Forgive me for breaking with my normal habit of talking about newspapers today.
If it’s possible, I am going to share an experience from an area of life which I know even less about — motherhood.
It’s fitting that I should write this on Mother’s Day, because as I write this I have no idea what I am going to get my mom or my wife — two amazing mothers. And one of the great things about it is that not everyone gets to see both of these women in action like I do, so it’s as if I am privy to treasures hiding in plain sight.
While I still haven’t figured out what gift certificates or trinkets I will buy as a poor reflection of my love for them, I am going to give them one thing they’ll both be able to use. Against me.
Mom, every day our beds got made. Every day, we had clean clothes. Every day, we came home to a clean house, and every day we had amazing food.
I never once thought, “Hmm, how did that happen? My bed was unmade when I left, and now my room is clean.”
A realization that came too late
It took living with a bunch of guys in a jock dorm and cafeteria food for me to understand how much my mom had given. The rich irony was: By then, it was too late.
Now that part of my morning routine includes helping to make breakfast or the beds, I have a very real understanding of how much I took for granted. Every day the beds have to be made. I am not sure what will happen if they’re not. I am not sure I want to know.
To my wife, Angela, I want to focus my apologies because I am routinely the lazy parent or the frustrated one. I marvel at the hours she can spend playing, imagining and picking up messes.
I really want to apologize that I forget about my real job, being a dad.
A little more than a week ago, I went on a trip to Fargo, N.D. Check that: We went on a trip to Fargo. Originally, I had hoped for a quick trip out, seeing some friends and speaking at an event, then jetting back, leaving the kids here in Billings with their doting, patient grandparents.
As soon as I announced my plans, my wife countered that this was going to be a family vacation. We’d buckle our 4-year-old and 2-year-old in their car seats and head east on Interstate 94 to the tune of 603 miles (but who’s counting?).
Hardly a night passed without me whining or imagining how horrid it would be sharing a room with two little kids; of being kicked in the ribs while I attempted sleep; of food smeared on the windows; or splash pools of other kids all in swim diapers; of the difficult meals even in kid-friendly fast-food joints like McDonald’s.
My protests were tolerated, even if sharply retorted with, “Who’s acting like a 2-year-old now?”
When we began our sojourn, traffic was backed up in Billings and we were an hour late leaving. By the time Worden came into sight, our daughter asked, “Is that Fargo?”
It was going to be a long trip — and every whine, every time our son unbuckled himself from the seat only to be quickly re-belted, I said to my wife, “Remember, Angie, it’s a family vacation.”
When the sandwiches we had made were used as sibling weapons, I said to my bride, “Remember, Angie, it’s a family vacation.”
I was supremely convinced that she had taken what was the perfect opportunity for relaxation and fun and turned it terrible by inviting our two sidekicks.
And when the DVD player became inoperable somewhere near Beach, N.D., I harped about the family-ness of our vacations.
The best of times
After the failed strategy of having them swim for more than an hour in a pool and staying up past their bedtime in order to wear them out, I reminded her that it was her decision to bring them along.
The clock had passed midnight on Thursday when our son, still enamored with the novelty of a hotel bed and pillows, took to body slamming me, a la WWF wrestling, complete with a flying elbow.
Exasperated, Angie switched beds with me and managed to wrangle our son. I got the easy child, our daughter who had been trying to fall asleep.
Before the light could click off, after the sleeping arrangement shuffle, I asked Angie, “Really? Is this what family vacations are?”
She only replied, “You’re unbelievable.”
And it was because I, in a fit of exhaustion tinged with anger, started making another mental checklist of why this had been a horrible idea.
In fact, I was so preoccupied with all of the things I would tell her in just a few hours — when daylight would shine through the windows, waking up our horribly behaved children — that I failed to notice that my daughter had snuggled up closer to me.
I didn’t notice the blonde head that came to rest on my shoulder.
Somewhere in my mental catalog of indignities suffered on what was supposed to be a vacation, I didn’t notice my son finally drifting off to sleep and the room becoming quiet.
And I sure as heck didn’t notice my daughter’s arm, reaching across my shoulder and I nearly missed, “I love you, Daddy.”
All of that courtesy of their mother’s planning of a family vacation.
Shortly after that, I shut up about family vacations.