Feral Toddlers Attack

by doodaddy on March 24, 2008

Boobaby wanted to go back to our old playground the other day — the day the stay-at-home dad club would be there. (Remember, that club that wouldn’t have me as a member?)

Cue "High Noon" music. The rusty playground gate creaked as the springtime sun beat down on us. I shouldered my trusty diaper bag and heard the bubble wands and sidewalk chalk clatter inside: the only protection I’d have against the ambush I expected to come.

Boobaby and I took a few steps toward the slide. You could hear a pin drop — well, OK, maybe not a pin but you could probably hear a basketball drop. All was calm. Too calm.

It came on slowly, like a spring storm: first came the distant rumble of toddler feet, followed by the screams of little lungs, and finally a throng of kids burst into sight and converged on us, burying Boobaby and me in tackles and tickles and demands to flip me! and ring-around-the-rosy! and push me on the swing!

It’s flattering at first, all these kids wanting to hang with us. Boo loves older kids because they’ll play her kinds of games, which tend to involve complicated fake food preparation ("Daddy wanna lemon samosa?") and rough-and-tumble at the bottom of the slide ("No don’t move stay I crash you!"). But she gets fed up and a little jealous when kids demand my attention and not hers, and this particular gaggle of kids demands like no other.

These dads and I — well, let’s just say that our parenting styles diverge. Or maybe I’m not really being a "dad" when we go to playgrounds, I’m acting instead like the teacher I once was and want to be again. But whatever the reason, these kids act like I’m the slops at a pig convention. (Mike calls ’em the "feral children," both for their glomming and because a couple of them seem not to have had their noses wiped for weeks.)

Alas, I like going back to my old park. I know a lot of people there and there’s a cute cafe nearby where I can flirt harmlessly with the gay baristas. I’ve even gotten to like a couple of the club dads reasonably well. (Even though one of them stole my sidewalk chalk last week; I’m sure it was accidental but still, dude, pay some attention!) And, savage or not, I do like the kids. They’re cool and a little weird, which rocks. (Don’t you love the quirky children? Please say yes.)

It’s just — I’m having trouble finding words for this — I really don’t "get" the dads. And maybe — just maybe — I’m subconsciously trying to compete with them for the title of better stay-at-home dad.

How idiotic is that? 

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tagged as , in oddparents,playground ·

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Dr. Leah - Transformation Revolution March 24, 2008 at 2:24 pm

OMG – Can I tell you how glad I am that the stay at home dads are getting the “competition to be the best” thing that moms (stay at home and work outside both) have always had?

That is a huge relief. Huge.

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doodaddy March 24, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Yeah, great. And do you want to rid yourself of it as eagerly as I do?

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Dr. Leah - Transformation Revolution March 24, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Yeah, I want rid of it – except for those times when I think I am winning 😉 and, honestly, at those times, I sometimes just use my feeling of winning the mom thing as some proof of my worth. It’s crazy, I know. But that’s the way it is some days.

Full disclosure – I’m a psychologist by background – so it’s even funnier/more ironic to admit that this is my crazy way of shoring up my proof of self-worth. Seems like I should be able to do that without external proof.

But parenting is so weird – the self-worth risks are so much greater. It’s a bigger deal, so I revert back to old ways of coping – proving myself to myself by feeling better than someone else. That’s the honest answer anyway…

My girls are 9 and 11 now – it’s gotten better over time. I guess at this point I have more of a sense of who my kids are- their strengths and weaknesses. And I have more of a sense of myself as a parent – my strengths and weaknesses. I have a better balance within myself. I’m not rating other people as parents so much, because I’ve lightened up on myself.

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doodaddy March 24, 2008 at 7:29 pm

Oooh, you’re a psychologist? I sympathize with your kids — I too am a Psy.K.

My self-worth vacillates grotesquely. There are moments (albeit short ones) I feel the completely perfect parent in every way, and others when I feel lost and alone and like I’d be completely screwing up this kid if it weren’t for the fact that I probably don’t have that much power.

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debbie March 25, 2008 at 5:25 am

It sounds to me like you are normal in every way!!!!! (Especially with a first child) Over time, you will throw all of the books away, stop comparing yourself to others (a little, anyway) and realize, like all other parents, you are doing your personal best. What more can you do?
As far as playground competition, mommy group competition and wait, you have not met the great PTA yet…….. you’ll survive.( just make sure you have on the RIGHT outfit, and sell the most magazines in your class, volunteer for everything and act like you LOVE being there! 🙂

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doodaddy March 25, 2008 at 5:55 am

Oh, yeah, the PTA — not looking forward to that! I think (luckily) being a man I might escape the “right outfit” thing, but I expect that bake sales will be a big deal all the same!

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sugarplumsmom March 25, 2008 at 10:10 am

Heh… my first thought was “welcome to the club!” because as Leah said, Mom’s, both wort at home and out of home, are in constant competition. I don’t think it’s on purpose… but we all strive to have great kids and at this age, our children’s behavior is seen so much as a reflection of ourselves as parents. Especially when bad things happen. The Columbine tragedy? I wondered where the parents were. Jeffrey Dahmer? I wondered what kind of parents raised him… it’s totally unfair but parents have such a huge responsibility, it’s hard to not strive to be “perfect”.

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doodaddy March 26, 2008 at 11:59 am

Yeah, I know. That all makes sense — until other moms being “perfect” means they look down on things I do. My “perfect” is a little, well, let’s just say, unusual, or so I’m being made to feel…

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Jessica March 27, 2008 at 6:10 am

Although it is not enjoyable it is natural to compare yourself to others. In my case it is usually feeling inferior for working outside of home.

I think it is sad that some dads can let go of the manly type barrier and let go with their kids. I love watching my hubs run around the house like a dork playing chase. I also loves how he includes Lil’ Bum with the animal care. Not like labor just taking her along to learn.

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doodaddy March 27, 2008 at 11:41 am

Not labor? I’ve got Boobaby feeding the cat, and she can drive a pretty good screw, too!

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Pete Aldin - freakedout fathers June 29, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Man, I totally get this. I have to slap myself constantly to stop comparing myself with other parents (or more likely, comparing them with me – ‘my what poor parenting skills that one has! – tsk tsk’)

I think it partly stems from actually giving a damn. 🙂

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