I kept blinking because the world had taken on that underwater look it gets when you’re so, so tired.
Having rushed out of town to help a relative in the ER with the flu, I had gotten little sleep. And bed time could not come soon enough.
“Hey mom,” my 11-year-old daughter said from her bed. “Dad really needs a big thank you. He drove us to the talent show auditions, got us to all our appointments and school and to bed — all on time.”
She paused and added, “and with a full-time job! He was a trooper.”
I gave her a hug good night, yawned and said that, yes, I certainly would thank him. But before I got to the door — record scratch.
I turned back to her.
Me: All the time
“But Ava,” I said, “Don’t I do that all the time?”
My husband travels for his job. Some months he’s gone up to 14 days, in the middle of the week. I, too, work full time, which leaves me to juggle the lives of our three children and a job.
I mean, maybe it was the fatigue talking but where was my medal for being a trooper?
I could have explained to my daughter about the truth of her mother and father being equally responsible for household duties and raising three daughters. Or the broader truth about dads/men getting special credit and praise for doing what moms/women do all the time.
More than one truth
But there was more than one truth about my absence.
It was true my husband excelled in some areas. The dog got two walks a day. Sometimes when he’s gone, she gets one. Or worse, I just let her out in the backyard.
Everyone ate three square meals. Sometimes the girls and I just eat cereal for dinner.
It was also true, he neglected some basics. Like laundry. The baskets overflowed. And the girls “forgot” they had daily chores, leading to the funky smell of unemptied trash that greeted me when I walked in the door.
But big whoop.
The greater truth, and the one I decided that I would stand for that night amid the night light glow of my daughter’s room, was that everyone deserved to be thanked.
When the crisis hit, everyone did their part.
Shucking off usual roles
They shucked off their usual roles and did what needed to be done.
Ava watched the clock and issued the five-minute warning when it was time to leave. Her 9-year-old sister remembered to brush her own hair before school, for the first time ever. The 12-year-old sister admitted she might not have done much BUT said she reined in the sass, which was HUGE. They all hunted through heaps of unfolded clothes for various school uniform pieces for each other.
And, of course, my husband did what I do when he’s gone.
These small moments of boring domesticity weren’t exceptional, but they weren’t the everyday. They weren’t the expectation. It was better in that moment that my daughter learned the magnificent practice of gratitude than to drive home any point about fairness.
Point made anyway
Besides, that point had been made when I simply asked the question about whether running the household alone was something I did all the time.
After I asked the question my daughter was silent for a while and then she answered yes. Then she started waving her arms, beckoning me back over to her bedside.
“Come here you!” she said. “You need a hug.”
Then she folded me into a tight squeeze and stroked my hair like you would a child’s.
And I did need that hug.
And their father needed that thank you. (Even though I thanked him before the trip for handling what would not just be a busy week but a crazy-ass busy week before I left and again immediately upon my return.)
Everyone that evening got thank yous and hugs and more hugs and thank yous.
There will be a next time that someone in the family will have to leave and others will have to step up and take on roles and chores not traditionally known as theirs.
They need to know that they will be appreciated for being such a “trooper” and that a hug and thank you awaits them.
Like All the Moms?