My kids are in the backyard playing while their dad, just home from a business trip, is cleaning up the backyard that, honestly, we never really have time to care about. There’s shit back there, like hillbilly shit. A couple towels we used to clean up after the roof was done. A plastic kid playhouse. A two year old kitchen set that the girls have used so frequently most of the knobs have popped off. A basketball hoop we never found a place for. You get it. I always feel like we should clean it up but never find the effort to do so.
I’m inside, working on reaching my weekly 15,000 word assignment from my ghostwriting gig. I should be typing away on my current paranormal genre commission, but I’m not. I’ll get back to it. Right now, I’m just thinking how much I appreciate that man outside.
You see, I’m the first to admit staying in sync with someone when you’ve got kids and careers, mortgages and vacations to pay for, isn’t easy. It’s not. I tell him he snores. I tell him it irritates me, the way he can fall asleep on the couch mid chore doing. I tell him he has no idea what it’s like to be the sole parent for a week, the only nose wiper and bedtime enforcer around. I tell him, maybe once a month, that he’s on his own for a couple hours so I can see a friend.
What I don’t tell him nearly enough is that I see him. I see him, and he’s doing a fabulous job at this dad thing.
He loves them so completely. When one cries at night, there are many times he’s up with a baby in his arms before I even hear a sound. He’s always been that way. He’s never hesitated to answer their needs, to let me sneak in another hour of sleep while he’s driving the car or entertaining a kiddo in the wee hours of the morning.
I remember him with our oldest, a colicky nighttime baby, when we were both ragged from exhaustion. Things in her room had fallen silent and I, being a new mom and a worrier in general, went to check on them. They had both fallen asleep on the floor, about a foot apart, she in her little swaddling wrap and he on his stomach. He had his arms tucked under him, and when I woke him up he said he did so because he wanted to remind himself not to roll over. He slept like that to keep her safe, on the floor, in the middle of the night, when he could have let her cry or gotten me to take over another shift.
I remember as well when I told my husband it was time. It was time to really put my effort into chasing my dreams of writing. I didn’t want to have a fallback anymore. I wanted to explore my poetry, short stories, and ghostwriting. I wanted my livelihood to be entirely dependent on making it on my talent alone. I said this to a father of two, with house and car loans, knowing that I was taking a huge risk. He didn’t tell me to think about it. He didn’t tell me it might be better if I put it off for a few more years again. He didn’t say anything that would have fed into my already nagging fears of not being able to make it in a industry the majority of dreamers don’t make it in. He said his version of, “It’s about time.” For that, I love him so much.
And when I landed that first steady, paying writing gig he celebrated with me. He’s listened to me reading aloud genres he’s not and has never been interested in. He laughs when my characters are funny. He gets my weird, offbeat sense of humor. He encourages me to submit to juggernauts in the industry by telling me my talent is up to snuff, even when I seriously doubt it.
I see him. I see him traveling hours for work, commuting so that we don’t have to move the kids over and over again. I see him doing chores at 11:00 at night when he’d much rather be sleeping. I see him putting his computer down, his work pushed back, so that he can lift a whining kid that just needs her dad to hold her. I see him balancing his career and his family, always trying to make sure each one of us get from him what we need. I see him hauling two little smiling girls in a trailer behind his bike, taking them to the park again when the movie he’s wanted to see has sat in its blue ray sleeve for months untouched.
I see him and, just like I did a decade ago before we had these children and these responsibilities, I like what I see.