I like kids. A few years ago that statement would not conjure the thoughts you are having right now. Should you feel guilty for thinking that when it was meant in the most innocent connotation possible? Probably not. Its the world we live it, sadly.
The little man and I spend a lot of time exploring and trying out different soft play centers. I’m starting to see a much stronger dad presence which hopefully is a sign of improving parental equality, especially as the government are looking to implement shared parental leave. But when I started out it was pretty much a mum fest wherever we went. He was really quite young when we first went which meant 100% close supervision… which meant me getting involved in all the toys, climbing frames, slides etc. I loved it as I have peter pan syndrome (in other words, I’m a bloke). I even lost 5kg the first month so it’s good exercise. He loved it too. The pair of us rolling around in a ball pit could probably warrant David Attenborough narration.
I know some parents have received criticism for being on their smart phone at the park while their kids play. I do not judge. It might be the only time they get to catch up on emails or connect with friends they no longer see since becoming a parent and they have almost certainly been up since ungodly O’Clock, run off their feet satisfying the insatiable attention appetite of their offspring and probably their partner too. Some are doing this while they try to maintain employment or run a business. Similarly at the centers I see groups of mums sitting at tables drinking their coffee and usually on their phones while the kids run riot (let off steam – expend their freakish, relentless energy that adults do not have,). I’m fine with that. Relax! they/you deserve it and they/you certainly deserve more understanding and respect than afforded by the critics which if non-parents are unqualified and irrelevant.
I don’t do that though. I am a big kid and I want to get involved. Maybe because I myself had a tragically short experience with my own dad and I want to cherish every second with the little man before he becomes a big man. This, however, attracts the attention of other kids. They flock to me like rats to the Pied Piper of Hamlin. It doesn’t bother me. The more the merrier and it helps teach my little man to be sociable, sharing and lack jealousy. I do get some odd looks from the mums though, which as I said at the beginning of this post is understandable. I used to get insulted at first, but I’m over it now. It is just the mums too. I find other dads are just encouraged to join in too like they’ve had the “all clear” nod. There’s probably an element of competition too. I overhear the complaints the mums have about their partners (or kids fathers). “he never…, he always…” Well, I always… and I never… Yet I still get the tuts and the looks. It speaks volumes to me the reaction I get from the kids who are surprised to see an adult having fun and playing with kids, with them. Prioritise people. I mean really prioritise. Sorry. Not you. You are reading a parenting blog. You probably already know. I’m talking to (although they’ll never hear) to the likes of those who had commented on a forum I read recently. I had googled “What relationship is Flop to Bing?” and came across a NetMums thread which was very anti Bing. What? Bing’s great. It teaches toddlers and is a realistic depiction of toddler life. They had a problem with the dog poo episode. Quite a few of them said they hate cbeebies and some even turn over to Jeremy Kyle when Bing comes on. Yeah, it’s them I’m talking to.
Occasionally I have to offer friendly words of advice to kids which are not behaving kindly. Or be on hand to prevent falls (or pick them up if I’m too slow). I have often found myself thinking “should I be doing this?” “how must this look to their parents?” “What would I think if it was the other way round?”. I’ve had to stop myself thinking this. There’s nothing wrong with it. The other day I stopped a little girl from eating rabbit poo and cleaned her fingers with a baby wipe. Her mum was on scene within a few seconds (too late to have prevented the taste test) and was very grateful. I’ve caught a kid upside down, by the leg, mid air as they were about to face-plant the floor as they had been a little too ambitious exiting the “all kids must be accompanied by an adult” toddlers area. I’ve replaced escapee socks, cleaned up winter snots and told off bullys.
It has got to the stage now where, at our local, I am assumed to be staff by some of the newcomers and am even accepted by the clique although most definitely not permitted to join in their parenting (mum) conversations. I even help clear the tables and tidy the toys. They have offered me a job. I’m almost tempted.