No Photos Please We’re Kids

No Photos Please We’re Kids

It’s a new one on me this, but small fair haired children here are akin to celebrities. Occasionally strangers ask if they can take a photo but usually they don’t even bother to ask, they just go ahead and take a pic. In any European country this would definitely stray dangerously close to child abuse/harassment, especially when said child doesn’t actually want their photo taken, but here it’s normal. Not ok (for us), but normal. The only photographs of my children I want out in the world are one’s that my husband and I have okayed, and that don’t show them in a compromising position, legs akimbo in the pushchair etc. Maybe I’ve read too many daily mail articles, but I can’t help but fear where those unsolicited images could end up, or for what purpose. In no other place I’ve ever lived has it been acceptable to photograph a strangers young children, if someone tried that in a park in England there would be outrage at the invasion of privacy and sinister undertones to the request. I can’t shake that fear, and so politely but firmly declining photograph requests has become part of our life here, and it’s so, so weird.

I don’t think the kids have noticed it, which perhaps make it all the more sinister in my mind, but what if they do notice it one day? Would they stop and smile upon demand for a stranger? One of them would. The one I have woken up in a cold sweat worrying about in the middle of the night with her porcelain skin, dazzling blue eyes and perfect blonde wisps of hair. Oh yes, she would pose up a storm for anyone pointing a camera in her direction. But how do I teach her that it’s not ok for strangers, men in particular, to take photographs of her or with her? Maybe I’m over thinking this, but honestly this feels like I’m having a series of conversations with my daughter that I didn’t think I would have with her until she’s older. A lot older. At no point in the (albeit fairly brief) moving-to-Singapore considerations did I ever think that we would need to start talking to our 3 year old daughter about being aware of her appearance- that she’s more than a pretty blonde girl even though that’s all she hears, that she owns her own body and NO ONE can touch/stroke/cuddle her if she feels at all uncomfortable. And of course she does feel uncomfortable with complete strangers man handling her without her permission, just because they think they can given they are the adult and she is the child. What message is that teaching her? How is a 3 year old to differentiate between a harmless stranger stroking and touching her skin and a stranger with unspeakable thoughts leading to the same actions? Singapore might be incredibly safe, but not everywhere else in the world is, and how can I instill a sense of adventure in her without also teaching her self worth/self awareness/personal safety? Call it culture clash if you will, but surely I’m not the only parent of expat kiddies wondering how to balance an acknowledgement of them being different – both physically and culturally – with also making sure they know that these differences don’t define them.

Anyone gone through anything similar before and can give me any advice on this one?

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2 Comments

  1. laura
    February 18, 2017 / 1:01 am

    no answer for you, but very interesting post

    • The Expat Mama
      February 18, 2017 / 2:06 am

      Yeah it’s a weird one and I still haven’t got my head around this aspect to the culture here at all. It’s a tricky balance between not being too heavy handed and offending people when I decline the photo requests, but also protecting my children from strangers demands…

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