Wednesdays are my day off, and with MJ taking some time off from work it’s been nice for the whole family to hang out together.
In an effort to be “good parents,” we went to a kids playgroup today in Hyannis so Will could play with other kids. He didn’t do so well playing with others at daycare. His provider said he is shy and introverted, preferring to take a toy and play by himself rather than mix it up with the other kids. When he is forced to interact, it’s not pretty. He usually cries and screams until someone picks him up and removes him from the situation. So obviously that needs to be fixed.
So we get there and there’s 4-5 other kids around Will’s age. And as I anticipated, I was the only father in attendance. We introduced ourselves and put Will down to play. As expected, he just sat by himself with one toy. We constantly tried to push him into the circle of babies but he wasn’t really having any of it.
MJ left at one point to go make him up a bottle while I sat and continued to try to get him to play with the other kids. He was turning his back on the group and constantly trying to climb up my leg. So I spun him around, picked him up and plopped him right in the middle of the circle. He did not take well to that and the whining quickly ensued. But I didn’t care because he has to learn to play with others, so I left him there.
“Oh no,” said one of the other women there. “It’s OK, mommy will be back soon.”
If I hadn’t been so stunned at her comment, perhaps I could’ve thought of a proper reply. Just think about how insulting that is. Basically she’s saying — without ever having met me or Will — that 1) my baby must cry whenever left alone with me and 2) I’m incapable of taking care of him.
I shouldn’t have been shocked by this. Despite the fact that I strive to be an involved dad, there’s a societal prejudice when it comes to how fathers are perceived. We are breadwinners. We live to work and children are nothing but a necessary annoyance we simply condone. Sure we might change a diaper if we’re nagged enough, but we do it clumsily. When we feed our babies it’s a disaster, with food flung about the room. Then mom comes in, flashes her amused smile, pats us on the head and cleans everything up.
Basically dads are reduced to an amalgamation of all the sitcom stereotyped dads we’ve ever seen.
And I’m partially to blame for some of this. I fall into the trap of acting like a “Dumb Dad” sometimes. For instance, I should’ve said something to that know-it-all mommy. But instead I just laughed as I watched all of the women there try to conjure up guesses as to why a father was actually attending one of these groups. I almost felt like I was invading or trespassing on their turf.
And that pisses me off because I hear so many moms talk about how they want their husbands/boyfriends more involved in their kids’ lives. Show up more, help out more…but then when we do show up we’re often subject to ridicule, accusatory glances and snide comments, however unintentional they might be.
So to combat this kind of ignorance, I’m going to start a new segment of Daddy Files. Each month, I’m going to trade e-mails with or interview a different parenting expert. I’ll talk to dads, moms, other parent bloggers and hopefully some experts in the field. And before I interview them, I’ll let you know who has agreed to speak with me and I’ll list their credentials and areas of expertise. Then, you’ll have the opportunity to send me some topics you’d like them to tackle or some questions you’d like answered. And I promise I’ll work it into the interview. Then I’ll post the whole thing on here and we’ll talk about it.
See? it’s not all poop stories and me bitching about not being able to watch The Three Stooges. You might actually learn something (God forbid) and I’ll feel like I’m doing something productive instead of just making a fool of myself on the Internet.
I’m trying to line up our first guest speaker right now, and I’ll let you know as soon as it’s worked out. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions I’m all ears.