My alarm goes off—quietly. Akiko gets up at seven no matter what, like she's punching a clock, so I need to get up early to do things I otherwise don’t have time for: writing, running, submitting poems, or whatever freelance work I have. Today I’m writing, so I open up my computer.
Aki begins rustling and making her crib squeak. My wife Karen gets up, and I stop working to make coffee and help with breakfast. Aki gets out all the Tupperware out from the one cabinet we've more or less yielded to her, and spreads it around.
Karen leaves for work. I put Aki's shoes on and we head to the playground at a nearby park. It's unseasonably cool and overcast, so when we get there the playground is empty except for a little boy, V, and his mother, near the swings. I put Aki down and say, "Look who's here! Go say hi!" but she wanders instead to the slide. Another person arrives who I haven't met before. He appears to be an older father, or perhaps a grandfather, with a baby in a bassinet stroller. It's nice to see another guy here, but he keeps to himself, and leaves before I can say hello. V's mom walks over to tell me to keep an eye out if he comes back. Apparently he shows up nearly every morning and urinates in a corner of the playground. "It drives the other parents and the park employees crazy."
This is one of the things about being a stay-at-home dad. My gender tends to do the pervy stuff. Men—men who hang around playgrounds—must be watched in case they’re pedophiles, public urinators, or creeps. I feel like I need to make extra clear I don’t fit in that group. It’s not like mothers grab their children and hug them close when I show up, but I can sense the possibility, in the back of their minds, that I might be a danger. Especially at first. This isn’t something I would normally worry about, but we just moved to the neighborhood and at the moment, the mothers are friendly, if a bit distant. I want Aki to socialize and have play dates, and I want other mothers to feel as comfortable leaving their kids with me as they would with each other.