say it all. Expats must juggle possible different education standards of their country of origin and whatever country they may be assigned, so their choices are structurally much fewer than us locals. Repatriating children is also not easy for it divides the family and bleeds budget. I work only with expats in my consulting job and I know their children’s education and well-being in a foreign land, so removed from their organic safety net, far exceeds any other concern.
Beyond protests and rants, some of which oddly are aimed at tuition & teachers’ salary by people who don’t even enroll their kids there that it sounds like veiled schadenfreude to me, the more sober minds are petitioning Parliament to punish child predators harder than the current 5-15 years imprisonment. Within four days 20,000 people including me have signed (www.change.org). I seriously hope that in whatever time they have left our often disconnected legislatives can amend this law, one law that actually serves their constituents’ children.
The Education and Cultural Ministry has also swiftly responded to the public outcry. But just as swiftly I stopped singing praises after I read carefully the Ministry’s post-inspection 4-point statement. The first two points addressed how the said school lacked appropriate permit for early education, while the school as a whole has been fully operating since late ‘70s, and lagged in adjusting its strata to the latest law, the deadline of which had fallen in January 2013. Legal administration is squarely within the Ministry’s authorities and responsibilities, so where the heck the Ministry has been all these years? If this tragedy hadn’t happened, would the Ministry have even realized the administration negligence at all? If the Ministry can’t even keep track on administration, how are we taxpayers supposed to expect it to produce the education blueprint, let alone integrating current issues like child pornography and sexual awareness? Geez.
Back to the sexual molestation case. While we wait for the authorities to get their act together, what have we done to protect our youngsters? I won’t pretend to know firsthand about parenting, yet allow me to humbly share two cents from my upbringing and general observations.
Early on my parents taught me that not only I’m the ultimate owner of my body, there were boundaries where others could see or touch me. I was perhaps four when Mom started mandating a towel upon leaving bathroom, and the lessons gradually expanded. Parents can find similar concept in The Underwear Rule, a practical and child-friendly approach to teach physical boundaries (www.underwearrule.org). If you set these boundaries, it’s easier to stop kids sending uncompromising selfies to whoever they meet online once they play with their first gadget (nowadays often as early as the age of three).
If I ever felt ‘wrong’ or ‘funny’ about my body, included in interaction with others, I had to say “No” to the person and then told my parents so they could help. Kids often worry that telling parents things will get them into trouble, but they may sink into more trouble if they can’t seek help from parents.
3. Buddy System
As an only child I developed independent streaks early, which might equally get constructive and destructive for curious yet innocent mind. Acutely knowing that, my parents made me have at least a friend when walking to and from school, during recess and especially on field trips. Simply put, two kids scream for help louder than one.
“Any father will turn into a raging lion to defend his daughter, but you need to learn how to defend yourself if, God forbid, I can’t get there fast enough.” Dad, circa 1984. The first self-defense they taught was to scream bloody murder and run, before later putting me into karate school. And my parents aren’t alone in this. Last year I saw a garbage man on sidewalk teaching his little daughter to throw simple punches and kicks—a poor yet smart father fully aware of their daily environment. Are you aware of your environment? Are you yet teaching your kids how to defend themselves?
This is for proud parents, braggart uncles or aunties out there. Not all pedophiles act their urges to become sexual molesters, but why should you tempt them? Many people post endless pictures of their kids online, including while in nude (“See how cute my son taking a bath!”), complete with name and age. Some are dimwitted enough to check into Foursquare whenever dropping off or picking up kids from school. And don’t get me started on parents who open social media accounts for a newborn before its umbilical cord is even severed. There’s a line between proudly parading your offspring and turning them into potential prey. Learn that line TODAY.
God help me when I’ve got my own kids one day.