The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: Child Socialization

Kids holding hands on playgroundIt was an unseasonably sunny and warm Sunday for Fall, and we decided to take full advantage of it by going for a family drive. No set destination, no goal in mind other than just to spend time together.

It ended up turning into a few errands that my wife wanted to run while we were out, but the overall day was devoted to just going ‘wherever.’ By the afternoon, ‘wherever’ was a playground so that we could all enjoy some sun, some warmth and the little guy could have some fun.

When we got there, there were two little kids (a brother and sister) already present and playing – the brother was one year older than our guy and the sister the same age. Though our guy, as seems to be the case, was twice the size of the fellow two year old.

It was fun to see him so quickly make friends and easily play as if he had known these kids all along. Funny how we adults have such an awkward time engaging in new social relationships, bogged down by lifetimes of inhibitions, fears, experiences, when these children have the world before them, and all it takes is a simple ‘hi’ to head down the path to fun, play and friendship.

For the little chatterbox (which we’re quite proud of) that our guy is, aside from introducing himself, he became a bit more quiet on the playground, usually lost in his own little world (such as picking up piles of pebbles and pouring them onto the swing instead of actually using the swing), or following the 3 year old boy around and wanting to do whatever it is that boy did. If the boy walked up the slide, our guy wanted to walk up the slide (even though he’s never attempted it before). If the 3 year old boy wanted to do the small rock wall, our guy wanted to do it.

It was completely an afternoon of new social engagement, new challenges, but most of all, fun. We spent a good amount of the afternoon there and just as easily as he made friends with these kids, it just as quickly came to an end, without issue. No emotional losses, no crying that things were changing, just…carrying on.

That simple hello that led to an afternoon of play ended with just as easily a ‘bye’ as the brother and sister left with their family members and we stayed on, playing on the slide.

I’m often amazed at how much more adaptable children are than we adults as situations arise, change, etc. If we could all only capture and hold on to that as we grow older.

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SONY DSCFrom our last adventure of father-son bonding with dinner at Uno, the little monkey and I then headed to Barnes and Noble.

The image in my head before we got there was of me sipping a coffee, while pushing him in the stroller, looking at children’s books and generally enjoying a calm night of books and bonding.

Yeah, no.

When we got out of the car, I realized that I had become so used to pulling the stroller out…of my wife’s car. You know, the car that was with her at the theatre. So, no stroller. Okay, no problem. We’d walk it. But that also meant I couldn’t take his big ol’ bag with me since there was no stroller to put it or him in. So, I took out a diaper and a wipe and shoved them in my coat pocket, just in case.

Heading into the store, we ran into a newspaper reporter I know from my newspaper days and we were chatting for a few moments about a recent article he had written and some slack he was getting from the public about it. It was an interesting conversation, but one that was abruptly cut short, as my little guy’s eye caught some children playing with Nooks in the Nook area of the store and pushed himself off of me, to the ground, and sped over to them as fast as his little feet could take him.

He just loves other little kids. His hand flailing in a non stop wave, he kept smiling ear to ear and saying “Hi! Hi!” in that tiny little voice to this little boy and little girl. Their dad, a hipster-looking guy with beard and a knit cap told me the little boy was just a week younger than our guy. It really made me realize how big our guy is. He was born big (10 pounds, 2 ounces), but I really saw it when he was standing there with a kid just around his age who was so much smaller than he.

Then, my son just opened his arms and hugged this other little boy. It was adorable. Absolutely adorable. But then, he wouldn’t stop. This other little boy would move back and here my son would go, arms out, like a cute little Frankenstein’s Monster, ready to embrace once more. I could see the look of fear on the other child’s face and tried telling my son that we should hold off on more hugs and look around some more. The dad was very nice, saying ‘hey, man, hugs make the world go round,” but I don’t think that did anything for that other little kid’s anxiety, or mine as the father of the kid accosting him.

The little girl, slightly older got a hug from my little man as well, and she just so happened to be wearing a Wonder Woman t-shirt. Well that did it for our guy. He kept pointing at Wonder Woman and all over this little girl’s shirt. She was very nice about it, but again, it’s hard to tell when you have little kids, where the line is being crossed from friendliness and cute to overbearing and assault.

I have to admit, I was sort of surprised when Hipster-Dad saw my son falling in love with the little girl’s Wonder Woman t-shirt and said ‘I take it he’s got a sister, huh?”

I explained that no, our guy just likes Wonder Woman. He’s got a Fisher Price Wonder Woman toy and Invisible Jet, along with some other DC Super Friends. Is that weird that I was so caught off guard by that question? If anything, I would have expected a hipster-dad to get the whole no gender slanting of toys thing.  Odd, or maybe I’m just off. Who knows.

With a little prodding, I finally got my son to move down an aisle, but it turned out to be an aisle that was journals and non-fiction books, not to his liking. He started out well, holding my hand, but the minute he realized his place in the store and the destination of the children’s section, he took off, with me chasing him between aisles as he shouted ‘no no no no no!’ when I’d ask him to come back to daddy.

Boy, did I feel like a terrible father.

We got to the children’s section and started looking at books. He found old friends Elephant and Piggie, Daniel Tiger, and some new things that caught his eye. But then, he spotted the staple of the kids section at Barnes and Noble – the Thomas the Tank Engine play-set table. Only this time, unlike past visits, there were other children there using it.

Now, I’m sure we all idealize how our children will act, behave, etc and it’s probably always the same. They’ll calmly walk over and say hi to another child, find something no one else is using, and all will get along swimmingly.

I can fool myself for only so long.

He ran over, and immediately started playing with a train car that was part of the train another child was using. And when I walked over and stopped him, was met with a big ‘no no no no no!’ – his favorite new reaction. The father of these children was kind, much like Hipster-Dad up front, and said they were wrapping up anyway and that ‘we’ve all been there.’ The kids left and my little man played for a bit, but with no children around, he lost interest rather quickly.

He let out more energy with a one man show on the stage area of the children’s room, dancing for anybody who came by before heading to a corner to look at Sesame Street books. The night was getting on, and I could see him getting a little tired. I was proud of the fact that we were wrapping up without having bought a single thing. I didn’t want him to come to think of solo time out with daddy as a time to get/buy something. I scooped him up and brought him to the car where we had a pretty calm ride home to the tune of some classical music.

I was feeling like a daddy-failure. I was tired, but you know what? It turned out, he was pretty tired too. And for the first time since Meg rejoined the theatre, he actually fell asleep for me. I read to him, put him to bed and he fell asleep!

Now THAT, that felt like a success, if even a small one. 🙂



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