I would like to think that I am completely comfortable with my new situation in life. I would like to believe that I am at total peace with being a stay-at-home dad and I am not at all embarrassed when people ask me what I do. I want to be able to say with total conviction that I have fully embraced my role as caregiver for my son and in no way do I feel that my identity as a dude is threatened as I push a stroller around town. I would like to say all of this and, mostly, I would be telling the truth.
But there are moments...
I was standing on the corner of El Camino with Gregory in the stroller, waiting for the crosswalk signal to change, when I was startled by the roar of a motorcycle engine coming up behind me. I turned and was blinded by the reflection of sunlight shining off the highly polished chrome and flame-painted fenders of a most impressive Harley Davidson. This was no stock model either, but something right out of Orange County Choppers with the long low seat and high wide handle bars. And the guy in the saddle was one tough-looking dude wearing all black with tattooed biceps, sunglasses, and a fu-man-chu mustache. The 75 horsepower straddled between his legs purred like a hungry tiger ready to pounce on its prey, just waiting for the light to turn green.
And that's when he turned his head my way and gave me and the stroller a once over look. We stared at each other for a long moment, both keenly aware of the contrast between us. If he found the sight of a 6' 4" man in cargo shorts and a camp shirt pushing a baby stroller to be funny, he didn't show it. His expression never changed.
I wondered what he was thinking at that moment? Perhaps it was, "Wow, look at that-- a grown man pushing a baby stroller on a weekday afternoon. He must be really secure in his masculinity to do something like that. I've wasted my whole life trying to look tough but really I'm a sensitive guy who just wants someone to love. Man, it would be great to be a dad."
We continued to size each other up and just as I was getting a knot in my stomach, the light turned green. He turned his eyes back to the road, revved the throttle, and the bike thundered into the intersection. I just stood there and watched the Harley cruise off down El Camino and out of sight, forgetting that I still needed to cross before the light turned red again.
I looked down at the stroller I was pushing. Maybe if these things were just more designed for a guy it would be better. The jogging stroller we have is alright-- at least it's black and has real rubber tires-- but what if it had a motorcycle handlebar with leather grips that revved up? And what if the wheels weren't just bicycle tires, but actual white-wall radials with 18" chrome rims and mud flaps. Of course these tires would be connected to a beefed-up suspension with hydraulics. And along the sides would be neon racing lights that would blink in sync with the beat of a kickin' subwoofer sound system that had replaced the basket underneath.
Oh yeah, now we're talking!
I would call it the Broller-- A Stroller for Men. And maybe MTV or the Discovery Channel could have a weekly show called "Pimp My Stroller" where each episode we'd rescue some guy pushing a plastic pastel-colored Mother-Goose-design piece of junk, and transform it into a tricked-out baby-ride that any dude would be proud to roll.
And then just as I'm caught up in my fantasy world, Gregory gives a little restless grunt. He's probably wondering why we're not moving. We already missed the light so I peek around to see how he's doing. When he sees my face he beams with a big smile that reveals two little teeth coming in on the bottom gums.
It's then I realize that the cool thing about being a dad is not the stroller, but who's inside it.