Borough Life “Fab Dad”
Whoever coined the phrase ‘Yummy Mummies’ could only have been at the school-gates for the afternoon pick-up. In the cold light of the eight a.m. drop they look just about credible – but far from edible. It’s the new term, your streets are jammed with new school-run experimenters, 4x4s seeking out the paths of least jam resistance.
J.J. grips my hand tightly as we enter the playground. “It’s like the graveyard,” she whispers, eyes wide.“‘Like a graveyard’” I correct her.“No, no, the graveyard, Daddy, in ‘The Dead Will Wake’”. Whatever the rights, or wrongs, of allowing a 6-year-old to watch a zombie DVD just to buy some quality time with the Sundays, it’s certainly enriched her understanding of some difficult concepts of mortality. “Easter,” she told her big sister, “is the time when Jesus died and became a zombie”.
Her new, slightly morbid, awareness of ‘Stranger Danger’ issues has also improved her observational skills. The playground mothers do indeed resemble that graveyard scene; having dug themselves out of their tombstones, the dead lurch en masse empty-eyed with corrugated cardboard complexions, their rear-view mirror make-up applied by Jackson Pollock, stumbling forward as the children run away screaming into the safety of their classrooms.
I know that by three-thirty the mums will be svelte long-legged gazelles, in tight jeans and sunglasses prancing gracefully across the playground savannah but, in the morning drop zone of the asphalt jungle, the real competition is all about who is – oh good grief, if I really have to give it a media moniker, American style, rhyming tag – who is the ‘Fab Dad’?
Is it Zoe’s dad, smirking in the hopscotch area? Works in a garage in a blue boilersuit but drives a Mercedes. He pulls in his gut tighter than a Stradivarius because, no matter what they say, you really can get fitter than a Kwikfit fitter.
Matilda arrives on her dad’s Harley. He’s clad in full leathers and struts through the zombie mums like the Fonz, flashing his cheeky twenty grand ultra-brite dental array at any takers.
Where the morning mums sag, as if everything gets dropped with the kids, the ‘Fab Dads’ strut and preen in powerhouse displays of solvency and genial fatherhood. Saturdays in the park are for the hard core, but the morning drop-off is a window of opportunity for competitive dads to show off their air-parenting skills, parade their trophy kids and demonstrate their devotion to family life – for twenty whole minutes.
I’m not sure any of us know why we’re doing it. The Fab Dad contest resembles our pre-family mating displays but holds none of the frisson of further action. These things rarely turn into torrid affairs. Perhaps you can take the boy out of the game but you can’t take the game out of the boy. It may be less about schwing and more about kerching, but each morning, there we are again, gladiators competing to be Pater Maximus.