With Father’s Day fast approaching, I felt the pressure to come up with a brilliant blog post. So instead of jumping right on it, I called in a favor from a friend. This week at “Dude” blogquarters we are honored to have fellow author Kristi Hellenbrand as a guest. She is author of the wonderful book, “Today is a Good Day for Marshmallows” which can be purchased on Amazon. For those dedicated readers, you may remember I was a guest on her blog for Mother’s Day (todayisagooddayformarshmallows.blogspot.com). Just as Kristi had a chance to attack me, um, I mean, respond to my article, I will do the same.
Dads: Their Roman Catapults & Nasty Gym Shorts
To keep with the spirit of the upcoming Father's Day weekend, my good friend John asked me to guest blog on the topic of fatherhood. Note: I am a mother. Now, this may be payback since he guest-blogged (marvelously, I might add) for my website on the topic of Mother's Day. He probably wants a turn to kick up his feet and drink a few Corona beers this weekend, or maybe he just has writer's block. Either way, I am happy to oblige.
Warning!(here comes the disclaimer...) No, I have not suddenly sprung a pair. Therefore I write this piece from an overwhelmingly estrogen/progesterone perspective. I do not hold an academic degree that makes me any kind of expert on fathers and will not pretend to know even a smidgeon about how it feels to be a father in these modern times. I will, instead, muse on what it looks like it feels like.
As I write this, I am sitting comfortably in an oversize window of a local coffee house. Directly outside my window there is a cute little family sitting on a bench waiting for a table at Ted's Montana Grill. There are five of them, two young elementary-aged boys sandwiched between their mother and their big sis. They have grabbed the last remaining bench and there is no room for Dad. Repeat: Dad is standing. Stationed a few feet in front of them, like a captain commanding a ship, this man knows it is his fatherly/manly duty to relinquish his seat for the sake of his woman and his children. Not exactly Titanic here, but the social message is the same. I am witnessing what it means to be a man with a family. Correction: an upstanding man with a family.
My children have asked on numerous occasions why there is not a Sister Day or Brother Day on our beautiful nation's calendar. I am quick to laugh(!?!) and inform them it is because their job is too easy. Meaning they eat, sleep, might put their dishes in the dishwasher, but definitely never provide dinner or field work phone calls until 9pm. Our 401K does not receive contributions from them, and the refrigerator is not stocked by their hands. They consume, use, devour and generally disrupt order in our home. If they put away their laundry they do so only because they have run out of underwear and prefer not to go commando.
Besides, I further explain to them, children get their birthdays to loaf around and take advantage of the kindness of their family members. We, parents, rarely get to bum around being waited on hand and foot. Even the details of our birthdays are often orchestrated by our own hands. So, in 1972 President Richard Nixon signed Father's Day into law. It seemed fair, mothers had been celebrated for forty years already, so dads received a day to be renowned and to decompress a bit. Therefore, I authorize you, fathers, to drag your family to the golf course this weekend! Make your wife take you to the Braves game! And then force everyone to watch that same game on ESPN later that night! Because it is Father's Day and it is your right.
All fun aside though, fatherhood is tough. Fatherhood begins the moment you are drawing spirals on your wife's back with your fingertips in order to keep her distracted while in the throws of natural childbirth. A few weeks later, fatherhood is defined by waking in the wee hours of the night to change diapers before your wife nurses your prodigy back to sleep. It is only later as our little munchkins grow into romping, running, giggling little people, that the enjoyment of fatherhood increases exponentially. You thrive on your children's smiles, their laughter, and their unadulterated love for you. Coming home from an exhausting day at work, hearing their feet pitter-patter across the floor in a mad rush to greet you, they leap into your arms screaming, “Daddy!!” And you wouldn't have it any other way. It makes the hassles of board meetings and sales calls, and even the ache you feel deep in the lower half of your spine from having been on your feet all day, fade into oblivion.
When our baby girl, Brooklynn, joined our household I quickly realized that I would have to give up a share of my husband's heart. No longer was I the only woman in his life. Because Daddy was smitten. He loved her piggy-tails, her white sundresses, and her gritty way of telling him that she wanted to wrestle. Yes. Wrestle. This is where we, mothers, lack. Without her daddy, Brooklynn would never have realized her love for rough-housing. Her love for hand to hand combat. I will not comment on whether that would have been a tragedy or not, I will simply state that things would be different around here without the things a father innately brings to family life.
Daddy is the one that baits the worm on the hook, kills the snake in the barn, and dusts the ceiling fan from atop the extension ladder. And while he is up on that ladder he finds time to build the world's tallest Lego tower. He helps his son build an ancient Roman catapult for a school project, and saves the frantically squealing field mouse from the determined jaws of our barn cat in order to console a distraught daughter. Daddy teaches us how to kill carpenter bees with a tennis racket and explains the difference between a BB gun and a .22 long rifle. Kids eat this stuff up.
Every father would agree, I think, that these are the true joys of fatherhood. The reasons that men awake each morning and continue to drive to those nine-to-fives. The reasons for financial planners, 529 college plans, and savings accounts strictly devoted to family vacations. The reasons they ultimately forgo bachelorhood and hitch themselves to a good woman.
Dear fathers, the woman in your home adores you. You probably do not hear it enough, but please know it. Know that we appreciate your strength, your calm and your sensibility. We love that you can rewire something, find a stud in the wall, and reposition furniture on a whim. We love it when the baby falls asleep on your lap, when you toss the kids into a four-foot-high vertical in the swimming pool and when you agree to swing by the grocery store on your way home because dinner is not at home waiting for you tonight. We may not love your crazy, loud music or your nasty gym shorts, but we cannot imagine, and hope never to experience a life without you in it. God bless all of you fathers on this happy holiday!
Kristi Hellenbrand is the newly published author of Today is a Good Day for Marshmallows– A Mother’s Memoir, which received an honorable mention at the 2012 New York Book Festival. She is also the mother of three nutty children (whom she loves and adores anyway), is a chiropractor, a backyard gardener, and an animal lover. She is on a personal quest to be the best mother and wife that she can be, but confesses that she is “no Yoda.” She is simply a woman that is willing to share her many successes and failures in the name of her goal. Please join her and her followers on her blog page. She welcomes your comments and emails. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three children, and two dozen pets.