Last night, as I was mashing the last lumps out of the potatoes for my shepherd’s pie, Brett and his mom sipped wine and chatted in the kitchen. Listening to people talk in my kitchen while I cook is one of my favorite pleasures in the entire world, and if there’s a heaven, it will definitely involve me chopping tomatoes with the music of laughter from my favorite people who are sitting in bar stools at a counter next to me. Also, I’ll be wearing a baby sling with a newborn. But where were we? Last night in my kitchen. The topic must have been Father’s Day which led to a question directed at me.
“Brett’s a good dad, isn’t he?” Brett’s mom asked, smiling, drawing me into the fun conversation she knew would follow.
“I’m not as good as you think,” Brett humbly argued, “I could do better in a lot of areas.”
“He’s the best,” I jumped in, stepping away from the potatoes and taking a seat on the counter across from them.
We laughed talking about what areas he could do better in–we all know as parents which areas they are, and it just so happens to work out that those areas for him are places where I hold the fort down (and vice versa).
“I mean,” I added, “my friends and family all know that if anything ever happens to me, they’re going to have to get these kids to school because it’s quite possible Brett would just home school them, and by home school, I mean skip it altogether because they were sleeping and he thought it was rude to wake them up.”
Brett laughed, “She’s right.”
“But let me tell you this right now, and this is all that matters.” I shifted my answer from Brett’s mom to Brett, “Your kids, without a doubt, know they are loved. You drench them in it. You speak fluent fatherly affection. Our girls won’t need to seek attention from boys because they’re ever lacking it from their father, and our son won’t for a second question if their dad approves of him. If there’s one thing I know our children will say about you, it’s that they know their father’s heart bleeds for them and that there’s nothing they can do to lose that.”
The marriage advice still stands that you should choose a partner based on how he loves you and not how he will love a child, but I admit I went straight for the latter because I had the unique opportunity of watching him be a father before I had my own children. That love was mesmerizing, and it’s what made me want to marry him. To this day, it is my favorite thing about him.
So, while he has zero patience for Lainey’s slime making and thinks school is overrated and kids should just live their lives playing and having fun, based on his beautiful strong points–the ones that matter–for Father’s Day, I’ve collected my favorite things about watching Brett be a dad and organized them into some a few Rules of Fatherhood for our kids here.
Invite them in your lap. Wrap your arms around them. Stroke their hair. Hold their hand. Kiss their cheeks. Don’t shy away from these things the older they get. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my kids all pretzeled up in Brett’s arms, their head on his shoulder, their hands in his. And last night, as I watched Brett stand behind his 20-year-old son and rub his shoulders, almost subconsciously, I thought about how important that physical touch is–how many messages it sends to our kids as they navigate through life. Without speaking any words, those hugs and hair strokes and shoulder rubs say, “I’m always here.”
Bestow an Endearing Nickname.
Brett has special nicknames for all the kids–ones only he uses–and they’re kryptonite for all frustrating situations. I know 16-year-old Lainey will melt a little bit, even when she’s mad at her dad, when she hears him call her by the beloved nickname that says, “You’re special…even if you broke your curfew.” Brett even gives silly nicknames to all of Lainey’s friends who come over. Lainey’s friend Maggie actually corrects him if he calls her by her real name. “You mean Tina, right?”
I’m definitely the sentimental one in the family and “talking about feelings” is a phrase equivalent to nails on a chalkboard for Brett, but when it comes to talking about our kids or looking at their old baby pictures or having conversations about how much we love them–how funny and awesome and beautiful they all are–Brett’s practically a Cryderman. We once had a date night where we were sitting at a bar drinking cold beer, tuning out a live band while we both got all teary telling stories about the kids–to the point where we had to shift the conversation away from our kids and remember there’s so much more to talk about. But these kids make him mush, and he never hides that, and I love that about him.
Buy them something they don’t need just because you know they will love it. Make their mom roll her eyes because you said yes to something you know she thinks is ridiculous. Break the rules sometimes to make a memory. Go ahead–order the Barbie camper. We’ll talk about it in twenty years, and it will remind me of the crazy things you do that make me love you more.
There are so many things we will look back on as parents and wish we would have done differently. But these four are covered in our home, thanks to the man I married who loves his kids so well.
Now come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you about my own dad.