Saturday, December 8, 2012

Lessons From The Girls


I have just finished one of the odder dinners I've had in my home. We are going to see Wicked tonight and each of our girls has invited a friend to join us. The four of them just sat with me for lasagna and edamame and more frivolity than anyone who doesn't have a kitchen full of 9- and 11-year-old girls can imagine.

During dinner the girls pretended that the edamame pods were opera glasses, sang strange songs at high volume, dropped things on the floor, spilled water, and laughed more than is legal in Republican-controlled districts. Throughout it all I found myself staring wide-eyed, holding my head in my hands, and wondering what I had gotten myself into. Oh, and I was also egging them on and raising the volume any chance I got.

The girls are all upstairs getting dressed for the show and, my wife tells me, the two older girls are applying make-up. This after spending some of the afternoon painting and re-painting their nails green and white to go with the show. I have about fifteen minutes of peace for writing and then I need to get myself dressed and get us all out the door.

The plan was for my wife to take two of the girls and me to take the other two. We refuse to buy a mini-van just for the one or two occasions when we might need it. However, my wife has been down with fever for two days and is not likely to attend the show with us. (There is still a chance and were I not typing I would cross my fingers.) Her sickness has changed the dynamics around here quite a bit.

I'm not one of those dads who doesn't know how to work the washing machine. I do laundry and dishes, I cook dinners and vacuum floors, and though I don't think I have ever in my life dusted, I can manage around the house and with my girls. Still, when one parent goes down, the other feels the whole weight of running the house. My neck is already sore from needing surgery, but I'm feeling the load of responsibility acutely.

That said, I have, throughout this evening taken the time to listen to the girls insanity and smile. I have seen that my girls have made good friendships with thoughtful, kind, and very funny girls. No matter how insane it gets, they take the time to say please and thank you. They include me in their games. They are sweet and wondrously mature in so many ways. My being here on my own, with my wife resting in bed, gives me a chance to witness this first-hand instead of through the lens of dual-parenting. It is a chance I'm grateful for even though I'm also ready for two fingers of scotch and a couch to fall asleep on.

I went to the Syracuse University Women's Basketball game today with my father and though I wasn't nearly as goofy with him as my children have been this evening with me, I think it must have felt good to him to see how I've turned out. We are easy and comfortable with one another, able to talk about most anything though we confine ourselves to mostly safe material. He seems ready to pass on the responsibilities of adulthood and caregiving to me and I'm ready to take some of them.

This Christmas Eve he and my mother will once again watch me with my children, my wife, and my friends. I think that they will see how we are raising two phenomenal girls. I know that they love the woman I have married and have come to appreciate the depths of her wonder. And they will, like I did tonight, watch me being silly and having fun with my friends as we laugh and joke and swap stories. I'm trying to imagine how it must look to them to see us like that and I know that it's probably a lot like my experience at the table tonight and throughout the evening as we go see the show.

I know too that there are times when my daughters both get exasperated with me in front of their friends. Our oldest has this problem especially. I'm not trying to be a pain, really, and that will be a good thing for me to keep in mind as I my parents play with my friends and me at Christmas Eve. These things are circular. What was then is now and what will be already has happened. I'll see it in person but the only way to truly realize it will be to take a moment, breathe, and really pay it the attention love deserves. That's my Christmas wish, to observe the love coming toward and flowing out from me. That's really all I want for Christmas.

Well, that and to write on.