Over the past six years, there were moments when the whirl of chaos that is our life with children inexplicably paused, and I thought to myself, “My partner deserves a Dad award.” Then shit got real, as it always does, and the moment passed without any fanfare or ribbons or even a that-a-boy pat on his back. So, in honor of Father’s Day, I’ve compiled a list of the top three. They aren’t exactly newsworthy, but in my experience, acts of genuine love seldom are:
1). When He Held Our Daughter during Her First Nebulizer Treatment
B contracted RSV when she was six months old. As usually happens when your baby is ill—especially your first—the puke-fest left both my husband and I reeling with equal parts concern and revulsion. The pediatrician recommended a nebulizer, so my husband assembled what looked like a torture device, perched on the side of the bathtub, cradled our infant daughter in his arms, and pressed the mask to her face. After struggling for a bit, she fell asleep to the hum of the machine. I stood in the doorway of the bathroom, watching my big man of husband hold our fragile little girl.
“That’s the saddest thing, I’ve ever seen,” I said, pointing to our sleeping child. He nodded, clearly as upset as I was.
I didn’t tell him then that it was also beautiful. In that moment, I saw the love it had taken to be the strength she, and I, needed.
2). When He Realized His Perfect Child Wasn’t Perfect
I grew up in a special needs household. Talk of case studies and IEPs were passed around the dinner table like a basket of rolls. Even so, when the daycare director suggested that we have B tested for sensory processing issues, both my husband and I resisted. After she laid out her reasons, I agreed to testing. My partner remained reluctant.
“Why?” I asked. “If there’s something wrong, don’t we need to know?”
“I don’t want someone telling me she isn’t perfect,” he said. “Because she is.”
That phrase alone was award-worthy. Then he told me to make the test appointment. He sat beside me while we received the diagnosis, and drove B to more than his share of OT, PT and various other appointments. And to him, she is still perfect. Now, that deserves a freaking banner.
3). When He Walked Away
The kids were screaming at him. One may have even popped him in his face. I can’t remember why, since I was in an equally foul mood. As the anger built up inside him, he said, “You got this” and walked out the door. He wasn’t gone long. I’m sure he just stormed around the block and back to our house. But he knew he couldn’t be there, that he would say or do something hurtful, so he took the time he needed to regroup.
Unlike him, I’m somehow unware that I’ve reached a tipping point. He knows. He swoops in and takes the girls for a walk or gives them a bath or just plops them in front of the TV. “I’ve got this,” he says. And I know he does.
The truth is, there are small moments every day that prove he’s a phenomenal father. Every time he lathers the kiddos with sunscreen or chases them with bug spray or holds them down to brush their teeth, he deserves kudos. They resist, sometimes violently. He holds steady, more concerned with their long-term wellbeing than the effort it takes to wrangle his offspring to submission.
He’s also the one who makes us laugh every day. He’s the designated nail painter, egg fryer, and weed puller.
In the smallest of ways, he encourages us to be strong, to be compassionate, and especially, to be thankful. I may not always express it, the girls may not always express it, but gratitude, like love is often a quiet thing.
(Until you launch a blog and plaster his praises all over the internet. Now, that absolutely warrants a gold medal).