Don’t worry Moms, I wasn’t going to let the Dads off the hook.
My firstborn was a NYC kid until the age of four. Tiny apartments and no backyards = a lot of time spent in the playground. A LOT. Things didn’t change much when we moved abroad. The playgrounds in Cyprus were dusty, the ones in Denmark are designer, but the Dad archetypes are the same wherever you go.
Paul the PC Pusher
Paul makes sure you know how comfortable he is with his son pushing a doll stroller and wearing hot pink. He buys his daughter light sabers and Spiderman water bottles, even though she screams for Barbie. Paul is so hyper attuned to gender neutrality he brings a tutu to the playground just in case his son wants to wear it one day. Almost exclusively caucasian, Paul’s kids often have names like Mandela or She Who Flies with the Moon. Somehow he manages to get the words gay, transgender, multi-cultural and race into just about every conversation. He means well but…
Hal the Hot Mess
Hal shows up at the playground wearing mismatched socks and stained cargo shorts. He’s forgotten snacks, water bottles, and toys for the sandbox. His diaper bag is held together with duct tape. Hal looks like he’s five minutes away from a social services visit at any given time. Fellow moms are constantly ‘rescuing’ Hal. No Goldfish? No problem, share ours. Messy diaper and no baby wipes? Here, don’t worry, I’ve got plenty. Hot Mess Hal is such a mess he gets mothered more than the kids he’s responsible for.
You know who I’m talking about. The model/actor/sports star Dad, or the one who just looks like one. Geoff may have an exotic accent but wherever he’s from he manages to make sweats look….good. He strolls into the playground looking like he’s just done a GQ cover shoot. He has a posse of moms who follow him around, fawning over his every word and an anti-posse who refuse to have anything to do with him; not because he’s not a nice guy, simply because they don’t want to be seen as groupies.
Malcolm the Mr. Mom
Malcolm is so readily and easily absorbed into the group of moms that he talks about labor pains and episiotomies with gusto. Sleep schedules, sore nipples, division of household labor–Malcolm doesn’t shy away from any of it. He is invited out for drinks with the girls, feels right at home in Mommy and Me classes and can bitch about how his spouse doesn’t appreciate what he does with the best of them.
Ed the Enthused
Ed throws himself down the slide, runs through the sprinkler, plays ball with a group of three years olds and draws to scale chalk roads for racing. He spends hours pushing swings, spotting sliders and organizing group games of tag. Among the playground mothers he is generally mistrusted because well…no one really likes doing that stuff, so why does he appear to enjoy it so much? Ed cheerfully spends hours doing what the rest of us feel like we should be doing….but aren’t.
Too Cool For School Raul
Raul shows ups at the playground in skinny jeans and a retro band tee-shirt, looking like he just rolled out of bed. Don’t be fooled, it took him hours. Raul’s child is named Arlo or Patsy or Zepplin or Skynard. He is constantly rubbing his head and yawning and telling everyone who will listen about the amazing band he saw last night. Raul is clinging to the last vestige of cool with his bitten fingernails. He lives in fear of Dad shorts, a braided leather belt and a colonial in Connecticut.
Ian is constantly on the phone while at the playground. Pushing swings, catching a ball, refereeing a sandbox scuffle. He’s got half an eye on his kids and half an eye on his phone the entire time, texting, scrolling, reading, talking. Though he’s mastered a diaper change with a phone tucked under his chin, it’s only a matter of time until little Isabella wanders out of the gates or brains another toddler in the sandbox with her shovel while Daddy’s checking the game score or sealing the deal.
George the Grandpa Dad
George is on his second family. George is tired, and gray, and constantly mistaken for little Georgina’s granddad. From the slight hitch of his mildly arthritic knee to the artful silver hue of his hair, George has nothing in common with the younger, more energetic Dads around him. But George has accepted it’s easier just to do what his much younger second wife has told him to do. Publicly he talks about how great it is to have a second chance, how he never got to spend quality time with his older kids. But anyone who is paying attention can hear him inwardly screaming, “I thought it would be different and now it’s exactly the same… only I’m paying alimony to boot.”
Dave is constantly putting his toddlers through mini-boot camps, barking “encouragement” at them from every piece of play equipment. You can hear Dave’s stentorian shouts of “You can do it! Don’t give up! One more rung to go, don’t quit on me now!” from across the park. Other famous Dave-isms include “Walk it off”, “No child of mine” and “Stitches are for wimps.” Dave’s kids usually have a look of mild terror in their eyes while they swallow their fears and plunge into the abyss of the covered slide.
I’ve come across them all in my decade plus of playground attendance. I’m sure you have too.
Special mention to RB who sent along some truly inspired Dad-types. I wasn’t able to include them here, but I got a huge laugh out of them.