03 September, 2008

New Kids on the Block

Three new kids appeared at the pool in June.  Three kids with their dad, no mom in sight.  The youngest befriended the Diva as they are both entering third grade.  By the end of the summer, the eldest girl had also befriended the Diva.
During our weeks of Camp Mom, we saw the three at the pool in the afternoons.  The kids would play, I would read, and the dad would do whatever it is that dads do while their kids are at the pool. 
In typical kid fashion, the girls talked about their families.  My Diva happily explained that I can't see very well and that she lives with me and attends our neighborhood school.  The other little girl explained that her parents divorced, her dad lives here, and that she attends the school on this side of our neighborhood.  With kids, there aren't many family, closely held, secrets.  I wouldn't be surprised if everyone in my daughter's class knows that I run around half dressed on hot summer days!
This past Sunday we hit the pool with full knowledge that it would be one of our last trips before next May.  The Diva played with her new friend, I read and attempted to figure out if she should offer this child her phone number for when she is in the neighborhood staying with her dad, and the dad talked on his phone and told his playing children that he would join them in the pool momentarily. 
The kids were splashing and laughing.  They had squirt guns.  They were having a fabulous time.  The dad kept telling the youngest that he would join them soon. 
And then he did. 
The Diva lasted about 15 minutes before she decided that she wasn't going to wait any longer for her new friend to resume their play.  The dad wasn't playing with her; was not including her in their game, so she decided that it was time to go home. 
I found the incident interesting.  Unless it is time to go, I rarely interrupt my happily playing child.  She is doing her thing, building her friendships, and living her life.  Plus... she is happy.  I love seeing and hearing my happy child - anyone's happy child.  So, this father's behavior intrigued me. 
Having been at the pool at the same time as his family on numerous occasions, I have seen how well he interacts with his kids.  It is a close family with together time.  He seems to enjoy being in the pool with them as much as they enjoy him being there.  This was, however, the first time I witnessed him making a point about getting into the pool, specifying a child with whom he would interact despite her being very involved in her own game, and then breaking up that game completely. 
The Diva was sad.  Her game was interrupted when they were having a great time.  The dad wouldn't include her.  The little girl had to play with her dad in the pool.  I wasn't sure how to explain it to her.  I know why the dad couldn't play with her the way he was with his own kids - hands on, not knowing her, a stranger, etc (and thankfully she didn't push me on that one as I wouldn't have known how to explain that a strange man wouldn't feel comfortable touching her)... but they could have played something else.  he could have joined in the game over changing it.  The Diva included his kids in her play dates, invited them to share her pool toys and her friends, and never excluded them from an activity. 
I have several ideas as to what happened, and what he was thinking.  Newly divorced, having his kids just part time, and seemingly a very active dad... spending time with his kids while he had it was important.  But I am curious as to what you take from the situation?  You know everything I know.  I am sure you have a thought as to what happened? 


dadshouse said...

It could be a bunch of things. Right off the bat - if the dad was talking on the phone, he wasn't really present and aware of what was going on. Sure, he saw his kids playing with the Diva. But he didn't internalize the fun they were having on their own. Had he been more present to the situation, he might have just "let them be."

Second - when my kids were younger, I felt weird if I started playing with other kids. You were right that he shouldn't put his hands on the Diva. But some moms might get creeped out if the dad even talks to their kid. I know there are dads out there who involve every kid in the game, but there are dads who aren't comfortable doing that.

Your insights and observations are great. Wish I knew what to tell the Diva! If you see them at the pool again, go say hi to the dad, point out your daughter. Then next time he might feel more comfortable.

Mike said...

Not quite sure. Being a guy you're always careful with playing with little kids and especially girls. It's an answer you'll probably never know.

Sorry to say not a big fan of the new blog look.

The Exception said...

DH - I think that the Diva understood about him wanting time with them because she knew that the kids didn't live there full time. She let it go but, I have a feeling it will come up again.

Mike - I am not sure about it either. As with everything else in my life, it will change at some point!

Single Mom Seeking said...

I agree that you cannot know what this man was thinking... unless you talk to him.

Ask Mike pointed out, I've known many dads/single men who've said hat they're very cautious about playing with little girls.

Maybe the next time, you can get in the pool for a bit, too? That way, you can make a "bridge" be: your family and his?

The Exception said...

SMS - I might have thought it odd if he had physically played with the Diva as he was with his kids. I just wondered why he didn't pick a game that they could all enjoy or join the game that was already in progress. The pool is now closed for the summer, but I will keep an eye out for them through the fall to try and bridge that gap. There aren't a large number of 8/9 year old kids in the neighborhood.

T said...

Yeah, I agree with everyone else in that perhaps he didn't feel comfortable with including the Diva. Now, I'm curious why you didn't say anything to him?! Since you've seen him many times, that was a perfect opportunity for you to say hello. Just my observation.

Yeah, keep an eye on him for playdates. You never know... ;)

The Exception said...

T - I wish I had a better answer than I just didn't. I thought about it and yet, it didn't feel right which is probably why he didn't talk to me either. I chatted with his daughter, shared our stuff, but never spoke to him.

JustRun said...

My guess is either a) he wasn't paying attention enough to know he was interrupting something, or b) he is newly divorced and not used to having to navigate through his kids and other's kids (especially daughters) without the help of someone who's likely more perceptive (like a wife/mom).

It sounds strange but I think single dads take a while to figure out the social kid thing. For them, it's brand new territory.

Have the T-Shirt said...

It's probably pretty simple:


Philip said...

From your description, he let his kids play with your child and then he went in the pool and played with his children. That sounds like a great father to me...I don't get the clueless comment. (I wasn't there, so maybe I'm missing something.)

He has limited time and it sounds like he divided it between kid play and family time. I'm sorry your daughter wasn't happy, but you can't make everyone happy all the time - he doesn't know you or your daughter, so he put his family first. You are criticizing this guy because he didn't meet your expectations even though you never said a word to him - that isn't fair!

The Exception said...

Jr - Now that is an interesting thought. I wonder if newly divorced dads have a learning curve of sorts? Dads?

T- Shirt - Some men...

Phillip - I didn't intend for this to come across as a criticism at all. In fact, I didn't judge him for his actions in real time or here. My curiousity was in regards to interupting playing children more than anything else. When parents entertain others at their house, I would be hard pressed to find a parent who interupts those children to play with their child. At our neighborhood pool, the parents usually do their thing. It is a free baby sitter (life guard), small pool, and there are usually kids laughing and splashing and enjoying time together.

I definitely noted that he seemed like a very involved dad. I pondered why he interupted the game to play with his kids as I have never seen a parent do that. I wondered if it could be his recently divorced, part time with the kids, status.

I didn't talk to him. He didn't talk to me. In public spaces, I am teaching my daughter to include other children in her play especially if they are "friends" or are on their own. She didn't understand when she was playing with these children and the dad ended the game, excluded her, and played with his kids in a different manner.

I foundn it curious and my daughter felt badly... not because the dad was involved but because she was excluded from something when she was in the midst of playing.

I love dads playing with their kids!!