My husband came into my life when my son was three years old. Throughout our dating years and into the early part of our marriage, he had to walk the tightrope of loving my son as his own, yet not trying to take the place of his father. Developing a relationship with a child under the very watchful eye of a protective mother. Joining a family that’s already off and running. He handled it with a superhuman amount of grace, respect, and love. And he managed to forge such a strong bond that this little boy is now not just my son, but our son.
When our daughter was born, I got to watch my husband become the father of a newborn for the first time even though he had already been a dad for so long. He learned to change a diaper (he only gagged for the first week or so), to make a bottle, and to wrap a swaddle. With everything he did for her, with all the love he had for her from the very beginning, it came as no surprise to me that our daughter became a complete daddy’s girl.
He’s been there for every fever, every parent-teacher conference, every middle-of-the-night cry. He’s by my side every step of the way, helping me raise these two amazing kids.
So when he told me one night that he feels like he’s not good enough as a father or a husband, my heart broke for him. He sees his mistakes and his shortcomings magnified a hundredfold and feels like he’s failing. There is so much of the big picture he seems to be missing, and there is so much I wish he knew.
I wish he knew how much light he brought to our little family when he joined it. He lightened the load I was carrying and magnified every joy we experienced. Our home had always been one filled with love, but having him—and later our daughter—in it multiplied that love, growing it with every passing day.
I wish he knew how much we all need him. Not need him to fix something or need him to help with bedtime, but need him. Need his big heart and deep laugh and wild bear hugs. That he is part of the glue that binds our family.
I wish he could see the way the kids transform when he walks in the door.
That he could hear all the stories they say they can’t wait to tell him even if they’ve forgotten them by the time he gets home. I wish he could see their eyes light up when I say, “I think I heard Daddy’s car!” and the way they stop what they’re doing and run to the door to wait for him to come through it.
I wish he knew that even his worst days are better than most people’s best days. That even when he’s down on himself and running short on patience, he is still a kind, loving, dependable husband and father.
I wish he knew when I’m short on patience, when I’m tired and grumpy and don’t want to talk, it’s not his fault. My days are long and chaotic, and sometimes they drain me of all energy. But I always love him even when I’m at my worst.
I tried, at that moment, to explain all of this to him, but I’m afraid I fell short. I couldn’t think of a way to describe all the ways he’s winning at this parenting thing and all the things he’s doing right. I’ll work harder to tell him, every day, how much I appreciate him.
Because I want him to know what I know: that there is no better husband and father than him.