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Friday, September 14, 2007


Park Dad

Over the years I've taken my kids to the park hundreds of times. Thousands maybe. It's one of our favorite things to do. We have a beautiful neighborhood park less than half-a-mile away, and there's nothing better than riding our bikes over there to play.

Like any park with a kids play area, ours is populated by the ever-present pack of Park Moms. They cluster in small groups, noisily gossiping and sipping lattes. There's only one thing that can ruin the scene for these moms: The arrival of The Lone Dad. Suddenly they're very attentive to their children, calling out to ask if they need water or snacks, and sometimes even getting up from their shady spot to walk over to their kids to touch them or just stand near, as if to say, "Mine. Stay away."

Lately I've seen a new kind of fear in the eyes of the Park Moms. My kids tend to run ahead of me after we park our bikes, which means I'm usually strolling into the play area by myself. The moms look up to see a single, solitary man planting himself on a bench and staring out at the children.

Now this is a fear I can understand. So I developed a simple trick to put their minds at ease. Before I sit down, I take a few steps toward the play structure, cup my hands to my mouth, and yell at the top of my lungs, "Son! Daughter! This is your father speaking! I'll be right here on this bench! So if you need your dad for something, you know where to find me!"

Of course, if there's a camera in your hand then don't bother. Because a solitary man with a camera at the park brings out a kind of hysterical fear that no words can suppress. My advice is to only bring your camera if your wife is there with you and can stay within ten feet. Or just let her take the pictures.


Blogger KC said...

You've got to be kidding. Don't these people know who you are by now? It can't be a new set of moms every time you get to the park.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

This is so hilarious- I had to link to it on my blog.

7:00 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Perhaps you need to get a "I'm not a pedophile" T-shirt.

Or maybe go in drag.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous brettdl said...

I don't go to the park as often because of work, but I've never had something like that happen where moms got all freaked out.

Maybe it's because there are so many dads around in the more urban areas? Or maybe the issue is regional?

9:36 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

It's different when there are other dads around, but that's rare during the middle of a week day. It's a stay-at-home mom's world here in North Idaho.

Weekends definitely have a different feel to them, as there are more dads out and about. Moms just expect to see them there.

When I do see moms that are familiar, they react more with disdain than fear... "Ewww, there's that stay-at-home dad again."

I can think of just two moms who have recognized me and maybe nodded or waved. Regardless, I'm still sitting alone on that bench while my kids play.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Darren said...

I say fly Dan over to go with you and have him wear the drag.

I've been to parks here and in NYC a few times and don't get the same reaction--even with a camera. I'm sure it's because there are more stay-at-home Dads.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Philip said...

brett, I think in bigger cities, parents are used to a more eclectic and varied group of park patrons.

phil, suggestions:
instead of the obvious top of your voice thing, just tell the kids that when you get there behind them you expect them to come back over for "instructions" or to have shoe laces checked, or sip of water, or whatever. Tell them to play safely around the little kids, whatever. But this little huddle will do the trick.

instead of sitting on bench immediately, spend five minutes (or the whole time!) playing actively with yours. This puts everyone at ease as they see how good a parent you are, and how the kids react to you as dad, rather than as say, uncle so and so.

Or go to the same park all the time and simply ignore everyone by reading newspaper and being so relaxed and at ease that no one could view you as a threat.

I think you are feeling the eyes on you because the moms are doing what you yourself do: scan for threats in a public place. You automatically check the moms off your list as harmless because they are there with kids. I bet you take a second look at other men that come to park to see whether they are there with kids or not too.

11:51 AM  
Blogger HLiza said...

Funny now that I hear this from a man's point of view. I could be one of those moms!

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

as a stay at home dad who goes to the park quite a bit, i can attest to the odd looks you get from time to time. the camera thing is so true. thankfully, my child is younger (16 months) therefore he is usually within 2-4 feet of me. but, your post summed up quite well the occasional awkward glances shot at stay at home dads.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

I keep coming back to read other people's comments, and I've been laughing all day about Dan's t-shirt suggestion...

6:36 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

At our neighborhood park I don't get any of those looks, since we have been up there constantly for 5+ years.

Outside of the neighborhood it still happens once in a while. Though it is much more rare than 6 years ago.

Yeah for progress!

7:36 PM  
Blogger jtcosby said...

I promise, I will not run in fear if you show up at our park...I will question you soundly as it is a million gazillion mile drive from ID...but then again, TN is beautiful! :)

8:11 PM  
Blogger Life on the Edge said...

I love the t-shirt idea too! How sad that these women are that way.
If you want to make it really scary, bring a cute little puppy too!

7:00 AM  
Blogger Stepping Over the Junk said...

Ha. That's funny. (sort of). I am usually the lone mom...only because I'm not a joiner and dont hang with the park moms.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Shadeslayer said...

As a Dad with a variable schedule, I often take my kids to the park during "Mom" times, my technique to put the moms at ease is to bring reading material and a bag of snacks (for my children only!) While reading, the moms,hopefully see a non-threatening reading man sitting on a park bench. I am not scouring the park looking for potential victims, I am just reading. On the downside I can't keep track of my children as well as if I was eagle-eyeing them. As for the snacks, other mothers are soon put at ease when my children come running back to me for a handful of goldfish crackers or some craisins. This usually only takes a few minutes before my children think that they are hungry.

It is a sad situation when society is calling on men to do more of the child rearing or at least take a more involved role in child care while the men are uncomfortble taking their children to the playground for fear of "mom eye."

7:38 PM  
Blogger Dad Stuff said...

I understand completely. When I am the lone Dad at the park, I can feel the eyes on me too.
Going down the slide a few times usually smooths things out.

Maybe I should stop wearing trenchcoats, though.

8:50 PM  
Blogger RaeLynn said...

Awesome post! I laughed right out loud. Maybe you should wear a t-shirt that says "So what if I'm a pedophile--don't judge me"

7:31 AM  

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