At the start of this weekend, something truly remarkable happened.
It’s not the first time it has occurred, but this kind of thing is infrequent, at best. Like when there is a solar eclipse; just because you see it once doesn’t mean you should expect to see the same thing the following day.
The event in question took place on Friday morning at the playgroup I take Seth to every week. The age of the kids is mixed, so there are babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers there. One of Seth’s little pals goes and they seem to have good fun.
We arrived a few minutes after 10 (when the group starts) and I looked around the room to see the familiar faces, both kids and adults, who regularly come.
As I scanned the room, something didn’t quite seem right. Something was different; there was a radical new look to the landscape I could see before me.
I didn’t actually know how to react to the strange sight before me. I always knew there was a chance that this might happen but it didn’t make it any less shocking.
In front of my very eyes – which I’d vigorously rubbed to check I wasn’t imagining it – stood… another DAD.
A real life dad.
This made no sense to me. In the nearly five years of being a parent, and the countless number of playgroups I have taken Daisy & Seth to, so rarely have I ever seen another dad. It’s always been mums, without fail.
Now, the issue of being the only dad in a playgroup full of mums proves problematic in its own right as I blogged about in MFZ: The Man Free Zone.
You are the odd one out. The black sheep in the playgroup field. Not only do you feel a bit awkward, you also know that the mums feel they have to slightly modify their conversations so you don’t feel too awkward.
Quite frankly, the majority of mums – if they had their own way, and not through any malice – would find it easier if you were female.
But this was a totally different experience.
Once the shock had dissipated from my facial expression, I gathered my composure and glanced over towards the other dad.
(It was like the awkward glance Hugh Grant would give for the first time to his unsuspecting love-interest in a below-par chick flick.)
He smiled back.
My instinctive reaction was to rush over and blurt out how excited I was that I might get to have a conversation with another human being which didn’t involve talking about kids. I thought better of it, and decided to play it cool. No one wants to be the one to come on too strong.
So instead, I made myself a cup of tea whilst firing over the odd glance to check he was still interested in some sort of liaison. And it seemed like he was.
It suddenly occurred to me that I was indulging in a spot of flirting; something I hadn’t really done since I met my wife, 13 years ago. Although, in a way, this seemed more important. If my flirting with her hadn’t worked back in 2002, I could have always moved onto another woman.
If I lost this guy, there might not be another fella on the horizon for months…
Eventually, after what felt like hours of mild flirtation (it was probably around 3 minutes), our paths crossed in the middle of the room.
“Hi, I’m Rich”.
“Hi, I’m Lee”.
Of course the blaring irony here is that when you go to a playgroup as the only dad in a world of mums, the one thing that connects you together is parenthood. So naturally, the conversation centres on that subject.
Here we were though, two dads, kindred spirits, united against all the odds, and what did we talk about…?
The conversation wasn’t (as I’d imagined it would be) drastically different from all the other chats I’ve had over the last few years with hundreds of mums. There was the odd mention of football, daddy day care and the housing market(!) but that was about it.
One thing I did find out is that this was a one-off for him. His wife was working so he was in charge of the kids for the day.
There was to be no second date.
This casual affair had ended as quickly as it had begun.
So next week it will be back to being ‘one of the girls’ and smiling and nodding at the tales of motherhood.
But for one day… if only one day…
I had Lee.