Before you decide to marry a guy, you have a checklist. On it are traits that make the guy likable – funny, self-deprecating, eats whatever you cook – but also those 'good dad' traits: responsible, trustworthy, patient, knows how to properly throw a baseball.
I knew I had done well in the Dad department 16 years ago on that car ride home from the hospital after having our first child. I was all post-partum crazy, sitting in the back hovering over the baby’s car seat when we went over a speed bump. “SLOW-DOWN!” I screamed at my poor husband. And instead of yelling back at me, as I probably deserved, he just patiently drove the rest of the way home at 15 miles an hour, even though the speed limit was 30.
As children grow up, there are plenty of other speed bumps along the way. How you handle them as parents makes the difference in how your kids turn out. My husband and I are yin and yang as far as personalites go. I am the outspoken, scribble-outside-the-lines, emotional, social extrovert to his reserved, meticulous, be-calm-and-carry-on, introvert. But we work.
And I am grateful for all those things he does differently than me. Actually, I am grateful for all the ways he is right (and I’m wrong). So, kids, when it comes to these 4 life lessons, Daddy knows best.
1. A place for everything and everything in its place.
This was a sign that hung in my husband’s childhood home and he reminds the kids of this every time they can’t find their [circle the applicable object] backpack, shoes, baseball glove, jacket. He continually wonders why it is SO hard to just put things back where they belong. Because when you do, miraculously, they will be there the next time you are looking for them. To that end, he has a space in the kitchen where he keeps his wallet and keys and glasses EVERY TIME he comes inside. I don’t do this. So you can imagine how annoyed he gets when we are trying to leave the house and I. Can’t. Find. My. Keys/Phone/Purse.
Kids: Dad’s right and I’m wrong. Knowing where your stuff is makes everything less complicated.
2. Fifteen minutes early is on time.
Showing up late to a party is fashionable. But when it’s school or other activities, being late is decidedly not cool. My kids have always been told by Dad that if a practice starts at a certain time, then you should be there 15 minutes earlier. Despite my own struggle with promptness, my kids have figured out how to make it happen. When I drove my son to baseball training recently and we were a few minutes late, I said "Sorry, buddy, I didn’t expect so much traffic." And he said: "That’s ok. I’m not late. I told you the wrong starting time on purpose."
Kids: Dad’s right and I’m wrong. You will never be first (in so many ways) if you are chronically late.
3. Follow the rules.
There are people who believe that rules should always be followed: Don’t steal; Don’t cheat; Don’t walk when the ‘No walking sign’ is still blinking.
Then there are people who are constantly justifying why some rules can be bent: Don’t let your dog off leash (but he really wants to run, and there are no other dogs around). Don’t park in the loading zone (but I am just going to be there for a minute). Don’t lie on your driver’s license (but I am usually that weight).
My kids know that Dad is a 24-7 Rule Follower, while Mom is an occasional rule bender. You can guess which of us they’d rather be with when we go through the TSA line at the airport and which one they prefer when an extra order of fries appears in the bag at McDonalds. (We do not return it; their mistake is our salty gain.)
Kids: Dad’s right and I’m wrong. Rule followers may not get free fries, but they have guilt-free consciences.
4. Read directions. Whether it’s a new board game, or a toy that needs assembling, or a new recipe, I am usually either too impatient or too cocky to read the directions. Sometimes I’ll skim them. Sometimes I’m just sure I know how to do it. And sometimes I get it kind-of, sort-of right. (But plenty of times, I get it wrong.) Meanwhile, my husband will read directions and Follow Them every single time (see life lesson #3, above), even if it’s the recipe on a box of mac and cheese. Him: We don't have margarine. Me: Just use butter, it makes it more creamy. Him: But the directions say to use margarine, not butter.
Kids: Dad’s right and I’m wrong. Mainly because if he didn’t read directions, we would still be playing Rummy with the wrong rules and, more importantly, all those great presents – the mini kitchen, the basketball hoop, the scooter – wouldn’t have worked on Christmas morning. (That said, add butter to the mac and cheese. Trust me.)