It is not your imagination. I learn everything about family dynamics from being at hotel pools.
Earlier this year, I wrote a newsletter about a scene I witnessed between a dad and his sons playing a gigantic Connect Four by a hotel pool. It confirmed every instinct I’ve ever had in wanting to go live on a Wonder Woman island. The obsession with winning at all cost being modeled for the kids, the fragile male ego when a child beat the adult at the game. All of it the cliche of watching fragile masculinity being passed from father to son, seeing what happens when when that fragile male ego takes over the White House, and good lord, the species is doomed isn’t it?
Well, in the interest of balance, I should share that I was at the same hotel, with the same pool, reading a different book by the same gigantic Connect Four this weekend and witnessed the exact opposite. I saw him, ladies: The most engaged dad in America. (And possibly the world’s biggest Connect Four fan.)
This guy was the opposite of everything I rolled my eyes at earlier in year. He was so enthusiastic about the game, he congratulated the kids when they beat him, and he showed them the deeper strategy of how he won when he beat them. He traded off games, he pumped them up, whether they won or lost. It was like the fun and the adventure was in learning the strategy. This man made me want to start playing Connect Four. This man made it sound like chess.
When one younger kid threatened to topple the game because he wasn’t doing as well, the super dad took it in stride, reasoning with the kid in a way that was compelling and gave him attention without derailing everyone’s fun.
I remarked that I have never seen an adult so into Connect Four. And he replied that he has kids and when he picks them up at aftercare, he gets sucked into Connect Four tournaments. “It’s the greatest!” he said with absolutely no irony.
That’s the kicker: He told me he has kids. THESE WERE NOT HIS KIDS!! He is such a super dad/super Connect Four fan he spent an hour entertaining someone else’s kids for free. He was genuinely bummed when his friends came to tell him it was time for dinner.
Not all men, ladies and gentlemen. Not all men.