What Can Happen When Grown Men Hang Out with a Little Girl

A bunch of men and a little girl? This vignette came as a comment from Havva as we were discussing an idea that sounds almost creepy in our predator-obsessed world: the adults that kids are attracted to.

I was forever questioning workmen and contractors in my neighborhood.  One of the quick ways for mom to get me out the door was to mention there was work in progress near by.  When I was 4 my parents added onto the house and I was all over the contractors.  I got out my little shovel and dug the foundation along side them, asking along the way how to keep the sides flat and the bottom level.  I watched them drill the studs and asked about the the patterns of the holes.  They even let me watch them pull wiring, though they had to keep me back for lack of eye protection.  And I quickly saw why that distance was needed.  They let me follow them practically everywhere that was reasonably safe, and taught me to watch out for hazards.  I asked them a thousand and one questions.  They did their level best to answer, even when I lacked the experience to understand, or they didn’t quite know.

Unsurprisingly, I went into engineering. The construction environments I have since encountered have been larger, and offered greater and more varied hazards.  But those first lessons have severed me well.  When I got married my parents held an open house.  The contractor and his lead foreman, with encouragement from the whole crew, were there.  It touched me that two decades on, the experience stuck with the contractors as much as it did with me.

Touches me, too. Good touch! Not bad touch. – L


Building trust.

Social contractors. 

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39 Responses to What Can Happen When Grown Men Hang Out with a Little Girl

  1. James Pollock July 16, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

    “Was she “attracted” to the men OR “interested/fascinated” by what they were doing?”


  2. pentamom July 16, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    If she was “attracted to” the men themselves, so what? Every kind of attraction is not sexual/creepy — she may have been attracted to them in the sense that she thought they were cool to be around. Younger kids are “attracted to” my 22 year old son because he’s always up for playing their kind of play with them. That’s what often happens when a boy has a brother 8 years younger.

  3. Barry Lederman July 16, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    This is a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sarah Lederman July 16, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    I love this story. When I was 4, I used to love helping any neighbor I saw washing their car, or petting the neighbors’ dog when they walked them. One woman told me she still remembers when I asked her if she could bring her friendlier dog next time (instead of the one that didn’t like kids). Although I’m not going into the car-washing or pet-walking businesses, I appreciate that part of my (ongoing, I’m 17) free-range childhood.

  5. WCB July 16, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    “But those first lessons have severed me well.”

    Then I’d say that kids DO need to stay away from dangerous construction sites . . . . that or an amusing type-o could use a correction. 😉

  6. Warren July 16, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

    Always had young ones around the garage. If you are willing to engage them, they will be drawn to you and what you are doing. They make great helpers. Kids are sponges and look for things to absorb.

    Problem with today’s society, that all men are evil, is it is counter to the idea the kids need positive male role models. Paranoid mom’s can’t have it both ways.

  7. SanityAnyone? July 16, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

    Hooray for woman engineers! I was the one taking apart the vacuum cleaner and other household appliances.

    I think the OP was off topic since this normal experience thankfully wasn’t destroyed by fear or misplaced self-righteousness, but I still enjoyed it.

  8. John July 16, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    When I was a young boy growing up in Wisconsin during the 1960s, there was a major dutch elm disease epidemic that was killing all of the beautiful elm trees that lined the streets. It got so bad that the city I lived in had to call in workers from the neighboring city to assist them in removing the dying elm trees that lined the avenues.

    Well, it was a huge thrill for us kids watching the workers as they sawed down the trees. After a hot afternoon swim at the city swim pool as I’d ride my bike home, I would always come across a tree or two or three being sawed down. So us kids would be sitting there on our bicycles and watching the huge elm trees fall to the street with a big swoooooosh! Then it was just as thrilling for us kids afterwards as the workers would be carving up the fallen tree with their chain saws and then throwing the branches in a bush chipper. Us kids were really infaturated with that bush chipper as it would grind each branch down to sawdust while making a dechreshendo type of sound. We’d sit there on our bicycles until every last branch was ground up!

    Now as an adult, I’d be bored watching a tree being cut down and ground up but as a kid, it was thrilling. It was the same thing for us kids watching city workers reblacktop a road or laying cement in a driveway. We were just mesmerized by it! I don’t know what it is that is so intriguing for kids to watch construction workers but it certainly was a very pleasant memory from my childhood, watching them saw down all those once beautiful shade trees and experiencing the aroma of fresh blacktop as it’s being laid!

  9. Havva July 16, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    Don’t know if you know the old joke… “Last week I didn’t know how to spell engineer, now I are one.”

    Nothing severed thank goodness.

  10. James Pollock July 16, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    “But those first lessons have severed me well.”
    “Don’t know if you know the old joke… “Last week I didn’t know how to spell engineer, now I are one.”
    Nothing severed thank goodness.”

    Gee… I was just developing a theory that you’d turned your engineering skills towards some kind of magic act…

  11. The Other Mandy July 16, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

    It’s great for girls (ok boys too) to be exposed to these sorts of things. I was always (and still am) fascinated by building and remodeling. When we’ve had workers to the house, I’m always the one hanging around asking questions.

    I didn’t become an engineer, but hanging out with Dad in the woodshop and fixing stuff with Mom (taught by her mechanic dad) gave me a great foundation of spatial skills. I needed them for science, calculus in college and optometry school, and I use them daily helping kids and adults develop visual spatial skills they lost or never had in the first place (too much sitting in front of the computer as opposed to using hands/eyes/body).

    I’m happy I have a little boy now, so we can go to building sites and watch the workers– it would be a bit strange for me to do this alone.

  12. lollipoplover July 16, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

    This is such a lovely story.

    My son was also the one obsessed with construction sites. His favorite passages from his beloved Richard Scarry “What do people do all day?” book were about “Building a new house” and “Building the new road”.
    Same thing with the millions of questions. I do think some children are just naturally inclined towards certain pursuits, like engineering, and need adults to guide them towards the “light”.

  13. John July 16, 2015 at 3:17 pm #

    You know it’s funny. I’m 59-years-old but when I’m out and about on a little run through my subdivision on a warm summer day and there are construction workers laying blacktop and I get a good whiff of it, I’m taken right back to my childhood!

    Who would ever believe that the aroma of freshly laid blacktop would invoke wonderful childhood memories? Weird weird!

  14. Arul July 16, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

    Nice post, thank’s for sharing.

  15. Jessica July 16, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    I can imagine my 3 year old doing something like this. She loves to “help” mow the lawn, and runs to get her own toy tools if any tools come out. One of her favorite games is to “fix” her toys with her tools.

  16. Liz July 16, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

    My dad had a glass company when I was a kid, and on the nights where my mom couldn’t watch me, he’d set me up in the shop with tools and told me to go at it. It started with a hammer and nails (I think I was about 5). Then I learned to cut and press screens. Then cut the glass itself, saving my pennies until I bought my own glass cutter. When I was 11, I started answering the phones and helping customers, and that was my “allowance.” I paid taxes and paid into Social Security. My husband started working in his parent’s restaurant when he was about that age, starting with washing dishes and busing tables. He now manages it.
    I’m sure some people would be disgusted- all that glass, those sharp objects, those knives, that hot water, etc. But it was good for us. We earned our money with honest work, and learned a trade starting at young ages. If our parents had let fear rule them, we wouldn’t have those memories and lessons today.

  17. Mary Speed July 16, 2015 at 4:10 pm #

    Yeaayyy!! Children need to find out about how their civilization works, builds, assists, includes, ….. And children in day-care don’t get to watch adults–at least, not enough to get some imprinting about what an adult is–They just interact with some teenager smiling, and giving them things, and then throwing things away. That ruined my oldest sister!!!!!!!!!!–at least, for decades. And I see that ruination in a LOT of the people around me.

    Seeing people happy and productive in adult ways is a lot of what families are about.

  18. Elsie K July 16, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

    When my mom was a little girl she and the other neighborhood kids spent the summer roaming the neighborhood, watching construction men work, and would then eat brown bag lunches with them. Her mother knew and approved. I can’t imagine such a thing happening now for two reasons: parents wouldn’t like it and neither would the workers. It seems that many adults I see don’t want young children spending time or watching them. It’s my personal thought that such people may not have their own pleasant childhood memories of watching construction, tree felling, or other work. I do have good childhood memories, and when approached by a child I usually think of it as my opportunity to pass my fond recollections and experiences on to someone else.

  19. Aimee July 16, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

    I love this story. For thousands of years kids have learned to do what they will do for a lifetime by doing that work alongside adults (farming, family businesses, apprenticeships, etc). Only today do we have such an age-segregated society in which kids only get to start experiencing the world of paid work in their mid-teens (my 14-yr-old is so frustrated by how difficult it is to find odd jobs OR a “real” job). Good for her!!!!!

  20. Havva July 16, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

    @Edward Hafner,
    It wasn’t just the work they were doing. If you replaced them by robots who just worked in silence I’m sure I still would have been curious to watching my house transformed. But it wouldn’t have been worth a fraction of the hours I spent out there with those men. Those men mattered, personally. Because they knew things. And because they were willing to share that knowledge with me. They could tell me why you pick one nail over another. About the different types of wood. About how to prevent splintering. About mistakes that could damage tools, or materials. Along the way the taught me a fair amount about life too. About how to have fun without being unsafe or unproductive. That being gruff doesn’t necessary mean being hateful, but can come from caring. About working hard, and treating people with respect. I look up to them for everything they taught me.

  21. Eric S July 16, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

    @pentamom: “…she may have been attracted to them in the sense that she thought they were cool to be around.”

    Or kids see the person as being similar to their own parents. In this case, perhaps the workers reminded her of her father. So she grilled and mimic them like she does her own dad. I still recall an experience I had last December. I was waiting in line at Starbucks, when a little boy (probably around 4), just walked up beside me and took my hand in his. Didn’t say a word. We just looked at each other. He looked completely normal, I was a little perplexed. I started to look around and caught his mother’s eye. She didn’t notice he had walked up to me. She looked a little embarrassed, and apologized as she took her son back. I assured her it was ok. He actually made my day.

  22. Dee July 16, 2015 at 5:15 pm #


    A coworker recently shared that a family member was concerned when her nephew, age 16, was going to watch her daughter, age 10, for a week before camp began. Because, you know, he may get “urges.” I was sickened and appalled. Yes, sadly some people really do assume all men are predators.

  23. James Pollock July 16, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    “When my mom was a little girl she and the other neighborhood kids spent the summer roaming the neighborhood, watching construction men work”

    When I was in middle school, we moved into a house that was one of the first built in a four-phase housing development. We started with the main streets in, with cutouts for where the cul-de-sacs for phases 2, 3, and 4 would later be added. The streetlights were in. The land had previously been used for farming, so there were no trees anywhere except for saplings that people planted after they moved in.

    We would have been shooed off the active worksites, I’m sure… nobody, so far as I know, actually tried to get close while the men were working, but every afternoon they’d pack up and leave, and daring children could slip in and look around at the partly-completed construction. And scraps of plywood and siding could be harvested, to build things, like forts, clubhouses, bicycle ramps or maybe even something useful.

  24. Donald July 16, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

    Children are scary. It’s a shame that it’s come to this. However stranger danger works both way. If a child (stranger) approaches me, I quickly look around for parents or witnesses that will see that I didn’t approach the child. If none can be found, finding other adults is my priority. If I see a child crying, I get another adult before I ask the child what’s the matter?

    If I’m driving and am lost I will absolutely not ask directions from a kid walking home from school or any girl 18 years old or younger.

  25. Julie July 16, 2015 at 5:54 pm #

    The Summer I turned ten three homes were built in the field across the street from my house. When they dug the basements give piles of dirt were there for maybe a month. My friends and I rode our bikes up and over those piles with abandon. The Contractor kept sending his youngest man over to chivvy us off the piles. He was in his early twenties, nearly seven feet tall and had the brightest red hair and fairest skin we had ever seen on a person; and he was gruff as hell. We gave him lip until his face turned brick red, then would go away for awhile. Imagine our dismay when he and his family moved into the very house he had chased us from the most!

    He was a friend to every kid on the street, a Scoutmaster, and taught us all how to fish. He and his family still live there, 43 years! I was over there today visiting. Working men rock!

  26. Papilio July 16, 2015 at 6:30 pm #

    Aaww, what a sweet story, Havva. The only thing missing is a picture of 4yo you working with the men. Come on, there must be pictures! 🙂

  27. Lindsay July 16, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

    My four year old son LOVED helping the contractors put a cement driveway and patio in at my in-laws’ house- and they loved teaching him to do everything they could, even pouring and evening out the cement. He’s helped install a pool, cut down trees, and fix plumping. He’s a capable child.

    Today at the store he held the door open for an elderly gentleman, and introduced himself. He helped an elderly woman out of her motorized scooter. He went into the men’s restroom (!) alone, and came out chatting with a young man who reminded him to wash his hands, and helped with the soap. He shook the young man’s hand, and said nice tattoos. Did I mention my son is four, and autistic? He was nonverbal until this year, and LOVES talking to strangers. And I let him. He’s become so much more capable and mature since I’ve just let go.

  28. sexhysteria July 17, 2015 at 2:09 am #

    Nothing wrong with girls being “attracted” to men, and even playing nude touching games with same-age peers (“Now you be the man”). Read researcher Sharon Lamb’s great book: “The Secret Lives of Girls.”

  29. Steve July 17, 2015 at 2:16 am #

    I love this post, and many of the comments. This is what more people need to hear about. And I’ll bet there are thousands of stories like this waiting to be told.

    Rose bushes have blossoms and thorns.

    Fear-mongers focus on the thorns.

    Free Range Parents focus on the blossoms… and the buds that will soon open.

  30. Brantley July 17, 2015 at 2:39 am #

    Great articles. But that also was twenty years ago and, speaking from experience! No one dares to do that now with their four year old or any age that cannot defend themselves against grown man not equipped with pepperspray and it’s not just strangers and builders (who now days don’t even speak English because they work for cheap and longer so you’d have a battle find your child’s during those critical hours, anyways.)it could be a neighbor, spmreone from school, church, an after school activity!! The possibilities are endless. It’s a whole different world we live in now! The worlds where twenty years ago the news wasn’t full of children being kidnapped by murderers and pedifiles, as it is now. I’ve even gotten to where I can’t even watch the news every day anymore due to all the violence it contains. There has to be something positive out there they can report on, or will that bring down their ratings or something? But as for me, I will continue to protect my children from predators until they are of age to be able to competently do it themseles!

  31. Hart July 17, 2015 at 7:10 am #

    Brantley: new to the site or just a troll?

  32. Edward Hafner July 17, 2015 at 7:41 am #

    @ Havva:

    I don’t mean to belittle what you did back then, I agree with others, it is a great story. Just think the words being used to describe it aren’t quite correct.

  33. lollipoplover July 17, 2015 at 8:56 am #

    “But as for me, I will continue to protect my children from predators until they are of age to be able to competently do it themseles!”

    Please PLEASE share with us this magical age!! I am in awe of those who hold the crystal ball of maturity to set their children free in the world completely protected. Gosh, I’m in my 40’s and don’t know if I could completely protect myself from all predators. When do we get this super power???

    And here I always thought the objective of raising a child was to develop emotional maturity, street smarts, and common sense with real-life experience. I guess I will wait for you to impart the wisdom of this magic age and I will lock little Rapunzel in the tower to keep her safe.

  34. Warren July 17, 2015 at 10:21 am #


    Who is going to protect you? By your logic you need protection. Listen, I am 6 foot 2, and 235 lbs. I work out and have a physically demanding job. I would say that less than 5% of the population could defend against someone my size. So by your logic 95% of the population should never be alone.

    As for the news being full of predators and such, what news are you watching? The newspapers I read haven’t had such stories in years, nor the news channels.

    You do realize the Criminal Minds is not news it is fiction?

  35. Papilio July 17, 2015 at 10:55 am #

    To illustrate Warren’s point: http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BIzW1MQCcAAuNlT.jpg
    Really Brantley, what’s she gonna do?*

    (Actually, the vast VAST majority of victims in Criminal Minds are adults (or, say, 16-year-olds who, for all the predator knew, could have been 18 or 21 as well). They’re really not that interested in kids.)

    *Lenore, I’m sure this was a nice guy, but since we’re switching to OMG-BUT-WHAT-IF Panic Mode… 😀

  36. JdL July 17, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

    But those first lessons have severed me well.

    Dang, that had to hurt! Seriously, though, excellent entry, a reminder that many men are helpful and supportive, not child molesters.

  37. En Passant July 17, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    lollipoplover July 17, 2015 at 8:56 am:

    I guess I will wait for you to impart the wisdom of this magic age and I will lock little Rapunzel in the tower to keep her safe.

    Don’t forget to shave little Rapunzel’s head. Otherwise expect major hi-jinks. You can’t be too careful these days.

  38. Old Music July 19, 2015 at 9:59 am #

    Commentor ‘sex hysteria’ is a pedophile apologist who not only thinks that ‘adult child’ sex is ok, but also says that child rape is harmless – please reject this pedophile apologist from your community.

  39. Jen July 28, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

    Should I be worry when a 22 year old man wants to hang out with 14 year boys. He was a friend of my older son but he went to the Marines but he still visits the house very often I have not seen any strange things yet but I’m worry because the kids won’t talk. He takes them out but the kids paid most of the times bc they work for a few hrs in a ice cream place. This guy works but he never pays anything when he goes out with us or I think with them I’m worry that something is going on.