I chose wisely when I married.
(I also got a bit lucky. But we'll stick with "wise")
My husband is fierce, brilliant, loyal, honorable, creative, and protective. He’s also wildly, wonderfully generous in ways that extend far beyond the sharing of physical resources; he is also willing to share of self. He will give freely of his time, his learning, his experience, and his sweat.
This generosity extends to parenting, too. And not just the parenting of our four boys. In a very real way, every child that enters our circle is immediately the recipient of his knack for connecting, engaging, teaching and, most importantly, his protective nature.
This I knew about him from the start.
What I’ve come to recognize and appreciate, however, is the importance of his willingness to share wisely in the responsibilities that come with raising four boys.
Over our 20+ years together, Jeff and I have co-parented not only our own kids, but a host of others. We’ve provided temporary shelter for children in need of a safe place to land, and we’ve walked alongside countless other parents – our friends and the parents of our kids’ friends – as we all try to navigate this complicated gig of growing children.
My husband is Uncle Jeff and Mr. Jeff (and even “Jeff-Buddy” to a very special few) to a lot of children in a lot of families. And he understands that co-parenting is more nuanced that “he and I.” It also means We and You.
That takes a different type of generosity and wisdom.
Jeff is generous enough to share the responsibility of teaching and guiding our boys with other men who have different skillsets and experiences and worldviews. He understands that helping his sons forge those connections with other trusted men is a critical piece of raising children who are safe, strong, rounded, capable, and wise.
I think this tendency comes a little more naturally to women. We are, perhaps, a little more willing to seek the counsel of other women and to allow them into the lives of our children. But even we have forgotten the power of truly interconnected families. Those families in which our children feel equally safe and responsible with and to their Aunties and Uncles as they do to the parent(s) with whom they live.
We can’t be – we frankly AREN’T – all the things to our kids all the time. To believe we can and should be is harmful both to them AND to us; the responsibility is simply too big. Our job, then, is to find and create and nurture relationships with other adults who will share the joy and a piece – no matter how big or small – of the responsibility.
None of this detracts from my husband’s immense skill and giftedness as a father - he is and will always be my boy’s first choice. However, his unspoken acknowledgement and allowance of other men to also teach and guide and love and engage with our sons is one of the most generous and selfless gifts he has given them.
Our villages were forcefully reduced this year, and we all experienced the pain of that contraction. As we re-engage in the months to come, there is tremendous opportunity to recognize and be deliberate about strengthening those relationships that scaffold and support our children (and us!).
Families become stronger with these concentric circles. Children become stronger and safer and wiser when they have multiple sources for learning, playing, confiding, growing, and exploring the world.
We parents become stronger and safer and more resilient when we do, too.
(so does hydration…)
Happy Father’s Day!