Ruthless self-promotion first: Does your dad read? Sure he does. I bet he likes space ogres! And if he doesn’t, you should buy my book anyway as a Father’s Day present to me. Plus you’ll like it. I promise. Two dolla ninety-nine cent!
(I will come to your house and root around in your couch until I find $2.99 if you want me to. But you have to buy the book first. :-) )
Anyway. Ruthless self-promotion ends.
A new thing entered my life yesterday. This probably should have happened much earlier, but I somehow managed to dodge it for nearly three years: the dreaded “play date.” One of the girls in my son’s day care group recently changed day cares, and she was apparently quite fond of my son, so her mother contacted my wife and set up a thing for us at a local place called the House of Bounce. Basically a whole lotta inflatable shit for the kids to run around and do what they wanted on, right? Fun.
It was… interesting. True fact: I am 9% whiter than I was yesterday.
I went back and forth several times on whether I wanted to go. The problem here is that I have two basic impulses that are at war with each other. The first is to not be either literally absent or perceived as absent from my kid’s life. The second, unfortunately, is to never be around other people or do new things ever. I am a homebody, folks, and it’s not far enough into the summer that I’m starving to get out of the house yet. Going to this would require me to mingle with strangers, which I’m not good at. It might even require… horrors… polite conversation. Gah! Run away! I don’t know how to converse with people I can’t say “motherfucker” in front of!
My urge to be Dad won out, as I recognize that the impulses described in the second half of that paragraph are probably best ignored. And it was fine. I had fun. They have two kids, one Kenny’s age and one a year or so younger, and we ended up going out to lunch afterwards, where I was able to watch soccer when I wasn’t trying to help wrangle three different toddlers and wondering what the hell had happened to my life that I had become part of the folks trying to wrangle three toddlers in the restaurant. I’ve never been that guy before. It was weird.
There were a few moments. First, both parents in the other couple came along, which again triggered two warring impulses: 1) Oh, good, my wife doesn’t look like a single parent/ there’s more people to talk to, and 2) Oh, god, he’s not going to want to talk about sports ball or something, is he? Because while I wanted to be watching soccer, I know nothing about soccer and can’t actually participate in a conversation about it, and I know less than nothing about any other typically male go-to conversation topic. As I’ve said before, I just don’t know how to interact with men most of the time, so situations where I might have to go Be One Of The Guys tend to freak me the fuck out. Also, and I don’t mean this as insulting at all and in fact I think she’ll laugh and agree if she ever happens to see this, but Other Mom is… intense? I’ll use the word intense. And high-energy. So, so high-energy. Mildly exhausting, in fact. In a way that I very much am not. I’m too introverted to be that bouncy, especially around people I don’t know. Other Dad’s temperament was much more like mine and I suspect he may well have been going through the same stupid brain calculus I was for most of the day, so I suspect we’ll get along with these folks fine once the initial oh god I’m determining my own social relationships through my kid’s random friendships what the hell has happened to me thing wears off.
Putting this behind a Horizontal Line of New Topic, because in fact it is. One interesting conversation (and I mean “interesting conversation,” this isn’t a sarcastic way of suggesting that this will be funny) that came up was a discussion of why they moved their kids out of our day care. It revealed a very clear difference in how these folks see the purpose of day care from how I see it. They felt like their daughter wasn’t being challenged in day care enough. Her dad made the point that, for example, she recognizes “turquoise” and “mauve” (I think those were the colors he picked) and can count to, say, twenty, whereas the day care is working on primary colors with the kids and counting to ten.
(My son can also count to twenty and recognizes all his letters, but I don’t think he knows the word “turquoise.” This was my first moment of oh god my kid is behind as a parent, too, another impulse I’m trying to ignore.)
Anyway. They want their kid at a day care where her turquoise-knowledge is recognized, so they moved her to another one that’s a bit more academic. And that’s cool, right? I’m not criticizing their decision– it just intrigues me that I don’t give one thin damn what they’re “teaching” the kids at day care. As far as I’m concerned, here’s day care’s job:
- Give my son a chance to be around lots of kids his age that he can play with, because I’m sure as hell not going to do that myself, and
- Keep him alive.
“Teach him stuff” just isn’t even on my agenda right now. I mean anywhere. Let him play all day, don’t ever even mention letters. I’m fine with that. I figure teaching him to read is my job. Like, he’s only there because my wife and I can’t afford for one of us to quit working. That doesn’t mean that I need somebody else to teach him colors and letters. I need somebody to keep my kid safe when I can’t be there, and I need a way for him to play with other kids his age because for the most part we don’t hang out with anybody with little kids and he doesn’t have any siblings or cousins.
I don’t know that there’s a conclusion to be drawn here, other than a mild ironic bit of entertainment that the person who doesn’t care if his kid gets educated at day care or not is the actual professional educator in the conversation. The difference in priorities just intrigues me. I think I’m cool with continuing to not worry about it, but I’ll spend some time thinking about whether I’m wrong about that. And feel free to weigh in in comments one way or another if you like.
Happy Father’s Day, y’all.