Recently, I watched my husband become a father.
Of course, he became a “father” just like I became a “mother” to some extent, about 20 months ago, in a hospital room rank with bodily fluids and fear. Yes, we both became “parents” that day, but I don't think we were parents without the quotes quite yet.
When was my own moment? It might have happened when I breastfed on a filthy bench while waiting outside the Mavis Discount Tire. Cars whizzed by on the adjacent highway, rubber fumes filled the air, and a gentleman on a nearby bench tried not to look (well, made sure to look) while my son swatted away the breastfeeding cover. I had to pay for the new tire and race home in order to drop my son off with the babysitter so that I could get to work. This was our only feeding opportunity. It was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do in this setting, but I did it without hesitation.
It could have been many other moments. Maybe it was more cumulative; like all parents, I've done things I never thought I could do. I've learned that love makes you do difficult and gross things without flinching.
Last month, my husband had his moment while we were at an apple orchard with his family in Columbus, OH. Let me say that even before this he was an awesome “dad.” In fact, seeing him with our son has been one of the most wonderful aspects of parenting so far. He reads in theatrical voices, runs in circles with him, and is creative with him in ways that silently astound me.
In fact, he regularly breaks the cardinal rule of separation anxiety: when he leaves for work and our son stands weeping at the door crying, “DADDY!” my husband sometimes just can't help but turn around for one more hug. I scowl and ensure him, we're fine, but I also love him for having that impulse and being unable to control it.
This orchard was great! All the trees were tiny (toddler height) yet bursting with apples. My son was in heaven, busy harvesting this bounty and tasting a good percentage of the fruits along the way.
At one point, my brother-in-law said, “No, not that one buddy!” One of the little apples he bit into looked fine from the outside but was completely brown inside. I instinctively grabbed the apple and threw it on the ground. I tried to get our little man to spit it out. When he didn’t, I swiped my finger across his tongue and got out only a few bits.
While I was doing this, my husband picked up the nasty apple and took a bite. Just like that, he took a bite.
When I stood up, my husband said, “It's not that bad. It doesn't really taste like anything.” I looked at him, and realized what he'd done. It wasn't heroic in a dramatic way that involved fire or lifting a car; trying that rotten apple for himself was relatively minor yet fueled by gut instinct. I pointed to him with both hands and joked, “YOU are a Dad. You are officially a DAD!” and we all laughed.
But it wasn't just funny. I looked at my husband with awe—the sky was blue around his face and dotted with perfect white clouds. The trees were green, the apples were red, and I knew, without a doubt, what I suspected all along, I had a full partner in parenting.