Dad Can Handle It!
A few months ago, a line-up of Same Difference events filled my calendar. I felt honored to talk in front of groups of kids in Chester & Philadelphia, PA and my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. But after reviewing my schedule, I realized I’d have to be away from my family for 10 days.
I went to my husband to ask how he felt about holding down the fort while I headed to the East Coast.
“You can’t pass this up, Calida,” he said beaming. “You gotta go for it! But how am I going to do the girls’ hair?”
“Good old-fashion cornrows,” I said.
I began spreading the word to friends and family about my promotional tour. Of course, they were super excited for me, but then a standard response would play itself out with the women I knew.
“Are you taking your daughters with you?”
“Well, who’s going to watch them?”
“My husband,” I would reply flatly.
Then the generous offers started pouring in.
“If he needs help after school, on the weekends, or anytime, please let him know. I am available. Or, your girls can come spend a few nights with us while you are gone.”
“Thanks. I’ll let Gerald know,” I’d say. “But I think he can handle it.”
New waves of dubious inquiries would then flood in.
“How is he going to take care of the two girls on his own? “What is he going to do?” “Won’t he need help?”
Part of me appreciated their concern for my family, but I was also slightly irritated. When my husband goes out of town, no one offers to help me out. In my neighbor’s eyes, Gerald was on his way to sainthood for taking care of his kids, but when I’m home and running my household that’s what’s expected of me as a wife and mother.
As the time came for me to head out, I started feeling a bit nervous about Gerald’s patience and whether he could handle the girls’ hourly quarrels and bickering. I have witnessed my husband, when completely frustrated, resolve a conflict by bursting into the room and commanding that our daughters drop to the floor and give him 20 pushups.
Days before I was set to depart, I pumped up the girls about how fun it was going to be during this “Daddy time.”
“Who is going to read me my books? And who is going to pat my back before bed?” my 6-year-old asked.
Then my oldest: “How are we going to eat?”
I reassured both of them that daddy would handle it all. I promised to Facetime them every day.
The first couple of nights were tough on my youngest. “When are you coming home, Mommy?” she’d ask with tears welling in her eyes.
“Eight more days.” I would reply.
“That is too long, Mommy. ”
But by day six, my girls seemed to get into their father’s rhythm of doing things. I had stopped receiving emails from my oldest, which usually included the following line: “Dad is doing things all wrong. Come home!”
Now when I would call, they would say hi quickly and then hand the phone over to their father. I was missing them terribly, but I was happy they were adjusting.
The Same Difference events were a success. And when I flew back home, my family greeted me with much-needed love. That night we all slept together. I was so happy to be one unit again.
The next morning, I woke up to the sound of pots and pans clattering in the background.
My husband was up before me! And cooking breakfast!
I could hear light footsteps rapidly moving through the hall. When I went to investigate, my youngest was setting the kitchen table for breakfast, while my oldest was making her bed. They were moving like little soldiers with all-new routines.
I had never asked them to do chores in the morning. I sat at the table in amazement. Then after eating breakfast, the girls went to the bathroom and brushed their teeth. Then they packed their snacks themselves, placing everything in their bookbags without a single word. With extra time to spare, they sat on the couch ready to leave for school.
Before my trip, I could hardly get these girls out the door on time. I was constantly prodding them to do the simplest actions, like putting on their shoes.
“I am so proud of you both,” I said. “Now Mommy is going to have to figure out how to keep this up.”
My youngest replied curtly, “Maybe you need to go away more.”
Wow. But maybe her little smart butt was right.
I needed to go away to realize that I had been completely underestimating my husband’s parenting abilities. And my girls are no longer babies. I had been coddling them way too much. I have to learn to expect more from them. Then and only then will they rise to the challenge.
Later that day my husband told me that he would be traveling for work the following week.
“Really?” And in fear I asked, “Who is going to take care of the girls?”