Please welcome today Kim from Co-Pilot mom. She’s from Canada, making her my first official guest poster from another country (unless you count New Jersey, right Ilene?).
Kim, a self-proclaimed geek (they have those in Canada, apparently), writes eloquently of life as a co-pilot to her two captains. You’re going to love her stuff, just like I do.
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Before we had children, I always assumed – and maybe my husband, David, did, as well – that I would take the lead in the whole parenting thing. I was an early childhood educator, after all – I knew a thing or two about young children. My husband worked with grown-ups in a professional environment. What did he know about parenting?
When our oldest son, Captain Alpha, was born, I tried to guide my husband’s parenting with gentle reminders:
Support his head, he likes it when you pat his back, sing to him
David would always go along with my suggestions – he never questioned my wisdom or techniques.
Early on, though, I realized that I didn’t really know anything more about being a parent than he did. A classroom full of preschoolers did not help prepare me for feeding and diapering a newborn, or dealing with sleep-deprivation. This was uncharted territory for both of us – we were just making our way the best we could.
We found a new routine and got to know our son. I gradually found my stride and gained a little confidence. I was all about the nurturing. I loved to cuddle Alpha and read to him and when he slept, I just wanted to stare at him.
Eventually, David fell into his own parenting rhythm, too. His style emerged – a little rougher, a little more humour-infused – and yes, maybe a little more relaxed with some things.
After a while, he didn’t go along with my suggestions unquestioningly. He started to have his own opinions.
“It’s fine. He’s fine,” he would protest when I suggested that Alpha’s hat wasn’t tied or his pants were riding up too high on his chubby little legs on a chilly day.
One day I saw David bring Alpha to the change table and pretend to lay him down dramatically – in the style of a WWE-wrestling-type body slam – before placing him gently on the change pad.
When I worried aloud that he was too loud and too rough-house-y, his scoffs – and Alpha’s laughter – silenced my concerns.
“This is what I do,” he would tell me. “You do nurture. I’ll do nurture slams.”
So we did. We did the diapers and the dressing and the feedings. We did the waking and the putting to sleep and the reading.
But we each bring our own pieces of parenting to our family puzzle; our individual styles make our family unique.
We found balance – when one of us was worried, the other reassured; when one of us got bogged down, the other was comic relief. Add in some cuddles and kisses – and even a few nurture slams – and we found our way as parents and deepened our connection as partners. He taught me that while expectation and worries about proper clothing are important – having fun is, too.
These days, I like to sit back and watch the wrestling and the teasing and the laughter that my boys share with their dad – for it has become one of the brightest lights in our home.
Do you and your partner have similar parenting styles?
Kim is an early childhood educator turned stay-at-home mom in Nova Scotia, Canada. She writes about co-piloting two small Captains until they are flying on their own at her blog, Co-Pilot Mom. A fan of Jane Austen, science fiction, and cooking shows, Kim often entertains fellow motorists (and embarrasses her family) by singing in the car. She is a beginning runner who is partial to coffee, chocolate and fresh bread.
They’re giving and forgiving. And we dads – and men, in general, regardless of your status of having or having not spawned – must give them their props.
You have the inside track on parenting, in nature. Babies grow inside you. They are nourished by you. They’re suckled and protected and taught by you.
Dads, no matter how intent our actions, or sharp our awareness, or keen our sense of our place in a family, can’t know parenthood from that perspective.
Not even as a seahorse.
That doesn’t make it any easier.
Someone hit a goose with their car on my way home a few months ago. I passed by just after it happened.
This is just part of spring – you’ll see small birds chasing hawks to protect a nest; baby birds fallen out of nests, relying on nature and luck to survive; a family a ducks walking, mom in front, dad in back, babies in between.
My first thought was, “I hope that was the dad. So that the babies have their mom still, to survive.”
Plus, wouldn’t it be the dad who wandered out on a four-lane road, most likely?
I know our rep.
But being exterior, not possessing the instincts you do, isn’t always a convenience. Sure, it must be for guys who can just leave their mark and move on. Nature lets us off the hook sometimes.
Sometimes, we don’t want to be let off the hook, though.
I remember Jason. I’m pretty sure he’s passed on long ago. He was a ladies’ man, and made no bones about it. He was a real rover. He made his rounds around the neighborhood, spreading his seed in a wide radius. There were many pups out there who kind of looked like this tallish, cocoa-brown muttish player.
He was a dog. Literally.
And there were many puppies who could have called him dad. He didn’t have to stay. He didn’t have to park it in anyone’s dog house but his own.
Not all dudes are wired this way. Even when we struggle, even when we get things wrong, even when it looks as if we’d rather be doing something else, there’s something innate about being a dad that is so intertwined in who we are, that job – as dad – can’t possibly wander far from the center of our hearts.
Even when we’re, for all the world to see, mismatched. We know we can’t do things the way mom does. That’s OK. We’ll do things the way dad does. Even if it’s the remedy of putting down newspaper on every spill and mess, like Adam Sandler’s character in “Big Daddy,” we’re at least doing something.
Sonny Koufax, Sandler’s character in “Big Daddy,” decided at one point to allow the child in his foster care to do whatever he wanted to. Dress the way he wanted to. Even pick out his own name – Frankenstein.
“You can do whatever you want to do, buddy,” Sonny told the kid, “and I’ll show you some cool sh*t along the way.”
I’m not sure we dads should do it like Sonny Koufax (or at least, openly admit it), but when we let the leash out a bit and allow the kid to learn from her mistakes, it’s by design, often, and not just apathy.
No, it might not be the mom way.
That’s a tried and true way.
A way that probably has a great deal to do with the human race even existing today.
But, like mom, we dads will “show them some cool sh*t along the way.”