My daughter started first grade this morning and I had the luxury of "enough free time" that I felt I could afford to be there with her on this milestone. Actually, she didn't think much of it, but her mom and I recognize it as a milestone. As you can imagine, the place was packed with moms. I was made especially aware of this fact when a woman singled me out and invited me to join the Watch D.O.G.S. ("Dads of Great Students") organization at the school with the purpose of increasing the amount of male role-models volunteering to work with the kids. I looked around me and saw that there were, in fact, very few dad-looking people there.
Now I don't think it's a case of dead-beat dads around our elementary school. At 9am on a Monday, there is a good reason for male role-models to be busy somewhere else. And it's a noble cause, I'd like to have one of my own, in fact. To tell the truth, if I weren't out of work, I'm sure I would have missed this event in a similar pursuit of "not losing my job" in exchange for getting to see 30 new first graders stumble through the Pledge of Allegiance.
But I feel like I was living a lie. The other dads were "ready for work," giving off the appearance that they'd called the office and told them they'd be in late. You see, there's a certain uniform that the modern family provider puts on in the morning, a certain look that they all maintain. It involves slacks and button-ups, pressed shirts, and shiny shoes. Often there is a cell phone carrier attached at about waist level. At any rate, there is a certain look that says, "I am a middle-manager in corporate America." It says many other things, at least to me it did. At least this morning. Things like: "I am engaged in work that requires me to look like a professional. I am wearing my 'I'm a professional outfit' along with my 'professional person' shoes, and this odd, but respectable 'professional cell phone belt clip' because that is what the people who hired me are paying for." I also heard, "I am here right now, doing what I gotta do, but I belong somewhere else, where everyone is dressed just like me."
Well, I was dressed nicely as well--I mean, I didn't look like a schlub--but I was certainly not sending out the message that I had somewhere to be or something I needed to do. My day will consist of following up on job applications, studying for the GRE, and planning my schedule of interviews and call-backs for the week, not to mention the crafting and publication of this super important blog post. I was a dad that didn't deserve to be there. I was not delaying my day of work or forcing my team at the office to wait while I performed dad-duty. I was just taking the morning off--unpaid time off, mind you--to do something fun with my family. I am on a stolen vacation.
My work ethic (which often sounds like the voice of my depression-era grandmother) tells me that I'm not a millionaire, that I'm not some playboy heir to a family fortune, that I'm not a good-for-nothing layabout (sp?) that lives off the government and charity of others. So, I should have a job and I should be at work. And she's right--I mean, I'm right. I need to get a job. And one of those clippy cell phone belt thingys.