Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The only Dad in the village

It was all quite exciting when Katy, our 4 year old started Pre-school last September. She had been counting down the days with the constant chorus of “Is it school day today?” Actually I need to pause the story here and explain a few things. When I refer to pre-school, what I really mean, is the nursery that is part of the Infant and Junior school, and that she attends every morning from 9am to 11.30am throughout the school term. I know most people refer to this as Nursery, but she was so excited to be going to big school like her sister Dawn, that we did not have the heart to refer to it any other way. Anyway, the big day came and went without any real fuss or bother, and my wife accompanied me for that first week, with persistent moist eyes repeating the mantra “my little girls is getting so big, sob, sob.”

There were a few other Dads who hung around that first week, and we all exchanged names, football teams, and handshakes, and shook our heads at the Mums who looked like they were at the Wailing Wall every morning. This all seemed so easy, we would all exchange pleasant chit chat and then be on our way.

Week 2 was a whole other proposition. I would stroll in with Katy and Mate (our 2 year old) and all was kind of fine, a few nods and hellos, and a little bit of friendly banter. Keen to make a good impression, I had been writing down the names of the Mums and their offspring’s, on a piece of paper that I kept in the car. Every morning before we walked in, I would get some quick revision done, so I could quite confidently name at least 4 children and 2 Mums. I felt that slowly but surely I was starting to fit in.

As a regular reader of Lucy Sweeney’s column in The Times I had even started to identify some of the different species of Mum. I had recognised the Alpha Mum, the Yummy Mummy, the Yumski Mummy, and a couple of Slummy Mummies. I quite fancied myself as Sexy Domesticated Dad, but since giving up smoking (2 years and counting, hating every moment), I think my wife would liken me to (house)Husband on a Short Fuse.

Week 3 was what I now refer to as “Interview week”. The questions were coming fast and furious, most subtle, some just plain obvious. Did I work, how long had we been in this arrangement, was my wife happy with it, what do your friends think? I felt like one of the animals in the zoo that had actually learnt to talk. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all the attention I was getting, and I must admit comments like “I wish my husband would do something with the kids” did go to my head a little, but hey I’m only human, and the male kind.

This caused me to lower my guard a bit, and behave a little bit more like the real “what a funny guy” me, rather than “serious responsible Dad” me. In hindsight comments like “Calpol Night, the middle class sedative of choice”, or “sound-proofing their bedroom is a great investment” or my particular favourite “I wish this global warming would hurry up, as I’m looking as pasty as a polar bear’s butt”, would have been best saved for my friends who really knew me and my slightly twisted sense of humour. I had shown them too much me, and without even knowing it, failed the interview.

Being the astute type, it took me another 3 weeks to realise that poor little Katy was missing out on play-dates and birthday parties. In my defence, there were at least 4 or 5 Mums that would really talk to me on a regular basis, so how was I to know I had not become part of the inner circle. It was only when I stood back and looked at the offspring of these Mums that it dawned on me what had happened. These kids were super loud and super boisterous. I now belonged to the parent equivalent of the gang of kids that used to smoke behind the bike sheds at school. A social outcast amongst the good clean folks, that was me. I could have accepted it if it had been because of Katy’s bad behaviour, but because of my “maleness” was a different story.

I revisited everything I had presumed to be true and was quite shocked. I thought “You always dress her so colourfully” to be a compliment, but it wasn’t, it was Mum speak for “blue socks, purple trousers, red top, that’s child abuse that is”. Or when at Christmas the nursery suggested that instead of giving out a card to each child, we should put a pound in the special Christmas card charity box. I remarked to Alpha Mum and Co. that “what a good idea it was, and how I was not looking forward to writing 24 cards.” Total agreement from them all, until the last day of term when Katy came home with 20 Christmas cards from most of her classmates. How could I of been so blind? I had been thoroughly outsmarted and out parented (?) by them all, me of all people.

I had only ever lost a game of child poker once before, so how had I not seen the signs. Ok, an explanation is needed. Obviously I do not use my children as markers when playing Texas hold’em. All parents play child poker, just most of them know it as “patronising the less experienced parent”. It normally happens to me when I am out with my 2 year old. He could be being cute or naughty, it doesn’t seem to matter which, when a Mum will remark “Oh just wait till they hit 3 like Phoebe here, then they are trouble.” Ha, I take your 3 year old and raise you a 4 year old. “Yes,” I reply, “I remember when his sister was 3, now she has hit 4 she seems to have calmed down a bit.” That normally ends the conversation, but sometimes you get a re-raise with “Mmm, Tabitha is 8 now, such a lovely age.” That is normally a Full House statement, but they are never ready for my ace-in-the-hole “I just wish they would stay that way. My eldest is 15 now, and let me tell you, you don’t know trouble until they hit that age.” Straight Flush, the game is mine, always a satisfying moment beating Mrs Smug. Like I said, I have only ever lost once, but how could I have ever seen the ‘20 year old twin boys’ coming, Royal Flush, game over.

I would obviously have to rethink my strategy regarding these wily and cunning Mums, but that is another story for another day.


Russ said...

Welcome to the blog world my man! I guess it is good to see that the Mom's in the good 'ol US are the same as the Mum's across the pond.

Jared said...

Hey, at least they talk to you. When I take my boy somewhere and am the only Dad, all I get are some friendly smiles...if I'm lucky. :D

Russ said...

been there, done that, bought the tee shirt. That is the way it way most of the time. I just wait like a animal stalking its prey. Sooner or later one will get separated from the herd and you pounce on her. Sometimes you just have to be aggressive.

Sometimes it helps when the kids are playing together. That helps break the ice too.

goonerjamie said...

@Russ thanks, on charm offensive one at at a time.

@Jared Is that the "must be a divorced Dad" smile?