My wife, an active duty Army nurse, works the night shift at the hospital here at Fort Bliss. This leaves me doing many things alone with the kids that we used to do together. We have five children all ages twelve and under. Let me tell you about one of those experiences that happened not too long ago.
It started like a typical Saturday morning except when we left the house, Mom just laid down after getting home from her twelve hour shift. I like to try to get the kids out of the house on the mornings that she is home sleeping and the kids are out of school. Kids will be kids and even though she denies it, I know they keep her awake.
I loaded all five kids into the Yukon and headed out to do some much needed grocery shopping. We arrive at the store a few minutes later with only one child claiming to be “car-sick”. That’s a win. You see in my family, “car-sickness” only strikes any child who doesn’t get to sit in the seat they want. Go figure.
I run a pretty tight ship with the kids and, overall, they’re pretty well-behaved thankyouverymuch. We have fun going up and down the aisles filling the cart. In about the third aisle we’re stopped by what appears to be a “nice lady” who turns and says to me,
“Aww, how sweet, it must be Dad’s weekend?”
Believe it or not, this is not the first time I’ve been asked this intrusive question. Despite my desire to really unleash on this lady, I simply reply,
“Nope, these are just some kids I found wondering around in the parking lot”.
We keep shopping and the kids and I laugh as we walk away.
Near the dairy section we run into another well-meaning lady who says sweetly,
“Daddy’s turn to babysit?”
Once again, you won’t believe how many times I have heard that one! I look at her and the two small children she has in tow and chuckle. Maybe it was the other lady already getting me going but I reply to her,
“Yeah, I see that it is Mommy’s babysitting day as well?”
She looks at me dumfounded. Her kids are out of control; one ripped open a bag of chips in the cart while the other is pulling on her jacket.
Not able to help myself, I add, “Looks like you might need to call in for backup.”
We walk away laughing, leaving her staring at us as we go.
This may seem like a memorable shopping trip for us but believe me this is just routine. We get some of this off post, but people’s reactions to a Dad with his kids alone on post are magnified.
Next time you see a man with a few kids alone don’t jump to conclusions. Maybe he’s not babysitting or on a Dad’s weekend visitation. Maybe, just maybe, he’s just being a Dad.
Joe Steadman is a five year Army veteran, a former police officer, who now teaches high school while following his wife, Monica, in her career as an Army nurse. They have five children ages twelve and under. Joe also runs the Army Husbands Facebook Group and a historic war boardgaming website all while keeping busy with the kids and their hobbies.