Watching my toddler figure out how to language is fascinating. Yesterday we were stumped when he kept insisting there was a “Lego winner” behind his bookshelf - it turned out to be a little Lego trophy cup. Not knowing the word for “trophy”, he’d extrapolated a word for “thing you can win”. And then, just now, he held up his empty milk container and said, “Mummy? It’s not rubbish. It’s allowed to be a bottle.” - meaning, effectively, “I want this. Don’t throw it away.” But to an adult ear, there’s something quite lovely about “it’s allowed to be a bottle,” as if we’re acknowledging that the object is entitled to keep its title even in the absence of the original function.

One time one of my coworkers was talking about his daughter (who was only 5-6 at the time) and how he was already worried about boys, etc. once she got older. He wasn’t one of those dads, who would quite literally hunt down a teenage boy with a shotgun over some backseat shenanigans. He was just a concerned dad.

He asked me what my dad used to do to scare all of the boys away from me, or to at least make sure they were good to me.

My answer?


My dad never once said, “Katie, if a boy hits you, make sure to bring him back here so I can make him pay.”

Instead, my kind, gentle-soul dad expressed anger and utter contempt for men who beat their wives (and vice versa), and has never in his life raised his hand against me or my mother.

My dad never once said, “Katie, don’t go out with a boy who’s rude to the waitress.”

Instead, my father has treated every single server we’ve had throughout my entire life (except the rare ones who were rude first) with respect and courtesy.

My dad never once told my brothers to get up and offer the pregnant lady their seat on the subway.

Instead he was the first one to stand up, and smiled proudly when his young sons copied him when 2 other women boarded.

My dad didn’t raise me to only make good decisions when he’s there looking over my shoulder. He showed me what to look for in a man, not by preaching at me or declaring that he was the perfect mold. But his treatment of others (esp women) is the foundation for my standards when it comes to men.

So, parents, you want to make sure all of those Bad Apples stay away? Step one is to demonstrate what a Good Apple looks like, up close and personal.

Because if you’ve taught your daughters to respect themselves enough to have high standards, there won’t be any need for you chase any Bad Apples away. Your daughter will take care of that for you.


More photos of Mongolia’s reindeer-herding minority ethnic group, the Tsaatan, by Joel Santos.

Children are responsible for training reindeer for riding, because the reindeer are not strong enough to carry an adult until they are fully grown, and it works best to introduce them to the idea early. A two year old reindeer, old enough for a child to ride, is called dongor; an adult reindeer is a hoodai.