Vibe #697, Judgmental Parenting Division

All three of us were at the pool in our condo complex yesterday, me, Jack, and Jackson. It was about five o'clock and the fog had finally burned off and it was warm enough to strip down to my baby blue Weasel and board shorts.

To our left: two thirtyish couples, one in the possession of two small children, divided thusly: women on blanket with adorable infant, men in pool with dog-paddling, pot-bellied toddler in a Little Mermaid one-piece.

The mom was low-key, occasionally you'd get a burst of babytalk out of her but mostly she was just having a grownup conversation with her friend. The dad, however. He was young and fit and bobbing around talking with his man friend, but when he'd switch over to this higher-pitched, exaggerated tone I could tell he was talking to his daughter. Since I talk to children without trying to pretend that I'm Barney, seeing an adult do anything else never fails to make me feel a little icky. It wouldn't have bugged me normally, when I'm reading I can tune out just about anything, but the pitch of his voice was killing me so I stopped and watched him for awhile and I noticed a couple of things.

1. He was ignoring Jackson's attempts to break in and play with his daughter

2. Until I guess he realized that Jack and I were sitting there staring at him wondering what the fuck his problem was

3. So he perked up and said, "You're a good swimmer!" as Jackson paddled around him, and "She's three!" and a few other facts that satisfied Jackson's curiosity about his daughter, I guess, because Jackson went back to throwing his Schleich horses into the water and then diving under to get them. Though after doing this about a hundred times he swam over to the edge and yelled, "Mom, come into the pool with me!" And I yelled, "Uh, no!" back.

4. This was superdad's cue to ramp up the fatherliness to Cirque du Soleil levels, tossing his screaming daughter in the air and demanding she show everyone how she jumped off the edge of the pool and into his waiting arms until she shrieked "STOP IT!" and the women by the side of the pool paused to watch and wonder perhaps at what delights this fantastic father was showing his little girl

5. as he frolicked with her in the pool while that poor, lonely boy, desperate for anyone's attention, played his sad game of fetch while his self-involved, probably hungover parents read their trash and lounged in the sun and probably didn't even put any sunscreen on their boy, who might as well be an orphan for all the attention they paid him, he probably had to make his own dinner and tuck himself in at night while they drank champagne and had sex until they passed out naked on the kitchen floor.

6. So I turned to Jack and said, "Get in the pool with him." To which Jack responded, "Go fuck yourself. I'm looking at Kate Moss's butt." To which I rejoinded, "I just spent twenty minutes in the Jacuzzi with him, AND I spent four hours at the water park yesterday:

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

7. To which Jack responded by ignoring me.

8. So I hoisted my ass out of my chaise and went over to the steps in the shallow end, put my feet in the (surprisingly warm -- whoops, maybe I should have gone in when Jackson first asked me) water, held out my hand for the plastic horses, and then threw them into the six foot zone, about which Jackson complained loudly, reminding me that he still doesn't like to go that deep

9. Marking me as a lazy, inattentive parent who has no awareness of her child's limits.

10. Yes, that's what those smug smiles said as they trooped past me en masse to the Jacuzzi.

It's amazing that I can milk so much drama out of a few sideways glances and a strained "Hello." Truly, parenting has made me insane.