This year will mark six Father’s Days since the inaugural launch of my husband’s gig as “Dad.” Six years that have been filled with hormones and bodily fluids and irrational behavior—and that’s just me. And six years of diaper changes and crap on walls and toys down vents and toothbrushes repurposed as garden instruments. Yet, he’s clocked the same amount of time in shared Push Pops and epic fort-building using skills honed from years of Tetris. He’s had it pretty good, all in all.
Which is why I’m giving him the one thing he’d never ask for on this holiday—a day off. On this most auspicious of days, I’m kicking him out of the house. It might sound oxymoronic to spend Father’s Day solo. And yet, if the day is to celebrate the dude with the mojo and the manpower to raise all three of our children, then I’m going to give the gift that keeps on giving. I’m going to dig him out from under the pile of kids, hand over the car keys and his hockey bag, and tell him to get lost.
I know. I know. In an age that painstakingly outlines the necessity and requirements of the hands-on dad, I’m perpetuating the age-long stereotype of masculine indifference to family life. I might as well hand him his slippers and paper after a long day and tell him to put his feet up. “Don’t worry honey, I’ll tackled that dinner in the new-fangled microwave oven.” But you don’t know my husband. You don’t know the heart that’s soft as Gumby when it comes to his kids. In a world where fatherhood is increasingly populated by metrosexual men in skinny jeans, my husband still folds down pages in the Land’s End catalog. But polos and chinos don’t make him old school. He fathers like a pro.
In case you need proof, here’s a window into our first Father’s Day. It occurred just weeks after bringing our son home from the NICU, fully trached and with medical equipment in tow. He was medically fragile and we were newbies. Days before this first parental holiday at home, my husband crawls into the kitchen on hands and knees after a spectacularly vicious fall on the ice during a late-night hockey game. I was not sympathetic. I had too much else to worry about. He spent the night in the ER by himself, which led to a back surgery, which led to us living with my mother for six weeks. I have a picture from that first Father’s Day, him gingerly holding his delicate son in one hand while leaning on a cane with the other, dapper despite the pain. And he got up with me for every feeding, hobbling in to hold a kid or a burp cloth or just stand vigil. He shied from the pain pills in case it made him too groggy to help. He stayed in the game.
Still think he’s getting off easy? Or that I’m stoking the fire of his ego while bearing the brunt of parenting? Let’s cut to Father’s Day number three. We are back in the NICU, having given birth to premature twins. I am laid up in the hospital bed, fresh from a C-section. “Where’s the father?” I hear a few postpartum nurses whisper. He’s living in intensive care, being the parent for both of us because I can’t get to them. He’s letting them feel his touch on their tiny chests so they know the world is not one big impersonal fish tank. And then he’ll be right back to help me get to the toilet.
So now, on this sixth Father’s Day, I’m releasing him from rounds. I’m sending him off to play hockey and buy beer at one of the craft breweries whose prices and pretensions make me roll my eyes so hard my forehead hurts. I’m releasing him back into the wild for a few hours because if I’m honest, as a mother, I’d want the same and know I will get it when I need it. Despite the dude-status, he intuits with the best of them. To each his own and on this Father’s Day, he’s getting a grand send off. We’ll be here waiting to tackle him when he returns.