A couple of weeks ago, I went to a toddler group with my almost two
You see, I’m a freelancer, that means I have the luxury of picking and choosing my work, but also that sometimes, when I don’t have any work, I get to spend some really good quality time with my wife and two boys. I feel very lucky to be in this position, even when the work isn’t flowing in, because our time is now, and the boys will soon be growing up and becoming less and less dependent on us.
My wife wanted to try out a new group in a nearby town to where we’ve recently moved to, and asked if I’d like to take our youngest to try it out.
I duly packed him into the car with all the bits we’d need (or I’d need, to keep him happy). We drove to the group and I shook off the slight apprehension that it was a new group, full of new people for me and our toddler to meet, and each group has its own little quirks.
When we got there, I breathed a sigh of relief, it’s ok, they’re just mums, they aren’t big green monsters, we’ve got this. They were parking their cars, unstrapping their little ones and walking into the building where the group was so we followed suit.
As we walked in, my nearly two-year-old did a big excited intake of breath as he saw all the toys, soft play and sensory bits to explore. He pointed at them, tugging on my sleeve, making sure I had seen all the toys, and looking for affirmation that he was allowed to go and play. I beamed down at him, heart swelling, and gave him a nod and a quiet, “go on then!”
That was all he needed, he was off, sliding head first into a large paddling pool full of balls and a few other children. He was happy, I was happy, this group was going to be fine. I looked up to acknowledge the other parents stood by the paddling pool, all mums. A couple of them looked in my direction, or rather, through me, but none made eye contact; no welcoming smile, nod or acknowledgement that I existed or that my toddler was now playing and giggling with the other children in the paddling pool.
A fleeting feeling that maybe we didn’t quite have this, but quickly swept aside as the group
I felt at ease at once, she really was lovely. She knew my name, and my son’s name, after my wife had contacted her about the group the previous week. She made a fuss of us both, then went over to greet other parents (mums) who were trickling in. By the time everyone was there, I counted 19 mummies, and 1 daddy, yours truly. Plus of course, loads of little ones.
As I followed my little one around the soft play, eager that he play nicely and share toys and apparatus (I needn’t have worried, he was on form, playing with other children, instigating games and throwing himself wholeheartedly into each activity) I was very aware that no one was speaking to me, or even making eye contact with the odd smile. I thought it odd, and then it really started to bug me. I made the odd comment about my little one playing with theirs, or the odd “oops” as they bumped into each other, but nothing, no interaction with me at all.
Now don’t get me wrong, this seemed like a really friendly group, all the mums in little clusters, chatting and enjoying each other’s company, I just seemed to be the only one no one was willing to talk to. I began to feel like a bit of an alien. Of course, I was the only dad there, but did that really matter? If a new mum had gone along to a group like that, would she have been ignored for a whole hour? Do mums feel they can’t talk to lone wolf dads with their little ones? What’s with that?!
Even when during group circle time, when the
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. I’m not an ogre, I wouldn’t consider myself unapproachable, and I’m definitely friendly!
So my plea to you mums out there… spot a new dad at a predominantly mummy orientated group or event? Stop and take the time to welcome them, share a joke or just chat with them.
We don’t bite, we feel insecure in new environments just like you do, and trust me, we want the same things out of a group like that.
In fact, spot a parent at a group whose new or on their own, and see if you can spark up a conversation. You never know, you might make a new friend.
We’re not all that different really.