Sometimes Sam makes me crazy. A few weeks ago, he wanted me to help pull apart our leather sectional couch and clean every inch of it; wait 30 minutes; then polish every inch of it.
To put this kind of behavior in perspective, there was a good portion of my childhood in which you could not even walk through my bedroom. The space between my door and my bed was waist high with unfinished school work, all of the books I was reading, scraps of paper and journals, soccer gear, and mounds of clothes. And by ‘a good portion of my childhood’ I mean ‘every single day,’ with these few exceptions:
-When my best friends Jenna and Amanda would come over and clean my room for me so I could get ungrounded and go play with them.
-On the night before Christmas, when I would stay up until two in the morning cleaning and sorting, dusting and vacuuming, and listening to Christmas music. Because even messy people should have a clean holiday season, I’ve always declared to myself.
So the girl who only cleaned her room twice a year is now unlatching furniture and kneeling with a lint-free cloth and leather cleaning solution to polish a couch.
Miracles do exist. Believe, ye doubting masses.
When we had Clara, I got a lot of advice from people who encouraged me to ‘let Sam figure out his own relationship with the baby,’ or to ‘let him do things his own way,’ instead of taking the typical mom role of handling the brunt of the child care with occasional help from my husband. And I had seen this scenario play out in many different facets: the mom knows what she is doing, and the dad sort of fumbles his way through it. This is true most places, I’d say, whether it’s on TV (our media does a great job of making dads look like idiots, which is a very damaging and lasting commentary that our children are soaking up, I believe), in the parenting styles of previous generations, and even with friends and family. And so I consciously prepared myself to “let” Sam parent with me, to give him a chance to do things his own silly little way with me to clean up after him.
Boy, was I wrong about those expectations.
I attribute most of how Sam acts in our house to his own parents, who raised their children very much as a team. I love my in-laws with my whole heart, and they have always been a friend and support to me and to their son, both separately and as a couple. But I have never been more grateful to them as I am when I watch Sam with our daughter. He amazes me every single day, truly, to the point that I don’t know why I am still surprised by his actions. Yesterday I came home late after a long day at school and then a tech rehearsal for the play. Sam had been with Clara by himself the entire day. When I walked in the door, every piece of laundry in our home had been washed and put away. The kitchen was spotless. The baby was fed, bathed, and ready for bed, her birthday money had been deposited in her new savings account, and they had also made a quick grocery trip. Clara was happy and loved, and I had clean clothes for my busy week ahead.
There are days I’m home with Clara when I can barely get anything done at all, and I’m completely overwhelmed. Not every day, certainly not most days, but sometimes. And yet Sam makes it all look so effortless, and he does it with joy.
I know that his parents modeled this to him, and that all of his brothers carry the same kind of competency with children and household duties. And it makes me want to instill that same sense of confidence and patience in my own sons; it makes me want to raise good fathers, not just good men. Because I think there’s a difference, I really do. But here’s the catch: I can’t model fatherhood to my children. Only Sam can. So what is my job in teaching them what a good father looks like? Besides prayer? Here’s what I’m thinking, tonight anyways, in my second year of parenting, anyways 🙂
1. Give Sam room. He doesn’t always make the same choices I would. He will parent differently than I will, he will cultivate different relationships with our children, and I need to give him room to be a father- not a sidekick to a mother.
2. Praise Sam in front of my kids. I want them to know how much I appreciate his hard work, and how important he is to me and to our family as a whole. I want them to know that their dad is a grand example of God’s work in someone’s life, and while he is fallible, he is a beautiful example of how much their heavenly Father loves them.
3. Trust that God will redeem our mistakes and use them for good in our children’s lives. I’m not sure which will be harder: letting go of my mistakes, or letting go of Sam’s mistakes. I know we will both make them. But if God is working on anything in my heart right now, it is that grace has been offered freely to me and I am expected to offer it freely in return- to myself and to others.
Sam and I are making a family together. It is an intricate and delicate process, so full of joy that we practically burst sometimes as we watch our little daughter laugh and dance, or hear our son’s heartbeat thumping through the doctor’s office. And while I still can’t believe that my genes are connecting with Sam’s genes to create these tiny people (I don’t even know how our sperm and egg agree on anything in time to reproduce) I am so glad to be the mother of his children. Even though he can make me crazy sometimes, and marriage is not always easy, he is mine.
And it’s pretty good over here.