Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hell is Other Parents

Before Robin was born, my greatest fear wasn't that he'd be born with 11 toes, or that I would be bad father, but that I would have to hang out with other parents.  Again, most of my experience with this idea was informed by movie and TV stereotypes about how catty and competitive parents can be about their children: "My kid's the 80th percentile for height!"  "Yeah, well my kid's the 90th percentile for weight!"  Alice Louise and I were mostly spared from this sort of competition for two reasons.  One, we have no other friends with kids in Denver that aren't related to us, and two, Robin is pretty small for his age.  His weight has been pretty consistently at the 13th percentile, which means that 87% of babies at his age weigh more than him.

This isn't actually worrying.  The nice thing about this stat is that it makes you realize that every kid is different and is the perfect percentile for themselves.  I feel that this is the start of an important epiphany for my own understanding of my life as a parent.  Developmentally Robin is trucking right along.  He started walking on June 19th and has decided that crawling is for suckers.  He tried running a couple of times to disastrous and hilarious results.  We think the squeal followed by the mmm and dddeee sounds when he sees the dog might actually be an attempt to say Maddie.  He'll wave at you when you leave, and he claps when he thinks he's done something of importance.  He does make sure to look at you when he does it, so that you too know that he has done something important.  It's a pretty joyful time.

But I do worry a little about his lack of contact with other kiddos.  He and his cousin Jack see each other all the time and get along great.  Jack is a real sweet-heart, but that 18 month gap at the moment is a little too much for much meaningful play.  We've also started dropping Robin off for a day with a wonderful woman named Helena every other week for some training in daycare.  But it isn't really enough socialization and so that means its time to strike out and find other parents.  It means facing my greatest fear, meeting other people and discussing our kids.

There is a pretty active dad's group in town and I've been getting meet up requests for a year.  So I need to break my own insular inertia and get out there.  I'm sure it will be better than I'm imagining.

A couple of weeks ago Al's sister's family came to visit to celebrate Robin's birthday.  Beyond the glimpse into my future of spending two weeks with a 4 year old and a 21 month old, it was a really nice time.  We used almost every membership card in my wallet.  One trip to the Zoo was particularly interesting.  I screwed up the time and we missed the sea lion show because of the change with the summer hours, but there was a nice sandbox play area near the sea lion enclosure.  Lexi and Jasper had a grand time digging and painting the rocks with water (somehow that was cool).  Robin was far too young to play in the box (handfuls of sand in the mouth didn't appeal) so we sat on the edge in the shade and watched Sally chase Lexi and Jasper about.  Sitting near me were three stay at home moms on a meetup.

A casting agent couldn't have done a better job filling the roles.  Of course I eavesdropped.  And it was pretty much the mix of complaining and self-congratulatory dialogue I would have expected on a TV show. Every kid was exceptional and head of all the other kids at such and such.  They were the best moms ever because of this and that.  All their husbands were lazy losers*.  It was pretty fun listening as each tried to out do the last with a story of spousal misdeed. (Which really came down to him letting Ralphie use the i-pad on a school night!)  The more I listened the more I realized that these women weren't that different than me (except I have a good spouse).  Their were covering up for their insecurities as parents by boasting about how good they were at it.  And a boast only really has any power if it has an audience.  The women weren't friends outside of the meetup, so it was a perfectly safe place to bolster their parental bona-fides.  And as they packed up their kiddos and went off to have a picnic I thought to myself: "There go three mom's doing the best that they can."  Then as I surveyed the pack of children they lead away, I thought "Robin is cuter than that whole lot."

Check out my other blog project at http://16yearoldpoems.blogspot.com/




*Sidebar - I read somewhere recently that husbands judge how they're doing as fathers based on the amount of parenting their fathers and other men around them did growing up (perhaps a pretty low bar).  Wives on the other hand judge their husbands as parents compared to the amount of work that they, the wives, put into parenting (perhaps a unreasonably high bar).