I was already sweating. Crammed in between chairs and dodging elbows attached to scissor-wielding hands that were dancing around wet heads, I didn’t have space to take off my jacket or my huge scarf. So I stood there, smiling at the reflection of my daughter. She was silently cringing as a stranger brushed her hair, which was a hilarious contrast to the seemingly uncontrollable screeches I got treated to when I did the same thing. I caught her eye and smiled at her before getting sucked into the conversation happening next to me.
“So you’re watching the kids today, eh?”
A small Italian man with a big New York City accent was snipping away at another man’s head, the guy’s newly shorn sons wrestling in a chair nearby.
“Giving the wife a break?”
That’s all it took. Frustration and rage boiled up inside of me until I felt like a kettle on the verge of shrieking. I felt my face become tomato red as the two men chuckled and shrugged as if they each understood what it was like to have to take one for the team.
There were so many things I wanted to say right then.
Hey assholes, you can’t watch your own kid!
“Watching” is something babysitters and other people who are not directly responsible for a particular human being’s creation do. Grandparents can watch. Teenage neighbors and friends of the family and college kids home on break can watch. Dads do not watch.
When a dad spends his day with his kids it’s called parenting. It is not a task or a chore or a favor so that “the wife” doesn’t have a nervous breakdown. It’s his god damn job. I mean, is anyone going to ask me if I’m “giving the husband a break” while I’m out with my daughter? No. No one will even notice.
Having a vagina does not make a person solely responsible for the little humans that come out of it.
The last time I checked, parents are equally responsible for their children. They make decisions together. They provide for them together. They take care of them together. It’s highly insulting to both moms and dads to subscribe to the bullshit mentality that a dad should get a gold star for being involved in the lives of his children. That shit should be a given. No pats on the back. No special shout outs.
What kind of message are you sending your sons with your bullshit small talk?
You might think it’s harmless chatter, but the message you send is clear: a woman’s place is with the children. For men, kids are something to put up with when it becomes critical, but otherwise you’d rather not be involved. Is that really what you want them to hear? Do you want them to feel your aloof detachment? Years from now, do you want them to take that idea and transfer it to their families?
I peeled my scarf off carefully as I felt myself get more and more riled up. My daughter caught my eye in the mirror and made a face at me. I immediately felt the tension between my eyebrows lessen as I smiled at her, steam releasing from the angry kettle. The frustration was still there, but I felt a small comfort in the fact that at least she would know better.