Earlier this week, almost 20 dads & their kids hit The Little Gym on the UWS. Today’s guest blog entry is from Chris Dean, brand spanking new NYC Dads Group member & talented blogger of English Dad in New York. I am hopeful that we will be able to feature Chris as a guest blogger more frequently in the future! This honest & inspirational piece about what it felt like to go to his first meet-up event as a new member of the group will hopefully nudge a few more dads out there to get involved in a parenting or dads group and join the party….
MORE THAN A FEW GOOD MEN
When Alex was on maternity leave, it seemed as though she had fifteen “mommy’ engagements a day. Our monthly bank statement read like a Zagat guide and Max’s social network would have made Mark Zuckerberg blush.
Of course it helped that she could tap into the endless supply of mommy groups, message boards and baby classes in the City. But being a stay-at-home dad in New York is incredibly isolating. The support structure is not there is the same way it is for moms. Well, at least this was my argument for why I regularly took Max to the pub rather than play-dates.
So when Alex asked me: “Have you actually looked for any Dads groups?” The cheek. I replied indignantly: “No actually. No I have not.”
So belatedly I typed “Dad meetup group New York” into my old friend Google, and I clicked on the first result (as I’m not much of a reader). It was a group called, shockingly enough, “NYC Dads Meetup Group”. I joined instantly and became their 300th member. Hooray! I was not alone. Perhaps I could invite them to the pub too.
This brings us to today and my first dads’ meetup at the Little Gym of the Upper West Side. I was genuinely nervous- I’d never met another stay-at-home-dad in the flesh before. I’d only ever seen them in movies and read how the government had kept them secret from the public for years.
I was also a little nervous about Max. He’s a very outgoing little guy, but he can get a little too enthusiastic when he sees another kid, or a ball, or a speck of dust. And I was about to let him loose in a room full of kids and balls, but at least it looked dust-free.
So, I introduced Team Dean to the first group of Dads that were already in the Little Gym reception. They all had names and kids, so we already had something in common. And by the time class started we had a good crowd of 18 dads, which was pretty impressive for a weekday. Oh right… I get it now.
The kids all waited impatiently by the gym door for their coach, Miss Jen, to set them free into a huge playroom. There was a little pulling of shirts and jostling for position but as soon as I picked Max up that all miraculously stopped. The door opened and the kids went crazy. Not “sugar-high” crazy, I mean overcome with happiness crazy.
I was obviously still a little nervous about the situation because the first thing we did was to create a circle and go around to introduce ourselves. I am pretty sure I said: “Hi, I’m James and this Max”. Factually and grammatically incorrect but hey, it was a tough question and there was a lot of pressure on me.
But I relaxed when I saw the pure joy written on Max’s face as he navigated his way through the large bright room filled with mats and beams and large padded what’s-their-names. It’s so funny to see New York kids in large spaces. They must have been thinking “Are we in New Jersey? How long was I asleep?”
Miss Jen brilliantly led the group in some interactive games involving some questionable singing by the dads, but it was amazing to see a group of guys enjoying their kids so actively and wholeheartedly.
I realized how strange it must be for Max to be in a room of only dads. Then I remembered he’s 13 months old and how he just wouldn’t care. Just as long as he has a ball. And that I bring him back again soon.
But I cared. And it feels good to know that there are good guys out there, doing the same thing as me. Better even- I mean they probably remember their own name.
New York City Dads Meetup Group: www.meetup.com/New-York-City-Dads-Meetup-Group/
Little Gym of the Upper West Side: www.thelittlegym.com/UpperWestsideNY
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