Friday, July 17, 2009

Mommy and Me

Over the past year I've taking my younger son, Jamie, to the local Jewish community center for a 'Mommy and Me' class. Being the only dad present has never troubled me. Everyone is friendly and respectful. Sure, the moms feel more comfortable with asking each other out for lunch, etc, but what's important is that my son have the benefit of the class.

As for the name of the group, I have shared my preference for altering it. Why not change it to 'Parent and Me' or 'Toddler and Me' - something a little more inclusive. The response was that adjusting it from the generic 'Mommy and Me' confused people as to what the class was about as it's such an ingrained term. While I didn't agree with this, making waves in an otherwise friendly environment didn't seem appropriate. I don't consider myself to be a militant dad, just one who would like to see things be more equitable and inclusive from all sides of the parental spectrum.

This morning, however, something interesting happened. At morning snack, the teacher brought up, specifically for my attention, an article that had just come out in the local paper about another 'Mommy and Me' class in the area. When a dad, who had a day off from work, arrived to this other class with his excited daughter and wife, the teacher brazenly informed them that the dad would need to leave as this was a mom's only class and the 'daddy and me' class was on Saturdays. He was asked to wait at a nearby coffee shop until the class's conclusion, which he did. His wife was so upset by this that she wrote the editorial letter (unfortunately, the paper's link does not work.)

Anyway, the teacher of my son's class asked how I felt about being there and I reassured her that, while I would prefer a different title to the class, it wasn't really a problem for me.

After the class had ended, the woman who runs the whole nursery school program approached me as well. She was greatly irked by this article as well and it had made her aware of how exclusive the 'Mommy and Me' moniker really is. So, now it's going to be changed.

What I get from all of this is the extent to which things really do not change unless someone decides to take a stand. Too often dads (and moms, too) just continue in lock-step when moments like these arise. One can only imagine how many other dads have been discouraged away from this other 'Mommy and Me' class and things like this will keep happening until people make a fuss. If change is going to happen quicker regarding the way dads are treated at work and elsewhere, they are going to need to step up to the plate and demand it. Otherwise, dads can continue keep going lock-step to the coffee shop when it comes to getting connected with their family.

Pondering Utopia

Try reading Jeremy Adam Smith's brilliant The Daddy Shift and then watching Dances With Wolves in the same week. It's a weird, yet wondrous mixture of media.

Near the end of Jeremy's book, he contemplates the possibility of a utopian world where families are more involved and integrated, where there is a deeper connective tissue between work and family and community and the planet.

And then there's Dances With Wolves, a film that in my mind exalts all the very same ideas, but through the lens of a white man becoming integrated into a peaceful American indian tribe that roams the plains. A tribe that promotes friendship, spirituality, family, community and love. When I first watched the movie upon its release, I felt the desire as the credits rolled to literally go and touch the screen, I wanted to be a part of this imagined world so badly.

If only these utopian visions were true, I often lament. At the end of Costner's film, the destruction of such a way of life is imminent, which makes me yearn for it all the more. And yet, was it just an impossible dream? An imagined mirage that really has no place in our world? The child in me strives to believe that's not so, but the adult me knows better.

And yet a utopian ideal has some worth, not necessarily as an expectation of destination but as a compass to point us at least in the right direction. So, bringing it back to fatherhood, will we ever reach a point where fathers have a true family/work balance, where we live in a society that values people over money, where there is a deeper connective tissue between all of us? I hope so, but at the very least, there is a direction to head towards in the foggy journey. Thanks Jeremy and Kevin for the reminder.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

NYC Dads: Mark Your Calendars!

The NYC Dads Group is sponsoring an amazing event later this month. On Wednesday, the 22nd from 6-8pm, Jeremy Adam Smith, author of the amazing "The Daddy Shift," is going to be giving a talk at the lower Manhattan branch of the 92nd Street Y. For more info, check out here. I'm hoping to attend as well. And if you haven't scooped up a copy of Jeremy's book, whadayawaitingfor??