I'll admit it: Though I'm trained in early childhood education and naturally fluent in baby and toddler speak, at times, I'm not right.
Shocking I know, but it is true. From time to time I must submit my knowledge to a special teacher of mine: my husband—the father, no, the Daddy, to my two radiant little people.
As an ode to my him, an ode to the Dads out there who are really doing it—I want to say: thank you.
So here are few lessons I've learned from my husband that make me a better mother.
1) Say it directly.
When my daughter, our second, was an infant, our relationship had a rocky moment.
Some resentment that went both ways—not very healthy. Despite complete sleep deprivation, I remember one moment distinctly. My husband had recently walked in from a day at the office, I had spent the day doing all the things mom does in a day (and probably was longing for some time at an office), he walked through the kitchen to our room to change clothes or something, and I snarkily remarked something to the effect of “Well I guess since you aren't going to wash the dishes, I will."
He looked me right in the eye and firmly and briskly said Don't do that.
Don't do that. Don't say it like that. It's so annoying. Just say what you want. I would much rather you say, Please fold the laundry, as opposed to something passive and angry.
I thought about getting offended. I decided instead to engage in a discussion. I let him know that I try not to bark orders, because that makes me feel like a demanding nag. He assured me it was much better to speak up and say clearly what I need, and further, that he wants to be helpful but honestly didn't see the house and the tasks in the same way I did. We ended up doing an exercise where we went from room to room describing what we saw.
Turns out, in each room, we saw a different scene. His eyes didn't scan for all the details. He wasn't thinking about packing lunches for the next day, and the spit up probably still left on the wall, and the phone call I needed to make, or any of the rest of it. He wasn't worried about the list running through my head. He was just glad to be home.
Over time, we've learned to meet in the middle here. I try to look away from the piles, and only feel the wholeness of the room, and he has developed a sense of what needs to be done without asking. And when he isn't seeing what needs to be done—I no longer feel badly about asking for it. It's a much healthier balance - for both of us.
Say what I need and don't feel guilt for it.
2) Let go of control.
It might not be done my way, but that doesn't mean that it was done the wrong way.
I once made sure I laid out our children's clothes, attempted to teach my husband which bucket held what toys, and checked in if I was out.
Now, I don't care.
My husband is taking care of them while I do something else. I'm grateful. The end.
I used to interject to tell him how to respond some of our children's questions. I mean, I had the education and the expertise of being with them 96% of the time. Luckily I quickly realized I was doing more harm than good by micro managing their relationship. Does Dad answer or connect the same way I do? No. He does it Dad's way, and that's a really special thing. I waste precious time and energy attempting to be in charge of every detail. And my kids have a wonderful relationship with the most important man in their life. I'm happy to stay out of it.
3) It's OK to tune out at times.
A parent doesn't always have to be on.
My husband wakes up and takes a shower first. He doesn't worry immediately about the kids. Partly because he knows I am doing it already, but partly because he firmly feels that he is more help if he takes care of himself first. And you can bet he doesn't feel a speck of guilt by not jumping up to help the kids immediately.
I, on the other hand, end up scrambling around to brush my own teeth before leaving the house, because I've been jumping at all the kid requests from the time I woke. He leaves the house a lot less frazzled than I do.
He might be on to something.
Additionally, he watches sports and tunes out. Completely. Zones out. Literally doesn't hear the kids “Dad! Daddy! Daddy!" And yet, I hear the tiniest of whispers “Mommy?!" Why is that?
I often feel over extended, trying to accomplish a few feats of magic in my world, constantly interrupted by Mommy? My husband has no intrinsic feeling that he must answer every request for his attention. He is perfectly content to zone out and answer when he is good and ready. He doesn't waste time feeling badly about this. He doesn't question himself Do I give them enough attention? Seeing as how I am with the kids more often—I'm thinking I should cut myself some slack here and there for some zone-out time.
4) How to make proper Star Wars sound effects and race car noises while playing.
Well. Let's be honest. I still get criticized (by my children) for my lack of talent in this department.
Which is fine by me, because I thoroughly enjoy having places where Dad is the expert—when a question or request comes in, I can sit back and say “Oh gosh. I don't know about that. Go ask Dad how many Stormtroopers are on the Imperial Star Destroyer. I don't have any idea."
5) To appreciate myself.
One day a year or so ago when I was feeling overwhelmed, tired, uninspired, all of it.
I was voicing my frustration to my husband, and I said something about how I was tired of feeling on—that it felt like a lot of pressure at times to have two little beings watching every move I make, and then copying that move, and pretty much learning to walk through their world by watching how I walked through mine. He looked at me, kind of in disbelief that I had said that and said, “Well, yea. But who better for them to learn from? If there were a fantasy draft (think fantasy football) for who I would want my children to copy in this world, you would be my number one draft pick." This was a high compliment from a sports fanatic. And since he had used his own love language to express it to me, I knew it was real. I took a moment to let that sink over me, and now have to remember it from time to time. I don't have to be 'on' all the time. I just have to be me. I mean, I'm his number one draft pick.
So, dads out there, thank you. Thank you for all you do and for reminding this mom to relax.