Dads of mystery

I felt like a guest in my own playground today.

Boobaby and I have been going to the same playground nearly every weekday for eight months. We know quite a few people there, naturally, mostly moms and nannies but a couple of dads, too.

Twice in all that time we met a dad with a bit of a swagger (we’ll call him “Mr. Dad”) who claimed to be there with a local “dads’ group” having a “regular Thursday meeting.” A quaint description, since there was only the one dad and I’d never seen him on a Thursday or any other day. What’s the sound of one dad meeting? Still, live and let live, and if he wanted to feel like he was in a club, more power to him.

Until this month. For the past three weeks, the Thursday “dads’ group” has exploded. Mr. Dad has shown up every week, and four or five others besides. (They are talk-on-your-cell-phone-while-your-kid-plays-in-the-distance dads, but that’s a post for another day.) I was going to be duly impressed by the recruitment effort until I realized all these dads were showing up because Mr. Dad had lined up a documentary film crew. He’d also set up a Web site, managed to get interviews in local and national papers, and basically seemed to be riding some bizarre promotional gravy train.

Still, what did I care? The documentarians filmed these faux-SAHDs changing diapers in the park (badly), pretending to pay attention to their kids (unconvincingly), and having casual discussions about strollers (forcedly). Big deal. Until, that is, three of them, at separate times, approached me with some version of the same conversation:

OTHER DAD: Hey! Did you know we’re a dads’ group that meets here every week?
DOODADDY: Um, yeah, I guess I’ve seen you a couple of times.
DOODADDY thinks to himself “Yeah, a couple of times in the past year!”
OTHER DAD: We have a Web site, too!
DOODADDY: Uh, cool.
DOODADDY commences playing with both BOOBABY and the other dad’s attention-starved child.

Do I sound a little judgmental? I suppose I am, but even more so I just don’t have much to say to this kind of dad, and inwardly I feel strongly that dads acting like this give all of us a bad name. I would really have to work hard to find something in common with them.

But their kids are fun to play with.