No one thinks, when they have that first baby, about the marathon they are embarking on.
If they DO think about it, it’s inevitably with rose coloured glasses on and with a complete and utter lack of perspective. If parents knew what they were getting into, no one would do it. No one. Of course the other side of the coin is that it’s infinitely worth it, but you can’t know that until you’re in neck deep either, can you?
Being a grown-up is hard. Marriage is sometimes hard. Adding kids to that mix is like the epic trifecta of crazy hard. And yet, we do it. We jump in with both feet, drown in the diapers, sputter to the surface amid sippy cups and swim for our lives through tennis shoes, school books, temper tantrums and teen hormones. God help us all.
Father’s Day is Sunday, and that’s got me thinking about the journey, and how very, very thankful I am to have a partner in crime that I can hand a puking kid to while I wash gobs of don’t-even-ask out of my hair. My friend Melissa doesn’t have that, and her post this week reminded me that she’s a super-hero, and I’m grateful.
So, this post is dedicated to my husband:
- The man who apparently loves me barefoot and pregnant, because he knocked me up four times.
- The man who whispered, “I’m so glad she’s cute, I thought we might have ugly babies” just minutes after Hannah was born.
- The man who got the short end of the public bathroom stick.
- The man who keeps me from eating my young, and more importantly keeps THEM from eating me!
- The man who isn’t above paying the spawn to get lost so he can have me all to himself.
- The man who seems to see it as his purpose and his privilege to bless me every day.
Darlin’ if you’re reading this… here’s my top ten list of your Daddy-ness.
1. You do bedtimes
I’m not really a morning person, or a night person; I’m more of a 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. sort of person. Remember when the kids were all little and living at our house was a lot like being miscast in a horror version of Gulliver’s Travels, the part where the Lilliputians are tying down the big guy and it looks as if it might end badly? Remember when that was our life? I was baked by dinner time, and it wasn’t the biscuits or the chicken. It was the one phase of life in which I was happy to have a dishwasher. You’d put in a full day too, but after dinner, without fail, you’d load the dishwasher, send me to the bath tub and wrestle a toddler or two into jammies and bed, all with a baby on your arm. Sometimes I’d stick my fingers in my ears to drown out the laughing, or the screaming, or what I KNEW was the sound of you bouncing them as HARD as you could on the mattress, like a trampoline. I would have read stories and sung songs and played, “What was the best part of your day?” in whispers if I could have mustered the energy to mother for One. More. Minute. But we both knew that wasn’t happenin’… so you did it your way: the testosterone poisoned way, and I didn’t ask questions. I just enjoyed the bubble bath. You still do bedtimes… with the big kids, you let me clock out at 7 p.m. and you police the perimeter for me thereafter… thank you for that, from the bottom of my exhausted Mama heart. Thank you.
2. You read aloud
My favourite memory of my childhood is my Dad reading aloud. You didn’t like to do it when we got married, I remember. That you learned, not only learned, but perfected the art, is a precious gift to me, and to our kids. I adore that our great big kids, who plow through thousands of pages a week, collectively, beg you to read out loud to them. I love that Hannah is dissatisfied with her own re-read of an older book to her brothers because she “can’t get the voices just right,” meaning she can’t do them like Daddy. I love that my Dad got to lay on the cold sands of the Sahara and listen to you read to our kids like he read to us. Even when you read books that I *can’t stand* and I have to spend two weeks of evenings hiding out (cough)Hitchhiker’s Guide(cough) I still love it. It’s a hallmark of our family culture now, and I love it when other people’s kids ask you to read when they’re with us.
3. You are an Alpha Male
Early in our marriage it became clear that your management style could be summed up in two words: no bullshit. I love that you parent the same way. Remember when Gabe turned about twelve and absolutely lost his mind for about a year? Remember him making a power grab and running roughshod over me every time you turned your back? Yeah. That wasn’t fun. I so appreciated that you are the sort of Dad who grabbed hold of that with both hands and shook the dust out of his rug. I remember hiding a smirk when you left one day for a meeting and said to Gabe, “Your Mom is in charge because I SAY she’s in charge and if you jerk her around today you and I are going to war… Kapish?” Kapish. I love that our boys are the strong, calm, female honoring souls that they are becoming because of your example, and because they know you’ll take them to the floor if they cross the line!
4. You take care of me
Two nights ago when everything was a little hairy, the kids were squirrely getting through their evening routine for bed, it was pouring rain and we had camper fever, you seemed a bit stressed, I was sick and climbing into bed, you said:
“What do you need? What can I get you?” But you had that edge to your voice; I knew you were hurting and tired.
“Nothing, I don’t need anything, I didn’t ask you to take care of me,” I wheezed, collapsing into my bunk.
“You never have to ask,” you mumbled as you turned back to whatever kid was clamoring next.
The world stopped for just a second for me, and I realized that you’re absolutely right about that. I’ve never had to ask. In fact, you take care of me when I want you to, when I don’t even realize I need you to, and sometimes when I wish you’d just bugger off and LEAVE ME BE, but you know that really, it’s a good time to take care of me, and you do. Thank you for that, even when I don’t thank you for that. That you take care of me, means that I can take care of everyone else.
5. You bring home the bacon
And the eggs, and the toilet paper, even the feminine products if I ask you to! You have never wanted me to work, but you’ve never told me I couldn’t either. You’ve always just seen it as your privilege to make the money so that I can invest my time in other things, and that might just be the gift of my entire lifetime. It’s not about the kids, either. I know you don’t care if I ever make money, ever, ever. I know you want me to knit, and cook, and learn to create stuff, and write, and play Scrabble with my Mom and help friends with their projects and dig in on big ideas that matter to me, and chase my dreams, and you are happy to fund it. I remember one time, when we had nothing, like, REALLY nothing, suggesting to you that I could get a job evenings and weekends, just for a little while, until we caught up, figured it out. I’ll never forget the look you gave me. I never asked again. That makes you one in a million, you know that? I’m having fun creating a career for myself now that the kids are older and don’t “need me” in the same ways, but I know that if I decided to drop it like a hot rock tomorrow, you’d just shrug, stand back, and wait for me to find the next thing I’m interested in. Thanks for the freedom to be me. Thanks for never making me worry about money. Thanks for modeling for our sons the right way to provide for a family (the money is just the tip of the ice berg) and love a wife. Thanks for bringing home bacon, and flowers, and chocolates, and little bits of shell, and heart shaped rocks, and new kinds of tea.
6. You have baby magic
I remember walking into our house on Tammin Drive one afternoon when Hannah was just a few weeks old. My Mom was still there with us. We could hear the music from the driveway, you had the stereo turned up SO LOUD. You were laying in the middle of the living room floor, in your “sweet spot” for listening, sound asleep. Peep was laying on your chest, also zonked out. My mom was flabbergasted. I just laughed.
You did night duty with all of the kids, changing them, passing them over to me to nurse and putting them back on your side of the bed, like a watch dog over their basket. Remember the morning, about nine weeks in, with Hannah, when you woke up and said to me, completely surprised, “Hey!! She slept through the night!!” Umm… no she didn’t. You’d gotten up, handed her over, changed her bottom and put her back… all in your sleep apparently. You told me once that you loved night duty because they were so quiet and sweet and you got to lay in your big comfy green chair with a sack of flour sized person on your chest and smell their hair. When I had to get up at night with them, I just wanted to cry. Thanks for having baby magic.
7. You are the toddler whisperer
For real, he’s the toddler whisperer.
When I have been completely bested by a mini-tyrant who is going for the Olympic medal in obstinance, you have this stunning ability to laugh, smile and wheedle that little one into seeing it your way, and liking it!! It’s pure magic. I love to watch you cast your spell on a four year old who’s dug in hard over a desire for chocolate milk when white is all we have, or stand back and watch you make that child’s bed, which she previously has shunned like a leperous plague seem like the shining beacon of her deepest desire. I’m not the only one who has noted this ability. You can try to deny it, but you know that you have Yoda like skills and the force is definitely with you. I’m quite sure our sons would not have lived through toddlerhood without you.
8. You never yell
Never. In twenty years with you, you’ve never yelled at me, not once. And I KNOW I’ve given you the best of reasons to. You haven’t yelled at the kids either. You’ve raised your voice, you make your point when they are spinning out of orbit, but they’ve never once heard you actually yell. How many kids can say that? I have some small inkling of what that degree of self control has cost you… and I thank you for it.
9. You protect me
I’m not exactly one of those girls who needs, or wants, to be protected in the traditional sense. I didn’t set out looking for a knight in shining armor. But then again, I didn’t anticipate the all out gate storming attack on self and privacy that four kids in ten years would be either, now did I? It makes me giggle to think of all of the times you’ve literally stepped between me and the hoard and hollered, “Back off of your mother! Give the woman some space!”
When you’d come home and I’d be cooking dinner, literally dragging a child around the kitchen on my leg because Ez loved to sit on my toe and hug my calf, koala style, you’d grab him by the back of the overalls give him a swing and then toss him, giggling on the couch. You’d send them outside, downstairs, to their chairs with books, to their rooms with toys, anywhere but under my feet. Then you’d pour me a glass of wine. You’d run interference in the morning before I’ve had time to brush my teeth and remember my name when they’d meet me at the bedside asking for breakfast. You’d take them to the park or the pool so I could clean toilets in peace, or maybe, just maybe, write for half an hour. Now that they’re big, you protect me from their sass, and their know-it-all-ness, and their inability to know their own strength. The best part? You’ve taught them to protect me too. I am a protected person because of your example.
10. The buck stops with you
I can’t imagine being married to one of those men who can’t make a decision, can’t get out of his own way, can’t lead himself, never mind a crowd. I can’t imagine being partnered with someone who didn’t pull his weight (you pull as much of mine as you can spare too!) There have been a few times when things have gone right to hell, with friends, family, our marriage, the kids, you know the times I mean. In each and every instance you have articulated, out loud, that it’s your responsibility and you’ll take care of it. And you do. Every. Single. Time. You’ve never once made excuses for bad behavior, yours, mine, the kids or otherwise. You’ve never once created drama or held on to old wounds. You’ve never once made something my problem that you could take care of. You’ve never once hidden behind my skirt. You’re a problem solver. You’re a taker of responsibility. You’re the bottom line in this family. The buck stops with you. Do you know how rare that is? Being you, I’m sure you do… thank you for that.
Of course I’m not getting you anything for Father’s Day. We don’t do that, never have, really. I’ll pen you a love note and stick it under your pillow. Maybe we’ll go out to dinner since we’ll be with our friends. I’ll try to keep the kids from killing you with kindness on your special day. There’s nothing I could give you that would matter anyway, except time, another adventure, and the promise that when this hands-on fatherhood thing is over, I’ll still be your fun adventure buddy and we’ll go swashbuckle together somewhere. You are loved.