Monday 21 May 2007

Playground Games

On Saturday my wife was away for the morning so my daughter and I found ourselves on our own. It was a novel experience, since she usually takes my daughter shopping or goes for a coffee with her, like a lot of working dads who take over for a while.

Left to our own devices we watched TV, got dressed late and had bacon and egg muffins for brunch. Then we went to the playground. But I had forgotten about the Saturday morning dads. When men speak loudly to their children is it because they assume some deficiency on their part or is it because they want you to hear them? They commentate LOUDLY on what they are doing:

“Hey RUFUS! You’re going up the SLIDE! That’s IT, now you’re sliding DOWN! WHEEE!!!!!!!!”

“Yes Georgina. On the SEE-SAW! YES!! UP AND DOWN!!!”

Actually women do this as well sometimes. I remember activity groups when my daughter was a toddler. The mums would sit next to their child advising them on paper-sticking and playdough moulding in LOUD, CAPABLE VOICES. It was like they were speaking to my daughter too, and I think she was a little confused about getting advice on crinkly crepe when she had a handful of pink string. To be heard I would have had to talk at the same volume and we would have ended up bellowing across each other ridiculously. It’s a defensive reaction, of course. In the playgroups I was a surprising and somewhat threatening presence and I think they felt the need to emphasize their credentials.

It’s the same with the men in the playground. Men fresh from the office, still with a heightened sense of performance. They want everyone to see them doing good work. There was a whole bunch of them, charging around, chasing their screaming children and bellowing at the tops of their voices. I tiptoed around the edge, cowering and trying to avoid flying limbs. My daughter nipped to and fro in her usual unpredictable way, being hurdled by six foot men in shorts. Did I ever behave like that? Maybe, but it’s difficult to know now. I don’t really compete anymore, since there’s noone to compete with. I am just there.


Anonymous said...

I do that too! Is that the working mom part in me?

But my man, the stay-at-home-dad here, does it too... I believe mainly because he thinks our son is the most important person in the world and deserves his full attention; which implies telling the boy non-stop what he is doing :)


@themill said...

It's all part of the competitive parenting syndrome, which definitely seems to be getting worse. Driven by guilt I suspect.

Stay at home dad said...

Bel - Yes, I guess we all do it a bit. Your son is only the second most important person I'm afraid...

@TM I think you're right. I try and avoid it whenever I can.

The Secretary said...

Fabulous observation. I plan to talk very quietly from now on!!! Mind you as mine at 16 ans 12, they'd just ignore me even more.

Gone said...

Yes I agree, best advice for playgrounds, take a book, sit still, shut up and let them have fun.

Stay at home dad said...

Secretary, I'd like to see you even try the commentary with your two!

Yes Grocer, when they are confident on the equipment I think that's correct.

lady macleod said...

very insightful observations there sahd.

Suffolkmum said...

Wonderful observations. Had me laughing out loud in recognition.

Stay at home dad said...

Thank you your ladyship and Suffolkmum. I'm beginning to think it's everyone in London. This morning a man in a cap (worn backwards, need I say more) spent 5 minutes regaling me with his weekend plans while I sluiced the dog's pee off our recycling bins.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

A friend and i once observed her husband supervise our children at play in the sandpit. For some minor misdemeanour the husband sent his child down and the peace of the garden was shattered by hysterical crying. As the child ran towards us, my friend rolled her eyes and sighed with disgust, 'Such a week-end Dad'. I guess it's hard to get a balance when you're away all week...that's me with my charitable hat on!

I love the description of the hurdling dads. I'm guessing that, given your part of London, there were lots of designer shades, timberland loafers and other oneupmanship symbols? I would have liked to have watched!

Stay at home dad said...

Pig, it was horrible. I'm quite prepared to cut the wds some slack, as I was one myself; if only they would just get on with it QUIETLY!

We're not really in that bit of that part so it was more jeans, shorts, flip-flops (in May?!) and shirtsleeves... One lot did have a preposterously posh branded picnic (in a playground?) from a local deli and state-of-the-art buggies though...

debio said...

But I feel for these dads, SAHD; as someone who is not a 'natural' with children, I was lucky to be with mine 24x7 - a vertical learning curve. The weekend dads don't have the concentrated time to settle in to the 'job' - and who need two mums anyway?

Stay at home dad said...

I'm no more a second mum than you are a second dad Debio.

I feel for them too. I was once one, after all. Things are changing though, slowly, and all debate is useful I think.

Anonymous said...

Excellent stuff sahd - much better than your financial ramblings :)

Stay at home dad said...

Anything's better than those... but thanks!

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