Happy Mother’s Day! As my gift to you this year, Dena, I am using this valuable DadZone real estate to publish an open letter of appreciation for the wonderful wife and mother that you are.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to embarrass you. At least not too much. At least in my opinion. No, instead, I am going to celebrate you. Because you are, well, a girl. Whose lot in life is to share your home with three boys. You grew up in a female-centric family. Three sisters. A strong-willed mother. And, Lord, let’s not forget the indomitable Aunt Gerry.
Oh, sure. You did all the requisite training in Boy-ology. You had your share of boyfriends. Some serious, some questionable, some unclassifiable in terms fit for a family-oriented magazine. You were a little sister at so many different fraternities you graduated with a minor in the Greek alphabet. You made a career in a male-dominated industry. Actually, you more than made a career.
You kicked butt. You incised a Dena-shaped hole in the glass ceiling with your diamondtipped intellect.
When I came onto the scene you somehow put up with me, and even sported me in public, albeit with the slightly abashed manner of wearing a bad haircut you thought could possibly be coaxed into a more stylish ‘do. Fortunately, by the time you realized that some styles are more permanent than others, we were wearing each other’s rings. Nineteen years on, I’m the mullet that inexplicably endures.
The Good Lord must have read your resume and decided you were well-qualified for boys, because we were blessed with two of them. Ben, and four years later, Sam. But let’s admit it, even your PhD in Boy-ology could not prepare you for life on Planet Boy.
Remember how difficult it was for you to understand that little Ben was complimenting you that time he saw you and gasped in delight, “Mommy! You look like an excavator!”
Remember sighing wearily at dinner time and saying, “How many times have I told you – no weapons at the table.”
Remember all the occasions on which you would issue perfectly clear and detailed instructions about a task, only to have the boys wander off glassy-eyed in the opposite direction of progress?
Okay, that last one was mostly me. But that’s my point! You are awash in a sea of boy-ness. There are elements to boys that you are just biologically incapable of understanding. Take belching, for instance. Oh, I know you can belch. I’ve known you to let fly a few whoppers. But I’m talking here about belching as a second language. You know how Eskimos have thirty-seven different words to describe snow? Boys are like the Eskimos of belching. On Planet Boy, burps are accepted social currency. They are the answers to questions, the carriers of lyrics, the punch lines to jokes. And, yes, even expressions of love for mothers.
This is not unlike the expulsion of milk through the nostrils. On Planet Girl, this is grody. On Planet Boy, this is the raw material from which legends are born.
It took you a few years to understand what the term playroom really means. Remember those pictures you hung on the wall of the playroom? On Planet Girl, this is called art. On Planet Boy, the word is target.
And the sofa in the playroom? Planet Girl: seating. Planet Boy: stunt practice.
But I give you all credit. You still might not understand, but you have accepted your position with good humor, occasional sighs, and a heavy dose of eyeball rolling. I knew you had adapted to Planet Boy when your mother was horrified to learn that you have made so many emergency room visits that now you call around to see who has the shortest wait times.
And along the way, you have made us realize that we not only love you, but we need you.
You are a crucial ambassador between the wider world and us. On the days when your husband would blissfully let Sam go to school with hair powered by a Van De Graaff Generator, you are ready with a spray of water and a comb.
You have equipped our children to navigate multicultural cuisines, to write thank-you notes, to never to wear white socks with loafers, and to deliver without thinking the ten most important reasons Tar Heels are superior to Blue Devils.
When things get a little tense between father and sons, you act as a vital intercessor. And even though child psychologists trumpet the importance of fathers in the lives of teen boys, you provide a safe space where the boys can talk about things they might not want to talk to me about.
From you, our boys are gaining an expansive view of women. Sure, they groan at your girl questions, like, “Did Michael have fun at the dance?” Or, “Do you know if Jennifer is the sister of Philip who goes to our church?” But they experience this alongside your many career accomplishments and they will be better men and husbands and fathers for it.
Most importantly, you are my indispensable partner in parenting. Together, we have arrived at the values by which we want our family to live, and you always have my back when it comes to ensuring we stay true to our parental compass.
So, for all of us, for Ben, Sam, and myself, Happy Mother’s Day from Planet Boy! You might not be native to the terrain, but we couldn’t make this journey without you.