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There are circles that parents move in.

I used to believe that all parents with kids were pretty much the same.

Got kids, obviously have lots to talk about to someone else with kids.

This is really not the case.
We move in very structured circles.

The obvious and most sweeping divider is age of kids.

There was a little club of newborns that we hang around with but as soon as the Proles could sit up on their own the focus shifted and the politics changed.
As soon at the Proles could toddle I found we were no longer mixing with the babies at all.

Toddlers are great but once basic language and not falling over when surprised, frightened, pleased, upset, happy, standing in a breeze, looking too hard, bored, on a slope, thinking about something else, tantruming, hungry, too hot, too cold and…well just about anything else, then the more mobile Proles’ social group changed and so mine shifted too.

It is all subtle stuff, people are not cut off from you, you still see them.
It’s just your kids don’t hang out together and so you don’t get the opportunity to have unfinished and unsatisfying conversations with their parents.

The ages are all different too, three to four is different from four to five and so on.

As the kids move through phases so the conversation between the parents shifts too.
I don’t really want to talk about nappies any more, I feel I have paid my dues.
I am in a loose forum of friends and Playground parents that complains about after school clubs, homework and the impossibility of getting a cheap holiday out of term time.
It is very nice there for now, I look forward to complaining about weekend football matches and rugby in the rain.

Of course I am joking,
I am looking forward to complaining about Prole1’s Chess tournaments and Prole2’s Science and Expressive Dance classes.

But I did suddenly find myself in an alien environment the other day.

I am used to being a bit of an anomaly in the playground.

This being the twenty first century and all, there are many men dropping kids off and picking them up at the school.
For the most part though it is the Mums that seem to outnumber Dads and Grandparents in this field.

Apart from the odd time when I get someone like a godparent, a Grand parent (or on one thrilling occasion Old Man Winter, who swept in, stroking his glossy moustache) to collect the Proles, I am a major fixture in the playground.

I am used to standing in, or on the edge of, a group of Mums to pick up the Proles.

The other day Prle2 and I were standing outside the winter home of Surf Lifesaving.

Prole1 gets changed on his own these days.

The boys changing room at the pool.
I feel it is one of those things a young man has to navigate on his own at some point.

Prole2 and I were playing “I can stamp on your feet” in the foyer and a couple of Dads were waiting near by.

Another man came and joined the group.

Dad1: Oooh, you two got stung with daddy daycare as well did you?

Dad2: Yep, daddy day care all day today, I didn’t move fast enough.

Dad3: Yes, ha ha. Got to keep the Missus sweet.

Dad1: You work all week and look after the kids all week end, there is no justice.

Laughter.

Dad3 turned slightly to include me in the conversation.
I smiled a bit.
I lost my place in the game and Prole2 stamped on me.

Dad3: I don’t mind it so much, you get a chance to catch up with the kids and all. Nice when you get home and you can have a beer though.

Dad1: Yes a beer.

Dad2: Aahh a beer at the end of the day. Makes the kids’ bedtime fly by.

A slight silence.
It felt expectant.

Me: Yes. Beer.

I have no idea what I was thinking.
I don’t drink while the Proles are awake.
Bed time does not fly by.
I don’t even have a Missus to keep ‘sweet’.

I was actually pretending NOT to be a ‘primary caregiver’ to fit in.
I was denying my ‘lone parent’ status due to social pressure.
I was allowing my ‘widowerhood’ to remain veiled.

I don’t really know what that last sentence means but you take the point.

Dad2: You coming down Pandora tonight?

Dad3: Yes, I think so, once the kids are in bed. You out?

Dad2: Yep, got my weekend pass.

Dad1: Aaah, I will try but I am not sure, I should get brownie points for all the driving today though.

Just a hint of a pause.
Just a fraction of a look.

I didn’t quite know what to do.
I last went to the Pandora about twenty three years ago.

They wanted me to join them.
This is how boys do it.

They talk about beer and pubs and stuff.

I found myself looking round for a woman with a pushchair I could go and stand near to and discuss the weekly shop.

It was all a bit male.

I wondered how bad it could get.

Since pub talk had not drawn me in they began talking about the one thing 99% of men can talk about anywhere in the world.

Dad2: Did you see the Chelsea game?

I went and waited outside.

There was a Mum out there.
We talked about hoovering up Lego.

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