One of my greatest successes as a person has been my ability to makes friends, as 1,779 people on Facebook will attest to. I am outgoing, friendly, and lack any intimidating tattoos or facial hair. I had therefore assumed I’d have a list of fellow at-home parents to call for a play date, arranged by interest, child’s age, and how inferior they make me feel as a parent. Turns out, not so much.
I knew when I decided to be an at-home parent that I was joining a work force that is over 96% women. And though that sounds awesome in one kind of way, it’s more like being the only guy at an Ani DiFranco concert. There are plenty of mom groups in the DC area who do not allow dads, and I understand that. Guys can be creepy and it’s better to not have to worry about them as a group. But by now, I honestly thought I’d have met a nice mom, gotten in her good graces, and infiltrated their private little group like Jane Goodall. Of course in this case, I am the scientist and the at-home moms in the DC area are the gorillas. It’s also possible I lack the charm necessary to pull this off.
At the heart of the issue is the fact that I would have to basically ask out a married woman. And though I’m married and have a child now, I still have a crippling fear of both rejection and women. And how would I even go about doing that? What does that next step even look like?
“Yeah, she’s really getting the hang of this walking thing… 14 months, and your son? Well, he’s not doing so bad either… Say, since we both have kids about the same age, how about I come over to your place and we get some Legos and wine and see what happens?”
I finally decided to go for it one particular day with a lady at the playground. I overheard her talking to her friend about her blog. Hey! I have a blog too! So I approached her and asked her what her blog was. I know I can use all the traffic to my blog I can get. Her demeanor shifted. Her eyebrows furrowed. She looked at her friend. I felt like I was asking for a list of her ex-boyfriends. Shit, I thought I was helping. She reluctantly told me and I mentioned I had one too, if only to make it seem less like the question was just for the sake of stalking. She did not ask about it. I chose not to pursue any further contact. This was three months ago and she hasn’t been back to that playground again. She instead started going to a similar nearby playground according to her blog. Which I am apparently now using to stalk her, affirming their reasoning to not allow men into their at-home mom groups. Maybe these women are on to something.
So what about the other 4%? Those that have the same genetic defect? Well, there is only one dad group in the DC area that I’ve found and most of their meet-ups are either for older kids who don’t need naps in the middle of the day or require a trek down to Arlington, VA. Arlington is only 14 miles from New Carrollton as the crow flies, which is a scant three and a half hour commute on the Virginia Beltway. So unless I make Mabel miserable by messing with her nap time – which seems counterintuitive to having a play date for her – it doesn’t look like this group is the answer either. I guess what I’m looking for is another at-home parent of either gender to come to my house during the hours I tell them to, preferably with their child and maybe a six-pack of Yuengling. Maybe I’ll draft an email.
A friend recently asked why I felt the need to have play dates for Mabel in the first place. I suppose this is a fair question, though one with what I think is an obvious answer. Though yes, the companionship of my daughter is enough to make my world aglow with a constant stream of undeniable love, wouldn’t it be better if there was another person there – perhaps one who could form complete sentences – who could also bring his or her constant stream of love into our already glowing world? I say yes.
Also of note, is that these potential play dates, though organized around and because of our children, are not necessarily primarily about them. Mabel’s opinion about who we have a play date with largely does not matter yet. I used to think it would, but play dates are set up by parents who get along with each other. At 16 months old, Mabel hasn’t had enough interactions with other children for her to have an educated opinion about who she likes. And if she did, she couldn’t really express it anyway. I don’t even know if she’s done eating, doesn’t like her food, or just enjoys the sound asparagus makes when it hits the floor. I doubt I’m going to really understand if she’s trying to tell me that this other child doesn’t have compatible values. At this age, we’re all just trying desperately to get our children to not hit each other in the face. Who the other child is matters very little.
And so, because of the structural design of the at-home parenting community combined with my inability to figure out a way to successfully ask a married woman on a date, Mabel and I are doomed to a life of being the friendly-from-afar regulars at the community playground. If only there was a website where parents could go to find local toddlers seeking play dates. That’s what the internet should be for.