I ventured into the heart of Daddyland the other day, alone with Baby B for the first time, a place where parents drink coffee, talk baby sleep and watch their children steal toys from each other.
I went to open preschool. A public open preschool. Just think, not only does the Swedish state pay me 80 percent of my salary to stay at home with my baby (yes, I realize it is really the taxpayers who are paying) but it also provides me with a place to take my kid, complete with teachers, coffee and all the other parents who need a place to go on a snowy February day (I cannot go outside because Baby B does not walk, and he absolutely hates wallowing around in the snow in his snowsuit and boots).
Not everywhere in Sweden has open preschools, but we live within easy access to three and a simple bus ride to two more. I want to try them all – this is my adventure in Daddyland, so to speak – but for shy Baby B’s sake, I go to the old favorite, the place he goes with his mother and has gone with his big sister. Still, he clung to me tight, almost hiding inside my flannel shirt, just looking around, my loud little boy gone charmingly quiet.
Open preschools are usually a refuge for first time parents, and now I know why. I got so bored. I realized after a few minutes that my Swedish has improved immensely, so that I understand conversations going on around me.
Sleep, teething, sleep, teething.
Now, I am in the midst of sleep troubles and teething the like I could never have imagined with NK. But, still, after all these years, I do not need to hear about other kids’ sleep and teething troubles. And I do not need to talk about ours.
I want to talk about the Super Bowl, which is a tough sell in Sweden, though not for a lack of guys. There were three, including me, which is a low number, actually. I need to ask the teachers sometime how open preschool has changed with the huge increase in paternity leave in recent years. For guys come almost more than women, perhaps a little more lost in Babyland, which is much bigger and scarier place than Daddyland, for sure.
So I stayed quiet, and no one spoke to me, even though I held a loud five minute conversation with the teacher in Swedish, almost to signal to them that I spoke their language. Nope, still scared them off. I understand that this comes more out of a communal shyness than coldness (at least I understand it intellectually) but to an American conditioned to small talk and chat (even a quiet American needs the chatting …), it is not fun to be ignored.
But I had a friend hugging me inside my flannel shirt, and I haven’t been thinking about the Super Bowl much yet, so I did that on my own. And it was nice to be out of the cramped apartment and into Daddyland, and I will be back.