COMING FROM the heels of Father’s Day, I’d like to talk about my husband who like me is a middle-aged newbie parent. Neither of us was prepared to be first-time folks at forty. While most of our married friends are now embarking on their J.U.N.K. trips (Just Us No Kids) because the kids are finally old enough to be left with their relatives, my husband and I are still at that phase when a simple trip to the mall can be a full production number.
Lately, I’ve been pleading for some “me time”. And although I am able to get some rare visits to the masseuse usually in the evening, I still couldn’t really get on a full-on zone-out mode. My body is there on the massage bed but my mind is at home as I try to send telepathic messages to my husband regarding the completion of the to-do list for my daughter’s bedtime. And it’s becoming a tradition that one item will surely be left unchecked. One night, they skipped brushing her teeth. The other night, the vitamins.
While I have “mommy brain”, my forty-something first-time dad husband has “dadnesia” which he denies. But no matter how many times I remind him where the baby wipes are or how to fold a onesie, he seems to have a knack for conveniently forgetting these simple instructions. But who am I to complain? It gives me endless amusement and the opportunity to play the role of the all-knowing, super-competent mother.
And there’s even this phenomenon of being oblivious to the smell of stinky diapers. You’d expect that most dads would be sensitive to the distinct aroma of a baby’s dirty bum but to my surprise, my husband couldn’t tell. My theory: he overdid his anticipation which desensitized his nose. But my mommy friends have another theory: he’s completely ignoring it so I’d be forced to fix it up. To save my marriage, I’d rather stick to my theory.
Now that our daughter is in her terrible er terrific twos (stay positive, mommy jill!), my husband’s age becomes more evident. But while it can be a total physical challenge to keep up with our little ball of energy, my husband’s reserve of patience and unshakeable determination to be the best dad he can be is magical. He may not have the energy of a twenty-something or thirty-something dad, but he makes up for it with his wisdom.
And he claims that his wisdom comes from Yoda. At 44, my husband’s childhood was in the 80s. And unlike millennial dads who grew up on hyper-animated cartoon shows on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, which he claims to be shallow, he grew up on the classic storytelling of He-Man, Transformers, and Star Wars which he now shares with our daughter. The Jedi now has a Padawan.
You’d think that as a newbie father, he’d be that kind to pore over parenting books and YouTube videos to decipher the mysteries of burping techniques and diaper changing. He’s nowhere in that area. And I guess that comes along with his forty-something self-confidence. Or in my head, just a complete disregard for this millennial type of parenting.
I thought that nothing could ever faze my husband’s fatherhood identity until Kobe Bryant died. That really knocked his knees over. At that time, we were caring for our second daughter in the hospital, and he bawled. Our seven-month-old daughter was on the brink of death. He never got to play the full daddy role to her because she lived in the hospital most of her brief life. Four years earlier, we lost our first baby while in the womb. My husband was holding himself all this time and just unraveled. He identified so much with Kobe and proudly wore the badge of #girldad, which the NBA star always puts in his Instagram posts.
Now with our third, and only living daughter, he finally gets to live out the life of a father. He’s officially a forty-something first-time dad. And being the best GirlDad for her is all he ever wants to be. And I’ve been sitting in the front seat row to witness this poignant story.
Jill Palarca is a licensed professional teacher specializing in Media and Information Literacy, and is also currently the chairperson of Media Educators of Mindanao. She is mom to angels Meryl and Lyanna, and rainbow baby, Andrea.
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