I heard Jason calling from downstairs. “Janet, you might want to bring your camera.” Surprised that he was home so soon from his bike ride, I grabbed my camera and headed downstairs. I peeked out the front door and then I saw it: my two sweet girls, still sitting in the bike trailer, covered in mud.
I promise you: they were clean when they left the house an hour earlier. Seeing Jason sporting the same muddy attire, I dared to ask what happened.
“We went on a bike ride,” he said with his childlike grin cracking through the dried mud on his face.
“The path was muddy,” he said as if somehow that would explain everything.
I looked at my girls, faces filled with smiles and dirt and mud stuck between teeth.
And then I smiled.
A long time ago, perhaps even before we had kids, I was given an amazing piece of advice: Let dad be dad.
I wish I could remember who it was that I was speaking with because I want to thank them for that nugget of wisdom that has served us well these past eleven years. Yes. Let dad be dad.
Back when it was just Alaina and Caleb, I remember getting our first note that commended Jason for who he was as a father. It was thoughtful and kind and we were appreciative. Since that time, we have received more notes, endless comments, and even a few “Wow, can he come watch my kids?” enquiries. Despite the small amount of fear people have for the safety of my kids as he throws them around, all of the comments have been positive.
“He’s such a good dad.”
“He’s so good with the kids.”
“You’re so lucky!”
“It’s a amazing that he will stay home and watch six kids by himself!”
And they are right. He is a good dad. He is great with the kids. I am lucky. It is amazing.
Before I was even interested in Jason, I told my friend, “That guy is going to be an amazing father.” Little did I know that I would get to watch it day after day.
Let dad be dad.
I often wonder what would have happened if someone hadn’t told me to let dad be dad. What if instead of letting him parent the way he knows how, I criticized everything he did? What if I didn’t trust him with the kids? What if I felt the need to write copious notes every time I stepped out the door? What if I didn’t let him draw all over our kids with face paint and let them get covered in mud?
I think he’d want to quit.
Most of us moms want our husbands to be involved. When they try to be, however, we nag and pick and rebuke.
“Oh, he can’t eat that!”
“Don’t let them play with that!”
“He’ll get hurt! Please don’t do that!”
“What are you doing? She can’t possibly try that yet!”
How hard it must be to try to parent with those criticisms flying through the air! The natural response of many men, understandably, is that they stop trying. Would you keep attempting something if another person constantly reminded you (in word and deed) that you are doing it wrong? I wouldn’t.
And so, I let dad be dad. I let him throw the kids in the air and I let him smear their face with whipped cream and I let him take little girls on muddy bike rides. Baths fix a lot of things.
This isn’t to say I haven’t had to express concern a time or two. Us mama bears have keen observation and due to the amount of time we spend with the children, we know their rhythms and routines in a more intimate way. But for the most part, I have to let Jason be himself. I let him be the fun-loving, adventure-seeking, crazy-idea-concocting, cookies-before-dinner, this-is-impossible-and-probably-not-safe dad that he is. And in the absence of my criticism, he just gets better and better.
Our kids are very lucky. And very happy.
And so am I.