28 April 2011

My Buddy

There was something I read recently about the overpraising of dads. That when people see a dad pushing a stroller (especially if a mom is nowhere in sight) they think, Look at him, what a great dad. So involved. Whereas, when they see a woman doing the exact same thing, it goes entirely unremarked upon. It is simply expected.

If anyone can tell me where I read this, I'd appreciate it. (Ed. note: The author is fully aware this is akin to discussing popular culture with one's parents: You know, the guy. He was in that movie. Or maybe it was on TV. The one your father liked. Don't you remember?)

My wife tells me there was a similar comment in an old post on Sweet Juniper! Maybe that was it. Apparently, he was in a situation where some woman commented on him being out during the day with his kids and giving his wife a "break." And as a proud stay-at-home dad, he wanted to say that "break" was actually his wife's career.

All this came to mind when I had a rare one-on-one day with the Doozer recently. And how I am woefully unprepared for these days. How my behavior under these circumstances would likely be considered comical and absurd by an outside observer. How frazzled I can get when it comes to the maintenance of our child as a solo effort (something which my wife does constantly without any fanfare at all or any excessive griping).

Making sure the iPod is charged, lest the Doozer have a meltdown over not hearing the same three songs played over and over again, I collect the kid and his belongings and we head on our way. I must point out that though my wife had her own event to prepare for that day, she did pack the diaper bag for me with all the things I probably would have only thought of once we'd reached our destination. I mean, I would've remembered the diaper bag, but I'm not sure I would've brought a snack to tide him over if we didn't get lunch promptly or the utensils to bring to a restaurant. I probably would've remembered to check the bag for diapers before leaving and to add some more if need be. Probably.

("I thought about letting you fend for yourself in regards to the diaper bag," my wife informed me afterward. "But I thought it might be better for everyone involved if I just took care of it." Thanks, Dear.)

Anyway, our first stop for the day was the kid-friendly hair-cutting place. This was only his second time at this establishment, but he was fine the first time, so I assumed this time would be no different. But perhaps he realized we were alone, that Mama was nowhere in sight, and that I was more self-conscious than normal about my parenting skills, particularly in such a public forum. And so when we were called, he flipped out. Even though there was nothing particularly foreign or uncomfortable about the experience, he was acting as though it was. And I could feel all their eyes on me. The hairdressers and the receptionist and the other parents, staring, with pitying glances, silently expressing the same sentiment: That poor, pathetic bastard.

Of course, I feel this way most of the time when I'm out in public with my son. This time was just more acute.

Eventually he calmed down after a semi-serious fit (the likes of which I had rarely seen outside the safe confines of our own home) and got his hair cut. He had a lollipop. He was good. Quasi-successful navigation of one public-facing parenting experience. A new look from the staff: Maybe that poor, pathetic bastard will be okay after all.

After a quick trip to Trader Joe's (and stickers up and down the Doozer's pants), we move on to the lunch portion of the day. The Doozer informed me he wanted a hamburger (or hambagunga) for lunch, so I offered him some options of establishments where I knew such an item could be procured. One, a chain restaurant where he had never eaten where I'm certain he could have gotten some crayons to draw on the table (no dice) or the local pub (we have a winner).

"The pub in town," he repeats, excitedly. "The pub in town!"

Yes, my son chose a bar for lunch. There's nothing with that. Is there? Don't answer that.

We parked across the street and thinking that I had the situation under control, I decide that I will put his sippy cup and utensils in my coat pockets, so I won't have to carry the diaper bag across the street to the pub. It's a busy street and he's a maniac, so I want to be as unencumbered as possible to be fully capable of managing his movements at any given moment (or something like that). And so we toddle off to the pub. We have a disagreement over seating. I want to get a high chair for him, he initially refuses, insisting on siting on a regular chair, while I try to dissuade him. Once again, I'm on my own here, I have to make sure he is fed, etc., I'd prefer he be strapped down for the entire endeavor.

Don't judge me.

And once we're all settled, it hits me. I forgot his bib. It's back in the diaper bag in the car across the street. I think of that moment in 127 Hours where the camera pulls out of the trench and back through the desert and the canyon into the backseat of Aron's car to reveal that he's left some Gatorade and oranges there. Obviously, our situation is a bit less dramatic and severe. But I still feel as though it is representative of my shortcomings as a parent. I inform the Doozer of what has transpired. "You can go and I can stay here," he informs me. Nice try, pal. I'm convinced he's trying to trick me. That he's playing into my insecurities, getting me to think about walking away from my child in a public place (I can see the car clearly from where we're sitting, after all), so I will look bad in front of the other people having lunch on the patio today. He's nefarious. Or getting to be. I grow wise to his ploy and fashion a bib out of an extra napkin.

I order a pint. We're in a pub, after all. It arrives and I take a drink. And again, I think everyone is staring at me. Nice parenting, they're saying with their silent, judgmental stares. Kid at a pub, daytime drinking. Real nice.

Eyes averted, I take another drink.

The food arrives. I cut his hamburger into sections and cut some of his sweet potato fries, in order to get them to cool more quickly. I let him eat some pickles and tomatoes in the meantime. And then I have one of my very finest parenting moments. I should preface this by saying that I am clumsy. Like, ridiculously clumsy. And klutzy. I frequently walk into walls and doorframes that I have walked through, with no incident, hundreds of times before. I miss steps. I stumble over . . . nothing. Air, maybe. I don't know how it happens. I break dishes and glasses.

And so it happens that I do not set down the knife before picking up the plate and putting it in front of the Doozer. And midway through the procedure, it dawns on me. I am jabbing a knife in the direction of my son's face. Right in his face! Yes, that's me. I'm the guy who waves a knife around (while consuming alcohol, no less) within close proximity to the face of my two-year-old son.

Please don't call the authorities. Thank you.

So the moment passed. We finished our lunch. We took our little Daddy-Doozer party to the park. I managed to avoid placing my son in any further life-threatening incidents. We survive an afternoon of alone time to have another.


(We'll see what happens after the wife reads this post.)

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