Feral Toddlers Attack

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?