On Father’s Day, I’m reminded I’m the mom.
Not in the ignorant person asking, “Yeah, but which one of you is the mom?” way. That has a connotation of “which one of you is the girl?” I resent that. We aren’t that superficially categorized. But I guess the semantics need simplification. I’m confusing myself.
My partner is the one who knows how to “just be” with our kids. He’s the one unperturbed with sitting on the bedroom floor, letting them toddle about, babble, sing, and play. He’s agenda-less. He lets the kids come to him and welcomes them with open arms, hugs, tickles and tolerates their make-believe.
I’m the agenda-follower, vegetable-force-feeder, schedule-keeper, nighttime routine follower, iPad shunner, project-manipulator, muddy puddle-avoider, quiz-annoyer, list-checker, freaker-outer, frustration-succumber, unnecessary battle-seeker-outer, tear-causer.
But not him.
One of our favorite bedtime stories (Little Boy…check it out. It’s perfection), ends with the statement, “Little Boy, you remind me how so much depends on days made of now.”
And my partner lives that. He’s able to be in the “now”, let our boys come to him, tickle for hours (well…twenty minutes), and let them derail my perfectly-laid plans.
I’m on a schedule: bath, books, bed. (In my defense, I’ve had the kids all day and I’m done screwing around.)
But he screws all that up with his giggle fests interrupting my reading time.
And it is good.
As a gay dad (who’s unexpectedly the stay-at-home parent), I resent the societal assumption that dads are the ones who deserve slack because we’re all thumbs in changing diapers or managing a household or being excellent primary care-givers. It angers me if someone smirks at me with my toddler tornado in a coffee shop and says, “Mommy’s day off?”
(Although I’ve been known to smile when anyone on the street ooh’s and ahh’s at “that cute dad who’s giving Mommy a break” when I’m managing two toddlers perilously zooming down the sidewalk on scooters. Call me a hypocrite.)
But I know we all rise to the occasion of effective parenting, regardless our gender or societal/familial roles. It’s ridiculous to say men can’t change diapers or make baby food or be the rule enforcer…no more than someone could tell my mom she couldn’t take me camping or play baseball with me. (She did all that…probably because after my father died when I was eight, she did her utmost to take on qualities of both “mom” and “dad”.)
What if parental labels were genderless and more task-based? The default primary care-giver is mom, the one who gets to “swoop-in-and-tickle-and-be-fun-and-ruin-all-the-rhythm” is dad?
My context is doing everything. So I’m the afore-listed task-master whose label would “normally” be mom. I’m a dad who’s really good at being a mom.
And my partner is really good at being dad. (Sometimes he jokes he’s the gay uncle who gets to have even more fun and less responsibility. I find this not even remotely funny.)
But he is particularly good at being in the Little Boy moments made of now.
And that is so very important.
Because I’m intense.
Not long ago, my partner had a very uncharacteristic free day. I took one of our sons to a doctor appointment and, after the appointment, I texted an update. He responded, “Great. Take your time coming home.”
Wait, what? I could take the afternoon to have a cookie with only one child? Meander down New York sidewalks with only one child?
Have a coffee and a cake pop with only one child?
We didn’t hurry. I didn’t pull the one kid, praying there’d be no melt-downs or peed-pants or tardiness to the next wherever-we-needed-to-be.
We were in the “now”, for once.
Thanks, partner. I needed that.
Happy Father’s Day to us.