Culture Shock Echo

by doodaddy on April 2, 2007

If I thought it was weird being the dad at the playground during the week, that’s nothing to being the at-home parent at the playground on the weekend.

I took Boobaby to the playground on Saturday, something I hardly ever do. Weekend outings are usually Working Mom’s purview, but she was (ahem) working this weekend, so I extended my week a bit. It was eerie: the park was full, but the playground was practically silent (except for the the few parents on their cell phones). No one seemed to know that you’re supposed to talk to your kids!

Most of the other parents were day-off dads. They were friendly enough, but just uncomfortable enough around their kids that you could see that parenting wasn’t their day job.

One guy kept shouting (yes, shouting) at his crawling 14-month old, “Walk, boy, walk!”

Now, I know this boy and the grandmother that brings him on weekdays, and he’s been walking for a month. For some reason (and it’s not hard to guess why), dad was having a hard time getting him up on his feet. I ran interference by introducing myself, and as soon as the boy was left alone (surprise!), he got up and walked.

A couple of ZOPs were at the swings — my term for the Zoned-Out Parents that push the swings from behind without engaging at all. So when Boo dragged me to the swing set, saying that “we stood out” would be a massive understatement. We’re a couple of chatterboxes: we goof off, we play catch with my hat, I hide and jump out, we play try-to-kick-the-daddy — you know, the usual stuff.

On weekdays, this doesn’t stand out at all, but on the Saturday shift, I felt like I’d just come down from Mars. On a positive note, when the other parents noticed my interactions, they started playing along with it.

On the most part, I don’t think these were bad people or even bad parents, just folks a little unsure of what they were supposed to be doing and embarrassed to be doing the wrong thing in public.

On the other hand, there were some self-focused parents there, too. Two moms in fancy dress had spread out on a towel with cell phones, day planners, and papers, and manila folders arranged all around them. At first I wondered whether they were there with kids at all, but noticed later that they seemed to each have a three-year old. Not that the kid got any benefit of their attentions; they were too busy doing business for that, so busy that I felt guilty making noise with Boo in their vicinity.

It’s incredible, really, how different that playground can get from day to day. I’m looking forward to getting back there Monday.

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tagged as in playground,zoned-out parents ·

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

moodswingingmommy April 2, 2007 at 6:30 pm

I’d swear you were describing our local playground on the weekend too. It DOES have a really strange feel to it, doesn’t it, and you articulate it so well. Love the ZOPS term. So accurate! They don’t drive me nuts as much as the “self-involved,” drinking their Starbucks while on their cellphones, pausing occasionally to holler across the playground at their kid(s).


doodaddy April 2, 2007 at 7:07 pm

Yup, you said it. I sometimes wonder how their kids survive toddlerhood — there’s one dad that lets his 18-month old wander the entire playground without supervision, weaving in and out through trike-wielding toddlers and tottering on the edges of sandboxes…

I like your blog, by the way! I’ve always been sort of a Canadophile… there’s Degrassi all over my Netflix list!

See ya,



aimee/greeblemonkey April 2, 2007 at 8:20 pm

I love the term “ZOPs” too. And I will admit I can sometimes approach ZOP-hood just from being worn out… I promise I am not a card-carrying member. I am a total people-watcher and I would have been fascinated with the “Walk Boy!” Dad too. The cellphoneys kills me too.

And are we talking Degrassi the TV show? I love it! Until we canceled cable in lieu of a cleaning service, that is!


doodaddy April 2, 2007 at 8:56 pm

Totally. I actually feel kind of sympathetic toward Walk-Boy-Dad… haven’t we all sort of felt overwhelmed at times?

And I’m a complete ZOP, too, on Mondays at least. I try to fight it on the outside, but inside I’m some sort of gelatin treat. It’s why I scheduled music class for Mondays… structure is helpful. And why I love my Park Buddy, because we are acknowledged ZOPs together.

Still, our ZOP is short-lived and nothing like the “professional parent” ZOP. Since they’re usually guys, they give us dads a bad rep.


P.S. We’re not on cable, either, we just rent ’em, but we’re totally addicted to Degrassi, starting with the original ones from the 80s. You HAVE to see them, especially if you’re into Canadian stuff.

P.P.S. Fantastic Grand Canyon pictures, you. Wow. Everyone (ok, both of you) reading this, link to aimee’s site and check them out!


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