Four Fathers

09/07/2008 By Shawn Burns

On Saturday I met four fathers.

In the morning I met The Swimmer. At the baby pool, with his son in tow, he towered over the toddlers in the water, a frame toned by a lifelong dedication to swimming; evidence that he continued to swim regularly. His son, months older than Erin, took wobbly steps in the pool and then threatened to drown; he confessed that he’d never really tried swimming lessons for his son, who choked and sputtered on the chlorinated water while Erin bounced around him, dunking herself under and popping back up, launching herself at me as I hid my waistline beneath the water.

In the afternoon I met The Club Rat. Standing at the snack table at Baby Loves Disco while the DJ dropped phat beats for the kids on the dancefloor, "YMCA" began to play: "Great song," he muttered, sincerely, to no one in particular, but I was the only one there, so he must have meant it for me. "I’m out of my element; there are too many moms here," his stance and offer said. I grabbed a handful of crackers, smiled at him perfunctorily and gave him a little nod as I turned to go back to the dancefloor where Erin was bopping along. "I can’t help you," I telepathized at him, "You used the worst pickup line ever." 

Later that afternoon, still at the nightclub where they were serving juice boxes and liquor, I met The Liar. Standing at the bottom of the short staircase leading from the bar to the dancefloor, he waited for his three year old son to descend; his wife was next to him, but facing toward the stage. He watched his son take the top step aggressively, then catch his toe on the next step and tumble, head first, down the remaining stairs and land on his face and hands on the floor. Erin descended the stairs behind him, grabbing the rails all the way down until she reached the bottom. His wails had attracted his mother’s attention; she turned and, shocked, righted him and asked his father what had happened. "Oh, well, nothing. Don’t worry. He just stood up there on that top step and jumped all the way down. He’s fine. He’s a great jumper."

And in the early evening, sitting once again at the Mosh Pit,  I met The Lost Boy. Emily and I watched as Erin climbed up and slid down the play bridge in the Mosh Pit. We sat next to the father of a boy who pushed her down once; he typed away on his laptop, looking up occasionally to note his son’s location. "I’m a stay at home dad," he said to Emily as they chatted briefly. "Oh? My husband’s a stay at home dad too." "Really?" He extended his hand and I gripped it in mine. He smiled widely, and he maintained the handshake a little too long, caught off-guard and grateful that he had met someone else in the fraternity. "Have you used any of the online resources for at-home dads?" I asked, "Meetup groups and online forums?" "No," he replied, "there used to be a San Jose at-home dad meetup group, but they folded. It’s too bad, because I can’t hang out with the moms, you know?"

"No," I said, "I hang out with moms all the time."

Come to think of it, I suppose I met a fifth father yesterday: The Judgmental Father. He thinks his shit doesn’t stink.