A SAHD Sad Cell

artcrazycoworkersI was in my usual Thursday mid-week escape from SAHD life at the nearest Starbucks trying to get through “Collapse” by Jared Diamond.  We pay a sitter to give me four hours of relief so I can go to the gym, do some errands and move on my own.  It’s a guilty pleasure but I’m not ashamed.  I’m reading this book not on my own volition. It’s my local book club’s book of the month and I can’t for the life of me read more than a sentence without falling asleep.  It’s like a college textbook about how societies collapse.  I can’t find one thing on any page that makes me want to turn to the next page.  My mother would tell me that falling asleep on a book means it’s not meant for you.  I agree.  That’s why I spent my time watching the other peeps in the coffeeshop. It’s weird watching people in the midst of their workdays, getting coffees, making deals, wearing workclothes and living the worker bee lifestyle that I’m now a stranger to.   This always causes a lot of mixed emotions.  They are busy with “work”.  I am not. I don’t envy the workerbee but then, the modern American Male has a hard time taking a measure of self worth without punching the clock.

Frankly, I try to fool myself that I’m doing something more meaningful with my days, something greater than just collecting a paycheck, I’m intensely active in the youth experience of my own child during an important period in her life.   But my wife is the one going to work.  We’re a team and everyone has the same value and measure of work.  No one person is better or more important or doing something more “important” than the other.   Both roles are necessary.

So if I don’t have one up on her, I can’t very well have one up on those workerbees down at the Starbucks can I?  Everyone’s got to pull their weight. But here in the OC, it’s a bit different.  Driving the Lexus or the Porsche with a Blackberry in your hand, althought terribly materialistic and certianly not enviable, creates a cloud of perception that everyone is busy with something important but me!  There’s the guy with the bluetooth in line cracking a deal or talking about his account down in Laguna who won’t get off his ass.  There’s the Russians smoking in the corner playing cards.  There’s the UC Irvine students punching the keyboards on their laptops with noise canceling headphones making a lot of noise.  The thing I notice, in my downtime, in this time of escape from the Diaper Genie and the indestructible board books with snowmen and dancing dinosaurs, is the lack of interconnectoedness I have and true isolation.  A SAHD isn’t on the phone talking to any of the following:  account manager, bookie, interior designer, lawyer, or any other “mover” or “shaker”.   A SAHD is at the park watching their kid, picking up toys, washing dishes or breathing a sigh of relief or taking it easy at a coffee shop or trying to relax after shutting the door on a sleepy child.

My SAHD cellphone mostly is used to talk with my wife or my mother.  I don’t really text and I can’t navigate the internet with it.  I call my wife when I miss her and when I want to see when she’s going to make it home from work.   It seems like a metaphor for me not being connected.  It’s easy to say that being a stay at home parent is a brave choice and a progressive one for a me, but it’s got warts.  They are the things that we have learned since we were children; the value of work, the desire for success, the need to rise up and continue to improve,  accomplishment satisfaction and the need for continual approval by our co-workers or superiors.  A stay at home parent has all those qualities and recieves them, but the are harder to scratch at and sometimes just below the surface of our daily activity.   I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t want to go to a workplace and assure my intelligence and value in the jobmarket.   But sacrifices seem to be the name of the game in parenthood — leaving a child to go to work and staying with the child from work certainly count as sacrifices.   Coming to terms with the implications of those decisions seems to reverberate for quite awhile.

OPP: Obnoxious Playground Parent

kickingNow, my kid just started walking so I’m hardly one to talk but I can’t help it despite the fact that it may become hypocritical.  In fact, I’ll probably eat these words in a year or two.  But why is there so much yelling going on at the playground? Have you ever just sat and listened to how much yelling and screaming goes on? I’m not talking about the kids. Hell, those little munchkins are running around like rats at a peanut butter factory. Their job is to yell, run, jump, fall, push and generally burn up a huge amount of calories so they can get to bed and start all over again the next day. No, the yelling I’m talking about is the OPP: Obnoxious Playground Parent.

Is it so hard to sit on a bench and when a kid says,”Daddy/Mommy look at me!” to put your paper down for 1/5 of a second and just nodd “Uh-h” and murmur, “be careful” or “don’t break your neck”.  This is the extent of the oversight that kids need (we’re talking kids old enough to run, jump and play — not teens or infants here).

Instead, the OPP runs a basecamp off the nearest bench with a full array of snacks, toys, strollers, cell phones, PDA’s and assorted caffeinated beverages.  They constantly have a cell phone on their ear or worse, a Bluetooth. They yell at their kid to slow down, to share, to come have a drink, to come do something the kid doesn’t want to do, whatever that might be.  They hurt my brain by micro-managing the activities of a child who is involved in playing. Playing doesn’t need to be micro-managed, it is done is just fine.  I saw a special on kids who are biters. Why do kids bite? Because they aren’t allowed to run around, punch, scream and get the jiggles out other times. They’re being micro-managed down to the second and told what to do.  Some geniuses put a punching bag in the classr0om so when kids get angry, the go beat the hell out of the bag instead of acting like rabid wolves.   Duh.  Our elitist culture is so intent on having our children go to Harvard that we don’t allow them to act like animals on the playground when that’s exactly what they need! We restrict their “play” time to dates, soccer practice and video games.  No wonder they need counseling.  We are demanding that they be restrained during the only period in their lives when they have societies’ permission not to be restrained.

Just the other day I was pushing the Bean on the baby swing. She digs it, though much of the novelty has worn off after about 100 pushes for both of us.  I’m observing a little boy maybe 3-4 years old playing in the sand area with a bucket and shovel.  His mom is standing over him directing him on how to play with his bucket.  She’s constantly saying, “No, you’re doing it wrong.”  How can a kid play wrong? They can’t. But the message the kid hears is that he’s doing something wrong and his mom thinks he’s an idiot.  When do we stop projecting our own insecurities on our children.  Christ, let them at least grow up to be teenagers before you inflict all your neurosis on them.

Sure, you can have kids get into trouble at play, they can wander off they can do a whole load of things on a playground that’s not suitable for their continued survival.  What irritates me is the managing of every aspect of play.  Doesn’t need to be done.  Kids fall down. Kids run. Repeat. Rinse.

My suggestion to parents who feel the need to participate in the actualization of play at the playground is to take a good book or a newspaper, sit your yoga pants wearing ass down and relax.  Give a pre-determined amount of time to play (45 minutes or an hour or whatever) then leave the kids alone.   Should you give the kid liscense to murder and pillage younger children or fight like they’re in the UFC Octogon? No, but damnit, kids need to stretch their imagination and create their own play, not be regulated and restricted by an adult.

Take the Bluetooth out too. You look like an idiot.