I I I I I I I  

AustinMama offers up some Daddy props.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, conn a ship, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve an equation, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
- Robert A. Heinlein

Mighty Janice

As part of the outpouring of compassion inspired by 200,000+ tsunami deaths, our local schools ran a program called "Coins from Caring Kids," encouraging students to bring donations to class, which would be collected on the 12th of January and matched by the Canadian federal government.  My wife, a drama and English teacher, told her students that if they managed to contribute $200, she would dye her hair any color they chose.  If they compiled $300, she’d shave her head, and if they dug deep enough to amass $400 or more, she’d shave her head and dye her scalp any color they chose.  Her high school is in a more economically challenged part of our fair city, and the $216 proudly donated in Jan’s room was roughly a quarter of the entire school’s take.  The week of her forty seventh birthday, a cosmetics teacher cut Jan’s hair, bleached it twice, and colored it the bright purple with bubblegum pink highlights that her students had selected by vote.  It suited her surprisingly well, and she’s been getting compliments on it since.

There’s a lot of Janice in that story -- her compassionate willingness to make sacrifices to help others suggests the rapport she establishes with her students and the heights she reaches for, and smirks happily at the dignity and flair that allows her to carry it off.  In her life as a teacher, Janice is the real deal: dedicated, flexible, smart, and caring. On top of the annual school play, she runs an improv club, organizes a holiday follies, and emcees. I’m confident she’s the hardest working teacher in her school.  Students skip other classes to attend hers.  There’s no real mystery to this: she’s fun, she understands who they are, and what she teaches provides them an outlet for the fizzy cocktail of adolescent hormones most of school tells them to stifle.  What’s harder to convey to you is the certain jaunty élan with which she makes her new ‘do appear more empowering than silly.  Janice calls this her ‘air of immaturity’, but it’s an ageless quality, the blend of an impish gleam in her eyes with the smile lines around them which lead one student who asks her age to say “No way!” while another asks “Is that all?”

Jan makes it possible for me to be a good father in many ways.  She is the breadwinner to my househusband.  She is my best friend and good company, a necessary breath of intelligent adult conversation, a font of insights into not only the boys psyches but also my own, and a hearty cackling sense of humor to balance my heritage of German humorlessness.  We had the rare opportunity to share a day alone together recently, and it was delightful to affirm that not only is there still a delicious spark of chemistry smoldering until opportunity fans it, but also that there’s a relaxed kind of cozy intimacy which is based on knowing each other really well.  I’ve contended for years that the root of romantic love emerges from a balance between demonstrating knowledge of another person’s spirit and evidencing an ongoing desire to learn more.  We don’t have to bring each other roses to show our love because I know she prefers carnations and Stephane Grappelli on CD and she not only feels acknowledged but also known and cherished.  Even as a lover, long years together bring you to a point where you just know each other so well that you can push each other’s buttons and crest the surf of each other’s rhythms instinctively.  Janice knows me well enough to identify my idiosyncratic indicators of testosterone poisoning and can identify when I need to get the boys to bed early or when to kick me out of the house for a long walk alone so I can talk to myself and come back able to be better company.  Without her, I would fight with the boys more and like myself less.  I am sure I would probably also be less myself.  I know I would never laugh out loud, because before I knew her, I responded to something really funny with nothing more than a sniff or a smirk.  To me, she’s absolutely the most fantastic woman on the planet. My goddess incarnate.

And you know, this is such a gift.  Because parenting is different from all other jobs in a lot of ways, including the way that it never ends.  You can never take a vacation from it, and you don’t get transferred between departments if you can avoid it, so you’d darned well better like the people you work with.  On some days it’s just so that you can get five minutes to yourself before you go crazy, or so one of you can be at karate class while the other is at the dentist, but on some days, some magical days, the right partner turns your halting solo act into a soaring duet and you can hit notes that you never thought you could on your best day.

Don’t forget to tell your partner you love them this Valentines’ Day. 
And every day after that.
Michael Nabert is a Canadian writer who loves to talk and sing, and writes mainly about parenting, the art of wooing and paleontology. Widely traveled, with an opinion about everything, his friends often describe him as having "a deplorable excess of character." He is currently stay-at-home dad to Hugh and Keefe.  


I I I I I I I  

AustinMama operates on a shoestring budget, which is often untied causing us to trip a lot.  Our noses could probably use a good wiping, too.  But we are decent people who will never be too proud to accept charitable donations to our cause.  We promise.

Reproduction of material from this site without written permission is strictly prohibited
Copyright © 2001-2004 AustinMama.com
Don't make Dottie mad

Dottie / Sarah Higdon