I’m a dad at a play group. And I am trouble.
Odds are if you’re a dad and you’ve attended one of these local get-togethers where parents bring their kids to a predetermined destination for play-time or story-time, the first thing you notice is the sound of a record scratching when you walk in. And a cursory glance around the room tells you why: you’re the only vaginally-challenged parent in attendance.
Yup, these things are dominated by moms. Moms who have been coming to the playgroup for months, maybe even years, and have an established pecking order and way of doing things. Territorial moms who eye you suspiciously. And if they had those little cartoon bubbles over their heads, the text within would say:
“Who’s this deadbeat?” and “Why isn’t this bum at work?” and “Who is this hot dad and please let him be single!” OK, the last one is wishful thinking but I digress.
It’s actually like being the new kid in school, because no one talks to you yet everyone seems to be watching you because they’re curious and want to see how you’ll react. One option is to start introducing yourself to people, which I did. But I got a chilly reception on my first attempt from a mom who was looking at me like my picture might’ve been the one from the Level 3 sex offender mugshot hanging up at the post office. After that initial letdown, I got gunshy so I kept to myself and looked after Will.
From that point on all I wanted to do was blend in, let Will have fun and get out unscathed.
So all the kids are playing with balls and hula hoops and running around like crazy. Most of them were Will’s age, but I’m raising a gigundo toddler who is bigger than all the other kids his age. He doesn’t know his own strength and has a hard time controlling himself when he gets excited, kind of like Lenny from “Of Mice and Men.” He totally can’t be trusted with a rabbit (or a farm girl with extraordinary hair).
So everything is going well and Will is playing on the mats. He was running around cavorting with a few other kids when all of a sudden he stopped on a dime, spotted a ball on the other side of the gym and reversed course suddenly.
Just in time to smack face first into another girl.
The poor girl immediately fell to the ground and covered her face, while Will stood dazed for about two seconds before he was off and running toward the ball. I walked over to the little girl and got down on one knee to ask her if she was OK, at which point she removed her hands from her face to display a lip that was bleeding at a pretty good clip.
“Oh sweetie, you’re bleeding. Where’s your mommy?” I said.
The poor girl couldn’t hold in the whimper that had been slowly building, and all of a sudden she turned and ran to find her mom screaming “MOMMY!” I followed her because I wanted to be sure she was OK. The mom didn’t see the accident, but instead finds her daughter running up to her in a panic, bleeding profusely and followed closely by the sole weird guy who showed up and ruined this week’s play group.
I tried to explain what happened and that it was a total accident, but I don’t think she believed me.
Basically the whole experience reinforced what I already knew. That many moms still think parenting is their turf and they can have a severe problem with men encroaching on their territory. Not all moms, but some.
I felt like the manatee who accidentally swam too far north and ended up in Cape Cod instead of staying south in warmer waters where he belongs. Onlookers said they felt it was “like seeing Bigfoot.” And unfortunately, the chances of seeing fathers at play groups and spying Bigfoot or a manatee off the Coast of Massachusetts are about the same.
Not to mention the fact that my play group experience was not at all unlike slowly freezing to death and eventually dying from hypothermia, just like the poor manatee.
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