Following in Daddy’s Footsteps

Today was one of my proudest moments. Today, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my son is learning from the very best role model. Today, I was insanely pleased to be the wife of my husband.

Being a dad is not an easy job. I’m not a dad myself, but I’ve lived with three of them. It’s hard, sometimes harder than being a mom, I think. As a dad, you have to lead the family. You have to be the disciplinarian when Mom’s hand just doesn’t bust hard enough or when Mom is at her wit’s end. As Dad, you have to wrestle without showing all of your strength, and you have to know when to be firm and when to be silly. As a dad, you have the entire well-being of your family riding on your shoulders. You are the hero, you are the bad guy. You are the king, and you are the servant. You are the leader, and sometimes you wonder if it’s all worth it.

My husband started out with the short straw. He was 18, fresh out of high school and just into college. He didn’t have a solid degree or job skill under his belt. He didn’t have a decade of experimenting with living on his own, doing a budget, managing his own place, before having a life completely dependent on him. Even more, between his school and my school, he missed the majority of #1’s first year. There were many times in those months after we were together again that he left the room frustrated, whether it was from #1’s desire to be with me or #1’s dramatic side or whatever it might have been. We had many conversations about how he felt like he’d missed out on some key months for their relationship.

My husband never shirked his duty as a father, though. He might have been in high school while I was pregnant, but he did his best to take classes to prepare himself and helped with his sister’s newborn son. He enrolled in a school that promised to give him a viable career in a reasonable time, and when that didn’t pan out, he kept looking. The greatest thing he did, though, was love me.

For some of you, this sounds foreign. He was a good father by loving his wife? What? The most important relationship a child will ever experience is the relationship between his parents. Not only does it tell him that his world is secure, it teaches him what to look for and how to do his role in the future. My husband could feed #1 marshmallows for dinner every day and let him watch Johnny Test, and I won’t flip (too much) because I know that those momentary things are not life-changing. Teeth will be brushed, PBS will be turned on, but #1 won’t be dramatically changed. Him seeing his daddy hugging on his mommy, kissing his mommy, talking kindly to his mommy: those are the things that are life-changing.

Today at church, I brought the boys in springtime clothes. When we left, it was 65* and looked to warm up. (Those of you near me know I was a fool not to check the weather.) Nevertheless, when we got out of church, it was raining and 40*. I had jackets for the boys, but nothing for my poor summer dress-clad self. The Sunday school coordinator smiled down at #1 and said, “Take care of your mommy, ok? It’s cold outside!”

He looked at her stone-faced. “I can’t.”

A few parents paused, those half-smiles we wear on their faces, waiting to hear what cute, stinker thing he might say next. He had just been throwing a fit, after all. She smiled and gave me a side-long look. “Why not?”

He shrugged and looked at me. “Because that’s a daddy’s job. I’m not a daddy.”

My husband has succeeded at the most important job he has ever had.

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