The urgent need for a gift for my husband has found me in a pottery cafe, yet again, ruining perfectly good mugs with our children's painted footprints. The irony is not lost on the toddler, who notes that I am less enthused about her handprints when they adorn the TV screen, the folding doors and my white shorts.
The toddler dips her paintbrush in my coffee.
I am relieved that I will soon run out of crockery to paint, but what will I buy then on behalf of our adoring offspring? I am not yet ready to stoop to the lows of 'World's Best Dad' key rings.
My husband doesn't need gifts from his children, I reason: our love and appreciation are enough. I consult the toddler, who nods in agreement. She wonders if he might also like a sticker though: everybody likes a sticker.
Excellent, that's that sorted. All I now need to do is produce a handmade card that could feasibly have been made by a toddler.
How crazy, I think, that my husband hasn't been a father for much more than two years, but to these small eyes that's all he is and all he ever will be. Sleepless nights and frantic days have left us both a bit frazzled of late. What if, I think, in lieu of personalised socks and a novelty tie, I spent some more time trying to view things from my husband's perspective? This could be a useful exercise.
These are just a few things I saw, when I stopped to look:
I began this blog with the aim of keeping my cool during family mayhem and meltdowns, and taking care of myself in order to better care for others. Occasionally I manage it.
I now suspect that my husband, a feisty Scot, is actually getting better at this calm parenting stuff than I am.
He seems to instinctively know when I'm ready to scream into a pillow, and will step in and take control (maybe it's because I'm screaming into a pillow). And the frequent toddling intrusions into his home office and working day are (almost) always met with a smile.
My husband rules the toddler's bedtime routine. Whenever I take over I inevitably balls it up, so that when he returns the toddler will be demanding more milk/extra stories/back massages/cherubs playing harp music etc.
The other day I opened a book to read with my daughter on a rainy afternoon and she already knew the words off by heart. I remember my father reading to me when I was young, and I love the thought that the toddler will have the same memories. I realised that the time and focus that my husband gives our daughter at bedtime is something very special.
When I'm struggling to raise the remote control at the end of a long day, he always seems to find the energy for one more tussle with the toddler, or to hang out the washing that I've forgotten about.
And all this with the extra sleep requirement that a Y chromosome generates (I believe that's scientific fact?).
Shortly after our first child was born my husband introduced me to a mantra from his army days:
'My rifle, my kit, myself.'
"She's the rifle," he explained, as we began to get to grips with this tiny person and her massive amount of kit.
His priorities shifted immediately, and he continues to be last on his list: a knight in shining wet wipes charging around after these small people.
Later that day, my husband passes by, looking suspicious as I gaze at him adoringly. He jangles his keys as he heads out the door. I notice he has no key ring, and wonder if it's too late to get a personalised one delivered.
Note to husband: if you attempt to give me 'the gift of empathy' for my birthday, I will be filing for divorce.
This post originally appeared on Parenting Calm, a blog about mindful living and positive parenting - with a sense of humour.
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