By: John Jericiau
I’m falling in love with my sons’ elementary school. And what’s not to love. First there’s the location. It’s a 3-mile commute to the school from our house, but half of it is with an ocean view. It’s located in the tony part of Santa Monica, and the neighborhood is beautiful, safe, and clean. Surrounding the school are gorgeous mansions, craftsman homes and well-coifed lawns. It seems like every day is a gorgeous day there – sunny and 72 degrees. Joggers and walkers, nannies and caretakers, and FedEx delivery men breeze by the school gates in the morning with smiles on their faces because they are ecstatic that they get to enjoy life here.
Parents gather by the gates around 8:30am, waiting for the welcoming bell to signal the start of another wonderful day. Excited chatter between friends as well as strangers fills the air. Children with Gap shirts and OshKosh B’Gosh pants giggle in a circle, surrounding a friend’s iPad and watching candy getting crushed or birds getting angry.
The gates open and the principal opens her arms to welcome everyone. Parents and kids rush their way to their respective classrooms, so as not to waste a single minute of learning. Parents are then quickly summoned off campus, comforted in knowing that the children are already beginning to practice reading and writing in an awesome, safe public school. Our school scores a 10 out of 10 on www.greatschools.org. Its API score is almost 950 out of a possible 1000 (www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ap). There’s a lot of pride among the community, and the school maintains its small town charm despite the fact that enrollment is almost busting through the 800 pupil level.
But there’s something you might not notice – and I did not notice – at first glance. And it’s becoming more and more apparent to me. I’m a guy living in a woman’s world. Yes, there are the few involved dads who drop off their child(ren) in the morning, saying hello to the teacher before they rush off for work, much like you would rush away from the grocery store when you see the Salvation Army worker ringing their bell at the holidays. Once those men have left the premises, I have found myself floating in a sea of estrogen, whether I’m chatting it up with other parents or attending a PTA meeting. Of course there are male teachers (or so I’ve been told), but they are busy in their classrooms and I have no interaction with them.
This year my oldest son is in first grade. The seat he vacated in his kindergarten class from last year is now filled by my next son, since they are exactly eight months apart in age. I decided to put my name in the hat for Room Parent for my son’s kindergarten class so that I can have maximum exposure to the daily trials and tribulations he will experience. I just found out that I got the job. I was told to attend a Room Parent Orientation Meeting in the multipurpose room (what else do they do in this room?), and as I wheeled my almost 10-month old son into the room my eyes made a sweep of the occupants. Yep, all women.
I’m definitely given the once over by the women, and with a few the twice over. I can see the questions all over their faces: Why would a man be Room Parent? Where’s Mom? Can he handle that baby and participate in this meeting at the same time?
I’m definitely feeling like I’m held to a higher standard than the average parent. I have to prove myself every day. But I think that as long as I act confident, all will be good. So that’s just what I did as the meeting got underway at the same time that my infant son decided he was insanely hungry. Without a pause I swept in for the save with a 6-ouncer of formula, propped up expertly with two blankets I brought with me, and within a minute I had both eyes back on the PTA president, the assistant principal, and our Room Parent Handbook.
Five minutes later it started: a deep but loud extended grunt from my son, signaling the beginning of an unexpected, out-of-nowhere mega-poop as he sat in his stroller. At first my fellow Room Parents chose to ignore the sound, but when the second one came a minute later, louder and deeper than the first, it was met with chuckles and knowing glances. The third, fourth, and fifth moan came in rapid succession, and I could feel myself bonding with the women, thanks to my son’s colon.
Finally I could ignore the grunting (and now the smell) no more, and with the intensity of groaning diminishing, I looked around the room for a changing table. Unfortunately, diaper changing did not appear to be one of the purposes of this room, so I spotted a clearing on the carpeted floor in the back of the room where I could lay my fresh diaper and all the necessary accouterments. I nonchalantly got up from my front seat (an unfortunate choice of seat) and went around to the back, more comfortable with the fact that the backs of everyone’s head were facing me as I cleaned up a load of poop that managed to find its way out of the diaper and into every piece of clothing my angelic (and recently bathed, of course) son was wearing. As I started to wipe away the watery waste, I could hear the leader of the meeting give instructions to the audience.
“Please turn your seats to face the back and take a look at this video that we have made on the subject.”
The projection screen for the presentation was lowered to within six inches of my head as I, in the bent-over-kneeling position, methodically and expertly wiped my son clean. I glanced up between wipes to see everyone looking at me, with mostly loving, been-there-and-hang-in-there eyes and faces of admiration.
I smiled as I got back to the project at hand. Yes, ladies, I may have a penis but I’m the real deal. And I’m hoping that more men will join me soon, because it’s a little lonely at the top.