"What is it that you do that allows you to be here at this time?"

November 7, 2012

Notable Stats

Fathers per Playdate-Weekday (FPW) - How many Dads you see per playdate during the week

Sippy Cup Luminosity (SCL) - The "brightness" of a sippy cup and how far away a person can see how ridiculous you may look carrying it in your hand

I suppose I was spoiled. Nine years of major league baseball would do that. People recognize you, fans wait in the lobby for the chance at an autograph as you sleepily slosh yourself off of the bus to get your room key at 3am. You didn't have to explain your presence very often, being that there were times when 50,000 people were paying to see you play.

But this was my life, not is my life. I left the glitz of major league baseball in part to share my life with a woman I had met on the blindest of blind dates. Our first date turned into fifty and before we ever declared ourselves "boyfriend-girlfriend" we were already engaged. It went that well.

Our first born came into our world in the summer of 2008. I had envisioned a unique opportunity of being able to use the money I made in baseball to be able to be the omni-present father, the dynamic and active member of an egalitarian household. I would know how to change diapers and detect the difference between spitting up and throwing up. I would know the intimate details of how to swaddle an infant in less than 15 seconds. Give an infant a bottle while cooking grits? Check. Change a diaper on a moving toddler? Check. Change a crib sheet in the dark without waking up the baby? Check.

So here I was taking my now one year old son to a language class. It was mostly a class to give kids socialization and a sense of community. Spanish was the language, which would eventually lead to a word or two to roll off a child's tongue, but a lot of the time, I was keeping my son from running in a 10 X 10 classroom with tables and chairs looking for him to kiss them with his head, or I was blocking his hugs, (which were declared "love tackles" by our neighbor), or maybe even making sure when they poured apple juice, it did not end up on the lap of the child next to him.

I was focused in these environments. It was like staring down the San Francisco Giants closer, Robbie Nen in the prime of my playing days. I had to watch my son like a hawk knowing that the split second I stopped, he would have either run out the door into oblivion, or ended up in the lap of a classmate's mother.

Then, I heard these sobering words, "What is it you do that allows you to be here at this time?" I suppose it would be weird on a Tuesday mid-morning to be able to avoid work and chase a one-year old around in circles. The comment had come from one of the mothers. I guess "mothers" were much more likely since these play dates, these "developmental brain fostering" programs were short of fathers. I was often the only one, or the only regular one. We were U.F.O.s on Planet Mom and one mother was calling me out on it.

I wasn't sure how to respond really. I figured it would be rude and ignorant to exaggerate and say, "Well, the Brinks truck treated me well during my playing days, so I actually own the space on the carpet we are sitting on." So I carefully explained that I was an "author" and had a lot of flexibility in my schedule. She apparently was a writer herself, so I had passed a critical test. My wife noted when I got home that, "She would have never asked a woman that question." Maybe not.

It would turn out to be a fractal experience of the global concept of fathers slowly breaking into territory that had been dominated by mothers. I would go to parks and find myself standing off in isolation, not sure how to break up the gaggle of Moms sharing nanny stories, or techniques on how to extract food from a choking toddler.

After a trip to Philadelphia, an image was etched into my soul. I was riding in the passenger seat right down Broad Street, a major axis in the city. Then I saw it. A man who had clearly lifted trains in his spare time. Huge. He had no shirt on, shorts, and then I realized he was pushing a travel system stroller (yes, look it up for those of you learning stroller lingo) with a 6 pound white dog (I am guessing a Bichon Frise or Maltese) and a six month old with dual sippy cups in the cupholder. What in the world....?

When I told my wife, she looked a me and said, "Well, walking through this neighborhood in Northside Chicago, you probably look as strange to outsiders as that guy, given that you are a 6 foot 2 inch black man, holding a sippy cup or snack trap, pushing a neon blue stroller in a sweatsuit and baseball cap at high noon."

It was time to take personal inventory.

- Doug Glanville

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