The other morning, as the sun was shining and it was already pushing about 80 degrees when wife left for work with #1, I got the girls (kids 2 and 3) together, tossed them in the double-decker stroller (affectionately called the school bus), and sidled over to the local playground. This playground is relatively new, (<2 years) and has a crazy water feature that shoots streams of water randomly 20 feet in the air.
#3 was passed out hard in the stroller in an Enfamil-induced haze, so I let #2 run around through the sprinklers. She normally heads right for the swings, or maybe a slide, but she knows a hot day when she sees one, so she makes a bee-line for the jets of municipal H20. Like most modern playgrounds, most of the ground is covered in these mildly squishy rubbery tiles of various colors that are just soft enough that a 2-year-old will almost bounce back up when they fall over backwards
The water area is not covered with these tiles, due to mildew and other various kinds of water-born nastiness that would accumulate between the grooves. The water area is blacktop (tarmac for you Brits). I imagine you can see where this is going.
Seeing as how it’s 8:30 am, the playground is mostly empty. Just a mom or two, and a grandma. Their kids of various ages are meandering about. #2 is going hog wild in the sprinklers. Until she face-plants.
She looks up at me, with a sort of puzzled dog look, and half smiles as the blood starts coming out of her nose. I holler “You’re cool. You’ll be ok.” I casually get up, clean off her nose and scraped knees, pat her on the butt and tell her to get back in there. Now mind you, this girl is a tank. She doesn’t take garbage from anyone twice her size. Just ask the 3 year olds who told her she had to stay off of a jungle gym. She wasn’t the one who left in tears. She’s daddy’s girl.
As soon as she goes back to playing, I have this strange burning sensation on the back of my head, and I spin around to see a mother and a grandmother looking at me in absolute shock. It’s all a blur, but their comments were along the lines of, “You know, you really ought to be more careful. She could really get hurt.” And so on. I shrugged, plugged my headphones in, pulled down my sunglasses and went back to watching my daughter.
When I left later, the lecture that I got from them really started to irk me. The entire stigma of men being incompetent parents needs to fade away a bit already. This wasn’t the first time a woman has tried to intervene in my parenting, nor will it be the last. That said, I really want to know what they would do if I were female. Is it because I’m not a traditional caregiver that they have the cojones to assume I’m not a competent parent? Or would they give the same lecture out to the mother sitting next to me, when she doesn’t bother with sunblock for the kids, and lets them run barefoot?
In my experience, it’s really only the guys they have the nerve to lecture. Butt out.