Recently I was thinking how much I had enjoyed raising my daughter and son and, now how much I love our wee granddaughter. I had recently been talking to a friend of mine, also a granddad who dearly loves his son's children.
We were chatting about what the wee ones were getting up to and how much joy they bring to grandparents as they grow and blossom into young adults.
As usual we were bragging about the kids, as one does. Then my old mate, a man I have known all of my adult life, a retired senior police officer, said to me, "but you know Rob I am not a paedo".
I was stunned and saddened that my old friend felt he had to justify to me, someone who has known him for more than 45 years as the good man he is, his clear and appropriate love for his grandkids.
I replied lamely that we are allowed to love our grandkids but we both knew what he meant.
When I was a young father I changed, dressed and bathed my daughter and son all the time, putting them to bed most nights I was home as their mother and I were both shift workers.
Somewhere between then and now I, like many New Zealand men, straight or gay, have developed a fear of being alone with small kids. I love my granddaughter unconditionally and the feeling is mutual. I would give her the world if I could.
She is an utter delight to us both, bringing much joy and activity to our comfortable but quiet retirement when she visits. We are absolutely worn out when she and her support staff, the parents, leave. The bride and I have been known to have wee nana naps following visits.
Sadly, I am not comfortable with being alone with her and will not change her or babysit her alone. This is not a reflection on her parents who say that they trust me completely, it is my problem.
Being an ex-cop who worked in the justice system for many years I know that once an allegation is made against any man, no matter what the outcome, that man is tainted forever.
Why has our society changed so much that menfolk are now in danger of being distant figures in a child's upbringing?
I have a few mates who are teachers. I have asked them how they cope in today's education system. They love teaching kids and, mostly, like their charges. They have a protocol for when a child gets hurt.
There is no such common-sense action of picking the child up and soothing him or her. The male teacher stands nearby, sends another kid for a female teacher and, if the hurt child needs moving or touching urgently, asks another pupil to do this if medically appropriate.
These men, strong capable role models, are forced to stand by while a, sometimes, wee child is lying hurt and perhaps distressed in a playground because they fear the dreaded accusation being made that they were inappropriate with the child. If made this could end their careers as teachers. The allegation is enough, provable or not. Is it no wonder schools cannot attract young males to teaching.
Another old friend, a Justice of the Peace, was working one day in his office when he saw a young boy, 18 months or so, waddle out the electronically operated main doors to his building.
He watched to see if the mother was following. Neither the mother nor anyone else seemed to be around and the child was heading out on to the busy main street. My mate leapt out of his chair and ran out the doors, grabbing the wee man just as he was starting to cross the road in front of a courier van.
The courier driver stopped in time but was shocked to say the least. A woman then ran out of the building shouting to my mate "put my son down", grabbed the child off him and stalked off.
No thanks, nothing. My friend felt awful, was very upset and went home to tell his wife, worried that he may be in trouble. His wife, like all sensible women, said the mother was just feeling guilty and that he did the right thing.
Are men now to be the new pariahs in our society due to the actions of perverts and high profile and strident misandrists?
We have somehow, over the last 40 odd years, allowed this to be done to us through our own fear of being labelled that dreaded word. My father's generation would think we were a bunch of scared wimps