June 16, 2009

In Praise of a Quiet Man

Nineteen years ago, the first person to hold our son apart from the medical team was Husband. I was shaking too hard from the delivery and was afraid I would drop the baby. Husband willingly took the bundled 8 lb. infant in his arms and said to him, “Welcome to the world, son. Wish we had cleaned it up for you.” He has been holding him – in one way or another – ever since.

Even in Son’s first moments, the resemblance between Father and Son was obvious to all. His nose, mouth, shape of his head all mirrored his father. Today my son and his father share many characteristics, both of looks and character.

Many baby-boomer men are confused as to their role as a parent, growing up in a Leave It to Beaver world, with a mom at home in an apron and dad at work. Husband never let stereotypical gender roles get in the way of loving and raising our child. From the chaotic first night home from the hospital, this was a father who was as involved if not more involved as me. We always have been partners in parenting. Husband got up at 3 a.m. and comforted a crying baby, he warmed and gave bottles, and he changed diapers at home and in transit.

When I worked out of town, Husband took Son to occupational, speech, and physical therapy three times a week, often giving up his lunch time. When I could not figure out potty training, Husband stepped up and helped Son step up.

The lookalike pair made several wooden cars together for Pinewood Derby, both stretching beyond their comfort zone to make a functional but not necessarily beautiful racer. But at the Father/Son Cake Bake, now that’s where they excelled. Husband is a wonderful cook, and twice they made cakes for sale at a Cub Scout auction. We bought one cake back for $15. making it the world's most expensive cake when all the ingredients are added.

Husband always took the lead in Son’s education. From an early age on, Son has had his own “Summer Reading List,” carefully cultivated by Husband to expose Son to all kinds of books. While I was not happy about the Jackie Collins book on the list in junior high, prude that I am, I also know that Son was lovingly exposed to Tolkien, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the Narnia series, by a father who cared enough to steer and encourage his son’s intellectual development.

In late 2000, I was gone for three weeks for training for a new job. Son was in fifth grade, and I cried almost every day in my New Jersey hotel room. Being away from family for that extended period of time was awful. Husband kept the home fires burning. When I left, Son has absolutely no interest in sports. When I came back, he was a whiz on NBA and knew all the players and statistics. Some kind of male bonding happened while I was gone. This has continued as Father and Son share a love for the Pacers, the Cincinnati Reds, and the Indianapolis Colts.

Husband took on the huge task of managing applications and assisting son in researching and making the big decision when it came to college. We took turns with college visits, and husband helped son with file folders for school applications.

When I met my husband he was approximately the same age that my son is now. There is no question about the resemblance between the two at that age. While Husband was stockier than Son is now when I met him, both are fine looking men with a dark shock of hair and a crooked, disarming half-smile. Husband has demonstrated to son what it means to be a man – to support family financially and emotionally, to be active and engaged in the world, to care about others, and to seek and use knowledge. I see so much of Husband in my son – small attributes and larger traits. Nothing could please me more. Happy Father’s Day, sweetheart. Quoth the raven.