Our housing estate was built on the site of a former primary school and in the middle is a little park. It’s mostly visited solely by residents of the circuit road within this estate which gives our street its name.
I was over in the park yesterday with the my sons while my wife was at a baby shower. While playing there a mother and her son turned up and the little boy came over to play with us. My boys had never met him before but the 6.5yo took it upon himself to ask this little boy his name and age (something my wife and have taught him to do) and then asked him if he wanted to play the game we were playing.
We were playing this random game with some plastic ball-pit balls that someone had left behind at the park (there were 15 of them) and the boys were taking it in turns to throw them and then run to see who could retrieve the most. When the little boy, who is three, decided to join in, it meant that my older son could make his little brother who is a month shy of 4yo and the 3yo boy compete against each other, but first he wanted them to turn away from where he was throwing them, sort of like hide and seek.
(Here’s a video of one of the random games the boys played before the other little boy turned up. The post continues after the video).
So I took my younger son and this little boy over to a fence that borders the park (you can see it in the video above) and we looked through the picket fence style gate in front of us and I asked each boy to tell me what colour an item in that backyard was. The mum sat away from us but was laughing at the things the kids were saying and also what I was saying to them. Admittedly, I spoke a little louder than what might have been required for the boys to hear me but I was sort of playing to “the audience” with some humour that I knew the mum might enjoy. And she did. But she never came over. She just sat and watched as I played with the three boys.
After about 30 minutes, and after the fourth or fifth time the little boy ran over to his mother during the game, she decided that it was time to go. It was getting dark and cold and I was ready to go inside myself, but the boys insisted we stay out playing this game. She told her son to say goodbye as they walked away and after he did my boys said goodbye to him in return. After about ten more minutes playing we went inside and I went upstairs to fold washing while the boys played nicely downstairs together, which for them is rare.
My wife called me when she was leaving the party and I asked her to pick up some groceries. We were actually on our way to the shops to do the grocery shopping before the boys decided that playing at the park would be more fun instead. Besides, we had enough at home to create dinner, we needed a few things such as toilet paper which I was happy to go and get after the boys were in bed.
When my wife arrived home, our younger son who has finally come out of his shell and talks as though he’s giving a TEDx presentation (guess who he gets that from?) tells my wife the story of us going to the park, finding the balls, playing this random game, and then meeting the little boy and playing with him. My wife then quizzes me about the little boy and his mum.
“Have you seen them before? Do they live in our estate?”
“I don’t know,” I replied.
“Did you get the mum’s number?”
“No. I didn’t even talk to her. She didn’t come over. She just sat on the deck watching me play with the boys.”
“You should have got her number so we could organise a play date…”
Now there’s a few things in that which made a million thoughts run through my mind. And no, I’m not having a go at my wife about this because there’s nothing wrong with what she said, per se. But…
Maybe it would have been different if I was a mother, rather than a father. I know my wife makes friends with random mums she meets in parks or at shopping centres all the time and she has made some good friends, and/or at the very least, organised a play date for the boys with this other mother.
But, put yourself in the shoes of the mother, because this is what went through my mind. If some random guy, even though he seems friendly and innocent enough, came up to you, as a mother, or fathers, came up to your wife (assuming this mother was married or in a relationship) and asked for your/her phone number. Even if I went in with the prospect of it merely being “to organise a play date,” or even to suggest that “I’ll pass it onto my wife,” what would you think?
I guess, if I see her again in the park with her son I will suggest that, if she’s a local (because she could have been just visiting the area) she contact my wife to organise for our boys to play together.
Just for the record, if it was a dad that came there and sat watching, I would have suggested that he joined in on the game as I did. For some reason though, I felt a bit uncomfortable saying it to the mum for one, but also, as a dad who is trying to show the world that dads can be great parents and role models, I felt that I could do this on my own without the need for a mum to help out to play the game.
Do you meet random mums or dads in the park, at play centres or out and about and swap numbers with them so that your kids can have play dates? What are your thoughts on this?