Thursday, February 5, 2009

Dad on the Outside

I had this interesting series of experiences that really made me think a lot about a man's place in the parenting universe, or at least what I think is a man's place.

Mind you, a lot, if not all, of this stems from my own neurosis and projection, and in retrospect I realized that it was all in my head, but there was some pretty serious introspection going on there.

It all stemmed from my history coming back to haunt me. You see, I have a brother, T, who is a pathological liar. I mean he lies so much that at times it gets ridiculous, though if you didn't know him, you would absolutely buy into it because he's incredibly smooth and charming, and dare I say, good looking. At times, the lies come out of his mouth so profusely, you get a sense that he simply can't help it, so the best approach is to take everything he has to say with a grain of salt. It makes interacting with him difficult, to say the least.

Anyway, some more big lies of his recently came to light, and someone close to me pointed out that with a brother, mother, and father who lie so much to cover for themselves, how can I, by virtue of our blood, have not come out of it unpolluted. I.e., how can anyone assume that I'm not lying all the time, as well?

Well, besides being floored by that assertion, it got me thinking, how can I expect anyone who knows the truth about my family to believe me? I don't have self-esteem issues, but it did make me think that my brother is not the sort of person I would ever trust with our own children, and maybe part of that is because he's a man.

Then, that same day, we had a moment we had at the playground that seemed to solidify this notion. We had trouble getting out the door on time and when we'd finally managed to get to the rec center, it was almost 4:00PM, which meant that our friends had already been out there for at least an hour. Right at the moment that our kids ran over to join the kids, and when I subsequently sat down to oversee them, the teachers called themin and said it was time to go inside. Pure coincidence, I know, but I'd just read an article that day about a dad who was refused entry into a playgroup because he was a man, and my neurotic mind kicked into full gear and wondered, why are they leaving upon our arrival. Besides, now my kids had nobody to play with.

It really got me to thinking that it can be a bit awkward having a lone man around. It can change the whole dynamic of everything, and while it's perfectly acceptable for a woman to play with kids that aren't her own, there is no denying that it can be a little weird if a man did the same, especially if he didn't have any children of his own.

I realize I'm buying into the whole sexist stereotype of dads vs. moms on the playground, but when you really get down to it, there aren't too many creeps out there that are women. I guess, in the end, I understood the teacher's POV if they had reservations about a strange man, even if he was a dad with his kids, even if he did know him on a casual basis, lingering around the school kids. For that matter, I also understood if the parents voiced some concerns. Heck, I would have, or rather, I would have found out who this guy was.

It bummed me out, however, that there might be a possibility that our kids wouldn't have a group of kids to play with on a casual, unstructured basis, which exactly what the after-school program offers. So I resolved to resolve this issue, and the next day, I did what I would normally never do if I were on my own-I went and talked to the teachers.

Of course, I had a plan to go with it. I scrambled to clean up and get dinner ready so we could get out the door before school got out, so we could arrive when the after-school kids got there, of course. I also wanted to get there early enough so that if the teachers brought the kids in when we got there, then I'd know for sure something was up, and would come forward and inquire.

Well, it turns out, as always, my anxieties were completely unfounded. I was lucky in that B and MJ were out there, my chums, and they must have thought I was crazy (they were right) because they said not only was it fine for us to play with the school kids, but they loved for parents to be out there and involved, as well. Even if he was a scary looking dad like myself.

It didn't change the fact, at least in my mind, however, that it is still a little awkward to be a man in a woman's world. I don't know if I can hang with a large group of moms. In fact, I know I couldn't, but for all it's worth, I'm not good in large groups of any sort, so it's not just with moms. However, I find myself surrounded by moms on many occasions because that's the world I live in, and I'm willing to put myself in these uncomfortable (that's putting it lightly) situations, where I'm sure I'm not always welcome, of course, because it is what's best for my kids. They want to play with other kids in assorted situations, and the reality is, those situations involve mostly moms.

Life ain't easy being a SAHD, especially a neurotic one.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.


The Book Chook said...

Interesting and thoughtful post, Fred. There was a case of a guy here in Australia, took his grandson to the park to play. A woman living next door to the park rang the police and reported this guy was hanging round the park and there was a child at risk. Police arrived and Grandad had no ID (why would you?) to prove he was the child's relative.

I can see both sides of that story I guess, but it's a sad way our society has become because of the actions of a few. To me, the really sad part is that many lovely guys now will not reach out and hug a child, or put an arm around their shoulder if they fall and hurt themselves, just because it might be misinterpreted. So the child misses out on comfort, and reassurance.

phredude said...

Hi Susan, It is a tough situation, and I have to confess, I fall prey to the generalizations as well. You just can't be too sure, and all it takes is one mistake and things can get complicated. The only thing you can do is be sensible and open to people's concerns, because it can be a rough world out there. Thanks for dropping by and great new look on the Book Chook.