On Wednesday I got a call from Isabella at school. She jammed her finger playing tether ball during recess, and told me, in tentative, hushed tones, that she feared it might be broken. The assistant principal got on the line and said she doubted it was broken, and thought Isabella would be fine to take the bus home. When she stepped through the door a half hour later, the tears she had obviously been holding inside burst forth, and she crumpled into a heap on my lap.
Later, after the emergency room visit and the confirmation that there was no broken bone, Isabella asked me if I had ever been rushed to the ER as a kid, and I told her about the time I was playing with Nick Schmitt in our garage on Parkside and fell and hit my nose. You and dad thought it might be broken, and off to the ER we went.
I think I understand now how you must have felt that day, and many other days before and after: the mix of concern, self-assurance, and helplessness when parenting a child through life’s missteps, challenges, and emergencies, both big and small.
We’re starting to prepare our house to go on the market, and Patrick and I are dealing with some additional stress this spring. With work and chores and laundry and dinner and lunches and now this moving thing, so often by the end of the day (and by that I mean 6 PM), all I really want to do is sit on the couch in front of the TV with a big glass of wine. The energy it takes to do bills, plan lessons, grade papers, negotiate care for our kids (and fold laundry) seems overwhelming. I am yawing just thinking about it all.
I remember as a kid that no matter what I was doing or what you were doing, you would set all your adult responsibilities aside and attend to my needs. Help me with homework? Check. Listen to me complain about a friend? Check. Laugh at a joke? Check, check, check.
You have talked about being astounded that parents today feel like they are responsible for fulfilling each of their child’s needs, and have said that when you were raising kids, parents were not held to such high account. I know as a kid I felt cared for, nurtured, and loved. It never felt to me that you were not taking care of my every need. I certainly never felt that you would not drop everything to pay attention to me.
This carried through to adulthood. You ushered me through some relationship woes with men (what did I know about that at 25 and just out? What did you know about gay relationships? Yet I spoke, and you listened). You helped Patrick and I navigate the details of our commitment ceremony. Not long after, you assisted two neophyte parents deal with our new little new bundle of responsibilities. Emblazoned in my memory is the moment you spoke with Patrick’s mom on the phone from Seattle, assuring her that he and I were doing “just a fine job, these two” as new parents. I felt so proud to have your validation.
Jordan wanted to show me something one night this week. I was cleaning up after dinner, thinking about the house we’re going to sell, the work we have to do, the list of too many things to accomplish prior to bed that night. My mind wasn’t in the game. It was far away.
Thankfully, I reminded myself: enjoy this moment. Give him your attention now. These days will pass. Some day he will live thousands of miles away and I will long for him to call and share something seemingly small and insignificant, a tiny part of his day that he wants to share with me.
I’m way over here and you’re way over there. Still thinking of you today, and honoring you, and feeling so lucky to have such a great role model of a caring devoted parent in my life. To nurture, care, encourage, and support are some of the traditional expectations society has for mothers, but they are really expectations for all parents. I’m going to claim them as a dad, and say thank you mom for teaching me how to parent.