Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Honorable Mention

Roseann Keegan, a freelance writer, wrote this article mentioning my first book for RGJ.com. I think it’s great and wanted to share it with you:

When our daughter was a baby, my husband would say there were two people in her life: "Mommy" (me) and "Not the Mommy" (him). I would explain that nursing mothers have an unfair advantage since babies depend on us for food. My husband was not assured.

Five years later, I didn't realize how comfortable I'd become in my self-perceived superstar role. My husband has always been a capable parent, even from the beginning, and present in every sense of the word. But somewhere along the way I started to believe there were many things only a mother could do, in addition to lactating.

My bubble burst abruptly one night.

"Tomorrow, I get to be a 'mommy helper' at school," I chirped to my kindergartener.

My daughter thought for a moment. "When does Dad get to be a daddy helper?" she asked. "He has not had a turn."

I was glad she was embracing the kindergarten concept of taking turns, but I was sad that I was going to have to share. I love my weekly visits to the classroom: learning the kids' names, hearing their funny stories ("Mrs. Keegan, this one time, my dog bit me because he thought I was food, and then another time ...) and watching my own daughter navigate the day.

But I knew it wasn't fair to hog the experience, as much as I wanted to. And my husband was thrilled to have been asked.

Still, I worried: would he do OK? I mean, there's craft glue and cutting out letters and playing alphabet bingo and story time -- it's a lot for a first-timer. But he went to college and has a grasp on the basics, so I guess he'll be OK. Plus, he is a photographer and deals with brides so he knows how to handle someone who needs a nap really badly.

So, I sighed. It was time to let go and let dad have a turn.

When the fateful morning arrived, I held onto my daughter's backpack with a Kung Fu death grip as we said goodbye. After "Not the Mommy" pried the pink bag from my hands and they left, I walked into the empty house.

Now what? My son was down early for his morning nap, exhausted from waking me up at one-hour intervals the night before. (See? I totally earn this pedestal thing.)

But instead of relishing the quiet, the house seemed eerie. I admit that in my most frazzled moments of parenthood I have fantasized about the kids being older, a little more self-sufficient. Europe would be nice this time of year, I've thought. But now I was alone and I hated it.

I sat quietly at my computer and thought. This is good, this asking daddy to be involved. I've always told my husband that the father-daughter relationship is one of the most important relationships our daughter will ever have. That can't flourish if I don't share.

Five years ago, when we were expecting our daughter, I bought my husband a book called, "Why a Daughter Needs a Dad."

I am gently reminded that our daughter doesn't just need her mom to be present; she needs her father in a starring role, too. So I have to step aside, take a cue from the kindergartener and wait my turn.

I bet there are military wives and single moms who would forfeit every day in kindergarten just to have the option.

My husband's turn seemed to go well. As expected, he had some funny stories to share when he got home. While the kids were working on numbers, he asked them to guess his age. "I think you are 88, maybe even 100!" one girl exclaimed.

My daughter was eager to tell me about her day at school with Dad. Then she asked if I would play one of her favorite games, veterinarian.

As a bonus, she promoted me to the role of nurse, instead of my usual role of wounded domestic animal. And once again, I enjoyed taking my turn.

Thank you Roseann for sharing your insights about dads, and for the mention of my book!

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