To all Ingenious Fathers Everywhere

He said, “Kenny look!” and pointed out in the hallway.  Even before I could think my head turned around and I followed Dad’s finger.  When I saw nothing and looked back Dad was smiling a mile a minute, acting like he hadn’t done anything but I noticed that his toothbrush was gone.  I let him know he didn’t fool me.  “Dad, how come you always hide your toothbrush, why don’t you keep yours with ours?”

Dad laughed.  “Well, Kenny, I guess I don’t keep my toothbrush with the rest of yours because unlike your mother, I was a little boy once myself.”

I thought about this for a second, then said, “What does that mean?”

Dad picked up my toothbrush and said, “Look at this, not only is this instrument perfect for brushing teeth, it has other wonderful uses too.  You see, Kenny, I know that in a little boy’s eyes there isn’t anything in the world that is better for general cleaning than a toothbrush, and the greatest thing about it is that with a good rinse afterward no one can tell what it was used for.

“I also know that the best toothbrush for cleaning stuff is always someone else’s.  So, rather than wondering what my toothbrush last cleaned, I think it’s better that it only goes places that I know about.”

— from The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Mother of All Father’s Days

Is it wrong that I enjoyed Father’s Day more than I enjoyed Mother’s Day this year?

My parents and father-in-law came over for a casual brunch, which gave me the impetus to clean the house, but not so much pressure that I obsessed over the tasks for which I did not have time.  Said brunch gave me an excuse to make one of my favorite casserole recipes.  We enjoyed a nice, relaxed visit together.  My husband devoted the rest of the day to smoking some ribs on the deck.  Slow cooking gave us the chance to sit on the deck together while the kids played and we relaxed.  As an accompaniment to the ribs, I tried a new recipe of zucchini fried in beer batter, which allowed me to sink myself into savory, lemony fried goodness.  I read al fresco, tickled my babies, and even had a last-ditch burst of energy to dust, mop, and change the linens of my bedroom.

Holy schnikes – we had a good day.

As the cool breeze riffled the pages of my novel, a slight wave of guilt sloshed at my conscience.  I was not supposed to having a nice, relaxing day.  I was not supposed to be enjoying myself.  I was supposed to be making the day of the father of my children.

Being as I can rationalize anything, I petulantly argued to myself that, since Mother’s Day usually sucks, why shouldn’t I have fun now?  Why should I martyr myself more than I do any other day since no one does it for me?

Now, before you get your dander up, my love, (yes, I’m addressing you dear husband) – I am not begrudging you your special day.  You are a fabulous husband and father and always deserve a day to put your feet up after all the hard work you do.

I just thought it was pretty ironic that I had more fun this Sunday than that sacred Sunday in May.  Besides my selfish rationalizations, I think it also had a lot to do with expectations.  I had none yesterday – except helping the kids make his day special.  There was no high bar for me so I surpassed it easily.  Having a beer and reading my novel in the middle of the day was a pleasant and most welcome surprise.

Damn Hallmark and the jewelers and florists make anything less than a champagne brunch with a string quartet fall flat.  I don’t need diamonds, but the social expectations make me feel like I need something different, something to make me feel appreciated, valued.  And I deserve that – all mothers do.  But whatever nebulous idea I have in my head of what a special Mother’s Day looks like never materializes.

So Sunday we (I hope my husband did, too) had a good day.  I’ve been toying for a while with the idea of an anti-Mother’s Day.  (I’ll get around to writing the manifesto at some point)  But maybe I just had the inaugural one.  And it could really be any one of the 365 days in the year.  Any day that a mother takes time for herself, eats good food, enjoys her children, and has a good time with the joint caregiver of those children.

Happy Day, people.  Now go eat some fried zucchini – and enjoy it for gosh sakes!

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