A Playground-Themed Dad Rant

by The Daddy on April 20, 2011

Warning: this is a full-fledged Dad Rant. Reader discretion is advised.

I created this comic a few days ago, and after just returning from a day at the park, I still feel it holds up.

Look, I’m not taking the kid to the park to make friends, interact and form lifelong relationships with other parents. I’m not against the idea, but I understand that parents want to stick with their kids, or other parents they know. It’s human nature: not everyone can be super outgoing social beings that have no problems interacting with new people. Some are also not interested in meeting new people, which is unfortunate, but understanding.

It’s the looks and attitude that bug me. Talking about your amazing Mommy achievements just a little too loudly in your circle of fellow moms, while your kids run around the park, at times only being noticed last minute just before they get to the street, finish hitting another kid or almost falling off a slide. My kid will come up to yours, interact, and you’ll calmly redirect your kid or smile and quickly get back to your circle of hens. I try to be social, make small talk, chat about kids and you say the bare minimum and make your way back to your safety net.

I get that people will want to hang out with their friends, and it isn’t my delicate fragile emotions that are getting stepped on. I just feel like I see Dads at a park, while it is indeed a rare site, seemingly ostricized as bizarre flukes in the parenting world. Like we don’t know what we’re doing, like we’re somehow inferior. All of this combined with either the chatty circle of hens, barely watching their own kids or lined up on the benches, phones whipped out, reading or texting away. I know I can be a bit of a hoverer, partly because the kid is younger, but I usually end up seeing other dads doing the same thing. I don’t know, PLAYING with their kids at the park instead of just letting them wander around, barely aware of where they are/what’s happening to them.

For the record, this isn’t a slam aimed at all moms. You parents, both male and female know the moms I’m talking about. I’ve had plenty of conversations with some really cool moms that are totally open to chatting, being friendly and talking about our kids interacting. When it happens, I love it.  I’m sure there are plenty of moms out there who are just as frustrated as I am with these clique-y groups. Feels somehow like high school all over again.

I’m sure this one will get me in trouble, but based on the limited conversations I’ve had with other Dads, I know there are more of us out there that feel this way. Dads, are you out there?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

jason deeds April 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm

I know this feeling all to well.

When we first started taking care of the boys I didn’t realize they reactions I would get being a work from home dad, and an adoptive father. Taking the boys to soccer practice for the first time really showed me those lines existed between stay at home moms and dads. I was more then a little caught off guard when I noticed the looks from the other moms that seemed to shout: “Who is that creepy guy standing over there? Is he supposed to be here?” It wasn’t until my boys came running up to me to give me a hug that the moms backed off. It took time but when the season was half way over I was just another one of the girls…well so to speak.

Now that I’m going back into this world of being a Stay at Home Dad in 16 days (yes I’m counting) I can already feel my guard going up. There is such a large divide between moms and dads that care for the children. Even just in how we label ourselves. Stay at Home vs Work from Home, Dad Vs. Mom. Can’t we all just be parents?

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The Daddy April 21, 2011 at 10:21 am

I totally hear you, Jason. I notice this divide between who’s “the better parent” all the time, and the idea that inherently women are better parents than men, be it the stay-at-home version or otherwise. It’s frustrating, and often can take time until some people warm up to the idea. It’s the inherent mistrust that Dads are worse parents that can be frustrating. Thanks for the comment!

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Nina April 20, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Have you tried an earlychildhood education class yet? There is a Dad or two that attends ours. They are usually smaller groups, thus less opportunity for certain moms to get cliquey. And I love your phone reference. As someone who doesn’t own a smart phone, I can say (without being a hypocrite) that I HATE people that have their noses buried in their cell phones all day.

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The Daddy April 21, 2011 at 10:23 am

The Kid has a preschool class that he goes to once a week, but it’s usually a juggle between sharing a car, managing the kid and the dog and attempting to get work done in the day as well. The kid mainly needs to get out of the house, and the park seems to be a good place to stretch out, run around and basically get dirty, burn off some energy and begin to interact with others. We briefly were attempting Gymboree, and I ran into a similar issue.

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Kelli Suchy April 20, 2011 at 9:31 pm

As a Mid Life Mommy, I can relate to your post. I was 45 when we were finally blessed with our daughter via an open domestic adoption. I get many of those looks from younger Mom’s hanging at the park in their little circles while the kids are off and playing off in some parts unknown. I can see them trying to decide if I am the Mom, the Grandma or other relative (my daughter and I do in fact look a lot like one another so there is a clear familial resemblance).

I would love to chat with a Dad like you who is actually interacting with his child. When I go spend time with my daughter at the park, it is time to spend together with her. Having said that, I would enjoy socializing with other parents who are not stuck in their little cliques without seeming to notice their children at all. After my very long and bumpy journey to motherhood, my daughter is number one priority to me over making more and new mommy friends.

I found no offense whatsoever to your post and know those mom’s all too well! Hang in there Dad.

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The Daddy April 21, 2011 at 10:26 am

Great to hear. That’s me: I want to interact and share this experience that is being a parent, and I personally think it’s important that kids learn to interact. At the same time, for most of us, this whole parenting gig is a new experience and I really like talking with other parents to find “hey, our kid does the same thing” or “I know, right? It’s cray when he/she does that!” I really don’t understand the danger or concern of staying in your own little world and shutting out others, but that’s just me. Thanks!

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TechyDad April 21, 2011 at 6:50 am

I guess I’m lucky to have never encountered this yet. I took my boys to the park recently and a mom and her daughter even got on the merry-go-round with me and one of my sons while my other son spun it around. We talked and joked a bit and I didn’t get any “is guy might be some sort of creep” vibe from her.

Oh, yes. I’m a bit of an amateur photographer too so when I’m not playing with my kids on the playground, I’m taking photos of them. What’s “creepier” than a dad with kids on the playground? A dad with kids and a camera! I keep expecting the inevitable mom-encounter where I’m accused of being some sort of pervert for taking photos of my boys. (Because Man+Camera=Pervert in all cases, right?) I do take precautions such as framing my shots so that no other kids are in the photo, but still it seems to be that this encounter is only a matter of time.

Of course, I’m horrible at telling what people are thinking. I decided long ago (thanks to a lot of bullying in high school) that I didn’t care what people thought of me. So I just don’t pay attention if someone is leering at me as I take photos of my kids going down the slide. Perhaps the moms were off to the side without me realizing or perhaps I’ve just been lucky so far. Either way, when I go to the playground, I’m going to focus on having fun with my boys and won’t care about what other parents there think!

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The Daddy April 21, 2011 at 10:29 am

That’s a really good point. Ultimately it shouldn’t matter what they think, I just enjoy the interaction and discussion about kids and parenting and dealing with whatever concerns people have that keep them huddled away makes that a bit more challenging. What they personally think about me isn’t important in the slightest, except when it might affect how our kid interacts with theirs, if they’re comfortable with it, and then the invariable meetup as we each come over when one of the kids starts grabbing stuff, etc.

I’ve gotta say, Dad with a camera? Definitely skating thin ice there, keep it up though, that’s really awesome! It’d be great to get that inevitable interaction on tape when some mom does finally confront you about it.

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