Dadness Mortified

03/09/2008 By Shawn Burns

By way of introduction, here is one of my favourite recent stories:

(Originally posted on Livejournal, February 13th, 2008)

I took Erin to the park today to eat some sand. She one-upped me by chipmunking a leaf and gagging on it later.

It was her first solo playdate, with an adorable little girl, T. By default it was also my first solo playdate with T’s mom E. The girls have played lots of times, and E is one of Emily’s mom friends that I hijacked back in October when I started going to the playgroup. E and I have hung out frequently, but always in a group of people. She has quickly become a good friend of mine as well.

That today was our first solo playdate occurred to me while we were having the following conversation, which I’ll paraphrase because I don’t remember it exactly:

  • E: “Have you ever seen ‘The Little Children’? Kate Winslet? She’s a stay-at-home mom. Anyway, there are these moms who go to a park, and there’s this guy who is a stay-at-home dad, and the moms all call him The Prom King.”
  • Me: “Why do they call him ‘The Prom King’?”
  • E: “Because he’s really good-looking and they get all swoon-y. So, R (E’s husband) and I were watching it the other night, and I turned to him and said, “Don’t worry, we don’t say that about Shawn”.”
  • Me (after a pause): “Oh. Well, I was never the Prom King.”

Even though my immediate response could well have been “Ouch!”, it wasn’t, because I know her comment to R was about how the moms in the real group differ from the moms in the movie (not swooning, bored idiots, but awesome, professional women) rather than how I look (which is damned good all the time, thank you very much). And I never was the Prom King. But now I was conscious of being the dad in the group, and being out on a solo playdate now, and Hey, how am I perceived in this group of moms? But, that only preyed on my mind for the next hour, because I was about to be mortified.

The girls played for an hour, and we packed up to leave. Erin was in her backpack, and E was wheeling T over to their car in the stroller while Erin and I went to go in the opposite direction. And then, as I was turning to go E said something like “Oh wait [something unintelligible] kiss.”

My next thoughts were very quick: (Are we at the kiss on the cheek stage in our relationship? I think I remember giving her a hug last time I saw her; I don’t remember a kiss on the cheek. Who have I ever kissed on the cheek? Is E in that category now? Well, we’ve hung out a lot and I think we’re pretty good friends. Ok, why not?)

I leaned in on the right (my right) and gave her a hug and a kiss on her left cheek. And then I hear in my left ear, something like: “I can’t quite reach her.”

I froze for a quarter-second eternity (drawing out the kiss on the cheek a little longer than the peck I had intended) and then I unfroze long enough to lower the backpack a little over my left shoulder so that E could kiss Erin .

But now that I was lowering the backpack I became aware that I was still kind of half-hugging E; I had begun to un-hug her, but paused in mid-un-hug to bring Erin down to her level. So in this half-un-hug state my hands were drawing away from her back but were now more on her waist.

It was like we were dancing. At the Prom.

Oh. Nice. Jackass.

I finally pulled out of the hug (and the dancing cheek-to-cheek) and turned to leave for real this time, when E called out, waving: “Tell Emily that I love her and miss her!”

Not as much as I did, right then.

Someone just smack me.

This moment of embarrassing SAHD park hijinks brought to you by a 3 mile hike with 30 lbs on my back this morning and too much fencing last night.