Danger: Dad in Playgroup

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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13 thoughts on “Danger: Dad in Playgroup

  1. DUDE! That sucks!

    I can say that I have been in that type of situation. I remember last year, my wife couldn’t make it to “Mother’s Day Tea” at my daughters daycare and I didn’t want her to be the only kid with no one there for her, so I went in my wife’s place. Talk about AWKWARD! I had thought there would be at least one or two other dads, but none showed up.

    I did get a very pretty rose and frilly card though!

    I felt so icky afterward that I took the rose and card straight over to my wife’s work and dropped them off for her just to get the weird feeling off of me.

  2. Hate to burst your bubble but that is how most “playgroup people” are. I am a Mom and I feel the same way going into those groups. If you are too young or not a Cape Cod hippie, or if gasp… you work then you are not like them and you are out in the cold too. Every once and a while you find a good open group of diverse people…. but chances are they will be busy being normal the next week and won’t be there.

  3. It is sad how clique-ish some of these groups are, especailly for people who are outside of their norm. I personally love it when dads take the time to enjoy these little moments with the munchkins. The more I do with my two boys the more I see how much my husband misses by working two jobs. Start your own playgroup.

  4. Awesome post. I take quite a bit of pride in being a little non-traditional, but I imagine that many eyes directed at me–especially with a little one running in the opposite direction of me while she holds her bleeding lip–would even make me flinch quite a bit.

  5. I agree with Anonymous up there. I’ve tried taking my older daughter to a few different playgroups, and with the exception of one (that was a working-mom playgroup) they were all very stuffy and not friendly at all. Luckily all my friends now have kids so I have my own built-in play group.

    And as a soon-to-be single mom, I’m thinking I need to find a playgroup with lots of dads so I can meet someone decent! :D

  6. Aaron, unfortunately I don’t think it was all because you are a guy. Stereotypical playgroup moms tend to do that with anyone whom they assume is not just like them…too old, too young, too career oriented, too whatever. It is like that at the playground even sometimes. If you find a good group, however, playgroup can be rewarding for the men, women, and children. You are doing a great job with Will and there is nothing wrong with being loving and fun. Keep it up!

  7. I don’t think it is because you’re a guy either. My partner took our kids to the playgroups and on the off day that I showed up, I was considered an outsider. Just keep showing love to Will and they will know you’re a good dad. That’s all that really matters anyway! I like the idea of starting your own group with dads.

  8. I can totally relate. I have not been to many playdates but I have taken my daughters places by myslef many times and stepped on mommy turf. I thought about wearing a dress the next time but nixed the idea becuase I have a goatee.

  9. Don’t worry. You will win them over with your fabulous personality next time. If not, show them your curling skills!!

    But, in all seriousness, it’s awesome you’re taking Will to playgroup. It’s a perfect chance to socialize him. He’ll be a better rounded adult. Of course, I’m bias and I think he’s perfect already.

  10. Hey man, I know how you feel. At the same time, once they figure out you’re not a creep or a cretin or a spy, they’ll not only accept you, but you’ll also get kudos you don’t really deserve just because you’re a man who gives a crap about his kids. The other thing you could do, which I have done, is try a number of play groups til you find one you like. Lastly, Massachusetts dad right here, too! Glad to meet you.

  11. I know what you mean. I attend Early Childhood Family Education classes with my daughter. The class consists of us along with 11 other kids and their moms. I’m sure the adult discussion is much different than it would be if I weren’t there.

    Abd thanks for checking out my blog. :-)

  12. I think I would have just gone for the jugular and gotten a dazed and crazed look and announced to the room, “IT PUTS THE LOTION IN THE BASKET!” walked out and chalked it up to taking one for the team lol. Hilarious post!

  13. There is one regular dad at out paly group he’s just one of the parents. I took a single friend and our sons to a random play group when we were visiting my dad. There was the lone token dad and his son that first thing she said is “He’s hot I wonder if he is single?” So maybe some mom’s or disgruntled housewives our thinking it.

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