Press-Republican

December 1, 2012

Roaming the outskirts of family life

By MARY WHITE
Press-Republican

---- — When we were first having babies, my husband and I made an agreement about his involvement in the labor/delivery process.

I very much wanted him present at this glorious occasion; he sort of wanted to be there. But, we shared the same feelings about his duties. Neither one of us wanted him to be the umbilical-cord-cutting kind of dad.

He feared the grossness of what was happening down below. I feared how the image of a laboring/delivering me would dampen his future “view” of me.

So, we decided that his station would be fixed at my head; far away from the war zone, feeding me ice chips and adoring me (that last part was me). Nowhere was there mention of a doctor handing my husband a leg so he could act as a living stirrup for my straining body. Truthfully, I don’t think my husband has been the same since. Little did he know that this act would be a mere foreshadowing of his role as startled, drafted hero in our life story.

I believe that my husband has tried to envision himself as a kindly neighbor who helps out an unfortunate woman (me) and her batch of needy kids. I don’t know that he has ever transitioned (in his mind) from bachelor status to married

father of five.

When we hooked up our first-ever answering machine, many years ago, my husband happily recorded the following outgoing message, “Hi. I am either golfing or fishing. Leave me a message and I’ll give you a call when I get in.” After listening to the message, I politely asked if he was trying to hide us from the outside world. His reaction was to record a new and sullen message that said, “Hi. We’re not here. Leave a message.”

And, why is it that electricity seems to enrage the single man inside of him? My husband wanders the house, muttering about the infidels who have taken over his home and “left every conceivable light on.” If I point out a light that he has left on, he responds, “Yes, but there is just one of me.” I really think that’s how he sees it ... him versus them.

Sometimes I feel that my husband sees himself as a general overseeing my care of the troops. He is concerned about their welfare but, ultimately, he feels the responsibility falls on me, hence the following questions, “Well, did we (translation, you) call the doctor?” or “You aren’t going to let her do that, are you?” And, if one of them errs, he looks at me accusingly, as if I am not only singularly responsible for their existence but also for their behavior.

For me, the most hilarious part of our journey has been watching him get cornered as “father.”   Recently, our kids were complaining that they had had a fire drill in inclement weather. My husband said, “Well, if I was a parent, that school would be hearing from me.” My kids and I exchanged looks, and I said, “But, you are a parent.” To which my husband replied, “Well, I mean if I was a parent of kids at that school.” The kids and I could barely contain our laughter as we exclaimed, “You are!”

And, just the other day, he wanted to know why the school would need to have his cell-phone number. Sigh.

When the children insist on his presence in whatever family festivity, I love to see the puzzled look that crosses his face. Because, you see, he has no idea that they are so crazy about him. It’s as if the light goes out in our family when he is away.

The other day, our son asked me, “I wonder if Dad knows that he’s my best friend?”

I wonder ...

Mary White is from the Malone area. She and her husband have five children, eight cats, two dogs and three guinea pigs. She has had the privilege of working with children and families (her own and other people’s) for more than 20 years. For more of her columns, visit http://marywhitelovestories.com.