In Their Faces
The comment has come more than a few times.
“It’s just so nice to hear you’re doing well!”
The people mean it in the most sincere, most polite way. They truly are happy to hear that I am doing well and, seemingly, the kids are, too. The part they don’t think about is how we feel when we hear people act so surprised.
I do understand, I get it. Three years ago I lost my wife – which in turn means the kids lost their mother. It was a very dark time, I make no allusions about it being otherwise. But just because it was dark for awhile doesn’t mean that we didn’t see light. It doesn’t mean we didn’t take what we had, broken as it was, and bend it into a better shape.
For me it is a lesson in the human nature. For me it is the look, feel, and act of surprise that’s not simply because we’re doing well. I totally get that they’re happy, surprised, and feel good about the fact that we’ve reached sort of a stride in our life now. But the bigger surprise for them, the unspoken one from many of the people we haven’t seen in those three years, is the “you’re doing well, that’s surprising since your Dad is the only parent in your household.”
I don’t have steam coming out of my ears. I get it. To be angry or shout from the rooftops about this kind of pigeonholing would be hypocritical considering women have dealt with this for years in the home, in their careers, in any myriad of things. Still . . . it tends to get my goat more than a little.
So let me explain, in just a little detail, what I mean.
If you look at those four kids up there (not the baby, that’s my niece) you can see it. It is, again, almost representative of our family. My oldest is laughing out loud. Her sister, the middle child, smiling, is trying to be the cool, angsty teenager. The oldest twin has a Mona-Lisa meets Charlie Brown smile on the left and the youngest twin is laughing, looking down, and doing his own thing. It’s not much different than a photo of the five of us from before my wife passed away.
Sure, the little boy with the crying face isn’t crying any more. I like that. He’s come a very, very, long way since his mother died and I’m very proud of the distance he’s traveled in such a short time.
But here’s the other thing: I work every day to ensure that. I did even before their mother died. The reality is that Dads haven’t stayed the same since the Mad Men era. I changed diapers, fed the babies, took care of sick kids and cleaned up vomit from the floor from every inevitable illness.
I made meals – nearly all of them – before we lost my wife. Now I make them all. I realized very early on that I had to do what I knew in order to raise four kids. For me that meant going back to what I saw when I was raised and that was making meals every night, making treats homemade and making lunches every day.
But we also embraced that this was a time to just enjoy each other’s company. We don’t travel the world, no. You haven’t seen pictures of the five of us in front of pyramids. But we go where we can. We treat life like the adventure it is. Much of what we do is nothing their mother ever wanted to experience. That’s okay, too, and we are fine with that. We realized that we had to make our own way.
Plus, we’re together. I’ve said it so many times before: we’re stronger together than when we’re apart. It’s even become the family motto, something that was my kids’ idea. I love that they embrace it and don’t shy from it.
So yes . . . it’s amazing we’re doing so well. But it’s also not all that surprising.