This post appeared on The Little Magpie in November 2011.
The thing about dads is that the good ones are silent, steady and striking in their parenting. Their tactics sort of sneak up on you. I, for example, am a rather predictable mom. And, my mom was also fairly predictable in her expectations of me (although by no means ordinary or predictable overall, as you may have noted if you read last month’s posts on The Glamorous Glennis). My Dad’s best parenting successes snuck up on me.
I can only imagine how frustrating it can be for my husband – the man I’m to put above all others. I’m inherently a daddy’s girl, and I’m senseless and devoted when he’s around.
See, here’s the thing: I married above myself. I’ve mentioned before that I am 100% certain that if it came down to choosing between my husband and me, my family would have a long, difficult and rather uncomfortable pause. It would honestly only be their sense of obligation that might save me, and that’s debatable. My husband is smarter, calmer, better-looking, a stronger parent and generally just a cooler person than yours truly.
So, despite my obvious affection and fairly clear devotion to the man, I’m unbearable when it comes to my dad. I solace myself with just one thought: I wish (and fully anticipate) for my husband the exact same level of senseless, blind, adoring love from his daughters someday when some blithering fool attempts to win each of their hearts.
I used to worry about the way my Dad (any dad) couldn’t not parent, even after I was fairly ensconced in a new life and very busy playing house with the man I chose for keeps. Not too long ago, though, my Mom was telling me about how my grandfather drove Dad crazy for so many years. It suddenly all seemed right. The circle of life, and all that.
My husband suffered spaghetti followed by strawberry shortcake (all in overly-enthusiastic helpings) at the hand of my grandmother. It seemed fitting, then, to learn that my Dad suffered tomato juice for years under the reign of his in-laws (aka outlaws).
Recently, I took off with the good man who tolerates me on a little vacation. As I surveyed my not-clean-enough-but-oh-well kitchen in anticipation of my parents kindly staying for the week with our girls, I had a fleeting thought. “I hope Dad arrives at my house, intuitively hauls out the gift he gave me at Christmas and puts it to good use, and trains me when I return home.” He did, of course. The best dads never let a fleeting wish go unfulfilled.
And so, we returned from our trip, and I found a sticky note informing me that my J. A. Henckels knives were very sharp, and I ought to be careful. Obviously.
Dad bought me a fancy schmancy electric knife sharpener last Christmas. I loved it at the same time that I completely feared it, and I knew that of all the things my husband graciously does for me, sharpening knives would not be one of them. And so, I completely ignored the device, knowing its time would come.
Dad descended and honed his awareness of that particular sharpener while honing my knives. I returned well-rested and instinctively knowing to anticipate my pending lesson. Dad showed me how to draw the blades across on one side, then the other; how to run my finger against the blade for the almost-imperceptible curl; how to use the polishing disk to sharpen them to perfection.
When handed a menacing specimen to try it all myself, I asked nervously “What will I probably do wrong?” I pictured holding the knife one millimeter off the proper angle as light arced blindingly off the sharpener and the blade spontaneously combusted, causing trillions of parts to splinter in my eye. Dad said I might just wear the blade down, worst case. Oh. Right.
It was all oddly more intriguing and satisfying than I expected, and I now have a measurably increased understanding of my knives and pride in their care. I already loved chopping, so this is even more rewarding.
And of course, now I know that my Dad’s well-intentioned tinkering around our house is a right of passage. In fact, I’m watching my husband earn his stripes, put in his time and wait his turn. In a dozen or so years when some completely useless boy considers himself brave or honorable enough to even attempt to catch the attention of any daughter of mine, I fully expect to see my husband capably, politely but firmly ensuring he passes muster. And of course, should one eventually earn our dubious trust and a more permanent place in our lives, I expect his challenge to be only just beginning.
Maybe, just for effect, I’ll calmly stroll to the kitchen and sharpen a few knives while the poor boy gets to know my husband a bit better.