A few days ago I realized that my class falls on the evening of Halloween this year. It only meets once a week from 3:45-8:45PM, so there really isn’t a way to join the boys for trick or treating and attend the class. Obviously I was super crushed. Especially because T not only has asked to be Luke Skywalker for Halloween, he has taken to introducing himself to people as Luke. When he did this on the first day of preschool there was a bit of confusion, but he was wearing a Star Wars shirt and Star Wars shoes and his rest time pillow had an Empire Strikes Back pillowcase on it, so very quickly his teacher realized which Luke T meant. Keeping with the theme C is going to use the Yoda costume T’s worn for the last two years. Z and I are ridiculously excited about our little Star Wars crew.
Last year was the first time that T really got the whole trick or treat situation. We knocked on doors for about half an hour and I had a huge grin on my face the entire time. It was so fun to watch him say “Trick or Treat” and the surprise on his face when he got the candy in return was hilarious. I’m bummed, really bummed to miss it this year. But the way I see it is I made a commitment. What is the difference between me skipping class to go trick or treating with my kids and another student skipping to go to a party? Shouldn’t I be teaching my kids that when you decide to do something you follow through even if it’s inconvenient?
As a proper facebook addict I posted about my Halloween class and Z’s flip suggestion that I skip school. And although no one said anything unkind, I started to regret my update. Right or wrong I felt like I’d be perceived as a selfish and bad mom if I didn’t cut class. For once I don’t think those feeling came from my crazy.
What if Z had class that night? Or had a work obligation? Would the assumption be he could just shrug off his responsibilities to join the family for trick or treating? Last year we were asked to be room parents for T’s class twice a semester. T was only in school for 6 hours a week, but all 6 hours fell when Z was teaching. It didn’t occur to Z or me for him to not teach one day, even though he team teaches and the other professor could have covered it. I was the room parent every time. Would T have loved to have his dad there one of those days? Yup. But it didn’t work out. T wasn’t scarred by just having me at school. And I don’t think Z felt terribly guilty about it.
Is the implication that there is nothing in life more important to a mother than her child’s experiences? It certainly doesn’t feel like that is the expectation for the father. I’m not condemning the gender roles assigned by society from my high horse, innocent of passing judgement myself. I fall into the trap of doing it all the time. Z has an acquaintance here who is a single with kids. The kids live with him. We knew he was married at one time and without finding out the circumstances Z and I had a conversation in which we wondered where the heck the kid’s mother was. We also talked about what an amazing dude we thought this guy was for being a full time dad. Recently we found out that the children’s mom lives a few towns over. Also, she has custody 50% of the time. I was appalled at myself. Did I really make the laziest and most unfair assumptions about this family’s situation? Me? A Sarah Lawrence girl, a committed feminist, and liberal? Isn’t my thinking a bit more sophisticated than that? Evidently not. It reminded me of the interviews Michael Chabon gave when he was promoting his book of essays “Manhood for Amateurs” In every interview I heard he said that even today the bar for being a “good dad” was set incredibly low.
Z and I have not set the bar low for his involvement in our son’s lives. In fact, the expectations we both have are to parent as equals. Z can’t be the room parent because of work? I’ll do it. I can’t put C down on Wednesday nights this semester even though I’m still nuring him? We figure it out and Z does it. I thought my expectations for dads in general were just as rigorous. But with very little information I constructed a scenario in my mind in which Z’s acquaintance was a Super Dad and his ex was an absentee mom. What the fuck?
Listen, if my professor magically tells me that I will face no penalty to my grade for missing the class I’ll stay for the seminar and skip out on the practical that starts at 5:15pm. If he cancels the second part of class I’ll be thrilled. But I’ve decided to approach this like I was a dad. What would people say if some dad had to miss Halloween because of an obligation? They’d say it was too bad, they’d be sure the dad was bummed, but responsibilities are responsibilities and sometimes these things happen.
And in the future I’ll make an effort to calibrate the mom and dad bar equally before I jump to conclusions about what goes on in the private lives of other families. You know what, scratch that. Perhaps I’ll just try not to jump to conclusions.
Happy Halloween in a few weeks, folks. Hope you have a good time no matter what you are doing.