Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Hangin with the Dads

Hangin with the Dads
Stacey Greenberg

Yesterday, despite the rain and wind, Warren and I decided to take the boys to the playground. Jiro was bored and Satchel woke up from his nap mad at the world. We needed to get out of the house. Just getting there was a struggle—getting Satchel dressed, getting the right sippy cup, letting him buckle himself in, whatever. Normal toddler power struggles.

When we arrived there were only three other kids there—all boys. One was with his mom and the two others were with their dads. We set off towards the equipment—Jiro crawling and Satchel skipping. Jiro had on his little Patagonia jacket that makes him look like a gnome and Satchel had on his Elmo sweatshirt that has taken quite a beating. (Elmo has no eyes or nose.) The mom commented on how cute Jiro was and seemed to be a nice woman. I recognized one of the dads but he was rapt up in a deep conversation with the other dad and paid us no mind.

There's six slides, one of which is like a double slide so you can "race" down it. Satchel sat on one side and was trying to get Warren to slide with him when the little boy and his mommy came over. The little boy was probably just about one and a half, maybe two. He seemed babyish next to Satchel—maybe because he was wearing a one-piece red velvet romper. Satchel gave him a once over before informing him that he was a "stinky butt."

Everything these days is stinky and poo-poo this or that so I really didn't think much of it, but I could see that the little boy's mom was somewhat horrified. She probably thought Satchel was a stinky butt himself. So I stepped in and told Satchel that wasn't a nice thing to say and if he wasn't going to be nice we'd have to go home. He just sat at the top of the slide and pouted.

The little boy's mom encouraged him, "Go on Warren, it's ok." Seeing an opportunity I said, "Look Satchy, this little boy's name is Warren just like your daddy's." Unphased, Satchel continued to give him the stink eye until he was at the bottom of the slide. Once there, little Warren pointed to Satchel's shirt and said, "Elmo!" Satchel could not be broken, "Go away! I want my daddy to slide."

The mom gave me a sideways glance. Satchel and his dad went down the slides. Then before I knew it, Jiro made a beeline to the slide and started to crawl down himself. I rushed down the stairs and caught him at the bottom. The slide is only like five feet long so I wasn't in panic mode. I was just reacting to the situation, but I could see the mom judging me in her head. Jiro was laughing and obviously liked it. Warren picked him up and sat him back up on the top of the slide. Instead of easily going down, the dampness caused his jeans to stick a bit and he ended up falling on his face and rolled down crying. I swooped him up and kissed him all over and he was fine, but we decided to skip any further slide action. As he crawled over to the plastic abacus I could feel the mom's eyes on my back.

She quickly interested little Warren in something far away from the horrible little boy in the Elmo shirt and his negligent parents. I felt kind of bad, but honestly was too tired to really care. I’d been there, done that. I'm sort of in the "She'll see what it's like when little Warren is older" mode. Or maybe I'm just less concerned about what other mommies think of me these days. I attribute it to having two kids. I feel much less compelled to compare myself to others now. I've had to let a lot of things slide and give up on trying to control everything. I feel good. Relaxed. Laidback even.

Warren stayed with Jiro and I chased Satchel around the grassy area for a bit. We met up at the swings a few minutes later and Warren was laughing at the other two boys who were running around with sticks. Satchel looked at them and started yelling, "Hey that's my stick!" The two dads were talking software and just sort of watching the two boys out of the corners of their eyes—pretty unconcerned about what they might say or do. One of the little boys yelled back at Satchel, "You're a bad guy!"

We could relate to this behavior and brushed it off as pretty normal. Warren told me that while Satchel and I were on the grass, the two boys jumped him from behind and tried to take his wallet! The next thing I know, Satchel has picked up two "lightsabers" and has assumed his best ass-kicking stance and told the boys that they were BOTH "stinky poo-poo heads." I was somewhat stunned by his fierceness but also impressed by his take no shit attitude.

The little boys ran away to the retaining wall where they felt a bit braver and the bigger one yelled, "I'm going to put spicy food in your eye!" Satchel made some roaring noises and the three of them ran around like they were the stars of their own action movie. I have to say it warmed my heart. Not because I am crazy about the violent nature of the imaginary play, but because my little boy was just fitting in and having fun. And I don't think the dads ever once wondered if I was a good mom.

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