Calling the wonderful sister down the hall with five kids all close to my daughter’s age to see if my daughter could come over to play always feels uncomfortable. She has five children. Adding one more to the mix feels to me like a lot. Would I be willing to watch all five of her kids for her so she gets a break? Should playtime with friends be timed for when parents can get a break? I’ve had three of her kids over before, giving her somewhat of a break. And with her, the discomfort is reduced because we’ve done many things together. Calling her still feels uncomfortable, as if I haven’t quite entered in the ward’s stay-at-home-parent’s group. This isn’t to criticize the group, or to claim they are cliquish in any way. They’re not. The discomfort is with me.
The big burly bombastic bearded guy who, because of incidents in the past, is not as social as he once had been. It’s fine to be big, burly, bombastic and bearded if you’re working, especially as a librarian (though I guess bombastic doesn’t quite mesh with the stereotypical hushed library scene). When it comes to stereotypes, librarians and anti-social mesh like butter and bread.
In any case, life was grand. I was working, my wife was at home watching our newborn daughter. We were renting a house on a cow farm in Nowhere, Pennsylvania. Except that my wife, intelligent, sharp, and insane as she is, wasn’t all that thrilled with living with cows. Nothing wrong with taking care of cows, but that’s not where her talents lie. She came back to New York City and became a principal of a new small public school that she designed for the city.
As I noted last time, I learned from my mother to do what you gotta do to live life. I was now to be a stay at home dad in New York City. What do I do? I never had a stay at home mom or dad. I had no first hand knowledge to draw on. So I did what I knew. We first lived in Queens on the beach, so I would take our daughter to playgrounds in the area, or take the A train into Manhattan (where I am more comfortable). There is not much church support in this area of Queens. Our daughter was the only one in Nursery. We moved into Manhattan particularly for better church support. And it was excellent for the time we lived in Manhattan.
?The only problem, for me at least, was that I felt alone in taking care of my daughter. The SAHMs of the ward would meet up or go visit each other very frequently. As a man, it would feel awkward to have a sister by herself and her small child or small children coming over to my home. It certainly would be awkward if we sit back and open up about our concerns and somehow make a connection. Whether that’s something that would occur, as a guy, that’s what I feel might happen.
So I’m left to be my daughter’s best friend and I take her around our playground, the Island of Manhattan. We search for the bestest playgrounds and color code them. The Green Playground is the one closest to our home.
The Red Playground is down in Tribeca next to Borough of Manhattan Community College. The Black and Green Playground was the playground at Washington Square (currently under construction). Then there’s the Pyramid Playground (the Hecksher playground in Central Park) and the Ancient Playground (next to the Met in Central Park). The Other Red Playground is back up in Inwood where most of the SAHMs in our ward tend to take their kids. I take her to gymnastics at Chelsea Piers, to the Sam Ash music store to try instruments, and to Toys R Us and FAO Schwarz to play with the toys (and the Big Piano). What else am I to do? She knows the alphabet. She knows her numbers. She reads. She plays Wii with us. She’s learning the piano. She prefers to learn the violin.
We moved out of Manhattan to be closer to my wife’s work, out in Queens. There are, again, fewer opportunities (like zero) to meet up with other SAHMs, but we have found our favorite playgrounds (the Brown Playground, the Space Playground, the Utopia Playground), and we still go into Manhattan for fun things. I can only hope I’ve done well for my daughter in a job I’ve never really been trained for.
One thing to conclude on. You probably have noticed that I haven’t spoken about the other SAHDs. I can’t speak for other men out there, but I felt zero interest in meeting up with another guy to sit around while our children played. It was boring enough at Lunch Bunch. I don’t know how things could possibly be improved for SAHDs, but I feel that I did what I could, and continue doing what I can for my daughter. She is going to enter Kindergarden this fall. I don’t know who is happier about that. She or I. Don’t take that negatively. I’m only saying that in the school setting, she will get the socialization that I, in my capacity as big, burly, bombastic, bearded father cannot seem to give her as well as the feminine side of the family can. But I will continue trying my best.