To The Man Who Called My 3-Year-Old ‘Flirtatious’

by Jewel Eliese
Originally Published: 
3-year-old girl holding her hands over her mouth with a surprised expression on her face


You hear the word and may think of sticking your toes in white sand, and the sound of waves crashing as you close your eyes. Or maybe you prefer snow to heat. The way the board feels as it slices through the crisp powder, adrenaline pumping.

Peaceful. Fun.

Our recent vacation was for the view. We watched bison roaming open plains, with tall mountains behind them. The slight fear and excitement of driving Beartooth Highway and staring down steep cliffs. And all these wonderful hours of driving and views with two kids under ten.

Ha. Mother-vacations are like no other.

By the time we arrived at the pool that evening we were exhausted, as vacations tend to do. We were all ready for freedom from car seats and peace. And we found it, except for one tiny moment. Something you said, sir, will stick with me forever.

One thing I’ve always wanted to try was swimming in natural hot water. The kids had wanted to swim since morning, not entirely excited by the concept of driving for hours. Or Buffalo. Bears? Scary.

So we decided to make swimming in the mountains a surprise for them after. In other words, lying.

“Come on guys, get your shoes on, we’re going for a quick drive.” Screams ensued. The little humans did not like the idea of a drive after a drive. But after much convincing we got them seated and strapped safely in.


I felt proud with my suit hidden under my clothes and the kiddos swimwear tucked in my purse, and they screamed in delight when they saw the pool. Maybe I was winning at this mommy thing today.

But it wasn’t entirely what I expected. No rocks and little waterfall fit for a movie, but it was perfect for children with a shallow end and floating toys for all.

Happy kids, happy mom.

After crocodile-wrestling them into their suits, the munchkins swam in water that was chemical free and my daughter was able to swim/walk around without me fearing for her life every ten seconds (more like every 20). Relaxing.

Then I saw you.

I saw you there sitting in the shallow end, feet floating. You were on your own, kids playing around you. You smiled at them.

I wish I could say I had a good feeling about you. I really do.

But I didn’t.

My instincts, woman and motherly, flared up. Yet, what if I was wrong? I shouldn’t judge, so when my daughter started chasing a pink water ball in your direction, I let her, but I followed her.

I admit it.

She was cute. My newly-turned three-year-old girl is a star and loves attention. She sings then waits specifically for applause. Sometimes though, she can be shy, especially towards men, but this time she was not; she was too excited about freedom, water and chasing that ball. She probably looked at you and giggled, I don’t remember.

But I do remember your words.

“You have a very flirtatious little girl,” said with that same smile as before.

My armor was already up before we swam by you, and that comment had my world buzzing. I wasn’t rude, but I did tell you, “She’s not flirtatious. She’s just a little girl,” and turned away.

Soon after, before my husband joined our end of the pool, you left.

I immediately whispered to him what happened and he, being a good man, tried to give you the benefit of the doubt, saying maybe it wasn’t what I thought. Grandma, who was with us, wondered the same.

And that’s understandable. They weren’t there to see the situation.

So let’s take a peek at the word. What does it really mean?

“Flirtatious — adj. behaving in such a way as to suggest a playful sexual attraction to someone.”

Another from says, “The definition of individuals who indicate a sexual interest through common actions.”

Sexual attraction.

Sexual interest.

Alright, down to the gritty. I don’t believe a child, girl or boy, can ever be flirtatious.

How could they ever be? They are only just learning the difference between female and male private parts at this age. They can never show sexual interest at two or three, or freaking ten for that matter.

The whole situation made me feel ill.

I get it. Someone reading this may think that flirt is just a word. I understand how a parent could call their own child a flirt when they blink their big eyes at them. Heart melting. But we shouldn’t call other people’s kids flirtatious. It brings out the wrong message. It condones the sexualization of children.

And you, sir, the gentleman at the pool?

Who knows, you may have just been a kind older man enjoying yourself in the pool. But either way, I’ll remember you and that moment; the first moment I thought of how some men may see my daughter, even at her tender age. Because, though we moms can’t possibly think of such painful things as sexual attraction to kids, they do happen.

And I thank you, sir, for helping me realize that children are not flirts.

But just kids.

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