The “Better” In My Better Half

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There is a moment in my parenting career that will be perfectly preserved in my mind for all eternity. It was the day that my 3-year-old son came sprinting through the house in a panic (wearing spaceship pajamas), and upon finding me, out of breath from his search, he yelled, “Mom, you have to come quick! We had an accident and there is poop all over my dad!!”

Oh shit. I thought to myself. No pun intended.

I have to say that it crossed my mind that I should run outside and hide…play dumb and pretend that I misunderstood, or that I thought it was a joke. After all no one came to my rescue when I found myself up shit creek without a paddle. But then I thought of my baby up there in the hands of my panicking husband, and I let the softer side of me win out. Fine. I’ll save his ass. Again.

It was sort of all worth it when I walked in and took in the epic fail that was in progress. It remains one of the most hilarious sights I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly where he had gone wrong, but things had clearly gone south in a hurry. He looked helpless and basically desperate for my help, so I let him off the hook and took it from there.

It seems like dads often experience moments like this. Moments when the mom walks in all “expert level,” and the dad appears to be the hapless rookie sidekick. In fact, sometimes it seems this view is a product of the parenting culture that society (and possibly biology) has created. Mom is #1, the default parent, and dad is #2 the back-up parent. Today, to give props to my children’s father, I’m going to attempt to do something I never do. I’m going to admit that there are things that he is better at than me. Anyone that knows me knows that this is quite the gift. I’m essentially giving him the equivalent of a pony or a tropical vacation. You’re welcome dear. So, here they are, in no particular order:

1. He is better at “playing guys”. I suck at playing guys. What are they supposed to do? What are they supposed to say? Is this really a realistic plot line? I feel like we can do better. Let’s work on some character development here….I mean what kind of guy is Batman really? My kids look at me with a mixture of confusion and pity. My husband, however, seems to get it. He and my kids fly those guys around laughing and having a blast. He doesn’t even appear to hate it, and I feel like he really gets Batman, you know? And that means I don’t have to. So it really works out for everyone.

2. He seems fully oblivious to all of the nine zillion jobs in our house that need to be done while he is playing with them. Sometimes that really bugs me. But, sometimes I look deeper and I know that it’s actually a great thing. I want my kids to have that kind of undivided attention at times, and I know that I can be of the adult ADD variety, and struggle at doing it myself. I will see the laundry that needs putting away, dinner that isn’t cleaned up, the permission slip I haven’t filled out yet, etc. My husband does not. When he’s playing with the kids, he’s playing with the kids. That’s a pretty cool thing.

3. He makes their weekend mornings with him cool and fun. Like it’s the thing he’s been waiting for all week. He makes big breakfasts and he lets the kids help (even though they usually flip pancakes onto the floor and get everything everywhere), and he’s never in a rush.  I don’t love making a big breakfast. I dread cleaning up the mess and I usually want to beat it to the gym when I wake up, or get started with whatever I want to do that day. I appreciate that he has that little tradition with them and I know they do too.

4. He never bails on them when he’s promised them something. Even when it’s a lot of work or it’s really inconvenient. To me in a world that is littered with people that flake on you, that’s pretty awesome. I think it’s easy to become too busy or self-absorbed these days and fail to realize how much they look forward to small things. But when he says they can go fishing on Saturday morning, or get ice cream on Friday night, he makes it happen no matter what. If he gives them his word, he keeps it. Ace move.

5. He can make sweet explosion noises, helicopter sounds and other things like that that make him a certifiable bad ass to our kids. WOAH! Mom! Dad sounds JUST LIKE A T-REX!!!! I can’t do that stuff, and I’ve come to find out that kids really dig it. Sometimes I secretly try to make a cool engine sound in the shower or something, but it just sounds lame and unconvincing. I am fully convinced this is a weird ability that men are born with.

6. He is good at wresting, tickling, and hanging them upside down. He will shake them, and spin them, and fly them until they’re in tears from laughing like it’s his job. Sometimes, he runs around with one on his shoulders and the other on his back. I tried it once and dropped them and hurt my knees.

7. He is super patient. Patience is not a natural virtue of mine. I can dig deep and make it happen but with him it’s always right on the surface. I can be quick to correct behavior or attitudes that I don’t appreciate, and he is more likely to try to find a reason behind it. Sometimes when all I see is the black and white, he’s the one that finds the gray.

8. He’s quick to laugh and good at knowing what they will laugh at. He introduced our big kid to America’s Funniest Videos one day long ago, and I have never seen a kid dissolve into hysterics like my son did over his first episode of AFV. Now it’s kind of their thing at the end of a long day. Nothing is better than hearing your house filled with laughter.

9. He is good at taking risks and letting them learn things that freak me out. He is the one I enlist to teach them dangerous, but awesome, new life skills. I cringe when watching things like skiing and bike riding in the early phases. I’m happy once they’ve learned, but I definitely do not like witnessing the process. Watching them wipe-out, skin their knees, acquire bruises and goose eggs… that’s just not my jam. Very counter-intuitive. I like to show up after the first few lessons and see the shiny finished product without being exposed to the painful beginning of it all. Plus, seeing me hyperventilating while I give them a thumbs-up sends a mixed message.

My better half spent his pre-kid free time: flying planes after work, golfing, boating, and attending professional sporting events as often as an ESPN correspondent. I’m sure on some days, that life sounds a lot more appealing than changing diapers and dealing with a wife that plays out yoga pants. However, he rarely complains, or even seems to miss the days when his time was his own. To me, that’s a sure sign of a good man. In fact, his biggest fear these days, is of our kids growing up too quickly. He’s mourning the loss of them being little before it’s even happened. The evolution of man to father has a crazy one to witness and it’s pretty damn cool. So cheers to you today and everyday…I’m thankful and lucky to have you at our loud, messy table.

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