The “Other Parent”

I’ve read a few posts lately on what Jerry Mahoney of Mommy Man calls dadscrimination. Being a single MOM, I obviously do not have first hand experience with this issue, but I would like to put my thoughts out there on a (kind of) related topic.
As someone who practically lives at the school at least three days a week, I have obviously gotten to know a lot of kids. I have been there in the morning when they come in, outside at playtimes, in and out of classrooms all day, and out in the schoolyard at dismissal. I have gotten to know a lot of parents through the dismissal time “parent huddle” and PTA meetings/functions. I can easily match the parents from these situations to their respective children.
The thing about getting to know parents in these ways is that I usually only get to know ONE of the parents. The other one tends to be the family major breadwinner, with meetings they must attend, work that can’t be missed, and work things that prevent them from being the first contact for the school. The parent that is there all the time is the one I tend to associate with the child.
The ones that are always there are the ones who I can strike up a random conversation with as we stand there waiting for the kids after the dismissal bell or if I see them in the grocery store. They are the ones I look at when saying “hey, P had a great day today. Pass along my thanks for all the help.” When one of the smaller kids walks out and looks around confused, I can direct them to that ever present parent and give said parent a little wave to show that their child knows where they are.
It throws me off to see the “other” parent on the schoolyard or out somewhere with their child. I automatically look for the parent I know. When the easily identified parent is nowhere to be seen, I can easily strike up a conversation with the child, though it tends to end up alienating the parent that IS there at the moment. It’s not that I don’t recognize the other parent’s claim to the child (the kids would tell me if something was wrong), it’s just that I see the ever present parent and the child as a linked unit.
For L’s best friend (R), the ever present parent is his dad. Anywhere I see R, his dad is nearby. I obviously know who his mother is, I even know her name, but it’s his dad I see as that “linked” parent. As I stated in my earlier post, today was L’s first soccer practice of the season. L and R are on the same team, so I kept an eye out for R’s dad as someone to sit with. When the practice started, I went to the parent viewing area. There I found R’s mom.
I still sat with her as R’s sister was there too and T was with me. We sat there, made small talk, discussed L and R’s new teacher, commented on the scrimmage and I explained the markers on the pitch, but it still felt weird. It wasn’t R’s dad and the normal, little day-to-day comments weren’t bubbling out as they tend to do when I’m with the ever present parent. It simply wasn’t his dad and it threw me off.
This isn’t the only time this has happened, just the most recent. If a mom is the ever present parent, I feel weird talking to the dad. If a babysitter spends more waking time with a child, the parent’s presence throws me off as well. I am so used to that caregiver link that talking to anyone else about their child seems odd. Is it weird that I find talking to the “other parent” weird?

No matter how dark the day, the sun is always shining somewhere!

Jules

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4 Responses to The “Other Parent”

  1. monkiss says:

    I don’t think it’s weird. We’re always easily able to converse with people we see more frequently and have a rapport with. Makes sense to me 🙂

  2. muddledmom says:

    I know exactly what you mean!

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