[Read the first part Present, In Line]
Patiently, the wee Bairn and I stood with the other families waiting to make our own pinewood windmill for Mother’s Day. I held her little hand and we talked: what would do when we got to the front of the line; what plants and flowers should we look for; should I get a new Weber gas grill.1 Even so young, it is one of the great pleasures of Fatherhood for me to watch the Bairn observe the world, people, and parents, create unique thoughts and ideas and state them. Our conversations make me smile and laugh and appreciate this tiny person next to me.
We’re not alone, obviously, so I’m on edge because, while the line is moving, and quickly, it’s chaotic and loud and there’s only one person holding back the tide of eager and aggressive parents and she’s either gonna get knocked over or run out of supplies before we get into the classroom. We should go elsewhere, I think, to Michael’s to get our own project, or pillage my home scrap pile.
We don’t. We stay. The Bairn likes people. A peek at my phone and I know that we had only been there a few minutes since we started at the back and the line halved. So what if they run out? I was enjoying my time with my daughter.
When we stepped in line, I saw that many kids had their own tiny Home Depot smocks on. When I registered the Wee Bairn (which I gather that no one else had done) the confirmation suggested she’d get one for attending. I asked the woman two places in front of me (because the guy just in front of us had shut off the world for his phone; more later) if A) we were in the correct line for the project, and B) if kids got the smock at the front. She looked at me, zero expression, said ‘Yes’ and then pulled out her iPhone. Conversation done.
The other families were the usual mix I’ve come to really appreciate in our East Coast Elite Bubble. Watching them was a little like my own version of Hitchcock’s Rear Window.
At the very back of the line was a Dad and son, white, dressed like they had just come from the back nine. He was loud (so loud), shouting, to no one in particular, about how long the line was and wondering why nobody was paying attention. Anytime a gap grew in the line, he’d point it out. “HEADS UP!” No one listened. “WHY IS NO ONE LISTENING!” Obvious to everyone else: he held no authority. His paycheck, dick, and skin-tone didn’t rate in that line. People were paying attention to their own kids. Trying to tune him out, like me. Eventually he announced his attention to pick up some wood from the cutoff pile and build their own project.
Disappointing his kid to own the libs, as they say on the Twitter machine.
There were many mothers in line, with friends and all of their children. When loser to the front, Dad and their older kids joined, swelling the line.2 The parents asked questions in Spanish; the kids answered in English. I wondered if they were the wives of construction workers and home builders, minding the kids while their husbands shopped for tools and supplies and checked out at the contractor line. Their kids were quiet and exceptionally polite. I’m not a big family guy, but I wish the Bairn lived closer to her cousins.
Everyone checks their phones.3, trying to tune out the noise of the store, the line, the creeping doubt about whether it was even worth it. Their children.
The father directly in front of us was scratching around gems in a Bejewelled-clone on his phone and holding for too long any place he could comfortably rest his ass, even as the line moved forward without him (HEADS UP THE LINE IS MOVING!, shouted the guy at the back before he split in huff). The kid spun in place, silently, in tight circles, while Dad zoned out.
Kid weaved between shopper’s legs. Shoppers with lengths of carpet, tiles, handsaws.
He tripped over a woman’s feet.
He knocked over 10′ lengths of wood trim.
Only when the kid started pounding on the metal door to the classroom did Dad look up. A Mom shouting “Who’s son is this?” He grabbed the kid by the arm, pulled him to his side, and went back to his game
All of this happened within less than 5 minutes. No time at all. And meanwhile, my kid, my Bairn, stood next to me with her hand in mine, also watching the people, asking about and waving to other kids, talking about what we were going to build and what we were going to do after.
If I had spoke to that father, if he had asked (it’s not my place to put pressure on another Dad; as I don’t believe any woman has the right to question how my wife mothers) and only if he had asked, I would let him know how much improved my life has been from just talking with my wee bairn, spending some time in my day to see the world from three feet small.
There are times when she lays out flat on the floor of the Giant Supermarket. When I’d like to pick her up, put her in the car, take her home, and lock her in her room until dinner time. But they are nothing compared to the sheer joy of watching her be excited by nearly everything that’s happening around her. The Bairn was excited, frantically so, to go with her dad to the Home Depot on a beautiful Saturday morning and make a present for her mama (which, incidentally, she kept for her self, so it was a good thing that Dad had many backups). And I was excited to hear the hilariously bananas ideas that come out of her little mouth.
We built the little windmill planter. No paint, but all of the stickers. I did most of the building; she held the hammer, too, while I tapped nails into place. The Bairn got a smock and a pin to take home. We planted some beans in the small planter cup and watered them. They sprouted, but didn’t make it to July.
A new mother mentioned, on line, how grateful she was when her husband came home from work with an iced coffee and took their child off of her hands for a few minutes. I wondered if the bar for successful fatherhood was really that low; that doing the bare minimum is worthy of ebullient public praise?
I guess the answer, at least sometimes, is yes.
Men can do better.
- The answer was ‘Yes,’ so I did and SWMNBB was very, very excited that grilling would no longer include time to get the damned charcoal lit. ↩
- The cranky, privileged version of me can get burned up at this sort of thing. But, really, would it be better to have all 10 family members in line at the same time? No. ↩
- I’m not immune from this disorder and even with 1001 really good and observant questions coming @ me from the Bairn, I slip. ↩