On Saturday my wife was away for the morning so my daughter and I found ourselves on our own. It was a novel experience, since she usually takes my daughter shopping or goes for a coffee with her, like a lot of working dads who take over for a while.
Left to our own devices we watched TV, got dressed late and had bacon and egg muffins for brunch. Then we went to the playground. But I had forgotten about the Saturday morning dads. When men speak loudly to their children is it because they assume some deficiency on their part or is it because they want you to hear them? They commentate LOUDLY on what they are doing:
“Hey RUFUS! You’re going up the SLIDE! That’s IT, now you’re sliding DOWN! WHEEE!!!!!!!!”
“Yes Georgina. On the SEE-SAW! YES!! UP AND DOWN!!!”
Actually women do this as well sometimes. I remember activity groups when my daughter was a toddler. The mums would sit next to their child advising them on paper-sticking and playdough moulding in LOUD, CAPABLE VOICES. It was like they were speaking to my daughter too, and I think she was a little confused about getting advice on crinkly crepe when she had a handful of pink string. To be heard I would have had to talk at the same volume and we would have ended up bellowing across each other ridiculously. It’s a defensive reaction, of course. In the playgroups I was a surprising and somewhat threatening presence and I think they felt the need to emphasize their credentials.
It’s the same with the men in the playground. Men fresh from the office, still with a heightened sense of performance. They want everyone to see them doing good work. There was a whole bunch of them, charging around, chasing their screaming children and bellowing at the tops of their voices. I tiptoed around the edge, cowering and trying to avoid flying limbs. My daughter nipped to and fro in her usual unpredictable way, being hurdled by six foot men in shorts. Did I ever behave like that? Maybe, but it’s difficult to know now. I don’t really compete anymore, since there’s noone to compete with. I am just there.