I was recently part of a “man panel” for a MOPS meeting (Mothers Of Preschoolers) at my church. It is an international organization where moms come together and…um…I really don’t know what they do. All I know is that every once in a while they get a few dads together, call us a “man panel”, put us on stage, ask us questions about parenting and marriage, all while holding softball-sized rocks under the table ready to pummel us at the slightest misstep. That last part might not be true—I don’t know for sure, I couldn’t see everyone’s hands—but I certainly approached each of my answers with this in mind.
Since it was one of Charity’s work days I had to bring all four kids with me. I got done with the panel around 11 a.m. and we decided to grab an early lunch. So we left MOPS and went to eat at another MOPS. Let me just say that the Chick-Fil-A establishment was built for mothers of preschoolers. 11:15 a.m. marks an incoming tide of women and their kids. This is a strategic window of time designed to beat the rush of business people and secure a table for their brood. The reason for this centers around the kids’ play area—the holy grail of dining-in with children. Because of the play area, moms will march in with armfuls of luggage and just set up camp. If I’m going to get the kids out, and go somewhere where they’ll stop asking me questions, then we are entrenching ourselves. I saw books, iPads, crosswords, 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles, sewing machines, hammocks, I think I even saw one mom receive mail there.
While my three other kids tested every square inch of the play area a woman approached after disposing of her trash. She stopped right next to me. I had our 8 month old in a high chair, feeding him mashed carrots, when she pointed at Remy’s car seat resting by our booth.
“Do you like that model? I’ve been looking at that one.” She asked.
I glanced to my immediate left and right. Apparently she was asking me. Apparently my mere presence in Chick-Fil-A, at that hour, cast me in the light of a…peer. A fellow stay-at-home who actually has opinions about kid safety products.
I smiled, glanced down at the car seat. Well, it carries my kid. Of course I like it.
“Yeah, it’s great.” I said. Thankful for the invitation to be an honorary part of the Chick-Fil-A MOPS.
There we were, two parents, talking shop.
“Is it too narrow? I’ve seen pictures online and have wondered.” She put her hands on her hips and leaned closer to look at it.
I literally had no idea what she was talking about. Was what too narrow? Was it too narrow for fat babies? Was it too narrow for a baby to hold a tablet? Was the vision of the engineers who designed it too narrow?
My delayed response was quickly closing my knowledgeable-peer-window. So I went for it.
“Um. No, it’s not too narrow,” I said, hoping that her decision to buy that car seat would not be solely based on one male-stranger’s perception of undetermined narrowness. She shook her head in agreement and muttered something about wanting her kid to be comfortable in it.
She pointed at Remy. “Is he the first one to use this seat?”
“YES!” I confidently shouted at her, like I was on a quiz show. I knew that answer for sure.
After she regained her composure she asked what model of car seat I had before that one. I glued the smile to my face as I searched my memory bank for an answer.
Car seats have “models”?
Gun to my head, I couldn’t even tell you what brand of car seat we have. Or had. Or has ever been made at any point in history. Let alone know the model number! That’s like me asking her what the batch code was on her previous gallon of milk. For a second I thought about rolling the dice and saying our previous car seat was a “Playskool 1XB”. I’ve heard of that brand before, seemed like a safe bet.
But having no more room to slide by on ambiguity I confessed that I, a 33-year-old male, did not know what model of car seat we previously had. She smiled, possibly realizing that my cover had been blown. That I wasn’t the stay-at-home “mom” she thought I was. After a final cursory look at our car seat she thanked me, then went back to her table and thumbed through the envelopes the mailman delivered while we were talking.
I don’t know if I impacted her car seat purchasing decision that day. I figure the worst case scenario is that there is a fat baby riding around wishing he had a little more shoulder room, and an angry mom wishing she could find the idiot from Chick-Fil-A and throw stones at him.