No one is a perfect parent. Neither my husband nor I are. But when reflecting on visions of good fathering, I’d be remiss to not mention my own husband.
As I’ve mentioned before, when our second child was a baby, my husband gave up his own successful corporate accounting career so that he could stay home with our kids full-time. He gave up a gratifying, respected and lucrative career to be there for them.
It has not been easy. Being a full-time caregiver is draining and challenging for a host of reasons. And as a male, he hasn’t always had a lot of support outside our family. He has demonstrated self-sacrifice, humility and strength of character in taking this path. I’m very proud of him.
Because he has been home with our kids the most, he has taught them a lot. He successfully potty-trained both of our kids. He has taught both of them to read. He has taught our older child to wash dishes and fill the dishwasher. He has taught our younger child to sweep the kitchen. He has taught both of them to cut up fruits and vegetables.
My husband has gone to their various lessons to take notes and help our kids practice at home. For months, he attended weekly Mandarin lessons that were incomprehensible to me. He cobbled together enough of what was happening to quiz the kids and help them with their homework. He goes to our child’s Ballet Folklórico class to study the intricate moves, and then practices with her at home. He has attended the other child’s skateboarding lessons to figure the theory behind the cool moves to help her to do them properly.
At various times in our domestic life together, my husband and I have traded housekeeping duties. When he first began doing a fair amount of cooking, I was demoralized how fast he exceeded my own skill-level. I’m once again the main cook at our house, but he remains the master of the waffle iron and the bread machine. My man can make the best waffles and wheat bread!
My husband has also instilled a love for reading in our kids. Years ago he began getting audio books from the local library. He and our kids listened to L. Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz” books while they ran errands. More recently, he has entertained our whole family by reading aloud from the Bunnicula series.
He has also taught our kids to be brave. Under his tutelage, our younger child bravely kills (or takes outside) spiders and insects that dare come inside our home. When our older child gets scared by movies, she notes (as her Papa has explained) that the villain is really just a kindly grandma or papa with lots of make-up and a crazy costume in front of a green screen.
Under the general category of “taking care of business,” I am always amazed at how my husband (who is a fairly big guy with pretty large hands) can do our daughters’ hair. Not only is it a mystery for the ages how his big fingers can maneuver the little elastic fasteners and braid their hair so delicately, it is amazing how my guy can make girl hair socially presentable when he himself hasn’t had prior experience with such styles. My husband never went through a hippy phase. His hair has never been more than a couple inches longer. Yet when he became a dad to daughters, he stepped up to the plate and took on the task of hairstyling pretty adeptly.
Finally, my husband does countless little things around the house to take care of our family. Despite frequently reminding me that he was trained as an accountant and his protestations that he is no Bob Villa, my husband has installed numerous ceiling fans in all the homes we’ve lived in during the decade and a half that we’ve been a family. He has even mustered enough carpentry skills to custom build extensive shelving units in the two homes we’ve owned during that time. He has hauled tons of soil, plants and gravel to our backyards. He has assembled IKEA furniture and children’s play sets. He even built me a patio where some day I hope to have time to read and relax. On top of all this, my husband is an absolute wiz at Excel spreadsheets, troubleshoots issues with cell phones, computers and DVD players, and monitors due dates to make sure we don’t incur overdue fines at the local library.
Life is hard. Our families are a vital support system to make it through the challenges. One of the key values that my husband and I try to instill in our kids is that everyone has a responsibility to support and help each other out in a family. One of our favorite phrases is “All hands on deck!” I’m really proud of my husband for being a good role model of that attitude. I don’t know what our family would do without him!
Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.