Dear Fathers

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. No mother can resist breakfast in bed delivered by her own children. How can her face not light up at the sight of those precious little beings? She knows every soft curve of each little face and how the stem of their necks are so fragile, its almost worrisome. So the burned toast and strange concoction of pancake, peanut butter and jam (because they thought it was more fun than syrup) is welcome when brought into the bedroom by these tiny,  playdough covered hands. Mom wipes the sleep from her barely opened eyes and tries not to wince as the tray slides, spilling coffee all over the new duvet. The children lovingly watch every single bite. I know, because I tried to escape to the bathroom once to flush a meal down the toilet and got caught.

Mother’s Day is a celebration of a child’s love for mom, and a dad trying to make it all work. But here is what mom might really need. A day off. Maybe at home, just lounging in her pajamas, listening to the house echo around her.  Add in a bath, a book, maybe, or a Netflix binge. A whole day dedicated to her recovery. Because mothering is a slog. Parenting in general is like attending a school where you never get the marks you’d like and always feel like you’re going to fail or at least fall short of how everyone else is doing.

You can’t put a price on love, but let’s try. Imagine if you charged your kid for every single thing you do. A pee break in the middle of the day would cost your toddler a quarter. In the middle of the night, its a whole dollar. for those snacks you prepare that they forget to eat, perhaps a sliding scale, depending on your mood. Meals, laundry, bedtime routine, helping with homework, weeping in the night (your own weeping) washing faces and hands, putting on sunscreen, parents day at school and camp, piano concerts that go on forever because everyone plays the same song, soccer games, baseball, all the pets, hair washing and brushing, funny stories, singing in the car so your toddler won’t fall asleep and stay up until midnight. Waiting up for teenagers. Talking to teenagers. Worrying about teenagers. The list is endless, really. And if children had to pay, say, when they turned thirty, well. You’d make a killing.

But that’s not how it is. Because mothers are cheerleaders for everyone in the family, including dad. Every single muscle and bone in their body is honed by parenting because it takes its toll. But while it’s busy taking, it’s giving as well. Once my children left home, I had a revelation. Life was so easy! Meals lasted forever and I hardly ever had to clean the house. But. There was a flatness to it. I’d become addicted to the excitement children bring to our lives. When you have kids, you get to view the world like they do, and its always astonishing and beautiful and unique. Every single time. The way toddlers can listen to the same story over and over again, and never tire of it. The way they stop on a walk to gaze at every rock and blade of grass. It’s painfully slow, but awe inspiring because it takes you back. The things they say, the way they question absolutely everything. No one has ever made me laugh as hard as my own children.

Anyway, dear father, whose turn is coming up in June. Do something great with the kids on Mother’s Day, preferably away from mom. And maybe when your turn comes up, she’ll do the same. Then, reunite for dinner and talk about your day. Mom will be in a very good mood. And you know the old saying. When mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.

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