Saturday, April 21, 2012

Good Ol' Suburban Fun

Thumper and I have recently encountered a few times a mom and her two kids at our local. It cracks me up to think of our local playground as "our local," rather than our local pub. I don't know if we have a local pub. I don't even know if "the local" typically means the pub. I may have made that up. Or maybe I picked it up watching British comedy shows on PBS with my dad on Sunday nights when I was a kid. I don't know. Anyway. What was I talking about again?

Oh yeah. We've several times run into a very nice mom and her almost-three-year-old daughter and her just-turned-five-year-old son. Thumper adores the boy, declaring whenever we're going to the local that "I hope [that kid] is there. I think he goes to the park every day!" Well, he doesn't go to the park every day, but sometimes we succeed in running in to them.

On our second interaction, the mom wandered off with the daughter, keeping a close eye on her and leaving the son digging holes and making piles in the volleyball pit with Thumper and me. Soon, as is wont to happen with preschoolers, things degenerated, and her son was throwing sand two-fisted at Thumper and a younger boy. I said, "Hey! Stop throwing sand!" The kid paused, looking right at me and carefully considering whether or not he was legally or morally obligated to listen to me. I pointed right at him and said, "Yes, I'm talking to you!" And the battle was won, and the kid dropped the sand, and no corneas were scratched.

Being who I am, I of course had my moment of anxiety, wondering if she would come running, pointing a finger in my face and yelling, "Who do you think you are, telling my kid what to do?" But as is true of almost all of my social anxiety fantasies, I was way off base.

Instead, she left her son to my supervision. I ended up pushing him and Thumper in the swings while they talked about which specific superheroes they were as they flew into space on the swings. The mom wandered by and thanked me, and later, she invited Thumper to her son's birthday party. Her family had recently moved here, and while her son was on a baseball (and I think surely she must have meant T-ball) team, she didn't want to invite some of the teammates lest she offend someone, and she didn't want to invite all of the teammates because that would be too many kids. So she invited us because she liked Thumper, and she liked the "intellectual" conversations Thumper and her son had.

So, anyway, we went to the birthday party today. It was a new experience for me, because really, I almost never feel awkward or embarrassed about my Stay-at-Home Dad job. I can count on one hand the times that the "So what do you do?" conversation has come up, let alone turned awkward. And today it was almost two hours before that sentence was uttered. Still, the gender roles were clearly split, and I didn't feel comfortable in either place.

The moms were inside, sipping dark red wine and picking at hors d'oeuvres while the kids ran around like nutjobs. I sat down with them and introduced myself, and barely a half-dozen words were exchanged in the next 15 minutes.

The dad came in then, warmly introducing himself and saying, "You must be the guy from the park!" Yes, that's me. The guy from the park. He quickly put a beer in my hand and got me out to the backyard with the other men, where he was working on firing up the grill to cook sausages, chicken, roasted jalapenos, and hamburgers. I shook hands with several guys who were all perfectly nice to me.

And that's the thing. They were all more than hospitable, but they all knew each other, and none of them knew me. I didn't belong among the moms, and I didn't belong among the dads. I really belonged best amongst the kids, chatting more comfortably with the almost-three-year-old girl than I did with her dad. I suppose it's my own prejudice showing, but the country music, the golf shirts, and the conversations about the alcohol content of the beer, all left me feeling disconnected as much in the man zone as in the woman zone.

So when finally, one of the dads asked the dreaded question in an attempt to include me in the work-related conversation they were all having around me, I lied. Well, I didn't lie exactly, but I gave the answer that was most true to what I thought they expected to hear and least true to what my actual daily life is: "I do database work for [the major University Athletics department in town]." I didn't say "part-time." I didn't say, "I stay home with my son full-time." I let them believe I had a computer-related full-time job with a large and respected local employer.

Why? I don't know. I suppose I stereotyped them as badly as I thought they might stereotype me. Maybe they would have said, "That's great! I wish I could do that!" But I thought not. The host, though he declared that he loves a kid-friendly house, was spending more time in the backyard with dads than he was in the house with his kids. I was pretty sure that "I'm a SAHD!" would've been met with an uncomfortable silence, and I felt uncomfortable enough already. They were all nothing but nice, and still, I felt like this wasn't my place.

But Thumper, God love him, was perfectly in his element. There was food. There were kids. There were toys, and instruments, and stairs. He loves stairs. He would've stayed another week, I'm sure, if I'd let him.

Oh, yeah: thanks for inviting us to your birthday party! We had a great time! Your kids are awesome!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Thought This Might Come in Four or Five Years

Four months after Christmas, with no contextual lead-in, we had this conversation:

"Is Santa Claus real?"

"I'm not sure. What do you think?"

"I think he's not real."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because at Christmas, most of my presents came from people I know, like you and Mama, and Grandma and Grandpa, and [SWSIL, and Big Brother, and Freckles, and Robert McGee, etc.]..."

"Yeah? Do you believe in magic? Because I think Santa's magic."

"I believe in magic."


"Because of Merlin. He did magic. Magicians do magic. Are magicians real?"

"I don't know. Some magicians just do tricks to make you think it's magic. But some magicians might do real magic. What do you think?"

"I think he did real magic, because he turned three birds into a rabbit."

Sigh. He's not even old enough to have lost a baby tooth yet. I don't know what we're going to do about the tooth fairy. This kid is just too smart for my own good.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I Expect I Will Do Much As My Dad Did

Thumper and I had our first experience with public school recently when the long-awaited registration day for kindergarten arrived. As we walked toward the front door, he said, "I can't wait to see what it's like inside! I can't wait! I can't wait!" I was thrilled to see him so excited, and I had for no reason whatsoever created the expectation that "registration" might be something more like "orientation," with perhaps a tour, or at least the opportunity to peek in on a classroom. As is often the case, my expectation had absolutely nothing to do with reality.

When we first walked into the office to find out what we were supposed to do, there was a contractor of some sort sitting in a chair waiting for something. Thumper asked him, "What are you doing?" and he responded facetiously, "I got in trouble, so I have to talk to the principal." Then the secretary (or whatever her title may have been) directed us to a tiny table in the hallway, and handed me a stack of paperwork to fill out. Thumper quickly realized that "registering for kindergarten" wasn't actually as exciting as he'd thought it would be, and he wandered back into the office.

"What did you do to get in trouble?" I heard him ask the contractor, who was still sitting in a chair, waiting. I didn't hear the contractor's answer, but I did hear Thumper's follow-up question: "What's a 'principal?'" Clearly he was curious about how things worked at school, and he was asking questions to find out. I thought it was perfectly acceptable and kept right on scrolling through my cell phone, looking for people to be emergency contacts.

Suddenly I heard the secretary call out in a ridiculous sing-song voice, "OK, honey, you need to stay with Daddy, OK?"

I was already less than 10 feet away from him, with only an open doorway between us. He wasn't touching anything. He wasn't interfering with anyone's work. He was having a conversation, as human beings are wont to do, trying to get more information about something that he knew was going to represent a big change in his life.

So I sighed, stepped into the office, and said, "Why don't you come sit out here with me, buddy?"

"Why?" he asked, reasonably enough.

"I don't know," I answered truthfully. "I guess she doesn't want you talking to anyone."

"Why?" he asked again.

"I don't know," I said again.

He moped quietly enough the rest of the time it took me to fill out paperwork. When I turned it in, I was given a DVD called "Preparing for Kindergarten." I showed it to him and said, "Hey, look! We should watch this when we get home so we know how to get ready for school!" I tried to sound excited.

"No thanks," he said. "It might be boring."

And that was the end of registration. No opportunity to wander around and check out the school. No chance to look in at a classroom and see what the kids were doing. He was mightily disappointed, and so was I.

And that's when I realized that school is going to be as much of a challenge for me as it will be for him. I suppose I shouldn't extrapolate too far from a brief encounter with an administrative employee to what the classroom experience will be like for him, but I am very much afraid that school is going to be about discouraging creativity and silencing questions. I don't think that he will have trouble with the coursework, but I fear that he will have trouble not talking, not interrupting the teacher to ask an endless series of questions, as he very often does.

I suspect that I, much as my father did to my horror many years ago, will repeatedly ask, "Do you want me to go down there and talk to them?"
Related Posts with Thumbnails