Saturday, January 15, 2011
January 15, 2011 ~ Day 37
It takes Two
Today is "Daddy's Day" with our kids, also known as "Mommy's Break". Once a week my husband and I each take about six hours for ourselves as personal time in which to recoup, hang out with our friends and catch up on the little things like drinking a cup of coffee while reading the paper (my husband) or catching the latest chick flick at the theater (me).
We came upon this strategy years ago as a way not to feel stifled in our roles as parents and providers. A way not to lose ourselves, and better still, a way for each of us to spend quality time every week with our children.
I awoke this morning to shrieking - mostly happy - as our three children tore around the house playing games and chasing each other. "Mommmmmeeeeee!" they whined as they piled on top of me. "We're HUNGRY!!!" It took me a second to remember that today was Daddy's Day. Groaning and yawning, I wondered where my husband was and what he was doing.
Padding down the stairs after the kids, who raced right around me, I arrived in the kitchen to find my husband hunched over his computer checking out bike jerseys. "Good morning!" he said, "I'm using that gift certificate I told you about."
Freshly out of bed and not quite awake yet, my instinct was to feel frustrated. "Um, the kids are hungry. Have you thought about breakfast?"
It was a silly question though, because my husband is a great dad. "I've got pancakes going. Batter is all ready. They'll be done in two minutes." Sure enough, just a handful of minutes and one tantrum later my children were all feasting on their dad's homemade wheat pancakes filled with mangos and strawberries. "Daddy made us pancakes!" they sang. "We want MORE SYRUP!"
Their dad, who was back on the computer looking at his biking stuff, smiled and passed the bottle over. I restrained myself from commenting. After all, he would be the one dealing with any sugar-low meltdowns later in the day. It really wasn't my place to interject.
The great thing about co-parenting is that you get two totally disparate human beings bringing their different world views and life experiences to the table, working together to enrich the lives of growing children that you both adore.
My husband and I are extraordinarily different in the ways that we interact with our children, our tolerance level for risk and ideas about safety, even our ideas about what is fun.
The wonderful thing about these differences is that the winners from the ongoing dialogue are almost always our children. They benefit from riding their own bikes to the park with daddy and they benefit from painting and drawing with their mommy. They learn soccer skills and how to "shake it off" from daddy and they learn how to make pie crust and custard filling from mommy.
In the end, each of us give our children a unique perspective on the world that the other one could not offer... thus broadening their horizons and giving them the clear understanding that there isn't just one way to look at any situation. There are lots of right answers, and there are also a lot of ways for people from different backgrounds to work together successfully.
A few days ago my son asked me when we would next be going to KIDLAND, the child-friendly theme park in our county. We hold annual passes there so he knows that the option is always available, especially on weekends or holidays.
This is Martin Luther King Jr weekend - a three day holiday - and I felt that the theme park was likely to be way too crowded with out of town visitors and local families on vacation from school, especially since we've been enjoying really terrific weather. "I'm not sure this is the right time," I told him, "I think we should wait until a weekday so that we can have the run of the park."
This answer reflects my personality - I shy from crowds and typically prefer the quiet companionship of just a few friends at a time, rather than large groups.
However when our children finished eating their pancakes this morning their Daddy asked, "Who feels like going to KIDLAND today?" We had not discussed this idea, but I'm fairly confident that our eldest son had raised the topic with him yesterday evening before bedtime.
"What about the crowds?" I asked. "Three kids is a lot for either of us to handle at once, are you sure you want to deal with that kind of chaos while you have all three of them on your own?"
"Sure, why not?" my husband replied. "It will be fun!"
This answer reflects my husband's personality. He adores being social in large groups. A former touring musician, he adapted quickly to performing on stage in front of crowds. Living according to his personal credo, "The more, the merrier", my guy may actually thrive off of the energy of being in the midst of a swarm of tourists.
"Yayyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Our children sang, and rushed to get their shoes on.
I experienced one real twinge of jealousy. "I wish I could be the fun parent," I sighed.
"You are fun," he said, "Just in a different way."
My children are so lucky to have a dad that lets them run around screaming like banshees, cooks homemade pancakes with extra syrup and takes them spontaneously to theme parks to play. He is a tremendous, terrific father and I count my blessings every day to have chosen a life mate that thinks playing with his kids ~ and making the time to do so ~ is fantastic and worthwhile.
I think they are also lucky to have a parent like me, who will (as usual) devote several hours of my own personal time to doing their laundry, sorting out the grocery list, paying bills, filling out their preschool and first grade applications and planning a birthday dinner for their grandmother this evening.
Our children need both of us, they learn from both of us, they thrive thanks to both of us.
Together we form a yin and yang of parenting, giving the three people we each love most a necessary balance... and always looking for ways to meet in the middle.