Thursday, October 15, 2009

You Are Not One Of Us

Dads are different from moms. I'm not sure that anyone would argue with me even though I'm talking about something deeper than an anatomy lesson here. The expectations are different and the attitudes are different from one parent to another. I know when my mom left town, it was equal parts Vacation From Regular Rules and Teach Daddy How Things Go for us kids. My bubba has admitted to me, too, that he can tune Lucy's crying and whining out all together. Which, I would imagine, is great for his football watching abilities while I'm at work on Sundays.

When daddies enter the realm of SAHMs, weather for a short stint, or as a SAHD, there's a learning curve that they don't always see. I feel like there's almost a CODE among SAHMs. It's not as strict as a list of rules, but more like unspoken guidelines of interaction. We are all over our kids' interactions with each other making sure they're sharing and being fair and saying nice things and not leaving anyone out. We make polite conversation with other SAHMs. We make comments about "How old...?" or "How cute..." or "What do you think of such-and-such stroller because I was thinking about buying one." And try to make things comfortable without being over friendly (this IS the Pacific Northwest after all).

Daddies in similar situations are okay with other people interacting with their kids. Which, on a side note can be a good thing because then you can compliment a kid's really nice slide dismount without the mom giving you a weird Why Are You Talking To My Kid look. Daddies are okay with someone else wiping their kids' noses, intervening in fights, pulling up pants, etc.

So, the conclusion is that daddies may be more laid back about child care than mommies and lackadaisical about the SAHM CODE, but the following case study takes this to the extreme.

Maggie and Carrie and I made plans to meet at a kid friendly coffee shop in the area yesterday morning. I hadn't been there before, but the website touted a kids' playroom! What else would you expect since it's right next door to a Gymboree! I imagined a paradise of big comfy chairs and delicious caffeinated beverages and a large, clean play area for the kids and maybe even someone to WATCH the kids while we talk Life. Wouldn't that be lovely?

The reality was the grimy truck stop version of that fantasy. The coffee shop was tiny and it smelled like burnt coffee. The kid's area was a small, dirty room shut off from the rest of the shop by a wobbly pocket door. Maggie and I arrived at nearly the same time, ran into each other in the parking lot and escorted each other in.

Beyond the pocket door, there was a couch and a small table dominated by four adults, and a large nook containing toys and a kids' size table dominated by two children. Since we planned to meet Carrie there any minute, we carved out a place for ourselves to stand by the wall, and let our kids loose.

Except. The four adults in the room were obviously talking business. There were two people in nice suits and shiny shoes, and the other two had two-day beards, jeans and fleeces, and one even had a stocking cap on. The dude that belonged to the two children was talking excitedly about maximizing profits! and 60% returns within the first year! And the two suited people would say, "Weeellll, my first question would be......" This was some sort of financial business meeting.

This would normally not be a big deal, a business meeting in a coffee shop, except that there were two needy children involved. The four or maybe five year old girl kept interrupting the "So the marketing......" with "Daddy! I want you to play with me!" and yelling at her little brother to stop touching whatever she was looking at. And the daddy would completely ignore. And when he couldn't ignore anymore, he would say "Okay, I'll come play with you," and then resume his conversation and ignore. And then it turned into a contest. The kids whined louder and called for "DADDY!" more often, and Mr. Daddy would talk louder to be heard over them. And those four adults were taking up the entire room with their legs crosses straight in front of them and Maggie and me and five kids crammed into the toy nook. In fact, we stopped being able to hear anything going on at the table right next to us because everything was a jumble of "DADDY!" "tajectory" "HEY! STOOOWP IT!" "general trend" "DADDY!"

I wanted to give this clown some credit. I hoped that his babysitter bailed at the last second and that's why they were all here. I hoped he had more sense than that so that I could see him as 1) a viable caretaker and 2) a viable businessman. But the truth is probably that he planned it this way. He probably chose a place where he wouldn't have to watch his kids so that he could get funding for whatever he was so excited about and not have to worry about a babysitter.

After 10 minutes, we couldn't take any more. I don't know how the suits lasted as long as they did. If I were them? I'd be out of there super fast calling over my shoulder for Mr. Daddy to come to my office for a meeting when he's serious about whatever it is he's excited about.

We called Carrie and told her to meet us somewhere else because we weren't going to witness this dude being so rude not only to us but to his kids. And then, on our way out, Mr. Daddy's daughter yelled "I HAVE TO PEE! I HAVE TO PEE!" and the Daddy slowly and reluctantly got up from his chair all the while continuing his conversation about the "plan." One of the suits said "Can we just take a 5 minute break?" with what I imagine was pure relief in her voice. But not before he took the girl's hand, and then made very steady eye contact with me like he was about to ask me a question. Was he about to ask me to take his daughter to the toilet? After I mediated a couple fights so as to avoid physical harm in the toy nook? And I gave him an OH NO YOU DIDN'T JUST MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH ME look.

In my experience, a SAHM can carry on incredibly disjointed conversations punctuated by catching their kids or hollering at them to cut whatever it is they're doing out or to complement a picture. She would die a little inside to have her kid need stern correction by another mom (although if my kid is, in fact, doing something wrong I'm not only okay with it, I would expect you to correct her or at least say something to me). I find it hard to believe that a mom would have gone so long tuning out the pitiful begging of the obviously needy kids not having fun with the grimy-ass toys in the dirty toy nook of the tiny coffee shop. Out of their element, nearing lunchtime, wanting some attention. And the moms I know certainly wouldn't tell their kids that they'll play with them and then ignore them.

Have you heard the Pemco insurance radio ads? (they're worth checking out if you haven't and know people from the Pacific Northwest) They pick out a stereotypical Pacific Nothwesterner, poke fun, and then say something like "First Snowflake Freakout Lady? You're one of us."

WELL, Coffee Shop Dad? You are NOT one of us. I rate you SAHM FAIL.


Manda said...

Dude when someone gets that "take my kid to the toilet?" look in their eye in my direction? I punch them in the spirit I am not even kidding.
And don't even get me started on this guy ... he gives good daddies a bad rap! Sure it's all bets off when daddy's in charge but this is just ARGHHHHHHH!

Ro said...

Ew. Nothing worse than a poorly conceived coffee house concept.

Since I am not yet a parent, I will relate to the people in the business meeting. I have seen bad dads at different jobs I've held, and I'll tell you: when people think you're a crap parent, they automatically start mental demerits of your business savvy and worth. People like working with people they admire and trust, not people who are clueless and self-serving!

Also, my word verification for posting this comment is "ooida." Is that something Lucy says?

Kate P said...

Ugh. I'll bet he's one of those parents who yammers on the cell phone while dragging the poor kid around for an hour, too.